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Dodgers Sweep Pirates, Riding on Easy Street?

Top Deck of Dodger Stadium. (LAist/Jimmy Bramlett)
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I wonder if along with the $2.15 billion spent on the Dodgers, the Guggenheim Group also greased the palms of MLB to get such a favorable schedule to start the season. With the 3-2 victory and the series sweep over the Pittsburgh Pirates and taking two of three in San Diego to start the season, the Dodgers now have a 6-1 record and welcome the San Diego Padres for a weekend series.

Hell, the Dodgers might even think they are a good team especially since the last time the Dodgers were 6-1 to start the season they won the 1981 World Series.

"This whole year we're going to be hard to beat," Matt Kemp said after the game.

"Early in the year it's tough to win games because it doesn't matter what people think you're supposed to be," Manager Don Mattingly said with a hint of exasperation in his voice. "Last year the Diamondbacks, who were in last place the year before, win the division. The Padres the year before that no one counted on them, they were in it until the last day.

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"You can put things on paper all you want. You've got to go out and play."

There's a hint of an us-against-the-world attitude seeping into the clubhouse.

"We definitely don't care what expectations people have on us," Kemp declared. "We know how good we are, what we are capable of doing."

The Dodgers kept showing what they can do using a hit parade in the first inning to bag three runs. After Pirates' starter Jeff Karstens hit Andre Ethier with a pitch to load the bases, a sacrifice fly by whom Mattingly dubbed "RBI Guy" Juan Rivera and RBI singles by James Loney and Juan Uribe gave all the offense the Dodgers needed.

And with Loney's single, Eugenio Velez sitting in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization could pop the celebratory cork. Velez's Major League record 37 at-bats without a hit last season was preserved as Loney broke his 0-for-16 hitless streak.

"It's a big hit for us in the first," Mattingly said. "It's good for him to get out of the blocks a little bit."

Dodgers' starter Chris Capuano, despite a career 5.99 ERA against the Pirates, acted like the replica Cy Young award plaques handed out to fans Wednesday night was actually all for him. He started the game striking out five in the first two innings.

But of course Capuano isn't a Cy Young winner, and the Pirates eventually caught up with him. Michael McHenry got all of a Capuano sinker that hung up in the zone and sent it to straight away centerfield.

Capuano's night was done after giving up a sacrifice fly to Yamaico Navarro in the sixth inning which scored Andrew McCutchen who led off the inning with a single.

"I'm trying to remind myself to attack the zone," Capuano said. "Certainly in the last inning there I wasn't making the same quality pitches I was making earlier. I just want to sharpen up the focus at that crucial time in the ballgame."

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Things got a little dicey with Mike MacDougal giving up a single to Clint Barmes and a walk to McHenry &em; the first walk by the Pirates in the series. But Scott Elbert bailed out the Dodgers getting pinch hitter Matt Hague to line out to Matt Kemp in centerfield, and from that point on the bullpen took control of the game. Josh Lindblom and Matt Guerrier pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings while Javy Guerra got his third save in as many days, his fifth of the season.

"That was really a win the bullpen deserved the credit for," Capuano admitted.

Some perspective on Dodger pitching in this game: had MacDougal and Lindblom not issued walks in this game, the Dodgers would have issued no walks in a three-game series for the first time since 1940.

Easy schedule or no, the Dodgers are taking care of the business at hand.

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