Off to their best start in 13 years, the Los Angeles Dodgers aim for a sweep of their three-game series tonight with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Dodgers have taken the first two games of this series -- and five straight overall against the Pirates -- to give them their first 5-1 start since 1999. After claiming a one-run victory in Tuesday's opener, Los Angeles had a better showing last night with a 4-1 triumph.
Andre Ethier drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, while both Juan Rivera and Matt Kemp had three hits. Rivera drove in two runs and scored once, while Kemp had a string of nine straight games with an RBI snapped.
Chad Billingsley tossed six solid innings, allowing one run on five hits with four strikeouts.
"I had a good fastball command tonight," said Billingsley. "Everything was pretty good and it's always nice to get ahead of hitters."
The Pirates, meanwhile, had opened up their season with four straight one-run games for the first time in franchise history, but couldn't keep last night's meeting close en route to their second straight loss following a pair of wins over the Phillies.
Clint Barmes hit a solo homer and Erik Bedard gave up two runs on eight hits over five-plus innings for Pittsburgh.
"I didn't throw many strikes with my breaking ball," said Bedard. "I had two bad innings where I couldn't throw the ball where I wanted to."
Though the Pirates have allowed just 12 runs over their first five games, they have only managed to plate nine themselves. That lack of production cost tonight's starter Jeff Karstens a win last time out as he got a no-decision in a 2-1 extra-inning victory over Philadelphia last Saturday.
The right-hander allowed one run over six innings on five hits in his first outing since leading the Pirates with a 3.38 earned run average a season ago.
Karstens, 29, is 0-2 with a 5.21 ERA in five career games when facing the Dodgers, getting a no-decision in his lone meeting with them last year despite giving up one run over 5 2/3 frames.
Chris Capuano hopes for a better showing in his second start with the Dodgers after running into control problems in his debut last week. The 33-year-old, who signed a two-year contract this offseason, gave up only two hits against San Diego, but also walked five and was touched for four runs in 4 2/3 innings of a no-decision.
The left-hander has faced the Pirates 17 times in his career, including 15 starts, and is 4-7 with a 5.99 ERA against them. He split two decisions against them last season while with the Mets, posting a 3.46 ERA.
The Dodgers won six of eight versus the Pirates last season, winning three of four in Los Angeles while plating 30 runs. They have won 13 of their past 15 at home against Pittsburgh.