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Cole clamps down Dodgers; Bucs widen WC

LOS ANGELES -- Gerrit Cole picked up his 17th win of the season and the Pirates held on for a 4-3 win at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.

With the win, the Pirates are two games ahead of the Cubs for the top Wild Card spot in the National League after the Cubs lost to the Cardinals, 4-3, and their magic number for clinching a playoff spot dropped to 3, against the Giants. The Dodgers dropped to 1-5 against the Pirates this season and their magic number stayed at seven.

Video: [email protected]: Hurdle on Cole's outing, win over Dodgers

Cole struck out nine over seven innings and retired 11 in a row at one point. Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez provided the offense for Pittsburgh as each launched solo home runs, projected by Statcast™ to land 446 and 445 feet away, respectively. Mark Melancon converted his MLB-leading 48th save.

Spencer: Bucs' mentality key in playoffs

"A team win. Big swings from Starling and Pedro," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, whose club became the first to win consecutive games at Dodger Stadium since June 19-20. "We show up to play. We finished here, got done what needed to get done."

Video: [email protected]: Marte crushes a solo shot to left-center

Mike Bolsinger allowed four runs, three earned in 4 1/3 innings and took the loss for the Dodgers. He's lasted more than five innings just twice in his last 10 starts. Scott Van Slyke got the Dodgers back within striking distance with a solo home run in the seventh inning, but Los Angeles couldn't push the tying run across.

"The home runs were basically breaking balls he left up," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's got a good breaking ball that he can throw for strikes but the ones he leaves up just kind of stay there."

Video: [email protected]: Mattingly on Bolsinger's outing in 4-3 loss

Solo -- and solar -- power: Alvarez performed both of his specialties -- hitting home runs under the sun and with the bases empty -- to give the Bucs a 3-2 lead in the fourth. His homer was his 22nd solo (out of a total of 25) and 11th in day games. Thus nicknamed Daydro, Alvarez has 27 daytime homers since the start of the 2013 season.

Video: [email protected]: Alvarez belts a solo homer to center

Costly errors: The Pirates got on the board thanks to a pair of errors by the Dodgers in the second inning. With a runner on second, Cole hit a comebacker right at Bolsinger, which hit him in the wrist below the glove, only for the ball to trickle away toward first base. Bolsinger raced over and hastily flipped the ball to first, which was low and got away from Van Slyke at first base. To compound things, Van Slyke's throw to the plate sailed into the stands, allowing a run to score and Cole to advance to third. The Dodgers had three errors as a team, their second three-error game in six days.

"I was just discombobulated," Bolsinger said. "Everything happened so quick, I probably should've just ate it and let the play go dead."

Video: [email protected]: Cervelli scores on Bolsinger's errant throw

Sweet relief: After Bolsinger departed, the Dodgers bullpen was able to keep the game close by providing 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Carlos Frias pitched two scoreless frames in his first outing in the Majors since June 30. Frias was on the 60-day disabled list with lower back tightness but hadn't pitched at any level in two weeks, since Sept. 6.

"I don't feel like the same person before I got called down. I feel like a completely different pitcher. My offspeed is inconsistent right now, it used to be my bread and butter. I just don't have that feel right now. … I had this problem in Spring Training but it's one of those things where you throw a pitch, and you've got it. Hopefully that happens in the near future." -- Bolsinger

"I'm enjoying the ride. I'm just trying to do my job, but it's special. It's my last year, and we're trying to win the division, and every win we put on the board gets us closer." -- Aramis Ramirez, whose fifth-inning RBI single accounted for the winning run for the second game in a row

Video: [email protected]: Ramirez plates Polanco with a single to left

Setup man Tony Watson and closer Melancon retired all six men they faced Sunday, the 39th time this season they have handled the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to close out a game. The Pirates are 36-3 in those games.

Video: [email protected]: Melancon retires Grandal to secure 4-3 win

Pirates: A.J. Burnett will lead the Bucs into Denver, facing the Rockies on Monday at 8:40 p.m. ET at Coors Field in the first of a four-game series. This will be the Pirates' final four-game series of the season; they are 6-1-4 in four-game sets.

Dodgers: The Dodgers continue their 10-game homestand with the first of four against Arizona. Brett Anderson will be on the mound for the 7:10 p.m. PT start, after getting an extra day of rest in-between starts. The Dodgers co-own the best home record in the Majors at 50-24, tied with the Cardinals.

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Steve Bourbon is an associate reporter for Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast.
Read More: Starling Marte, Andre Ethier, Aramis Ramirez, Gerrit Cole, Pedro Alvarez, Carl Crawford, Mike Bolsinger