The Dodgers gave out free hot dogs for the opening game of the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a sensible marketing ploy when playing host to a last-place team on a Monday night.
But the rookie-laden, nothing-to-lose Pirates also played well enough for much of the game to remind the 42,045 at Dodger Stadium that the Dodgers -- who play Pittsburgh six more times as the season winds down -- can't take the Pirates for granted.
Andre Ethier belted a two-run home run over the center-field wall in the fifth inning to break a tie and lead the Dodgers past the Pirates, 6-2.
His 29th homer of the season came after the Pirates and their rookie starter, Daniel McCutchen, had matched the Dodgers and their newly acquired starter, Jon Garland. The score was tied, 2-2, heading into the bottom of the fifth inning.
Ethier helped Garland -- who was acquired Aug. 31 from Arizona -- earn his first Dodgers win against a team other than the Diamondbacks, whom he had faced in his first two outings since arriving in L.A.
"It was definitely a grind out there tonight," said Garland, who needed 112 pitches to get through six innings, and acknowledged that the Dodgers made "some great defensive plays that helped me out huge."
"It wasn't easy for him," Manager Joe Torre said of Garland, who gave up two runs and six hits and walked three. But, he added, "there's a certain advantage to having [a pitcher of Garland's] experience, so when you get men on base you really don't unravel."
The Dodgers also got help to the north, where the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park, dropping second-place Colorado to four games behind the Dodgers in the National League West with 17 games left in the regular season. The Giants are 7 1/2 games back.
"We knew coming in today that this was a great opportunity to give ourselves some distance from Colorado and San Francisco and let those guys beat up on each other," Ethier said.
McCutchen, making only his third major league start and his first against the Dodgers, worked five innings, surrendering Ethier's tiebreaking home run in the fifth.
"Just a ball over the plate to put a good swing on," Ethier said. "I think it was a changeup he threw me there, and I was just able to get the head on it and hit the ball on the screws."
Orlando Hudson had three hits and drove in two runs, doubling in Casey Blake in the sixth inning and singling him home in the eighth.
This was the teams' first meeting of the season, and the loss was Pittsburgh's sixth in its last seven games and 15th in the last 17.
The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning when James Loney walked, Blake was hit on the left hand by a pitch, Russell Martin singled and Hudson hit into a double play, scoring Loney.
The Dodgers got on the scoreboard against McCutchen in the first inning when Rafael Furcal singled, Matt Kemp walked and Manny Ramirez doubled down the left-field line, driving in Furcal.
Kemp also tried to score but was out at the plate when Pirates left fielder Lastings Milledge threw to shortstop Ronny Cedeno, who relayed a strike to catcher Ryan Doumit.
Garland, working deliberately, twice had to wriggle out of early-inning jams.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the first but Garland got Milledge to pop out and then struck out Brandon Moss.
And in the third inning, Pittsburgh had Andrew McCutchen (no relation to Daniel) at second and former Dodger Andy LaRoche at first with one out. But Doumit lined out to a leaping Hudson, who stepped on second base to double up McCutchen.
The Pirates finally scored on Garland in the fourth when Ramon Vazquez doubled to drive home Cedeno, who had gotten aboard by beating the throw on a two-out grounder to Blake.
The Dodgers play two more games against the Pirates at Dodger Stadium, then play four in Pittsburgh later this month.