LOS ANGELES -- If this young baseball season is beginning to feel like "Groundhog Day" on grass, you aren't merely having a Bill Murray flashback.For the fifth time in as many games, the Pirates on Wednesday night took a one-run game into the stretch innings, before the Pittsburgh bullpen saw its shadow and let the air and the suspense out of what became a 4-1 defeat to the Dodgers. Not varying the act, only the outcomes, the Pirates are 2-3. Their pitching has allowed a total of 12 runs, matching the team's lowest yield through five games since 1986, when the Bucs surrendered 11 runs through five games. However, the Pirates themselves have crossed the plate only nine times. That running-in-place feeling continued on Wednesday, when Clint Barmes' early homer provided the only scoring, and no other Pittsburgh runner ventured past second. Deja vu? Tell Neil Walker about it. This season, he has one hit in 17 at-bats, and a rash of hard-hit balls that only became line-drive outs. Days ago, he'd shrugged off a couple of smashed outs by saying, "In the long run, they all even out." The IOU list has grown longer since. By the time Walker drilled a drive into backtracking center-fielder Matt Kemp's outstretched glove for the second out in the ninth, he was so obviously ticked, he picked up speed running into the dugout and out of sight. "That's baseball. You've just got to keep swinging," Walker said. "Stick with it, keep trying to make something happen. Hit the ball hard: That's all you can do." That drive near the warning track wasn't even Walker's most frustrating moment. Not even close. That had come three innings earlier, when he stepped into the batter's box in a game-changing moment, but couldn't change either his luck or the game. With the score still tied at one in the sixth, Nate McLouth and Andrew McCutchen drilled consecutive one-out singles off of Chad Billingsley. Walker then roped a shot hard enough at shortstop Dee Gordon for his toss to second baseman Mark Ellis to double-up McLouth -- even though he hadn't gotten more than a few steps off the base. "That's the game right there," Walker nodded. "Two feet either way, a run's in and we've got men on first and second." Instead, the 1-1 duel between Erik Bedard and Billingsley was tipped in the bottom of that sixth by a tie-breaking single from the same guy whose eighth-inning homer had decided Tuesday's 2-1 Dodgers win -- Andre Ethier. The Dodgers then took a few more liberties against Evan Meek in the seventh, with RBI singles by Juan Rivera and pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr., opening a 4-1 lead. The thin ice cracked under Bedard's footing in the sixth, when he was chased by three consecutive singles to start the inning, beginning with Kemp's third hit of the night. Rivera dribbled a ball to the left of the mound which skipped through Bedard's glove for a scratch hit, then Ethier converted by slapping the RBI hit to the opposite field. "I thought [Rivera's] ball was coming right at me, but it was spinning and took an odd bounce," said Bedard. The lefty was removed at that point from the brewing chaos -- and the Pirates bullpen settled it. Chris Resop got two outs -- with a major assist from McLouth's sliding catch of Jerry Hairston Jr.'s flare to right -- and, after he intentionally walked A.J. Ellis to get to Billingsley's spot, lefty Tony Watson came on to retire pinch-hitter James Loney on a foul pop. Barmes' third-inning homer, his first hit of the season in 14 at-bats, meant the Pirates, in their 40th inning, were finally playing with a lead for the first time. That also meant their pitching was challenged with its first shutdown inning. Bedard was well on his way to taking care of that, as he retired the first two men in the bottom of the inning. But a walk to Ellis ahead of the dangerous Kemp was ominous. Kemp himself could further the rally "only" with an infield single, but Rivera drilled a single into right to score Ellis and tie it at 1. "It's not like the game got away from [Bedard]," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He wasn't as crisp as the first time, but he still competed well. But his breaking ball wasn't as sharp." In last Thursday's Opening Day start, Bedard had held the Philadelphia Phillies to a run and six hits in seven innings. Starting off the second spin of the Bucs' rotation on Wednesday, Bedard became the first to not make it through six innings. In five-plus, he was charged with eight hits and two runs, walking one and whiffing three. "I think the breaking pitch was just as sharp," Bedard said. "I just didn't throw it for as many strikes." Bedard's composure when put on the defensive about his pitching performance was admirable, considering the shortcomings were greater on the other side of the ball. But patience is a virtue, and a virtuous lot of Pirates pitchers continue waiting for the bats to awaken.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.