Victorino helps pull Dodgers into tie atop West

Victorino helps pull Dodgers into tie atop West

Victorino helps pull Dodgers into tie atop West
PITTSBURGH -- One of the many things that new Dodgers left fielder Shane Victorino has on his player resume is experience playing high-stakes baseball.

In the first of four big-time showdowns against the Pirates -- one of two teams with a National League Wild Card spot at the moment -- Victorino provided a few lessons on timely hitting.

After leading off Monday's game with a groundout to second, Victorino approached the plate with men on in each of his next two at-bats. He produced in both of them, driving in one run with a third-inning double and two more with a home run in the fifth. Victorino fueled the Dodgers' series-opening win over Pittsburgh, 5-4, in front of 24,670 fans at PNC Park.

"He's been through the playoff runs the last three or four years, World Series, I mean, they just get hardened," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "This is not going to overwhelm him, going down the stretch. For us, it's great to have a guy with experience -- not only just experience, but a guy who can do some things."

The Dodgers have won four of their last five contests, moving into a tie for first in the NL West after the Giants were routed, 14-2, by the Nationals. Los Angeles also moved within 1 1/2 games of Pittsburgh for the second NL Wild Card position.

Dodgers starter Aaron Harang picked up his eighth win, allowing two runs on five hits in six innings. The righty walked three and struck out four.

"They battled me," Harang said. "You definitely have to go out and try and keep them off-balance."

With the score tied at 2 in the fifth, Victorino followed a single from Harang by depositing a Jeff Karstens slider in the right-field seats. The home run was his 10th of the season and first in a Dodgers uniform.

"I was not able to make the big pitch when Victorino was up there a couple of times," Karstens said. "I don't think I pitched terribly -- but not well enough to win."

Earlier in the game, the Pirates and Dodgers both scored a couple runs in the third inning. Two batters after A.J. Ellis shot a double into the right-center gap, Victorino laced one toward the right-field corner. Another run scored when Matt Kemp ripped a liner into left with men on first and second.

Los Angeles was denied more runs in the inning by Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones, who robbed Andre Ethier with an impressive leaping catch at the wall. Kemp, who was running hard from first with the ball in the air, was easily doubled off, ending the Dodgers' threat.

In the bottom of the frame, Jones punished Los Angeles at the plate, pulling a double to right field that scored two runs. Jones, who owned a .429 average against Harang prior to the game, recorded three hits off the Dodgers starter on Monday. Luckily for Los Angeles, he was twice followed by 4-6-3 double plays.

"Obviously, Garrett Jones was pretty hot tonight," Harang said. "It seemed like everything we were throwing up there, he was hitting it."

"Harang is a crafty veteran," Jones said. "I think he was trying to throw more cutters than usual, and I got some pitches just enough over the plate where I was able to get a bat on them."

The Dodgers added a crucial insurance run in the eighth inning, when pinch-hitter Juan Rivera singled with the bases loaded. Minutes later, Jones doubled in another run for Pittsburgh and Pirates catcher Michael McKenry added to it with an RBI single.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was perfect in the ninth inning, notching a strikeout on the way to his 24th save.

"He attacked the strike zone. That's what we're looking for," Mattingly said. "His stuff's good. He's going to get hit now and then, but his stuff's good. We want him to be on the attack. If they're going to hit his good stuff, then just go from there."

The two teams play the second game of a four-game series on Tuesday. Right-hander Chad Billingsley will start for Los Angeles, facing the Pirates' Kevin Correia, a righty who was recently removed from the rotation but is making a spot start, his second in the past week.

"Seriously, they're just all big right now," Mattingly said. "This one's over. We need to win tomorrow night. It's really pretty much as simple as that. I kind of look at it like the NCAA Tournament. You look at it like you can't lose, and I think that's the way we want to play. We can't afford to lose any games."

Mark Emery is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.