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.