LOS ANGELES -- By the time James Loney discovered what was wrong with his swing it was too late to help the Los Angeles Dodgers contend for a division title.
Still, the six-year veteran first baseman has been making up for lost time in the last four weeks.
Loney had five hits with three RBI helping lead the Dodgers to a 15-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
"Every time you face adversity, you've got to pick yourself up and do the best you can," Loney said. "I've learned a lot this year about hitting, and I'm trying to get pitches to hit.
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"I just think my timing mechanism has been better. The main thing is being ready to hit and recognizing the pitches better. I just feel more in control and my confidence is a lot better. During the course of the year, you're supposed to hit certain pitches in certain areas, and I wasn't doing that early on. At times maybe I was trying too hard and swinging too hard."
Loney didn't get his average above .250 until June 12, when he had three hits including a home run at Colorado. Since Aug. 21, he is batting .356 with six homers and 24 RBI and has raised his season average to .283.
"I'm happy for him," teammate Matt Kemp said. "He struggled at the beginning of the season, but we all knew he had this in him. He's got a great swing. He might not hit as many home runs as everybody thinks he should hit, but he's definitely a guy that can hit for average and drive in 100 runs."
Loney recorded his first five-hit game, and Jerry Sands and Juan Rivera each drove in four runs. Sands had a homer among his four hits, leading a 23-hit attack against Brad Lincoln (1-3) and seven relievers who combined to throw 218 pitches.
Kemp had three hits, including his 34th homer, and drove in two runs to increase his career-high total to 113. The Dodgers' run total tied a season high and equaled the most the Pirates have allowed.
"We were challenged dramatically over the weekend. They shut our offense down and they beat us up with the bats," said manager Clint Hurdle, whose staff hasn't had a 1-2-3 inning in the last two games. "We're not playing well, and we're definitely not pitching. We're not getting the length we need out of our starters, which has compounded some things."
After consecutive games in which starters Jeff Locke and James McDonald each pitched three innings and allowed a combined total of eight runs, Lincoln lasted only 1 1/3 innings and was charged with six runs on eight hits - three of which were sharp singles through the box.
"It was a hit parade today," Kemp said. "It was just one of those days where everybody was seeing the ball, getting good pitches to hit and putting good wood on it."
Chad Billingsley (11-10) allowed a run and four hits over five innings and struck out five. The right-hander, pitching his final home game in the first year of a four-year contract that will pay him more than $41 million, was staked to an 11-0 lead through the first three innings and breezed to his first victory in eight starts since beating Arizona 7-4 on Aug. 5.
"I've been struggling with my arm slot and my mechanics a lot this year and haven't been able to find a good rhythm," Billingsley said. "I had better off-speed stuff today, so I'm just going to keep going with it."
Lincoln, a 26-year-old left-hander, making his seventh start for the Pirates this season, gave up hits to five of his first seven batters and threw 33 pitches in the first as the Dodgers took a 3-0 lead.
Dee Gordon led off with a triple and scored on Jamey Carroll's groundout. Kemp homered to center field on the first pitch, and Sands capped the rally with an RBI single.
The Dodgers increased the margin to 9-0 in the second. Kemp hit a two-out RBI single. Rivera chased Lincoln with another single, and Loney greeted Aaron Thompson with a drive just beyond the reach of center fielder Andrew McCutchen, scoring Kemp and Rivera. Two batters later, Sands hit a first-pitch homer into the left-field pavilion.
Rivera made it 11-0 in the third with a two-run single against Chris Leroux, one of 18 pitchers the Pirates are carrying on their expanded roster. Two more runs scored on a routine flyball by Rivera that fell for a double between center fielder Alex Presley and right fielder Xavier Paul, each of whom thought the other was going to catch it.
The Pirates' run came on Paul's RBI double in the fifth.
The crowd of 37,802 on Fan Appreciation Day increased the Dodgers' season total to 2,832,719 with three home dates left. They would have to sell out all three to reach 3 million with just 719 to spare. The last time the club failed to reach that figure in a non-strike season was 1982. Dodger Stadium has a seating capacity of 56,000, the largest in the majors.
The Dodgers had a season-high 25 hits in Billingsley's 15-0 win at Minnesota on June 27. ... Sunday marked the 34th anniversary of Hurdle's first big league game, when he hit a two-run homer against Glenn Abbott in his second at-bat to help the Royals beat Seattle 8-5 at Kansas City. ... Clayton Kershaw opens the Dodgers' three-game series against San Francisco on Tuesday night at Chavez Ravine, looking for his 20th victory - and fourth this season against Tim Lincecum. Kershaw will attempt to become the first Dodgers pitcher to go 5-0 against the Giants in the same year since LHP Vic Lombardi did it in 1946.