Ethier's 2 HRs, 4 RBIs power Dodgers to first 3-game win streak

LOS ANGELES -- Andre Ethier has that locked-in feeling at the plate again, and facing the Pittsburgh Pirates' beleaguered pitching staff for four days only emphasized the point.

Ethier homered twice and drove in four runs, Blake DeWitt had his first four-hit game in the majors and James Loney added a pair of run-scoring hits to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers past Pittsburgh 9-3 on Sunday.

It's the third time in Ethier's career that he's homered in three consecutive games.

"Ethier's tough to pitch to. He'll hurt you high and he'll hurt you low," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "Right now he's pretty much sitting back and very relaxed."

Ethier, who led the club in home runs last year and set a Dodger Stadium record for left-handed batters with 22, was 8 for 16 with four homers and nine RBIs during the four-game series.

"If you saw every ball he hit, it was elevated," losing pitcher Jeff Karstens said. "But it seemed like every ball he hit this series was up and in, so it played to his strengths. The one time I did get him out was on a changeup away."

Hiroki Kuroda (3-1) allowed a run and five hits over eight innings, struck out three and walked one.

"He was just really staying aggressive, getting first-pitch strikes and throwing his off-speed stuff early in the count," catcher Russell Martin said. "He was just making quality pitch after quality pitch, inducing contact and using just enough movement to keep the ball off the barrel."

The two-time defending NL West champs have won three straight for the first time this season, following a five-game skid that included a 2-0 loss to the Pirates on Thursday.

"Our offense did a great job today, but I think the bigger story today was Kuroda going out there and really competing with some good stuff," Ethier said. "When he does that, and is healthy and pitching the way he's capable of, I think he's one of the tougher pitchers in our division."

Karstens (0-1) gave up six runs and 11 hits over five innings in his second start of the season after being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis.

"I didn't really give our team a chance to win," Karstens said. "My fastball was flat and there were just too many balls that were elevated."

Karstens was the third Pirates starter in this four-game series who had never faced the Dodgers before, along with Brian Burres and Charlie Morton. The trio combined to give up 12 runs (nine earned), 21 hits and seven walks with 14 strikeouts.

"With new guys, you're not sure what they're all about, so you have to rely on video and word of mouth, rather than seeing it for yourself," Ethier said. "Sometimes it's good, but most times it's not."

Xavier Paul led off the Dodgers' three-run fifth with a bloop single and scored on Ethier's eighth homer. Matt Kemp followed with a fly-ball double that right fielder Ryan Church lost in the sun, and Loney drove him in with a single to make it 6-1.

"It was a tough one," Church said. "I just ran through a checklist of things, trying to figure out what to do. I put my hand up and that didn't work, then I tried to turn to my glove side and maybe catch it off to the side. But once I saw it, it started fading right back into the sun again."

This was the third straight season in which something bizarre happened to Church at Dodger Stadium in May. Two years ago with the Mets, he tried to make a leaping catch of DeWitt's drive to right field -- but the ball struck the top of the fence and Church ended up on his back while DeWitt circled the bases with a go-ahead, inside-the-park homer.

Last year, Church came all the way home from first base with an apparent go-ahead run for the Mets on Angel Pagan's two-out drive to the right-center fence -- but was called out on appeal for missing third base.

Pittsburgh got on the board in the fourth when Garrett Jones doubled and scored on Adam LaRoche's groundout. Jones was back in the lineup at first base, one day after checking himself into a hospital because of a blockage of food in his esophagus. He had two doubles, one of which drove in a run in the ninth.

Game notes
Jones explained before the game that the blockage was caused by a piece of beef that was part of a catered meal served in the clubhouse after Friday night's game. "I knew there was something stuck in there. And everything I'd drink, I'd just throw that up, too," said Jones, who was anesthetized during the half-hour procedure. "It was blocking right where the esophagus connects to the stomach, and they just pushed it through. It was no fun, but it could have been a lot worse." ... Dodgers LF Manny Ramirez, who has missed the last 10 games because of a strained right calf, is scheduled to begin a brief rehab assignment with Class-A Inland Empire on Tuesday.