Seemingly on the verge of clinching their second consecutive division title, the Los Angeles Dodgers blew a big lead in the ninth inning of their last game.
Despite that disheartening finish, the Dodgers still have to feel good about their chances of securing the NL West in their next meeting with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Dodgers look to bounce back Monday afternoon as they close a four-game set against the lowly Pirates, who haven’t won back-to-back games in more than five weeks.
Los Angeles (93-63) broke a 2-all tie by scoring three runs in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, but Pittsburgh answered with four of its own off closer Jonathan Broxton(notes) to steal a 6-5 home win.
The loss prevented the Dodgers from clinching the NL West title. Their magic number technically is still two, though it’s effectively one because Los Angeles owns the tiebreaker with second-place Colorado. The Rockies are idle Monday.
“It was right there,” manager Joe Torre told the Dodgers’ official Web site. “But you have to play nine innings. We had who we wanted at all positions, our closer on the mound. But the game is filled with surprises and they’re not always good surprises.”
The Dodgers are likely confident they’ll be able to wrap up the division in the series finale, considering the Pirates’ struggles lately. Even after Sunday’s miracle finish, Pittsburgh (58-96) has lost 26 of 33 since it last won consecutive games.
The Pirates haven’t won back-to-back games against the Dodgers since Sept. 19-20, 2006, going 6-15 in the series since then.
Pittsburgh players, however, were encouraged by their performance Sunday.
“We’re treating this like our playoffs,” Milledge told the Pirates’ official Web site. “When we’re in the postseason next year, we’ll know how it feels. We are just trying to treat this as our postseason and get the feeling down.”
The Pirates could have a hard time building on that win with the Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda(notes) (8-6, 3.65 ERA) taking the mound Monday. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA in four starts since returning from a stint on the disabled list due to a concussion. He held Washington without an earned run over six innings to get a 14-2 victory Tuesday.
Kuroda is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates. He allowed one run while striking out seven in six innings to beat them 3-1 on Sept. 16.
The Pirates will hand the ball to Zach Duke(notes) (10-15, 4.06), looking for his first win in more than a month. The left-hander is 0-4 with an 8.54 ERA in five starts since beating Cincinnati on Aug. 22. He gave up five runs in six innings to suffer a 10-4 loss to the Reds on Tuesday.
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