Ryan Pepiot’s MLB debut began with a flash of potential.
In his first career start with the Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon, Pepiot dispatched Pittsburgh Pirates leadoff hitter Ben Gamel on four pitches, getting ahead with a tailing 95-mph fastball before fanning him with a trademark changeup.
The rest of the day wasn’t nearly as simple for the 24-year-old right-hander, who is ranked as the Dodgers No. 2 pitching prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
He walked five batters and hit another in three innings. He found the strike zone on just 41 of 77 pitches. Nine of his 16 at-bats came with a man on base.
Pepiot escaped each predicament, pitching his way out of every dangerous situation to keep the Pirates scoreless over his three innings.
However, he left a lot of work to the bullpen, which faltered down the stretch in the Dodgers’ 5-3 rubber match loss at PNC Park.
Three innings after Pepiot left the mound, the Pirates broke open a scoreless game in a five-pitch span against Dodgers reliever Tommy Kahnle.
Pitching for his first time in a week, and making only his third outing since returning from Tommy John surgery, Kahnle gave up a solo home run to Jack Suwinksi with a fastball on his first pitch of the day. After Kahnle plunked Diego Castillo in the next at-bat, Josh VanMeter also got ahold of a first-pitch fastball, taking the right-hander deep for a two-run blast.
The Pirates let the Dodgers rally the next half-inning, walking two batters and committing an error to load the bases. Edwin Ríos hit a three-run double to tie the score, giving him seven RBIs in the series.
But after the Dodgers squandered another bases-loaded opportunity to end the seventh, with Will Smith lining out sharply and Max Muncy taking a called third strike for the final out, the Pirates went back in front in the bottom of the frame when Daniel Vogelbach hit a solo shot off Daniel Hudson.
The Pirates tacked on an insurance run in the eighth.
It was the first time all season the Dodgers have given up three home runs in a game, and the first time the team’s bullpen had been charged with at least five runs.
Pepiot was able to avoid such calamity.
Despite walking a batter and giving up a single in the first inning, Pepiot got a pop out to retire the side. He sandwiched two walks around a hit batter with two out in the second to load the bases, but got Bryan Reynolds to chase a fastball for the final out. It was Pepiot’s third and final strikeout.
In the third inning, Pepiot’s command — especially with changeups and fastballs that too often ran too far off the right side of the plate — continued to elude him as he walked two more batters. However, he once again returned to the dugout unscathed, retiring the side on a deep fly ball.
While Pepiot survived, however, his team still stumbled to a disappointing series loss.