A combination of injuries and slumps has contributed to an offense that struggled to score consistently but Wednesday the Dodgers used a 15-hit attack to record double-digits in hits for the fifth time in their last six games.
Paced by a 4-for-4 night from Rafael Furcal and buoyed by the return of Nomar Garciaparra from the disabled list, the Dodgers put four runs on the board in the first inning and eased past the Pirates, 8-1, to take the series.
The victory also evened the just concluded homestand at 3-3 and raised spirits throughout the clubhouse as they head east to Atlanta and then to Cincinnati on a six-game road trip.
"We've been swinging the bat good the past couple of weeks," said Matt Kemp, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI. "We've been getting the big hit and getting runners in scoring position. We've been pitching well, too."
Enjoying the dividends from the Dodgers' offensive burst was starter Brad Penny, who added a notch to the win column after dropping his previous two decisions. The right-hander departed after 5 2/3 innings and 85 pitches but allowed just an unearned run and did not walk a batter while striking out four.
"I was a little stiff with the cold weather but I was locating and I had the best breaking ball I had," said Penny, who improved to 2-2. "Anytime you get a lead like that you can be aggressive."
After Penny set down the Pirates in order to open the game, the offense collected four straight hits in the bottom of the first with Furcal leading the way with a bunt single.
Furcal also led off the second inning with his second home run of the year, walked in the third and singled in the sixth and seventh innings.
But in the first, Russell Martin followed with an infield single to send Furcal to third. Kemp and Kent then hit consecutive run-scoring hits and Kemp flashed some of his skills.
After rounding second on Kent's sharply hit single to right, Kemp was caught in a rundown between second and third. second baseman Freddy Sanchez appeared to have Kemp hung up and chased him down before tossing the ball to third baseman Jose Bautista, but Kemp ducked under the tag and scrambled to third safely.
"That shows what kind of athlete he is," Torre said.
James Loney followed with his first of two sacrifice fly balls to score Kemp. Loney also hit a sac fly in the second inning and extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a single in the seventh.
After Andruw Jones struck out for the second out of the first, Garciaparra walked and Pirates starter Paul Maholm uncorked a wild pitch. That sent Kent to third and Juan Pierre's bunt single plated Kent to build a 4-0 Dodgers' lead.
"The top of the order did a lot of damage. We made the most of what we got," Torre said. "That first inning was great to see. Up and down we had good at-bats."
Furcal's home run in the second was followed by Martin's second base hit of the night. Loney drove in Martin with a sac fly and then in the seventh, the Dodgers first baseman scored on an RBI double down the right-field line by Pierre.
The Dodgers' shortstop later capped his night with his career-high tying fourth hit of the game on a single to left that scored pinch-runner Blake DeWitt.
"Furcal at the top of the batting order is huge for us. He makes things happen," Torre said. "He's a true baseball player. Just the way he goes about his business."
Furcal, who struggled with a bad left ankle through most of last year, is feeling 100 percent.
"We play every day and on a bad ankle, that's tough," Furcal said. "Playing the last month in the Dominican Republic helped me out. That is what you're looking for in a leadoff hitter to get on base, When I'm healthy I help a lot."
The Pirates pushed a run across in the top of the sixth, when Nate McLouth singled off Penny to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. McLouth later scored on an RBI single by Adam LaRoche.
Maholm (0-2) allowed six runs, four earned, on 11 hits and a pair of walks to take the loss.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less