July 21, 2014

PITTSBURGH -- Los Angeles left-hander Scott Kazmir hasn't beaten the Pirates in Pittsburgh since 2008. The rest of the Dodgers must feel like it has been that long since they won there, too.

The Dodgers came into Pittsburgh on Friday streaking with nine wins in 10 games, and they seemingly were catching the Pirates at just the right time. Pittsburgh was in a June swoon with 13 losses in 15 games and a 5-17 record in the month.

Even after the Dodgers lost Friday and Saturday, they were counting on ace Clayton Kershaw to turn things around in PNC Park, where they haven't won since July 21, 2014. However, Kershaw -- the loser of only one of his previous 15 starts -- couldn't get the job done in a 4-3 loss Sunday night, giving up all four runs in the second inning.

"That's a good ballclub over there," Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. "We've seen how well they've played the last few years and, like I said, they take great at-bats, don't strike out a lot and put the ball in play. They did a pretty good job against the best pitcher in baseball."

Now, the Dodgers will turn to Kazmir (5-3, 4.52 ERA) to try to prevent a sweep of the four-game wraparound series that winds up Monday. Kazmir is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his last six starts, averaging 10.97 strikeouts per nine innings. He has faced the Pirates only twice in his career, going 1-1.

In his last start, Kazmir gave up two runs and eight hits in six innings during a 3-2 Dodgers win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. He did not figure in the decision.

Kazmir's mound opponent, Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano (4-7, 5.17 ERA), hasn't figured in many wins lately. He has lost four consecutive decisions since last winning May 24 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he has dropped his past two decisions at PNC Park.

Liriano hasn't pitched since getting a no-decision against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, when he gave up six hits and four runs in five innings. The Pirates lost 7-6 after Liriano and his bullpen couldn't hold a 6-1 lead.

"I thought, again, you saw some really clean sequences. The first and third inning are three up, three down. ... (But) some of the challenges were with runners on base," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said after that start. "(When he) works out of the stretch, it complicated some things. His stuff was good out of the windup.

"So we've got to keep working with him."

Liriano probably isn't looking forward to working against Dodgers outfielder Howie Kendrick, who is 10-for-22 (.455) against him with one homer and two RBIs.

Liriano probably won't be going against first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who will get a second day off in a row from starting, according to manager Dave Roberts. In June, Gonzalez is batting only .181 with one homer.

Kazmir has faced only five Pirates batters who might face him Monday, with only Sean Rodriguez (3-for-6) having multiple hits against him. He hasn't gone against Andrew McCutchen, the former National League MVP who went 0-for-4 Sunday before being ejected for arguing a called third strike -- his second in as many at-bats -- in the seventh inning.

McCutchen apparently feels an inordinate amount of pitches out of the zone are called for strikes against him, and he acknowledged his anger was building.

"It wasn't just tonight, it was over the span of the season," McCutchen said "It wasn't just those two calls. I felt like I got taken advantage of that last at-bat, I felt the bat was taken out of my hands."

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