Pirates 5, Dodgers 3: Pepiot’s debut a mixed result, bullpen allows three homers

Ryan Pepiot

Ryan Pepiot and his 80-grade hair made his major league debut for the Dodgers — a little less than 3 years since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft — with somewhat of a mixed result while keeping the Pirates off the board.

In what essentially turned into a bullpen game, Edwin Rios came through for the Dodgers once again, but a trio of homers by the Pirates off the bullpen led the way to a 5-3 win and a series victory for them.

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Let’s start with Pepiot’s debut since all three of the Dodgers run came in one inning. Pepiot finished up with 3 IP, just 1 hit allowed but 5 walks and a hit batter to 3 strikeouts. He needed 77 pitches to get through his Dodgers debut, with 21 in the 1st, 27 in the 2nd and 29 in the 3rd.

There’s others that write for this site that will do a much better job than me of thoroughly breaking down Pepiot’s first career start, but that pitch count with 5 walks and a hit batter probably tell you most of the story.

Pepiot flashed the change early, getting Ben Gamel swinging at it on 1-2 for his first career strikeout against his first batter faced. That would be the only swing and miss on the pitch, as the Pirates made contact on the other seven swings. Four of those went foul and the other three in play, for a flyout, single and lineout all in the 1st.

After the 1st, Pepiot threw just 3 of 15 changeups for strikes with two called for strikes and one fouled off.

Predictably, that led to a very heavy usage of his fastball as Dustin mentioned this morning the Pepiot came out of college as primarily a fastball-change pitcher. While he’s improved the slider (go back to the game thread to read more about that), he really leaned on the fastball while struggling to find the zone today.

After going 10-10-1 with the fastball, changeup and slider in the 1st, it moved to 17-10 fastball to change in the 2nd and then 21-5-3 in the 3rd. The slider did get him a pair of called strikes in the 3rd, but it was the fastball that ultimately ended all 11 of the Pirates plate appearances in the 2nd and 3rd innings.

While much of that sounds negative, Pepiot did get first-pitch strikes to the first six batters of the game and 10 of the first 12 batters in total. Again much of that was carried by the fastball with 9 of the 10 first-pitch strikes on the four-seamer, but the pitch did get Bryan Reynolds to go down swinging with the bases loaded to end the 2nd.

That fastball to Reynolds hit 95.1, 1 of 7 fastballs to hit 95.0 mph or higher in the game. Topping out at 95.4 according to Baseball Savant’s data, Pepiot averaged 94.1 on the 48 fastballs.

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As for the offense, there wasn’t much for awhile. While Pepiot, Evan Phillips and Alex Vesia kept the Pirates scoreless through 5, Dillon Peters and Max Kranick kept the Dodgers off the board for 6 innings.

When the offense did come, it was the Pirates with a pair of drastically different homers off of Tommy Kahnle to take a 3-0 lead.

After throwing a pair of shutout innings against the Tigers and Giants in his return from Tommy John, Kahnle allowed 3 runs in his lone inning of work against the Pirates.

With Jack Suwinski floating a fastball out to right, Kahnle hit Diego Castillo with a fastball three pitches later. The very next pitch out of Kahnle’s hand went 397 feet, as Josh VanMeter sent another fastball out to right field.

Somewhat hilariously, Kahnle threw just two fastballs across the final 10 pitches of the inning as he used his changeup to register a pair of swinging strikeouts and a ground out.

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The Dodgers offense answered right back in the 7th as Rios continued to kill the Pirates and tie the game again 3-3.

After Peters and Kranick held the Dodgers to two hits and a walk in the first 6 innings, poor Chris Stratton really struggled to close out any batter. Justin Turner drew a walk after facing a 2-2 count to open the inning and moved to third as Cody Bellinger sent a 1-2 fastball off of VanMeter’s glove.

After Bellinger fell behind 0-2, he fouled off five of the next six pitches before putting the ball in play. Stratton once again got ahead to Chris Taylor, 1-2, before losing him with an 8-pitch walk. That brought Rios to the plate, who entered the game 4-of-6 with two homers over the past two games against the Pirates.

And he promptly sent a 1-0 changeup to the wall.

Rios moved to third on a flyout by Gavin Lux before Wil Crowe relieved Stratton. He immediately walked Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman, making it four in the inning before getting saved by his defense as Castillo made an incredibly grab on Will Smith‘s 107.2 mph liner.

Max Muncy forced a full count, but took a change right over the plate (and I mean RIGHT over the plate) to leave the bases loaded. And from there, it was six up and six down for the Dodgers offense to end the game.

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Naturally, the Dodgers were immediately punished for leaving the bases loaded as Daniel Vogelbach sent a fastball by Daniel Hudson 407 feet to right for a solo homer to break the tie in the bottom of the 7th. It could have been worse for Hudson, with an infield single and a double putting runners on the corers with 1 out, but a soft lineout turned into an inning-ending double play.

After a scoreless 8th for the Dodgers’ offense, the Pirates added an insurance run as VanMeter sent a fastball by Brusdar Graterol past Lux in left for a triple and came home on a grounder with Trea Turner‘s throw to the plate too late.

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The Dodgers head all the way back to Los Angeles to face the other Pennsylvania team as the Phillies finish up their series against the Mariners. That begins an 8-game homestand after 7 on the road, with Tyler Anderson on the mound for the Dodgers and Zack Wheeler will be activated off the COVID-19 IL.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree. He now works for the university’s athletics department after spending seven years with the local newspaper.