Dodgers Crush Pirates, Pirates Relegated to AAA

Here’s how ridiculous today’s 15-1 destruction of the hapless Pirates was: James Loney went 5-5 with a double, driving in three… and by the WPA (Win Percentage Added) chart, that career-best hit total was merely the fourth-most valuable Dodger performance of the afternoon. Jerry Sands, who had all but claimed a role on next year’s team with his recent hot streak, cemented his claim with four hits (including a three-run homer) while Matt Kemp, continuing his rampage towards the MVP, finished a triple short of the cycle; Dee Gordon (two singles and a triple) and Juan Rivera (two singles and a double) joined Kemp in having three hits on the day.

It should be noted that the Pirates are absolutely atrocious, since Brad Lincoln‘s four-out effort was the third consecutive time that a Pittsburgh starter failed to make it even three full innings, and they’re 14-33 since the beginning of August. Aside from the litany of helpless pitchers they trotted out – eight, tying the franchise record – Rivera’s double really ought to have been an out, since center fielder Alex Presley and right fielder Xavier Paul (who had two hits on the day, good to see from an old friend) stared at each other as it fell right between them in right center.

Still, Pirate-aided acceleration aside, this was a game worthy of Fan Appreciation Day, and the offensive outburst shouldn’t obscure what was a decent outing by Chad Billingsley. We’ll not go past “decent” because it still took him 98 pitches to get through five innings, but he still struck out five while allowing just four hits and one run, and considering how poor his last few starts have been, that counts as progress. With Billingsley most likely receiving just one more start this season, there’s only so much he can do to turn the tide going into the offseason, and this was a small but positive step.

Back to Loney, with only nine games left, I’ve begun to change my tune. No, I don’t necessarily think he’s “for real”, and there’s still a very good argument to be made that he should be non-tendered, but I think we’ve reached the point where the conversation is mostly going to be for the sake of argument: whether any of us like it or not, he’s going to get tendered a contract for 2012.

With the win, the Dodgers are now back at .500 (76-76) again.  For a team that was once 14 games under in July, it’s a notable achievement.