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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, September 28, 2009

MLB: Champagne on hold as Pirates beat Dodgers, 11-1

AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH — Former Dodgers prospect Andy LaRoche homered twice, doubled twice and singled, driving in six runs as the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates again prevented Los Angeles from clinching the NL West with an 11-1 romp Monday.

Zach Duke pitched shutout ball into the ninth inning against a patchwork Dodgers lineup. LaRoche set a career high for hits in going 5 for 5 and scoring four runs.
Already assured of a playoff spot, the Dodgers lost three of four to the Pirates, who had dropped 23 of 26 going into the series — the franchise’s worst stretch in 119 seasons.
The Dodgers blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning Sunday and lost 6-5, then got blown out in the series finale. Technically, their magic number is two, but in reality it is one because they own the tiebreaker against Colorado.
Los Angeles was missing the injured Manny Ramirez (hamstring), Ronnie Belliard (groin) and Casey Blake (hamstring) and their makeshift lineup included Mark Loretta at third, Juan Castro at short and Brad Ausmus catching.
The Dodgers played like a team that couldn’t wait to get out of Pittsburgh — a sentiment shared by few teams this season — while having three runners thrown out on the bases and committing a key error in the first two innings alone. For one day, the Dodgers who looked like the team with 96 losses, not the Pirates.
Orlando Hudson was caught in a rundown trying to advance on an errant throw in the first. In the second, Loretta was picked off first and Matt Kemp was caught too far off second on James Loney’s popup and was thrown out.
The Dodgers had champagne iced in their clubhouse, ready to celebrate on Sunday, but the Pirates scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth. Now, it must be toted back to Los Angeles for the start of a two-game series against the Padres on Tuesday.
Duke (11-15) was in control from the start, allowing only three singles until Orlando Hudson tripled with one out in the ninth — a low total for a pitcher who has allowed an NL-high 225 hits.
Duke couldn’t believe it when manager John Russell lifted him following Chin-Lung Hu’s sacrifice fly, with a 10-run lead and only one batter to get for his fourth complete game, and the fans booed loudly as Duke walked to the dugout.
LaRoche, traded to the Pirates in the three-team deal last year in which Los Angeles landed Ramirez, had never had more than three hits or three RBIs in a game.
LaRoche had a two-run double off Hiroki Kuroda (8-7) during the Pirates’ big second inning that began with Loretta’s throwing error on Lastings Milledge’s grounder.
Delwyn Young’s double scored Milledge, Luis Cruz singled and Duke drove in a run with a grounder ahead of LaRoche’s double and Garrett Jones’ RBI single. Jones also homered, his 21st, in the fourth immediately after LaRoche hit his 11th.
Jones wasn’t called up by Pittsburgh until June 30, but leads NL rookies in homers.
LaRoche had a chance for the cycle his final two times up. He rounded second sharply and thought about trying to advance after he doubled to center in the sixth, but pulled up. He hit a two-run homer in the eighth.
Kuroda was 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA in four starts since coming off the disabled list (concussion), but gave up eight hits and seven runs, only three earned.
NOTES: The Pirates won back-to-back games against the Dodgers for the first time since Sept. 19-20, 2006. ... Kuroda had been 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh. ... Duke was 0-4 with an 8.54 ERA in five starts since beating the Reds on Aug. 22. ... Ramirez was available to pinch hit. Blake, out of the lineup for a sixth consecutive game, returned to Los Angeles for treatment on his sore left hamstring. Belliard (groin) could be out for a couple of days.