The Dodgers dropped the finale of a four-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-6, but still took three of four games to improve to 5-2 on their 10 game road-trip. The series saw the Dodgers offense unload against the team that had had the best home-record in the National League. The Dodgers outscored the Pirates 20-3 in the middle two games of the series. Things got ugly on Thursday, however, as Matt Kemp, Don Mattingly, and Joe Blanton all got ejected from the game.

INFIELDERS: A-
The Dodgers scored 31 runs in the four games series, so the offensive numbers are a bit skewed. That being said, the Dodgers infield was incredibly productive and at the forefront of the offensive explosion. A.J. Ellis provided his usual steady production at the back end of the lineup going 2-for-14 with a pair of RBI sac flies and a pair of runs scored in the series.

Mark Ellis broke out of his slump going 4-for-13 with an RBI double and a pair of runs scored in three games worth of play. Hanley Ramirez continued his dynamic play going 7-for-16 with a home run, two doubles, 5 RBI and 4 runs scored in the series. Hanley was easily the Dodgers most productive offensive player in the series. In his tenure with the Blue Crew, Hanley has raised his batting average from .249 up to .260.

Luis Cruz continued his outstanding play going 5-for-13 with 4 RBI and a pair of runs scored in three starts. Adam Kennedy was 0-for-6 in two starts at third, but had a pinch-hit and scored a run.

Juan Rivera was only 1-for-4 in the series, but managed to drive in 3 runs via a pinch-hit single, a sac fly, and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. There was also a very rare, but highly encouraging James Loney sighting in the series. Loney was 5-for-14 in the series, driving in a run in three games of the series, scoring four, and launching his third home run of the year on Thursday, his first in nearly 2 1/2 months.

Juan Uribe got a rare start at 3B as well, he would go 0-for-4, but he walked and scored a run, firsts in those categories since he went off for a homer and four RBI way back on July 21 against the New York Mets.

OUTFIELDERS: B+
Shane Victorino is starting to come to life, and the entire Dodgers’ offense is reaping the benefits. The Flyin’ Hawaiian was 6-for-17 in the series drilling his first home run as a Dodger, and 10th of the year, as well as driving in and scoring four runs in the series. What a difference it makes with a lead-off hitter who can actually get on base, and truly spark the heart of the Dodgers batting order.

Matt Kemp continued his outstanding play going 5-for-15 in the first three games of the series, driving in five runs and scoring four. However, Kemp would be ejected early in Thursday’s game. In an episode reminiscent of when the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan got kicked out of a game from the bench, Kemp was apparently ejected for rooting on Andre Ethier. Kemp and Mattingly were admittedly arguing balls and strikes from the dugout and received a warning from home plate umpire Angel Campos. According to both Mattingly and Kemp, Kemp simply stated “Let’s Go ‘Dre.” Campos ejected Kemp, Mattingly sprinted out of the dugout, and chaos ensued as Mattingly was ejected too, and Kemp had to be restrained by multiple parties.

Ethier was steady in the series going 5-for-17 with two RBI and four runs scored.

STARTING PITCHING: B+
Other than Joe Blanton‘s start Thursday, the Dodgers starting pitching was exceptional in the series against the Pirates. Clatyon Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are looking like a nightmare 1-2 punch in a short playoff series. Aaron Harang was solid, as well, collecting his eighth win of the year. Harang went 6.0 solid innings giving up only two runs, striking out four, and walking three on Monday.

Billingsley delivered his best start of the year, pitching 8.0 shutout innings, striking out five and walking one, en route to his ninth win of the year, and fifth straight overall. During that stretch, Bills has dropped his ERA from 4.30 to 3.62.

Clayton Kershaw continued his dominance, with 8.0 innings of three-run ball, striking out eight with no walks. Kershaw notched his 11th win of the year, and fourth straight. Kershaw has given up only five runs in 30 1/3 innings during that stretch (1.49 ERA).

Joe Blanton couldn’t keep it up, though. He surrendered eight runs in only 4 1/3 innings, losing his second consecutive start. Blanton would be ejected on his way to the dugout, apparently he also had some issues with Angel Campos’s strike zone, as well.

BULLPEN: B
The Dodgers bullpen was strong for the most part against the Pirates. The only time they were heavily used was in Thursday’s 10-6 shootout. Javy Guerra and Randy Choate pitched a scoreless seventh on Monday night, which would be followed by Kenley Jansen,, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 24th save of the year. However, Ronald Belisario made things interesting by giving up two runs in the 8th.

Belisario had not surrendered a run since giving up two in a loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 31.

With Kershaw and Billingsley dealing, the bullpen essentially got Tuesday and Wednesday off. Shawn Tolleson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth on Tuesday, and Brandon League pitched a scoreless ninth inning on Wednesday, League’s first truly effective performance since coming over from the Seattle Mariners before the trade deadline.

Jamey Wright would give up two runs on Thursday, but Tolleson, Guerra, and Choate combined for three scoreless innings of relief. Wright had also not given up a run since that July 31 loss to Arizona. Tolleson has been perfect in his last nine appearances, he hasn’t given up a run since July 22 against the Mets.

The Dodgers are off to a 5-2 start to their 10-game road trip. The next and final stop is a three-game set with the Atlanta Braves. The Braves just took 3 of 4 games at home from the San Diego Padres, including outscoring them 18-1 in their three consecutive wins after dropping the series opener. Atlanta shored up their pitching staff by acquiring unheralded, but solid Paul Maholm from the Chicago Cubs.

The Braves are expecting Tommy Hanson back from the disabled list, as well. The Braves are in the driver’s seat for the first wild card spot, being led by a comeback season from Jason Heyward, and a solid farewell campaign from Chipper Jones. Brian McCann, Michael Bourn, Dan Uggla, and Martin Prado help anchor one of the N.L.’s most potent offenses.

It all makes for a great series over the weekend.

Weekly GPA: 3.25
Cumulative GPA: 2.95

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