The Dodgers pounded out 16 hits, the starting pitcher nearly threw a complete game and the defense made dazzling plays.
In other words, the Dodgers on Sunday began looking like the two-time defending National League West champions with their third consecutive win, by a score of 9-3 over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and less like the flailing team that only a few days ago had suffered a five-game losing streak.
OK, so the Dodgers turned the tide against a sub-.500 team, winning three games in a four-game series with the Pirates at Dodger Stadium. And the Dodgers also remain under .500 with a record of 11-14.
But with Andre Ethier hitting his third and fourth home runs in three games and Hiroki Kuroda (3-1) providing another strong start, the Dodgers at least had regained momentum heading into a day off Monday.
"We're swinging the bats with a lot more confidence now," Manager Joe Torre said.
Ethier said "it feels good" to have hit his eighth and ninth home runs, "but I think it feels a lot better to bounce back and get straightened out again" after the Dodgers' 2-7 trip.
Ethier's first home run was a two-run shot against starter Jeff Karstens (0-1) in the fifth inning, and he hit a solo home run in the eighth inning against Joel Hanrahan. Ethier also had a run-scoring single in the third inning.
Beyond Ethier, the Dodgers' win was the quintessential team effort, including:
—Blake DeWitt, the team's new second baseman, had a four-hit game for the first time in his big league career — including two doubles — and three runs batted in.
—First baseman James Loney had three hits, including a double, andtwo RBIs.
—Xavier Paul, playing left field for the injured Manny Ramirez, had two hits, including his first big league triple.
—Center fielder Matt Kemp, whose defense has been called into question at times this season, made a diving catch of a sinking line drive by Aki Iwamura in the sixth inning.
—And in the most spectacular play of the game, Ronnie Belliard, playing third base for a resting Casey Blake, made a running, over-the-shoulder catch of a fly ball hit by Bobby Crosby in the seventh inning, then turned and threw to a stretching Loney at first base to double up Andy LaRoche.
The play was "unbelievable," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "I thought it was going to be a sure hit."
Yet, for all the contributors, Ethier said the key to the game was Kuroda's dominant pitching. The right-hander gave up only one earned run and five hits in eight innings, and 70 of his 96 pitches were strikes.
Kuroda "showed you how to pitch with a lead," Torre said. "He threw a lot of strikes, his pitch count was great and eight innings was certainly more than we needed."
There was a brief scare for Kuroda and the Dodgers in the third inning when Andrew McCutchen hit a slow roller to Loney and then stepped on Kuroda's ankle as Kuroda covered first base.
But Kuroda showed no ill effects from the play, although Pittsburgh scored its only run against him in the next inning.
"It hurt a little bit when he first stepped on my ankle, but now I'm feeling all right," Kuroda said, adding that he suffered only an abrasion on his ankle.
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