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Series preview: Pirates @ Dodgers

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates head to LA for three games. The schedule and probably starters:

Monday, May 8, 10:10 pm

Trevor Williams (1-1, 5.40 ERA)
Brandon McCarthy (3-0, 3.10 ERA)

Tuesday, May 9, 10:10 pm

Ivan Nova (3-3, 2.14 ERA)
Alex Wood (2-0, 3.28 ERA)

Wednesday, May 10, 10:10 pm

Chad Kuhl (1-2, 5.54 ERA)
Julio Urias (0-0, 0.84 ERA)

The Dodgers enter the series with a 17-14 record, the reverse of the Pirates’ mark. They’re in a virtual tie for second with Arizona, behind first-place Colorado.

The Pirates’ anemic offense will have its work cut out for it against the Dodgers’ pitching, even though they’ll be missing Clayton Kershaw. McCarthy doesn’t seem to be official yet for the first game. He was slated to start Sunday against the Padres, though, only to have the game rained out. He hasn’t pitched since April 29 due to a minor injury to his left, i.e., non-pitching shoulder. He’s been having a good year, with solid peripherals across the board.

The other two games will feature lefties. Wood started the season in a swing role, but has made three straight starts since April 21. He had a great outing against the Giants in the middle of those three starts, allowing just one hit in six innings. He struggled in the other two, giving up eight earned runs in 9.2 IP combined. He’s been fanning a ton of hitters, with 27 Ks in 24.2 IP for the season. The 20-year-old Urias, who’s been highly ranked as a prospect, opened the season in AAA but got called up in late April and has made two starts. He’s allowed only one run in 10.2 IP, but he’s walked eight while striking out only five.

If the game gets to the bullpen, the Pirates won’t have an easy time. The Dodgers’ pen ranks a close second in the NL to the Cubs in ERA and is fanning well over a batter an inning. Pretty much everybody has been very tough except for Sergio Romo. Closer Kenley Jansen has a K/9 of 17.7 and a negative FIP (?!) of -0.94.

The LA offense has been a mixed bag, but some struggling regulars have been backed up by a productive bench (no Jasos or Gosselins). Justin Turner and Corey Seager are having big years again (160 and 132 OPS+, respectively). Adrian Gonzalez is on the DL for the first time in his career, but he’s been more than adequately replaced by Cody Bellinger, who’s put up a 357/413/786 line, with five HRs in just 11 games. You may remember Bellinger as being mentioned as a possible return in an Andrew McCutchen trade last winter, although I never thought there was any substance to that talk. The Dodgers’ outfield has had problems, with Yasiel Puig having a mediocre season (94 OPS+) and Joc Pedersen struggling. Chase Utley has had serious problems replacing the injured Logan Forsythe at second, batting just .100. The Pirates may see some of Chris Taylor, instead, as he’s (uncharacteristically) hit a ton off the bench.