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3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 4, Pirates 1

4/12/2012

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers extended their sizzling start to the season on Wednesday night, winning for the fifth time in their first six games, this time 4-1 over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Dodger Stadium. It is the first time the Dodgers have begun a season with a 5-1 record since 1999.

This one followed a similar storyline, solid pitching both from starter Chad Billingsley and the bullpen and just enough offense to hold up. Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra (fourth save) combined to retire nine of the 10 Pirates batters who came to the plate over the final three innings.

The good

Dominating again. Billingsley continued his hot start, holding the Pirates to a single run -- on a homer by Clint Barmes on Billingsley's first pitch of the third inning -- and now has an 0.63 ERA through two starts. He might have gone longer than six innings, but he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth when the Dodgers had the bases loaded.

Getting air. Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis made the defensive play of the night, leaping high and stretching his body as far he could to snare a line drive and take a hit away from Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez to end the top of the seventh. There was no one on base at the time, but the Dodgers were clinging to a one-run lead.

Doing their jobs. The middle-of-the-order trio of Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier combined to go 8-for-12 and drive in three runs.

The bad

And the drought continues. The person who was sent to hit for Billingsley in the sixth was James Loney, who didn't start because the Dodgers were facing a left-hander in the Pirates' Erik Bedard. Loney popped up, not only leaving the bases loaded to end the sixth but also running his hitless streak to begin the season to 15 at-bats. Loney stayed in the game at first base and grounded to short in the eighth, leaving him 0-for-16.

Standstill. After striking out at a key moment in the bottom of the seventh, Kemp opted not to run to first base as the ball bounced several feet away from Pirates catcher Rod Barajas. He probably wouldn't have beaten Barajas' throw to first anyway, but for reasons only Kemp knows, he didn't even try.

Empty seats. One night after the obligatory opening-day sellout, only 29,729 showed up for the Dodgers' second home game of the season. That's 53 percent the size of the crowd that showed up on Tuesday. Perhaps they're all waiting until the sale goes through on April 30 before they really start showing up again. Or perhaps they're waiting for a more marquee opponent than the Pirates.