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Pirates search for consistency against Dodgers

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Pittsburgh Pirates' Jordy Mercer shakes hands with third base coach Joey Cora as he heads home after hitting a home run in the fourth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 13 at Chase Field in Phoenix. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo

By Doug Padilla,The Sports Xchange
LOS ANGELES

The Pittsburgh Pirates headed north by bus Sunday evening to see if the roller-coaster ride will continue.

Fresh off a series victory at San Diego, capped by a 7-5 victory Sunday, the Pirates are now in Los Angeles for the first of three games Monday, having won four of their last six games.

That winning run came after a five-game losing streak. The five games before that? The Pirates won four of them.

The Dodgers have been a bit steadier of late, going 17-9 in June to keep pace with the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West. But the end of June was a bit of a struggle as the Dodgers lost four of their last five before the calendar flipped. They opened July with a 6-4 win over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.

Not only did the Dodgers' offense take off in June, to the tune of 55 home runs to set a franchise record for a month, the pitching staff got healthy again ... literally.

Alex Wood (4-5, 4.00 ERA) will take the mound Monday, looking and feeling much better after nagging leg cramps early in the year.

Wood went seven innings against the Chicago Cubs in his last outing Wednesday, his longest start since his season debut on March 30 when he worked eight innings against the San Francisco Giants.

An All-Star for the first time last season, Wood is once again starting to look like the pitcher who can rise to the occasion on a nightly basis.

"I'm still looking for consistency out of my sinker, but the breaking ball was a lot better," Wood told reporters after his most recent start. "Overall, it was pretty good."

The Dodgers also have Clayton Kershaw back recently from a lower back injury and Rich Hill returned from a blister on his left middle finger. Both left-handers will face the Pirates this week.

Pittsburgh announced Sunday that Nick Kingham (2-3, 3.82) will start the series opener at Dodger Stadium. He will take the spot of Chad Kuhl, who is on the DL with a forearm strain.

The Pirates (40-43) know that getting some length on their current winning ways can get them to .500 soon, possibly by the All-Star break that starts in two weeks.

"We're starting to show a little bit of resiliency here the last week or so," Pirates infielder Josh Harrison said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "A team that (is) not making any excuses, which is refreshing because at the end of the day we know what we have to do and that's come to show up every day.

"It's been some ups and downs, but every team goes through ups and downs, and a lot of guys here are riding that wave of knowing that any day can be that day that we turn it around."

Wood is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA in eight career games (seven starts) against the Pirates. He has not faced Pittsburgh since last season. Kingham, a rookie, has not pitched against the Dodgers in any of his first six appearances.

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