- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Giving Zack Greinke an early lead to work with is a recipe for a loss, which is exactly what happened to Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke in the opener of a three-game series between playoff-bound teams.

Locke gave up four runs through the first four innings as the Pirates were beaten by Los Angeles Dodgers 6-2 on Friday night.

“You know it’s going to be a really tough game because Zack has been throwing so great all year, but those are the type of games I want to pitch,” the left-hander said. “You want that competitive stuff running through you.”

The Pirates’ fourth straight loss, coupled with St. Louis’ 8-3 defeat to the Cubs, kept Pittsburgh five games behind the Cardinals in the Central Division. But the Bucs own the second wild card spot by a sizeable margin over the Giants.

Locke (8-11) was charged with five runs - four earned - and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings. He gave up a leadoff single in the first to Justin Ruggiano before hitting Chase Utley with an 0-2 pitch. One out later, both runners took off on the first pitch to Adrian Gonzalez, and Ruggiano continued home on the double-steal as catcher Chris Stewart’s throw sailed past Alexei Ramirez.

“I had a fine grip on the ball. I just threw it away,” Stewart said.

The Dodgers, who came in with an NL-best .282 average against left-handed pitching since the All-Star break, made it 2-0 in the second on Ruggiano’s RBI single.

Dodgers rookie sensation Corey Seager continued to make the most of his opportunity in place of injured shortstop Jimmy Rollins, hitting a two-run homer in the fourth. The 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft, is 21 for 51 with two home runs, six doubles and 10 RBIs since his promotion from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sept. 3.

Seager’s hit total is the second-highest by a Dodger through his first 14 games since the franchise relocated from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958 - four fewer than Yasiel Puig started out with in 2013.

Greinke posted his career-high 18th victory against just three losses. The major league ERA leader was charged with two runs and four hits in seven-plus innings, struck out three and walked two before he was lifted with two on and no outs in the eighth.

The only run Greinke gave up while he was in the game was a first-pitch homer by Neil Walker, who leads all NL second basemen with 14 home runs, 47 extra-base hits and 62 RBIs.

Greinke also had two hits, including a double over the head of center fielder Andrew McCutchen that chased Locke with one out in the seventh.

“Stuff-wise, Jeff was OK. He battled and was able to get through it,” Stewart said. “He pitched into the seventh inning, so he did a good job. But he missed his location a couple of times, they got a couple of big hits, and that was the difference in the game.”

The Pirates played their first game since the season-ending injury to shortstop Jung Ho Kang, who was on the receiving end of a hard takeoff slide by Chris Coghlan during Thursday’s 9-6 home loss to the Cubs - resulting in a broken left tibia and torn ligament in his knee. The 28-year-old rookie from Korea underwent surgery Thursday night.

The Dodgers’ win and San Francisco’s loss to Arizona dropped Los Angeles’ magic number for clinching the division to eight.

UP NEXT

Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (10-7) has made only one previous start at Dodger Stadium. That was May 30, 2014 when he threw 5 2-3 scoreless innings and struck out eight in a 2-1 victory.

Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (14-6) would have to average nine strikeouts in his final four regular-season starts to become the first pitcher with at least 300 in a season since 2002, when Johnson reached that figure for the fourth straight year with the Diamondbacks.

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