Happiness: Pittsburgh in the Rear View Mirror

The Dodgers were smashed on LaRoche ("The Rock" in French) in the fourth and final game of the series, again coming up with a flat performance. Lefty Zach Duke held them to four hits before leaving with two out in the ninth and an 11-1 lead. LaRoche, a former Dodger, has a field day, banging out, in this order, a single, double, home run, double, home run while driving in six.

With a playoff spot already clinched, the Dodgers lost three of four to the Pirates, who had dropped 23 of 26 going into the series — the franchise's worst stretch in 119 seasons. It was their first back-to-back win over Los Angeles since 2006.

So the clubhouse attendance repacked the champaign that was to be used to celebrate the Dodgers clinching the National League West title, hoping it can be used tonight in San Diego. One more win or one Colorado loss is all it will take to give L.A. the title but that one win has become rather hard to come by.

Most of the Pittsburgh damage was caused by Andy LaRoche, at one time the premier minor league player in the Dodgers system, who was included in the trade that resulted Manny Ramirez coming to Los Angeles and Jason Bay going to the Red Sox.

LaRoche was poised to get a lengthy shot at the third base spot during spring training in 2008 but an injured hand suffered in an exhibition game sidelined him and Blake DeWitt got the job. LaRoche was apparently considered expendable after that.

So there was no little delight in the LaRoche family, his father Dave, a former Major League pitcher, was there and probably some feelings of payback, although none of them would admit it, when he went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two home runs and six runs batted in during the game, giving him a four-game total of 11-for-18 (.611), three doubles, three home runs and nine of the 22 Pittsburgh collected.

LaRoche, who leads Pittsburgh in runs batted in, has played more games a third base than Pirates' third baseman since 2001. He had a chance for the cycle when he double in to deep center inn the eighth and rounded second as if he might attempt to stretch the hit into a triple but then pulled up.

The Dodgers were offered the game early, at least offered a chance to get on the board quickly, in the first two innings and stoutly refused to accept the gift.

With one out in the first, Orlando Hudson reached base when the first baseman was unable to catch an accurate throw from the shortstop. Hudson turned to go to second, not realizing that the ball hit the brick wall surrounding the field and bounced directly back to first base. Hudson was tagged out between bases,

They had another chance in the second when Matt Kemp also lived on an error and managed to reach second safely. James Loney scuffed a looping fly ball into left field that the shortstop ran down, then made a turning, leaping throw back to second in time to double up Kemp.

Mark Loretta, at third base for an injured Ron Belliard who was playing third because Casey Blake was also out with an injury, singled. The hit could have driven in Kemp, but he wasn't at second anymore. Then Loretta was picked off first base. The first three batters in the inning reached base but the inning ended with the bases empty.

Opening the bottom of the second, Loretta threw a ball well over Loney's head at second base. Starter Hiroki Kuroda got the next Pirate on a fly ball to left but then in rapid order Pittsburgh rapped out a double and single, added a walk, LaRoche doubled in two and another RBI single made it 5-0.

Juan Castro, playing short for Rafael Furcal, singled in the third and Loney singled with two out in the fourth. The Dodgers didn't get another hit until the ninth and fourteen Los Angeles players went down in order before Hudson tripled with one out and scored on Chin-Lun Hu's sacrifice fly.

Pittsburgh added two more off Kuroda in the fourth, although five of the seven rune he allowed were unearned, then added two off Guillermo Mota in the sixth and two off James McDonald in the eighth. Kuroda was 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA in four starts since coming off the disabled list.

Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger saw his first action since September 13 when he took over for Kuroda in the fifth. He hit the first batter, then his flutterball eliminated the next two before he took a line shot off his leg and had to leave the game.

The Dodgers will try again tonight to nail down the elusive N.L. West title in San Diego. Probable starters in the series:
Tuesday, Chad Billingsley (12-10, 4.07 vs. LHP Cesar Ramos (0-1, 1.69)
Wednesday, RHP Jon Garland (11-12, 3.90)vs. LHP Clayton Richard (4-2, 4.58)

 Score by Innings
Los Angeles	000 000 001- 1
Pittsburgh	050 202 02x-11

 Dodgers	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf-cf	4  0  0  0  .306
Hudson 2b	4  1  1  0  .286
Ethier rf	2  0  0  0  .274
 Hu ss        	0  0  0  1  .000
Kemp cf        	3  0  0  0  .301
 McDonald p	0  0  0  0  .000
 DeWitt ph	1  0  0  0  .191
Loney 1b	3  0  1  0  .287
Loretta 3b	3  0  1  0  .232
Ausmus c	2  0  0  0  .295
 Ellis c	1  0  0  0  .000
Castro ss-lf	3  0  1  0  .290
Kuroda p	0  0  0  0  .143
 Mientkiewicz ph 1  0  0  0  .214
 Haeger p 	0  0  0  0  .000
 Mota p	        0  0  0  0  .333
 Repko rf	1  0  0  0  .000
----------------------------------
 Totals	        28  1  4  1
 Pittsburgh	39 11 15 11

 Error- Loretta (1). 3B- Hudson (5).
RBI- Hu (1). S- Kuroda. SF- Hu.
LOB- Los Angeles 43, Pittsburgh 8.
CS- Loretta. PO- Loretta. DP- Hudson
Casto and Loney.

 Dodgers	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Kuroda (8-7)	4.0  8  7-3  2  3  3.76
Haeger	        0.2  1  0-0  0  1  3.32
Mota        	1.1  3  2-2  0  0  3.53
McDonald	2.0  3  2-2  1  2  4.06
HBP- by Haeger. T- 2:38. Att- 16,696.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Dodger catching prospect Lucas May hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning for Team USA yesterday to lead his country to its second consecutive Baseball World Cup in Nettuno, Italy. The United States defeated Cuba, 10-6. In 68 games for Double-A Chattanooga this season, May batted .306 with six homers and 32 RBI. He'll participate in the Arizona Fall League for the second consecutive season. ... Despite their recent drought, the Dodgers have now crossed home plate 766 times this season, the seventh-highest single-season run total in Los Angeles Dodger history. The top six run totals came in 1962 (842), 2006 (820), 2000 (798), 1974 (798), 1999 (793), and 1977 (769). ...The Dodgers can take comfort in the fact that when playing in California – including home games and road games at San Diego, San Francisco and Anaheim –  the Dodgers are 59-38 (.608), compared to their overall winning percentage (.596).    

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