No late-game heroics were needed in the 3-1 victory but the game took on the slow, languorous feeling of an exhibition game in the soft summer sun with the position players just getting their work in. Then, with the Pirates leading 1-0, a pair of home runs and the pitching staff recorded a 3-1 win and a sweep of the series.
Manager Joe Torre used a skeleton crew in the final game of the series, resting Manny Mota, Casey Blake, Russell Martin and Orlando Hudson, replacing them with Juan Pierre, Blake DeWitt, Brad Ausmus and Ron Belliard.
The Dodgers pitching staff limited the Pirates to 20 hits and five runs over 31 innings in the three-game series, while scoring only 12 runs themselves.
Matt Kemp erased a 1-0 Pittsburgh lead with his 24th homer in the sixth and Ron Belliard, who was 3-for-3 on the afternoon, whacked a shot over the wall in dead center field in the eighth.
Starter Hiroki Kuroda had only one lapse, allowing a double and a single in he second inning that resulted in a Pittsburgh run. Then he retired nine batters in succession and nine of 11 before giving up two singles in the fifth before ending the inning with a strikeout.
The Dodgers put singles back to back in the first inning but didn't score. Then they had great chance to break the scoreless tie in the third when Juan Pierre beat out a short infied tap and immediately stole second with none out.
Then, surprisingly enough, he took a short lead and attempted to swipe third but was thrown out easily. Belliard walked and with two out, Kemp smashed a ball up the middle but Belliard was stealing second and the ball came directly to the shortstop, who was covering the bag on the steal, for an easy force play that ended the inning.
Nine Dodgers went down in order and the game drifted into the sixth when Belliard ripped a double into the left field corner and Kemp caught a belt-high fastball on the outside corner and lined it into the right-center seats.
Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton took over for Kuroda and retired nine Pirates in order to nail down the win.
Kuroda improved to 7-6. 3.86 and 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts since returning from the disabled list on September 6 after suffering a mild concussion.
After the game he was asked if there are similarities between this late-season surge and the one last year, when he became the staff ace in September and October. He had a ready answer. "I wouldn't say it's the same as last year," he said. "I didn't get hit in the head last year."
The win gave the Dodgers seven wins in a row, 10 of the last 12 and five straight against the Pirates at home and are a remarkable 46-15 (.754) against Pittsburgh since the start of the 2001 season, the best record of any team against the Bucs during that span.
The Dodgers will take today (Thursday) off and ready themselves for a three game series with the suddenly red-hot Giants who have pulled themselves back into at least the wild-card race.
Score by innings
Pittsburgh 010 000 000-1
Los Angeles 000 002 01x-3
Los Angeles ab r h bi ave
Pierre lf 4 0 1 0 .314
Belliard 2b 3 2 3 1 .319
Hudson 2b 0 0 0 0 .287
Ethier rf 4 0 1 0 .283
Kemp cf 4 1 1 2 .305
Loney 1b 4 0 1 0 .281
DeWitt, 3b 3 0 0 0 .143
Ausmus c 2 0 1 0 .289
Castro ss 3 0 0 0 .284
Kuroda p 2 0 0 0 .120
Kuo p 0 0 0 0 .000
Tome ph 1 0 0 0 .167
Sherrill p 0 0 0 0 .000
Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 30 3 8 3
Pittsburgh 32 1 6 1
Two-base hits- Belliard (11). HR- Kemp (24),
Belliard (8). RBI- Kemp 2 (94), Belliard (30).
LOB- Los Angeles 5, Pittsburgh 5. SB- Pierre
(27). CS- Pierre (12).
Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era
Kuroda (7-6) 6.0 6 1-1 0 7 3.86
Kuo 1.0 0 0-0 0 1 2.45
Sherrill 1.0 0 0-0 0 2 0.42
Broxton (sv 35) 1.0 0 0-0 0 1 2.42
WP- Kuroda. T- 2:50. Att- 53,193.
Billingsley Bypassed in Giants Series
A struggling Chad Billingsley, normally scheduled to face the Giants on Saturday, will instead make his next start Wednesday, when the Dodgers face the Nationals in Washington.
Vicente Padilla pitches Friday against San Francisco, Jon Garland goes on Saturday and Randy Wolf starts the series finale on Sunday.
Torre said that matchups played into his decision to swap Billingsley with Garland.
Garland is 1-0 with a 3.77 ERA in two career starts against the Giants. Billingsley is 1-2 with a 3.20 ERA in four games against the Giants, but he lasted just four innings and gave up three runs in his most recent start against San Francisco.
Dodger Blue Notes-- With Colorado and San Francisco scheduled later, the Dodgers lead the Rockies by 5.5 games in the NL West and the Cardinals by 3.0 games for the Senior Circuit’s top record. ...Los Angeles’ magic number to clinch a postseason berth is 9, meaning any combination of Dodgers wins and Giants losses totaling 9 would send the club to the playoffs for the third time in four years. ...Jonathan Broxton has not allowed an earned run since August 15, going a perfect ten-for-ten in save opportunities and striking out 29 in 18.0 innings over 17 appearances in that span. ...Matt Kemp has hit safely in nine consecutive games and is batting .333 (4-for-12) with a double, a homer, and three RBI through the first three games of the homestand. ...Ron Belliard is batting .319 (15-for-47) with three homers and eight RBI in 13 games for the Dodgers since being acquired from Washington on August 30. ...The sellout crowd of 53,193 marked the Dodgers’ seventh sellout of the season and also the largest non-weekend day game crowd in Dodger Stadium history, excluding opening day.