Trying to reclaim sole possession of the NL wild card—and possibly even the division lead—the Los Angeles Dodgers look to salvage the finale of a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
Los Angeles (79-73) starts play tied with Philadelphia for the wild card. The Phillies, though, are idle and start a three-game weekend series at home with Florida on Friday. The Marlins also are vying for the wild card.
If Los Angeles is swept at home by Pittsburgh (65-87) for the first time since Sept. 4-6, 2000, it will fall one-half game behind the Phillies. But the Dodgers also can move back into first place in the NL West with a win, coupled with a loss by the San Diego Padres to Arizona on Thursday.
“We know the situation we’re in. We’re fully aware of what’s happening elsewhere,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “We’ve got to take care of business ourselves.”
The Dodgers fell for the 11th time in 17 games with a 6-4 defeat on Wednesday. Chris Duffy, Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez—the top three batters in Pittsburgh’s order—combined to go 9-for-15 with five runs.
“That was a game with obviously a lot at stake for the Dodgers. And I say that only because it’s also great for us,” said former Dodgers and current Pirates manager Jim Tracy. “For our young players to be exposed to this type of atmosphere, with what is at stake and to be able to play in an environment like this, it’s just a tremendous arena for our kids to be in at this time of the year.”
Pittsburgh won its fifth in a row and improved to 35-27 since the All-Star break. The Pirates entered the break with a 30-60 record.
In his last 10 games, Sanchez is hitting .410 (16-for-39) with four doubles, nine RBIs and seven runs. He leads the NL with a .346 average.
“He’s got that magic wand right now,” Little said of Sanchez.
Coming off the shortest outing of his brief career, rookie Chad Billingsley (5-4, 3.32 ERA) looks to even his record for the Dodgers.
Billingsley, who hadn’t pitched since Aug. 27 because of a strained oblique muscle, lasted just one inning of an 11-2 loss to San Diego on Saturday. He threw 40 pitches, giving up three runs, three hits and two walks.
“Every hitter, I was falling behind. You can’t do that,” said Billingsley, who said he did not further aggravate the injury. “I was just rusty. It happens.”
He was 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his previous six starts. He has never faced the Pirates.
The left-hander walked four and allowed three runs and five hits over 5 1-3 innings on Sept. 10 in a 4-2 loss to Cincinnati. He pitched three innings of relief Saturday, giving up a run and two hits with a walk in a 3-2 win over the New York Mets.