Dodgers back in 1st with 11-0 win
Chad Billingsley can't put a finger on why he's been pitching so much better since a stint on the disabled list that spanned the All-Star break.
''I was thinking about that today,'' said Ramirez, acquired in a trade two days after Billingsley began his streak of five consecutive wins on July 23. ''I think maybe I am good luck.''
Billingsley pitched eight dominant innings and Los Angeles won for the fifth time in six games, routing the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-0 Tuesday night.
Billingsley (9-9) allowed five hits and one walk in improving to 7-1 in his career against the Pirates.
Billingsley waited out a 55-minute delay at the beginning, then struck out five and improved to 5-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts since a July stint on the disabled list due to elbow inflammation. He had lost all five of his previous outings before going on the DL.
''You know, honestly, nothing much,'' Billingsley said when asked what's been different since coming off the DL.
''I've been throwing just fastballs and commanding the fastball pretty well lately, and just mixing in offspeed. As far as my thought process, it hasn't changed.''
Luis Cruz tied career highs for hits and RBIs with three each. Ramirez added three hits, two RBIs and two runs as Los Angeles beat the Pirates for the eighth straight time dating to last season.
''You've got everybody chipping in,'' Ramirez said. ''Not only one guy, the whole team is going out there and contributing.''
Shawn Tolleson worked a perfect ninth to preserve the Dodgers' seventh shutout of the season. The Pirates have been blanked 10 times.
Pittsburgh has lost five of six and is 3-6 on its season-long 11-game homestand.
That's bringing back memories of last season in Pittsburgh, where there were high hopes the Pirates would have their first winning season since 1992 when they were 53-47 on July 26. Instead, a 19-43 collapse the rest of the way resulted in the franchise's seventh consecutive 90-loss season.
''We are doing a lot better than we did last year,'' outfielder Andrew McCutchen said. ''We are still in a good position and where we need to be. It's not like we are 30 games out of it. We're still fighting, and we need to keep playing like we are the team that everybody is scared to play against.''
Wild card leaders just a week ago, Pittsburgh's grip on the second wild card spot has slipped to a half-game lead over the surging Dodgers.
''This is our worst patch of play probably during the season,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ''Every team that I have been on has a patch of play like this. We know what we are dealing with and we have to find a way to turn it around.''
Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia (9-7) had won seven straight decisions, tied for the longest active streak in the majors.
Auditioning for a spot in the starting rotation during the stretch drive, Correia gave up five earned runs and seven hits in six innings. Only four hits off Correia left the infield.
''I felt good out there and I think that I made a lot of good pitches,'' Correia said. ''Obviously things didn't really go my way for a few innings, but I had chances after that to make a good pitch and get out of the inning and I missed a couple.''
Shane Victorino had an RBI grounder in the third, and the Dodgers loaded the bases without hitting a ball to the outfield to begin a three-run fourth. Infield singles by Kemp and Ramirez sandwiched Ethier reaching on an error by Pirates second baseman Neil Walker put Los Angeles in position.
Kemp scored on Loney's groundout, and Ethier and Ramirez were driven in by a line-drive single by Cruz - the only ball of the inning to leave the infield.
The NL West-leading Dodgers added two runs in the sixth when Ramirez, Loney and Cruz hit consecutive singles and A.J. Ellis followed with a sacrifice fly.
Before the game, Hurdle said that he would go with a five-man rotation after the team's next day off Aug. 23. Correia was removed from the rotation after the team acquired Wandy Rodriguez on July 24 despite the fact Correia won his fifth consecutive start the following day.
Correia made only one relief appearance, however, before he was returned to starting Aug. 8. He will get one more start before Hurdle said the Pirates would send one of their six starters to the bullpen.
Correia had won each of his past six starts.
The Dodgers turned it into a rout in the ninth, adding five runs off Chad Qualls. Either had a two-run single and Ramirez a two-run double.
Los Angeles didn't need all those runs on a night Billingsley was so strong.
''Tonight... he seemed the smoothest,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. ''He didn't fight himself at all, he didn't overthrow, he had nice touch and feel, used his slow breaking ball, used his cutter, threw some sliders, threw some change ups. He just seemed to kind of be in control all night.''
NOTES: The only previous occasion Cruz had three hits in a game was also at PNC Park: Sept. 12, 2008, while playing for Pittsburgh. He also had three RBIs in a game once previously. ... Pittsburgh entered its season-long 11-game homestand with the best home record in baseball but is 3-6 on it so far. ... The Dodgers are 11-1 in the Eastern time zone this season. ... Los Angeles is 44-3 when scoring at least five runs. ... Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw allowed one run over seven innings in a start against the Pirates earlier this season. Rodriguez pitched seven shutout innings in his only appearance against Los Angeles this season. Kershaw and Rodriguez will start in the third game of the series Wednesday.