Pirates halt skid, upset NL-best Dodgers
If the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to defeat the good teams in October, they might want to start beating the bad teams in September.
Brandon Moss' two-run single gave Pittsburgh an early lead and the Pirates, stuck in their worst slump since 1984, used five pitchers to beat Los Angeles 3-1 on Friday night, stalling the Dodgers' drive to the playoffs.
The Dodgers, who own the NL's best record at 92-62, could have secured at least a wild-card playoff spot with a win or a Braves loss, but Atlanta beat Washington 4-1.
The Dodgers' magic number for repeating as the NL West champion remained at four, partly because they are 2-2 this week against the majors' two worst clubs, the Nationals and Pirates. Colorado moved within five games in the NL West, beating St. Louis 2-1 on Friday.
"It's not going to happen every night," Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson said. "We know we've got a good ballclub, we can pitch, hit, play defense. But we're not going to be perfect. Just because they're so many back, that doesn't mean they're going to roll over and let us pound on them."
Los Angeles had won 11 of 15 and the Pirates had lost nine of 10, but two costly infield errors by the Dodgers led to all of Pittsburgh's scoring. Despite winning, the Pirates have lost 23 of 27 during their worst slide since they dropped 24 of 28 from July 13-Aug. 15, 1985 and are five losses away from 100.
Right-hander Jon Garland (11-12) lost for the first time with Los Angeles, giving up three runs and six hits in six innings. Garland was 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in his first four starts with Los Angeles, beating the Pirates 6-2 on Sept. 14.
"These are the tough games to get up for at the end of the season, when you're playing a team that's not going anywhere," Garland said. "The crowd's definitely not going to get you going. These are definitely games you need to dig deep. It's easy to get up for the games when somebody's trying to track you down or there are 43,000 in the stands going crazy."
With right-hander Ross Ohlendorf shut down because he has pitched 176 2-3 innings, Pirates manager John Russell used five pitchers from his bullpen to beat the Dodgers in Pittsburgh for only the eighth time in 31 games since PNC Park opened in 2001.
It was almost like a manager handles his pitching staff during spring training.
"You know what, that's what it felt like. It worked out well," said Matt Capps, who pitched the ninth for his 26th save.
Jeff Karstens, making his first start since June 5, gave up Hudson's RBI double in the second while pitching three innings, but the four relievers who followed pitched six scoreless innings.
Donnie Veal (1-0), a December draft pick who has rarely been used in close games this season, pitched the fourth and fifth innings for his first career victory. Steven Jackson pitched the sixth and Jesse Chavez the seventh and eighth.
"It was exciting - real exciting," Veal said of finally winning.
After third baseman Blake DeWitt's two-base throwing error on Andy LaRoche's grounder led to Garrett Jones' sacrifice fly in the Pirates' first, LaRoche and Jones singled with one out in the third. First baseman James Loney then misplayed Ryan Doumit's hard-hit grounder for an error that loaded the bases. Moss followed a batter later by flaring a two-run single into left.
"It certainly something that's unexpected," manager Joe Torre said of the defensive mistakes. "You certainly can't expect good things to happen when you don't catch the ball. You give the opposition extra outs and anything's likely to happen."
Even a loss to the Pirates, who were swept in a three-game series in Los Angeles last week.
Dodgers 3B Casey Blake (hamstring) didn't start for the third straight day, so DeWitt made his sixth start of the season. ... 3B Pedro Alvarez, who had 27 homers and 95 RBIs at Double-A Altoona and Class A Lynchburg, is the Pirates' minor league player of the year. ... The Dodgers had a long night of travel following their 7-6 victory over the Nationals on Thursday. Because of the G-20 summit that ended Friday in Pittsburgh, they went through a lengthy, detailed security check before leaving Washington.