PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' drive toward a
possible NL West title might be hitting a speed bump -- they've got
only one more game left against Pittsburgh.
Eric Karros hit a three-run homer for his third consecutive
game-winning hit and the Dodgers rallied to beat Pittsburgh 9-4
Wednesday night, their fourth victory in a row overall and their
seventh straight over the Pirates.
The Dodgers' lead in the NL West stayed at 1½ games over
Arizona, a 7-1 winner at Florida, and improved to two games against
the Giants, who lost 11-9 at Cincinnati.
Karros, who has a sore back and is struggling to keep his
average above .240 in one of his worst seasons, began his string of
game-winning hits with a 10th-inning single Sunday to beat the Cubs
3-2. He hit a solo homer to win Tuesday's game 2-1 at Pittsburgh.
"It was bound to happen sooner or later. He's been doing it too
long and he's too good a hitter to continue struggling," said Paul
Lo Duca, who also homered. "Last night and tonight, you've seen
the old Eric Karros."
Well, maybe not -- but Karros said he's close to feeling close to
where he did in the past. Manager Jim Tracy also can sense it,
saying, "The last three days, he's made quite a statement."
"I feel good at the plate, but I couldn't characterize where it
ranks, whether it's the best I've felt," Karros said. "It's nice
to help us win some games, nice to feel like you're contributing."
Just about everyone in the lineup did as Mark Grudzielanek and
Gary Sheffield each had three of the Dodgers' 13 hits. The Dodgers
had scored only nine runs in their previous four games, even as
they won three of them.
"They came back on us, but it's been the nature of this team
all year to bounce back," Karros said.
Los Angeles starter Luke Prokopec was lifted trailing 4-2 in the
fifth to remain winless since May 26, a stretch that has reached 12
starts. He is having trouble throwing his slider because of a
broken nail and sore finger and might skip his next start.
Despite Prokopec's struggles, the Dodgers quickly tied it in a
go-ahead five-run sixth on Grudzielanek's leadoff double, Shawn
Green's single and Sheffield's two-run single against Anderson, who
has a 19.06 ERA in his last three starts.
Marquis Grissom then reached on second baseman Abraham Nunez's
error on a possible double-play ball before Karros hit a 1-2 pitch
into the left-field seats for his 12th homer. The Dodgers scored
all five runs in the inning before Anderson got the first out.
"Jimmy started getting the ball up, we botched a play and, all
of a sudden, they've got five runs up there," Pirates manager
Lloyd McClendon said. "That slider he got up to Karros pretty much
ruined his night."
McClendon shook up his batting order, switching a slumping Jason
Kendall from third to fifth and moving Ramirez to third. Craig
Wilson, a catcher-first baseman, also made his first major league
start in right field.
The moves seemed to work as Kendall, whose average was down to
.251, had a pair of hits and reached base three times and Ramirez
drove in a run and scored one. But Anderson couldn't hold the
two-run lead as the Pirates lost their fifth in a row to the
Dodgers in PNC Park.
If the Dodgers win Thursday night, they will become the third
team to sweep a six-game season series in Pittsburgh. Milwaukee
(1999) and Cincinnati (1986) also did it when the Pirates played in
Three Rivers Stadium.
The Dodgers opened a 2-0 lead on Lo Duca's homer to start the
game and Green's sacrifice fly in the third following the first of
Grudzielanek's two doubles. The Pirates tied it in the fourth
against Prokopec on RBI singles by Kendall and Kevin Young.
The Pirates lost their sixth in eight games and matched
their season low by falling 26 games below .500. They must win 20
of their final 50 to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1985.
... Left-hander Terry Mulholland, traded by the Pirates to Los
Angeles last week, pitched the final two innings. ... The Dodgers
have won 17 of 24. They are 7-1 against the Pirates, losing only
the season series opener April 24 in Los Angeles.