Dodgers-Pirates Preview

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ prolonged inability to win in
Pittsburgh has the Pirates on the verge of sweeping them for the
first time since 2000.

Coming off an extra-inning victory, the Pirates try to conclude
an opening series sweep of the visiting Dodgers on Thursday.

Two days after beating the two-time defending NL West champions
11-5, Ronny Cedeno delivered a bases-loaded single in the 10th to
give Pittsburgh a 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The Pirates have won four straight at home against the Dodgers,
and look to sweep a series from Los Angeles for the first time
since Sept. 4-6, 2000. They haven’t swept the Dodgers at home since
May 31-June 2, 1999.

Pittsburgh, which has lost at least 94 games each of the last
five seasons, is trying to sweep its opening series for the second
time in four years.

“We got to keep it going, have the same attitude and prepare
everyday,” said Cedeno, who’s 4 for 9 with two RBIs in two
games.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, will try to avoid being swept in its
opening series for the first time since 2002.

Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen had three hits and budding star
Garrett Jones hit a three-run homer after going deep twice in the
opener. Jones has four home runs with eight RBIs in his last three
games versus Los Angeles.

Jones’ first-inning homer off Clayton Kershaw helped the Pirates
get off to a strong start in their latest contest. They’ll try for
similar success against Los Angeles’ scheduled starter Chad
Billingsley in this contest.

The right-hander looks to bounce back from a inconsistent 2009
season where he went 9-3 with a 2.72 ERA over his first 14 starts
and made the NL All-Star team, but struggled down the stretch to
finish 12-11 with a 4.03 ERA. Despite his early season success,
Billingsley was dropped from the Dodgers’ rotation in the
postseason.

After some mechanical adjustments, the Dodgers hope Billingsley
can return to his All-Star form.

“His delivery line is better, he’s standing a little taller,”
pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told the Dodgers’ official Web
site.

Billingsley is 1-0 with a 7.45 ERA in two starts against the
Pirates. He was roughed up in his last appearance at Pittsburgh,
allowing seven runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 15-8 loss Sept. 17.

The Pirates counter with Paul Maholm, who’s 0-3 with a 5.59 ERA
in six starts against Los Angeles.

The left-hander hopes to improve from last season when he was
bothered by knee discomfort and finished 8-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 31
starts.

“I’m looking forward to getting my start in and seeing where I’m
at,” Maholm told the Pirates’ official Web site.

Los Angeles managed five hits Wednesday, but drew nine walks
only to strand 12 runners in a game that featured 25 men left on
base.

“We had plenty of opportunities, we just couldn’t get it done,”
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.

Recovering from a pulled groin he suffered in early March,
Russell Martin homered Wednesday for Los Angeles. He’s a lifetime
.350 hitter in 12 games at Pittsburgh.

The Dodgers were 24-7 at PNC Park until losing five of six
there.