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Dodgers-Pirates Preview

AP - Sports

There's a chance Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig might be healthy enough to return to the starting lineup for the series opener in Pittsburgh.

The question is whether Major League Baseball will give him the chance.

Puig could be among the players suspended for a brawl earlier this week, but Hanley Ramirez is expected to return Friday night to try to help the Dodgers extend their dominance over the Pirates.

After being scratched from the starting lineup because of a strained right shoulder Wednesday against Arizona, Puig entered in the 12th inning and got a hit in his only at-bat in that 8-6 loss. The outfielder is batting .486 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his first 10 games but it's unknown when he'll get to add to those stats.

Puig was seen punching the back of Diamondbacks infielder Eric Hinske's head in Tuesday night's brawl. He was also among four players hit by pitches before the benches cleared and was among the six who were ejected afterward.

"One thing we've learned from Yasiel is there's no half-speed," manager Don Mattingly said. "It's fast, hard and all the time, so I'm really not surprised."

MLB is expected to hand out punishments from that incident Friday and it's unknown which players will be available for the series with Pittsburgh (39-27). The Dodgers (28-37), losers in four of five, likely can't afford to be too short-handed because the Pirates enter having won 13 of 17 at home.

While Puig's status is unknown, Los Angeles is expected to have Ramirez in the lineup. A nagging left hamstring has limited the shortstop to a pinch-hitting role since June 5.

In his first start in a little more than a week, Ramirez will try to lead the Dodgers to their 19th win in 22 games against the Pirates. Los Angeles swept a home series with Pittsburgh from April 5-7.

Stephen Fife (1-1, 3.78 ERA) will also seek his second career victory in his first outing against the Pirates. The right-hander allowed two runs over a career-high 6 2-3 innings Saturday but was saddled with a 2-1 loss to Atlanta.

Fife has given up two runs or fewer in seven of his eight career starts but has received a combined 14 runs from his teammates.

It would appear that Fife would have a difficult time getting better run support Friday as Pittsburgh will send out Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.39).

The left-hander, moving up to take the injured A.J. Burnett's spot in the rotation, has earned a team-best five straight wins and has a 1.21 ERA in his last five starts. He gave up one run and one hit over 5 2-3 innings Sunday but also walked seven and did not get a decision in a 4-1 defeat to the Chicago Cubs.

Locke is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in two career starts against the Dodgers, who handed him his only loss in 2013. He opened this season by allowing four runs over six innings in a 6-2 defeat in Los Angeles on April 7, but has since compiled a 2.08 ERA over 12 starts.

Pittsburgh hopes to bounce back from its most lopsided defeat of the season, 10-0 to San Francisco on Thursday. The Pirates managed three hits after producing 20 runs and 30 hits in the first two games of the series.

Andrew McCutchen has doubled in each of his last four games, and is 8 for 15 overall in those contests, but is batting .217 (5 for 23) in his last seven versus the Dodgers.

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