Dodgers rip Pirates for first win of 2010

The Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t need Manny Ramirez or Andre Ethier,
Casey Blake or Russell Martin to finally find a way to beat what is
usually one of the majors’ worst teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Manager Joe Torre simply plugged in a bunch of backups, and a
lot of hits followed.

Ronnie Belliard homered among three extra base hits and drove
in four runs, and the Dodgers won 10-2 on Thursday to avoid being
swept in a three-game series by the Pirates for the first time in
10 years.

The Dodgers didn’t start five regulars, including
middle-of-the-lineup hitters Ethier (sore left ankle) and Ramirez
(day off), but still got 16 hits off four pitchers, including 10
from their No. 1-4 hitters. Reed Johnson doubled among three hits
and scored twice, and Matt Kemp, James Loney and Garret Anderson
drove in two runs each.

“They’re an aggressive-hitting team,” Pirates manager John
Russell said. “You throw the ball over the middle of the plate,
they’re going to make you pay.”

The Dodgers hadn’t been swept in a three-game series by
Pittsburgh since Sept. 4-6, 2000, in Los Angeles. The last such
sweep in Pittsburgh was May 31-June 2, 1999, when the Pirates
played in Three Rivers Stadium.

Belliard, making a spot start after losing the second
baseman’s job to Blake DeWitt, hit a two-run homer off Paul Maholm
(0-1) in the fifth to make it 4-0. Belliard added a run-scoring
triple during a breakout four-run seventh against reliever Hayden
Penn, huffing and puffing into third.

Belliard doubled in the ninth, finishing 3 for 5 and a single
short of the cycle.

“I’m not going to play every day, I’m going to come from the
bench and sometimes when they need to give the guys off they’re
going to put me out there,” said Belliard, who replaced Orlando
Hudson at second base late last season. “I’m going to keep working
and keep myself strong to help the ballclub.”

Maholm second-guessed himself for throwing a hittable pitch
to Belliard on an 0-1 count, especially with two out and Anderson
on deck.

“It was a sinker that didn’t do a whole lot, except go about
405 feet,” Maholm said. “In my head, I had a left-handed batter
coming up. I agreed to it and I threw it, but in my mind I wanted
to throw something different.”

Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley (1-0) gave up a run while
throwing 107 pitches over 5 1-3 innings, yielding five hits,
striking out seven and walking four.

Billingsley was 4-0 during five April starts last season and
was 9-3 with a 2.72 ERA after 14 starts, making the NL All-Star
team. He faded during the second half, losing eight of his final 11
while having a 4.03 ERA.

“Last year was last year, this is a new season, a new
start,” Billingsley said. “We’ll have to take it one start at a
time and one win at a time.”

With the Dodgers having no established No. 1 starter, they
would welcome Billingsley or left-hander Clayton Kershaw pitching
himself into that role.

“We needed a win,” Billingsley said. “You always want to
be that guy who is the one who can stop it (a losing streak).”

The Pirates, who had had won four in a row and five of six
against Los Angeles since late September, wasted a chance to get
back into the game when Maholm struck out with the bases loaded and
his team down 2-0 in the fourth. Normally a position player would
have batted, but Russell is hitting his pitcher eighth.

The Dodgers got a scare when center fielder Kemp and left
fielder Johnson bumped into each other as Kemp charged into
left-center to catch Bobby Crosby’s fly ball to end the sixth, but
both got up quickly.

“That one scared the hell out of me,” manager Joe Torre
said. “Matt’s used to taking everything, especially with Manny in
left field. … It looked like Reed was calling for it, but the
center fielder is the boss. I’m just glad we got through that.”

NOTES: Ethier’s status for Friday night’s game at Florida is
uncertain. He was hurt getting back to first on a pickoff attempt
Wednesday. … All three games were played with temperatures of 72
or above. … The Pirates unconditionally released INF Ramon
Vazquez, who was cut during spring training. He is owed $2 million
this season. … The attendance was 9,352, down from 39,024 on
Monday and 31,061 on Wednesday. … Garrett Jones went 0 for 3 with
a pair of walks after homering three times in the first two games.