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Dodgers lineup killing opposing pitchers softly

AP - FILE - In this June 27, 2013 file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig gestures before a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Los Angeles. Much of the focus as baseball heads into the second half is being placed on the possible suspensions of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and a handful of All-Stars implicated in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal. Puigmania, a Pirates revival and one impressive power show in Baltimore should shift the gaze right back onto the field.(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo, File)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>FILE - In this June 27, 2013 file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig gestures before a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Los Angeles. Much of the focus as baseball heads into the second half is being placed on the possible suspensions of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and a handful of All-Stars implicated in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal. Puigmania, a Pirates revival and one impressive power show in Baltimore should shift the gaze right back onto the field.(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo, File)
Getty Images - LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16: Hanley Ramirez #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after striking out in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 16, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Hanley Ramirez #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after striking out in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 16, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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By David Golebiewski
Thursday, May 29, 2014, 10:05 p.m.
 

In the midst of a three-city, 10-game road trip, the Pirates' beleaguered pitching staff must contend with the Dodgers' high-priced — and high-powered — lineup. Los Angeles leads the National League in scoring this month and has plated the seventh-most runs in the majors in 2014.

If the Pirates are to silence the bats of Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, among others, they'll have to spot their secondary pitches. No team taking swings at sea level is doing more damage against breaking and off-speed stuff.

Dodgers hitters are a collective 26 runs above average versus curveballs, sliders and changeups, trailing just the Colorado Rockies among MLB clubs. Puig (10 runs above average against non-fastballs), Ramirez (+9.1) and Gonzalez (+4.5) are throttling pitchers who serve them soft stuff. Andre Ethier (+1.4), Juan Uribe (+1.2) and Dee Gordon (+1) aren't slouches, either.

Team RAA vs. non-fastballs

Rockies +34.4

Dodgers +25.5

Indians +20.9

Blue Jays +17.9

Brewers +7.9

Source: Fangraphs

Pirates pitchers might be best trying to overpower L.A.'s lineup. While the Dodgers are crushing breaking and off-speed pitches, they're 25th in the majors against fastballs (-12.8 runs).

Opponents have taken notice, feeding them the game's highest rate of heaters (62.6 percent). Puig (+14 runs versus fastballs) and Matt Kemp (+4.9) won't be bothered by a fastball-first approach, but Uribe (-1.2) and Ramirez (-5.3) are scuffling.

Brandon Cumpton, Saturday's scheduled starter, could take advantage of L.A.'s fastball woes. He has tossed about 70 percent heaters during his short career with great results (six runs above average).

Friday starter Francisco Liriano (-8.8 runs) and Sunday starter Edinson Volquez (-1.2), by contrast, are getting hit hard on fastballs. Liriano will try to induce chases with his changeup (+4.2 runs), while Volquez better have his plus curveball (+2.4).

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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