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Los Angeles Dodgers: Time to Put Up or Shut Up Against Lowly Pirates

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst ISeptember 14, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 13: Freddy Sanchez #21 of the San Francisco Giants is tagged out at home by Russell Martin #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning during a Major League Baseball game at AT&T Park on September 13, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Dodgers made it through the weekend and took care of business.

The offense finally came alive and boomed for 19 runs in the first two games against a tough Giants pitching staff.

On Friday night, they worked Matt Cain for a 31-pitch first inning, in which they plated two runs en route to a 10-3 win.

The key hit in the first inning was a James Loney two-out, two RBI double.

Loney is now heating up and has found a power source lately. He is providing the big time hits Dodger fans expected from him throughout the season, but were seriously let down on recently.

In game two on Saturday, Russell Martin banged a long home run to give the Boys in Blue some breathing room during the contest. He drilled a three-run shot in the fourth inning to make it a 4-1 Dodgers’ lead, and they went on to win 9-1.

Martin had nine RBI on this recent six-game road trip, which makes for two more than he had for the previous five weeks.

Along with Loney, he is a key component of the Dodgers’ lineup and needs to be at full throttle.

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Not to mention the outstanding performance of Vicente Padilla on Saturday, who has been dominant in three starts as a Dodger and has shown no signs of destroying the clubhouse like some (i.e. ME) speculated.

Being one of his biggest skeptics when he came on board, it makes me glad to be wrong on that issue.

Tonight the Dodgers begin a series with the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates, who just accomplished the unheard of feat of compiling 17 consecutive losing seasons—not only a MLB record, but a record for all professional sports teams.

Lately, Los Angeles has experienced a tough time putting away sub-.500 opponents.

For example, they split a four-game tilt with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then lost two out of three to the cellar-bound San Diego Padres; the root of the problem is the mental approach of the club in such games, according to Andre Ethier.

"Sometimes there's a tendency for complacency rather than just competing and playing every game the way you should. This [the Giants series] is a natural rival, so you get up for them, and Colorado is on our heels. Pittsburgh is going to be a tough series. Who knows what they'll throw at us?"

Yet, as Ethier points out, they always seem to rebound when the division cushion shrinks dangerously low.

A few weeks back, they ventured into Coors Field and took two out of three from the Rockies, who were hot on their heels, entering the series at just four games back in the standings.

This past weekend, they took two out of three at San Francisco when the heat was kicked up an extra notch in the division, as Colorado had crept within two games entering Friday’s action.

With the Pirates on tap tonight, the Dodgers need to come out firing and show that they are firing on all cylinders down the stretch.

Jon Garland will make his third start in Dodger Blue and it’s his job to set the tone early in the game.

If the offense contributes like they did in San Francisco, then Garland will have some breathing room—but better off he sticks it to the Pirates and limits them all night long.

Although just taking two out of three is what’s necessary, the Dodgers really need to come out and pound the Pirates for a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium.

It would send a message to not only the Rockies that this team is in it for the long haul, but it would reassure some of the youngsters on the Dodgers that this team is for real and has snapped out of a funk that has mired the second half of the season.

PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers