The Dodgers have a major edge on a rival National League playoff contender and that could come in handy this October.
Then again, it's coming in handy right now. The Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 13th time in the teams' last 15 games Friday with a 5-4 win at PNC Park. The Dodgers, fighting to get back into prime playoff position, have won three of the first four games on this 10-game road trip.
Mighty mite. You could tell Shane Victorino was seeing the ball better and better as his fifth-inning at-bat went along. He took some breaking pitches and tracked them low out of the strike zone. He fell in an 0-and-2 hole, but Victorino worked it full before smacking the ball over the right-field fence to break the tie and give the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Victorino is a scrappy hitter with an excellent eye and, if you're not careful, he can burn you with surprising power. He looks like a great pickup for these final few months and, who knows, maybe more.
Innings eater. Since his best season five years ago, Aaron Harang isn't the type of pitcher you look at to fill the ace role on your staff. If he's going good, he's a solid No. 3 and he has mostly been giving the Dodgers that kind of production lately. With the renewed consistency of Chad Billingsley and a bounce-back start from Chris Capuano, the Dodgers are as close as ever to having a bona fide consistent five-man rotation. Harang did his thing, getting through six innings and limiting the damage so the Dodgers could push across enough runs to make it stand up. Harang pitches better at PNC Park than at any other stadium he visits and improved his record there to 9-3 in 12 starts.
Closure. The Dodgers are awfully lucky to have Kenley Jansen. A sub-25-year-old closer making the league minimum with elite stuff and good command is the gold standard. They won't have to overpay for a reliever this offseason. Jansen went into Friday with a phenomenal .854 WHIP and he needed only seven pitches to blow away the Pirates in the ninth for his 24th save. People don't realize how good this guy is since he inherited his job midseason, but they will soon.
Shaky relief. For a guy with his electric stuff, Ronald Belisario doesn't inspire confidence when he inherits a slim lead. He jumped too early on what might have been an easy out, a chopper just over his head, then gave up a double to Garrett Jones that quickly cut a run off the Dodgers' lead. He nearly got out of it with a deep fly ball and a sharp grounder, not exactly dominant pitching, but Pittsburgh made it even closer with a single through the left-side hole to trim the lead to a run for Jansen.
Tapering off. You'd really like to get at least some production from the guys who bat in front of the pitcher so innings turn over and the opposing pitcher doesn't have an automatic break coming up when he hits a rough spot. The Dodgers' 6, 7 and 8 hitters combined to go 2-for-12, giving the Dodgers very little action when their best hitters weren't in the box.
Minimizing opportunities. The Dodgers could have made things a little easier for themselves on this trip. They left the bases loaded three times against Miami and some poor situational hitting wasted a key chance in the ninth inning Friday. Luis Cruz led off with a double, but Mark Ellis and Matt Kemp struck out to leave him stranded in scoring position. As well as Kemp has been hitting, he's also having some rough at-bats in big RBI spots or he'd be on an absolute tear.