Pirates face challenge against high-flying Dodgers
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates will look to slow down the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers when the teams meet again Wednesday night at PNC Park.
The Dodgers (89-35) won the first two games of the four-game series, defeating the Pirates 8-5 on Tuesday after capturing the opener 6-5 in 12 innings on Monday.
The Pirates (60-66) have lost eight of their past 10 games.
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Los Angeles first baseman Adrian Gonzalez collected his 2,000th career hit with a double down the right field line in the sixth inning on Tuesday. He has a hit in four of his past five games and nine of his past 12.
“He’s just a pro, and the longevity, what it takes to get 2,000 hits, I can’t fathom,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I know that his teammates are really excited for him, and it’s quite a milestone.”
Roberts said the Los Angeles lineup is considerably more dangerous with Gonzalez hot.
“That’s invaluable,” Roberts said. “The consistent quality at-bat that Adrian does give us, when he’s right, it’s taxing on a starter. I mean, it really is, on a pitching staff.”
Gonzalez might have to continue hitting well if the Los Angeles starters keep struggling early against Pittsburgh, which scored five runs in the third inning Tuesday after taking a 3-0 lead on three solo home runs the previous night.
The Dodgers will turn Wednesday to left-hander Rich Hill (9-4, 3.54 ERA), hoping he will be able to settle things. He has not allowed more than three runs in 10 straight starts dating to June 15, when he gave up seven runs and eight hits in four innings against the Cleveland Indians.
Despite his impressive stretch, Hill has only completed the sixth inning once in his past four starts. He went five innings his last time out on Friday, when he allowed three runs and three hits with five strikeouts and three walks against the Detroit Tigers.
Hill has won five consecutive decisions.
After Los Angeles starter Brock Stewart struggled Tuesday, Dodgers relievers pitched seven shutout innings.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle knows the bullpen could play a factor again.
“(Tony) Watson, (Tony) Cingrani and (Kenley) Jansen kept us off the plate,” Hurdle said. “They are very good at the top of the zone, and they have good breaking pitches to throw a combination punch at you.”
The Pirates will counter with right-hander Trevor Williams, who struggled through his worst start of the season his last time out. Williams (5-6, 4.71 ERA) lasted only three innings while allowing eight runs and seven hits in an 11-10 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.
Williams was enjoying somewhat of a hot streak before that outing. In each of his previous four appearances, and in 10 of his previous 11, he surrendered fewer than four earned runs. On Aug. 7, he one-hit the Detroit Tigers through seven shutout innings in a 3-0 Pirates win.
When Williams faced Los Angeles earlier this season, the Dodgers got the best of him. In an outing similar to his lackluster start against the Cardinals, Williams gave up eight runs (six earned) and seven hits in three innings on May 8.