It hasn't all been adversity for Pittsburgh, despite its current place in the standings. The Pirates, who went 57-105 last season, shot out of the gates with a 51-44 record that briefly placed them in first place in the National League Central. From there, though, the bottom fell out.
Pittsburgh has a 16-38 record since July 20, but it can still show progress by finishing strong. The Pirates have won 67 games, and with two more wins, they'd have their highest victory total since taking 72 wins in 2004. Pittsburgh hasn't won more than 75 games since going 78-83 in 1999.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are trying to avoid their worst two-season stretch in a generation. Los Angeles has made the playoffs four times in the last eight years, and if the Dodgers don't sprint through the tape, they could finish with their first consecutive losing seasons since 1986 and '87.
Still, things have been improving in Los Angeles, as well. The Dodgers have won 16 of their last 22 games after Wednesday's 3-2 victory against the D-backs.
Los Angeles will go with Dana Eveland on Thursday, and he'll try to extend a two-start streak that has seen him allow one earned run. Eveland, 27 years old, went 12-8 for Triple-A Albuquerque prior to his promotion, and he'll be matched against right-hander Ross Ohlendorf on Thursday.
Ohlendorf, who was sidelined by a strained right shoulder for much of the season, has gone 0-2 with an 8.03 ERA in six starts. The Pirates are trying to decide if they should consider him a part of their future, and they'll watch the 29-year-old carefully in his last few starts.
"Ross has got to get back to what he was doing last year to be successful and what he's done in the past to be successful," said general manager Neil Huntington. "That is better stuff, better command. He's definitely showing the wear and tear of being hurt and missing a lot of time and trying to get a delivery back on track and get his mentality back in line. It's a challenge for him right now."
"He has a complete understanding of what we need from him moving forward," added manager Clint Hurdle of Ohlendorf. "We need to see improvement, and he understands that. He needs to find a way to get in a good place and just go compete and not try to think everything through."
Pirates: Goin' to California
The Pirates, who are beginning a seven-game trip through Los Angeles and Arizona, have gotten some outstanding defensive play from second baseman Neil Walker. Walker has gone 44 games without making an error, and he also had a 42-game streak earlier in the year.
Walker (104) and shortstop Ronny Cedeno (71) have combined to turn more double plays than any other tandem in baseball. Walker (.992), in fact, is right behind former Pirate Jonny Ray (.993 in 1986) for the best fielding percentage by a second baseman in franchise history.
Dodgers: Gordon showing fine form
Shortstop Dee Gordon has struggled to a .266 average and a .279 on-base percentage through his first 43 games, but he's picked it up since returning from a stint on the disabled list. Gordon, who missed two weeks with a shoulder contusion, is batting .277 (13-for-47) in his last 10 games.
Gordon, the son of former big league reliever Tom Gordon, batted .333 in 70 games for Triple-A Albuquerque prior to his promotion. The 23-year-old stole 30 bases and was caught just four times in Triple-A, and he's gone 18-for-23 in steal attempts with the Dodgers.
"He's gonna be an exciting player," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Dee's gonna be a guy that you look at when you see him in a year and a half or two years and you'll go, 'Wow.'"
Right fielder Andre Ethier underwent successful surgery on his right kneecap Wednesday morning. Rehab will take six to eight weeks and will start within the next week, meaning Ethier should be healthy for the start of Spring Training.
Ohlendorf has just one victory in his last 32 starts, a trend that takes him all the way back to the 2009 season. ... The Pirates are 22-2-1 in series in which they've won the first game this season. ... Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan is 37-for-40 in save opportunities.