Dodgers-Pirates Preview

The Associated Press

Back atop the NL West alone, the Los Angeles Dodgers look to stay hot by completing their first road sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates in eight years.

The Dodgers can accomplish the four-game sweep with a 10th straight victory over the reeling Pirates on Thursday.

Matt Kemp had three RBIs while Andre Ethier and Shane Victorino each added three hits during Los Angeles' 9-3 victory Wednesday. Winners in six of seven overall, the Dodgers (65-53) lead the West outright for the first time since July 13, by one game over San Francisco.

"Ultimately we want to be in first place Oct. 3, but it's always good to feel like you're in first place and to be in first place," said Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw, who won his fourth consecutive start Wednesday.

Though Los Angeles has outscored the Pirates 43-14 during a six-game winning streak at PNC Park, it has not swept a series in Pittsburgh since May 7-9, 2004. The Dodgers' last sweep of four games there came Aug. 1-4, 1949, when the franchise was based in Brooklyn.

Tied with St. Louis for the NL's second wild-card spot, the Pirates are 36-23 at PNC Park this season but 3-7 on an 11-game homestand.

A.J. Burnett (14-4, 3.32 ERA) tried to rally his teammates by holding a players-only meeting prior to Wednesday's game, and he'll be on the mound as the Pirates (64-53) try to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive home loss. The right-hander was 7-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his first 10 home starts with Pittsburgh before allowing five runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-0 loss to San Diego on Saturday, although he did strike out 10.

Burnett, who tries again to become the first Pittsburgh pitcher to win 15 games in a season since Todd Ritchie in 1999, is 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA in eight starts against the Dodgers, although he's faced them only once since 2005.

Kemp is 14 for 32 (.438) with 10 RBIs in his last seven games, and Victorino is batting .375 (15 for 40) over his last nine.

"We're a pretty dangerous ballclub right now," said Kemp, who is batting .400 with eight RBIs in his last six games at PNC Park.

Joe Blanton (8-10, 4.61) tries a third time to pick up his first win with Los Angeles in the finale. The right-hander was solid for four innings Saturday at Miami before allowing four runs in the fifth of a 7-3 loss to fall to 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two starts since the Dodgers acquired him from Philadelphia earlier this month.

Blanton, 2-0 with a 2.94 ERA in five starts versus Pittsburgh, gave up three runs and struck out eight in seven innings of an 8-3 win over the Pirates on June 25 with the Phillies.

He'll likely face a Pittsburgh lineup without second baseman Neil Walker, who dislocated the pinky finger on his right hand Wednesday. Walker is hitting .290 with a career-high 14 homers and 67 RBIs this season but was 1 for 9 in the series.

"I'm pretty confident I can avoid the DL," he said. "I had the same injury on a finger on my glove hand in 2009 (in Triple-A), and it healed pretty quickly."

All-Star Andrew McCutchen hit his career-high 24th home run Wednesday, but is 4 for 23 (.174) over the last six games. He's 2 for 13 with four strikeouts versus Blanton.

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