Outstanding pitching has helped the Los Angeles Dodgers avoid any long losing streaks this season. They should only get stronger on the mound with the return of Eric Milton.
In danger of losing three straight for the first time this year, the Dodgers are set to activate Milton from the disabled list to start the opener of a three-game interleague series with the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.Los Angeles (47-26) lost the last two games of a three-game set with the Chicago White Sox, dropping the finale 6-5 in 13 innings Thursday.This is the eighth time the Dodgers have lost consecutive contests this season, but they have yet to lose three straight. That's a testament to Los Angeles' pitching staff, which boasts a stellar 3.65 ERA.Milton (2-0, 2.89 ERA), who signed with the Dodgers as a minor league free agent in February after spending an entire season out of the big leagues while recovering from Tommy John surgery, was becoming an important part of the team's rotation before being put on the 15-day disabled list June 7 with tightness in his back.The left-hander will make his first start since facing Philadelphia on June 5, when he gave up three runs -- one earned -- and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings of Los Angeles' 4-3 win.Milton is 1-5 with a 9.41 ERA in nine starts against the Mariners (37-35), but this will be his first appearance against them since September 2002. He'll be facing a Seattle lineup that has been in flux.The Mariners placed starting shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt on the 15-day DL on Thursday after he pulled his hamstring running out a ground ball in a 4-3 win over San Diego the previous night. Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said Ronny Cedeno will now get most of the starts at shortstop in place of Betancourt, who is hitting .250 with 22 RBIs in 63 games.Betancourt is the third Mariners player to go on the DL in the last 10 days, joining pitcher Erik Bedard (shoulder) and outfielder Endy Chavez (knee)."We talked about it in spring training ... as we move forward and we add more depth, that's how you sustain and win championships, you cover these," Wakamatsu said. "We're awfully thin right now."Seattle did get some good news Thursday, with second baseman Jose Lopez returning to the starting lineup. Lopez, who missed six games while on the bereavement list to attend the funeral of his sister in Venezuela, went 0 for 5 in the Mariners' 9-3 win over the Padres.The Mariners are also expected to activate catcher Kenji Johjima (toe) from the DL on Friday. Johjima, who has been out since May 26, may be behind the plate to catch Jason Vargas (3-2, 3.24).Vargas earned a win in his last start, allowing two runs -- one earned -- and three hits in seven innings during Seattle's 7-3 victory over Arizona on Saturday night. The left-hander lost his previous two outings, posting an 8.71 ERA during that span.Vargas tossed a complete game in his only career start versus the Dodgers, surrendering one run and six hits while striking out seven for Florida in a 7-1 victory Aug. 21, 2005.