The marching orders given to Dodgers rookie Carlos Monasterios for his first big league start were simple enough.
"Don't worry about how far you go, just go out there and pitch," Manager Joe Torre said he told the 24-year-old as he prepared for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night. "When you've had enough, we'll come get you."
Monasterios looked as if he'd had enough after only two shaky innings. But the right-hander settled down, Andre Ethier's three-run home run —which followed Monasterios' first big league hit —gave him a lead and the Dodgers ultimately beat the Pirates, 5-1, at Dodger Stadium.
Torre did retrieve Monasterios after he threw 73 pitches through four innings, so the Venezuelan wasn't eligible for the win. But Monasterios already had collected his first major league victory in relief a week ago against the Washington Nationals.
"He bent, but he didn't break," Torre said of Monasterios. "I thought he battled well and gave us pretty much what we wanted."
As for the pitcher's shaky start, Torre said, "I think it was nerves."
But Monasterios, speaking through an interpreter, said "I wasn't nervous at all" and that his unsteady start "is something that happens in the game."
"I usually throw the first-pitch strike and that was not really me today. I just learned a great lesson today that I have to be aggressive and attack with the first pitch to every hitter."
Ramon Ortiz got the win —his first since 2007 —after following Monasterios with three innings of scoreless relief, and the Dodgers won their second consecutive game after ending a five-game losing streak.
Monasterios flirted with, but avoided, disaster. Despite falling behind in counts, he gave up only one run — a home run to Andrew McCutchen — and three hits. Monasterios also walked two and struck out two.
He got the call to start instead of struggling knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who also would have been pitching on short rest. Monasterios "was a decided underdog" for the job, Torre had said, because until this year he hadn't pitched above single A in the minor leagues.
Monasterios is a so-called Rule 5 draft player that requires the club to keep him on the major league roster this season or offer him back to the Philadelphia Phillies, and he impressed enough in spring training to remain with the Dodgers.
Monasterios helped his own cause in the third inning with a leadoff single to right field off Pirates starter Zach Duke.
After Reed Johnson struck out, Russell Martin hit a dribbler that Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche couldn't handle for a hit, and Ethier followed with his seventh home run of the season —and his second in as many nights —to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.
Johnson, playing left field for the injured Manny Ramirez, drove in another run with a double in the fourth inning, and back-to-back doubles by Ethier and James Loney added another run in the seventh inning.
Monasterios got off to a wobbly start.
He gave up the homer to McCutchen in the first, when Iwamura was thrown out trying to steal and Loney caught LaRoche's pop foul while leaning into the Pittsburgh dugout. In the second, Monasterios hit Lastings Milledge and Ronny Cedeno and gave up a single to Iwamura, loading the bases. But LaRoche grounded into a force play to end the inning.
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