The first occurrence was unprecedented. The second was unfathomable.
Utility player Tucupita Marcano hit a two-run home run off Julio Urías’ poorly located four-seam fastball in the second inning Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates an early four-run lead.
Just as he did Monday night against Walker Buehler. Second inning. Poorly located four-seam fastball. That three-run home run provided Pittsburgh with an early lead.
The home runs were the first of Marcano’s big league career.
And they both led to frustrating Dodgers losses, this one by a 5-3 score. Marcano’s home run followed a two-run shot by Michael Chavis in the first inning, and the Pirates capped the scoring with a run in the ninth.
“We didn’t know what to expect from [Marcano],” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Clearly, he’s on the fastball.”
The early Bucs blasts muted what began as a festive evening for the sellout Dodger Stadium crowd of 52,686 with Urìas bobbleheads distributed and top-flight mariachi band Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéller featuring singer Lupita Infante playing between innings on the video screen.
The Dodgers mustered only four hits against starter Mitch Keller and four relievers. Trea Turner — whose hitting streak is now 23 games — blasted a two-run home run in the third inning, but that was the only damage against Keller, who came in with a 1-5 record and 6.05 ERA.
Tyler Beede came on in the sixth, and the Dodgers quickly had runners on first and third after Justin Turner walked and Chris Taylor singled. Turner scored on a strike-three passed ball that cut the deficit to 4-3, but with two outs Mookie Betts popped up.
Betts closed out a historic May that included 12 home runs and 10 doubles — the 22 extra-base hits are a Dodgers record — with a whimper. Betts scored 31 runs and drove in 27 during the month but went 0 for 4 on Tuesday.
Roberts said Betts is playing even better than when he led the Dodgers to their 2020 World Series title.
“When a guy is swinging the bat like he is, every borderline call goes his way, every soft contact goes his way, but then he’s also squaring up a lot of balls,” Roberts said.
Except that Betts and the rest of the Dodgers didn’t hit as well as the unheralded Marcano and the rest of the Pirates for the second night in a row.
Milestone birthday for Doc
Roberts turned 50 on Tuesday, and the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to him a few minutes before the game. He planned to celebrate afterward with his wife, Tricia, son Cole and daughter Emme, all of whom were in attendance.
“I’ve got one kid [Cole] in college and one kid [Emme] going into college, and to have everyone here is special,” he said. “Days like this with all of them are numbered. They won’t happen very often going forward.
“I’ve got a lot to be grateful for, and I think my best years are ahead of me.”
He has had some excellent years already. Roberts boasts the highest winning percentage of any manager in major league history at .625. His detractors are quick to point out the Dodgers’ superior talent since he took the helm in 2015.
That much is undeniable. But the same is true of every manager with a winning percentage significantly higher than .500. Joe McCarthy is second to Roberts at .615, and he managed the New York Yankees from 1931 to 1946.
The numbers suggest a major league manager is only as good as his roster. Look no further than the career of Hall of Famer Joe Torre as evidence. His teams posted winning records in only five of his first 14 seasons with the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. Only his 1982 Braves made the playoffs, and they were swept in the first round.
Torre was named manager of the uber-talented Yankees in 1996 and immediately possessed a winning touch. The Yankees won four World Series in his first five seasons and at least 92 games every season but one in his 12 with the team. Torre finished his career with three seasons as Dodgers manager but didn’t take them to the World Series.
Roberts, of course, stepped into a plum position with the Dodgers and has won five division titles, three National League pennants and the 2020 World Series title. He’s well on his way to the Hall of Fame if he remains with the Dodgers and they continue to stock their roster with talent.
Cody Bellinger missed his second game in a row because of a strained abductor tendon. Roberts said he expected Bellinger to play Wednesday. … Starters Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney ares scheduled to begin rehabilitation assignments this weekend. Heaney will make two or three starts at triple-A Oklahoma City before returning to the Dodgers. Kershaw might only need one rehab start before being activated. … Max Muncy is on the injured list mostly as a way for the slumping infielder to pause and reset. He’s been taking ground balls before games. “We are really at peace with letting him drive it as far as how he feels,” Roberts said. “Obviously, the longer he’s away from playing with us, the more an of an option a [minor league rehab assignment] is before he comes back.”