MLB Insiders: Los Angeles Dodgers

Jeff Karstens

The Pirates open a four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night at PNC Park. Right-hander Jeff Karstens gets the start for the Bucs. The Dodgers will counter with right-hander Aaron Harang.

Although the Los Angeles Dodgers are in a tight race to win the NL West, they would no doubt like to use this week to gain ground on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild-card chase.

The Dodgers have won 12 of their last 14 meetings with the Pirates heading into Monday night's opener of a four-game set at PNC Park.

Los Angeles (62-53) is one game behind San Francisco for the division lead. Pittsburgh (64-50) holds the second wild-card spot, with the Dodgers and St. Louis 2 1/2 games back.

The Dodgers swept a three-game home set from the Pirates from April 10-12, but they come to Pittsburgh with a different look now that Hanley Ramirez has joined the team.

Ramirez, acquired July 25 from Miami, enjoyed a big weekend series in his return to South Beach as he went 6 for 13 with five RBIs to help Los Angeles win two of three. The three-time All-Star has 17 RBIs in 16 games with the Dodgers.

The Pirates avoided a fourth straight loss and a three-game sweep by San Diego with Sunday's 11-5 victory. Pittsburgh rallied from a five-run deficit after two innings, as Clint Barmes' first career grand slam highlighted a nine-run fourth inning.

The Pirates have yielded first-inning runs in six straight games and hope that Jeff Karstens (4-2, 3.77 ERA) can get them off to a better start Monday. Karstens gave up three runs over six innings Tuesday and did not get a decision in a 10-4 defeat to Arizona, increasing his home ERA to 1.33.

The right-hander, 2-0 in four outings at PNC Park this year, fell to 0-3 with a 4.94 ERA in five starts against the Dodgers after yielding three runs over five innings in a 3-2 loss April 12.

Karstens will be matched up with another San Diego-born right-hander in Aaron Harang (7-7, 3.80), who owns more victories at PNC Park than at any other visiting ballpark - going 8-3 in 11 starts despite a 4.46 ERA.

Harang lost his second straight outing Tuesday by surrendering three runs in six innings of a 3-1 home defeat to Colorado.

Chris Capuano didn't quite make history on Sunday, but he did continue his great season, proving yet again to be a bargain for the Dodgers.

Capuano took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but settled on eight shutout frames with just two hits allowed, and 10 strikeouts in a 5-0 victory over Miami. It was the 76th game by a Los Angeles Dodger, dating back to 1958, with at least eight scoreless innings and at least 10 strikeouts.

It snapped a personal three-game losing streak for Capuano, who showed signs of a rebound in his previous start. He allowed two early runs in Monday's loss to Colorado, but that was all he allowed in seven innings.

"I was happy with the last couple of innings, as I felt stronger and I was getting the ball to where I was trying to get it," Capuano said on Monday.

He was even better on Sunday, which was his 16th quality start of the year, and his 14th game in 24 starts that he has allowed two runs or less.

Now four years removed from his second Tommy John surgery, Capuano sports a 3.11 ERA in 24 starts. He has pitched at least six innings in 17 of his 24 starts, averaging 6.26 innings, his highest mark since 2006.

Signed to a two-year, $10 million contract before the season, Capuano has established himself as a worthy top of the rotation starter for the Dodgers and is a big reason why they are in contention in the National League West.

Notes, Quotes

SS Hanley Ramirez hit .462 (6-for-13) in three games in his return to Miami, driving in five runs against his old teammates. Ramirez has at least one hit in all eight road games he has played as a Dodger, and has 18 RBI in 17 games since getting acquired by the Dodgers on July 25.

CF Matt Kemp extended his hitting streak to four games with an eighth-inning double, hitting .529 (9-for-17) during the streak. Kemp also stole two bases on Saturday, his first multi-steal game since July 5, 2011.

IF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr. left Saturday's game early with tightness in his left hip. Manager Don Mattingly said Hairston was day-to-day and not likely to land on the disabled list.

RF Andre Ethier drove in a run with an eighth-inning single, giving him RBI in back-to-back games for the first time since July 14-15. Ethier, since returning from the disabled list on July 13, is hitting .269 with just one home run and 11 RBI in 28 games.

C Matt Treanor went 0-for-4, extending his string of hitless at-bats to 10, dating back to July 26. Treanor has just three hits in his last 44 at-bats (.048) dating back to June 17, which has seen his batting average drop from .310 to .186.

By The Numbers: 76—Starts by a Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher with at least eight scoreless innings and at least 10 strikeouts, including Chris Capuano on Sunday in Miami.

Quote To Note: "It's the reason you love certain guys, because they can do everything. Now, you see the speed element, and it's the whole package you want to see." —Manager Don Mattingly, on Matt Kemp, who stole two bases in a game for the first time in 13 months.

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