Finding an Answer?

The Pittsburgh Pirates spent their first nine games of the season struggling to get anyone out. Based on their latest series, it looks like they may have found an answer.

After three impressive starts helped the Pirates to a sweep over the weekend, they'll look to Zach Duke to make it four in a row on Monday when they head west to open a three-game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Los Angeles -178 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 8 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles -178 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

Pittsburgh (6-6) gave up 61 runs - topping 10 or more three times - in its first nine games, stumbling to a 3-6 start. The Pirates' starters won just one game in that stretch, posting a 5.40 ERA.

But when Cincinnati visited PNC Park during a rain-soaked series this past weekend, Pittsburgh's starters shined. Paul Maholm didn't allow a run in 5 1-3 innings on Friday, and Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny both pitched into the seventh inning the next two days to help the Pirates complete a sweep of the Reds.

Duke (0-0, 2.13 ERA) has pitched well twice but has yet to get a decision. He was especially impressive in his latest start, going seven innings while allowing just one run and striking out six on Wednesday, though Pittsburgh lost to the Cubs 6-4 in 15 innings.

"I feel good," said Duke, who went just 3-8 with a 5.53 ERA in an injury-plagued 2007. "I'm throwing the ball pretty well and I'm in a good groove."

Los Angeles (5-7) hasn't been kind to Duke in four career starts. The left-hander is just 1-3 with a 7.99 ERA against the Dodgers.

The Pirates' offense has been impressive to start the season - three regulars are hitting at least .333, including center fielder Nate McLouth, who leads the majors with 22 hits and has a hit in all 12 games.

Jason Bay is only hitting .282, but after going the first seven games without an RBI, he's hitting .412 with three homers and five RBIs in his last five games, including a three-run homer in the Pirates' 9-1 win on Sunday.

"You're batting and you're trying to find anything," Bay told the team's official Web site. "All of a sudden, things click, and if I could tell you how it does that I'm sure everyone would want to know. But I do feel a lot more comfortable and hopefully it continues."

The Dodgers got off to a 4-2 start, but have dropped five of their last six. After scoring just 20 runs in the previous six games, their bats came alive on Saturday in an 11-1 win over San Diego, but were silenced again on Sunday.

Los Angeles mustered only five hits in a 1-0 loss to the Padres.

"This is a tough loss,'' manager Joe Torre said. "When you come into the day and know you're going to give up one run, you have to feel pretty good about things."

Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.13) will make his third start for the Dodgers since signing as a free agent from Japan, and he's been solid in his first two appearances.

But after allowing one run in seven innings in his debut, he wasn't quite as sharp in his second, allowing four runs - two earned - in 5 2-3 innings to Arizona on Wednesday in a 4-3 loss.

Catcher Russell Martin is struggling so far in 2008, hitting .146 with four RBIs, but he's had success against Duke in his career, going 4-for-6 with a homer.

Los Angeles has won 14 of its last 18 against Pittsburgh at Dodger Stadium.

Here are some top trends:

-DUKE is 5-23 (-16.4 Units) against the money line in road games over the last 2 seasons. (Team's Record)

-DUKE is 1-3 when starting against LA DODGERS with an ERA of 7.99 and a WHIP of 1.817.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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