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Sele goes six strong as Dodgers blank Bucs at home

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Aaron Sele has given the Los Angeles Dodgers
a strong veteran presence.

Sele pitched six strong innings, rookie Andre Ethier had a
career-high four RBI and the Dodgers beat the hapless Pittsburgh
Pirates 7-0 Saturday night to pull into a tie with San Diego for
first place in the NL West.

"It's a pretty special group of young kids that we've got --
good quality people with good quality talent and really willing to
learn," Sele said. "And there's enough veterans around to teach
them the right way to do things."

Sele (4-2) scattered five hits and struck out four, winning for
the first time in five starts since May 24. The right-hander, who
did not make it past the fourth in either of his previous two
outings, worked with runners on base in every inning except the
third.

He got three outs on flyballs to the warning track -- by Sean
Casey, Jose Bautista and Freddy Sanchez, and allowed only one
runner past second base.

"The difference was location and really just getting the ball
down," Sele said. "I was able to keep the ball around the
kneecaps and get some ground balls when I needed to. I need to
command all of my pitches. I'm not a velocity guy, I'm a location
guy. So I've got to keep the ball down. And when I do, it gives me
a chance."

Jonathan Broxton relieved Sele and struck out the side on 14
pitches in the seventh. Former Pirates lefty Joe Beimel worked a
scoreless eighth and Takashi Saito finished the combined
seven-hitter with a perfect ninth to lower his ERA to 1.77.

Saito, who has assumed the closer role in the wake of Eric
Gagne's latest setback from elbow surgery, has not allowed a run
over his last 13 2-3 innings. He had not pitched in a week, so
manager Grady Little was compelled to give him an inning to keep
him sharp.

"Tak's been great," Sele said. "He's been a big boost,
especially at the tail end of the bullpen. When you're used to
having a guy like Gagne, who's been phenomenal, and then be able to
stick Tak in there and really not miss a beat, it's pretty special.
He works hard and obviously has fun doing his job."

Jeff Kent homered for the second straight game, helping send
Pittsburgh to its 10th straight loss -- the Pirates' longest since a
10-game slide in 1968, when they finished 80-82 under manager Larry
Shepard. The franchise's longest skid in the modern era is 12 games
in 1939.

Pittsburgh is 17½ games out of first place in the NL Central and
24 games under .500 in its first season under former Dodgers
manager Jim Tracy. The Pirates, who also have former Dodgers
coaches John Shelby, Jim Colborn and Jim Lett on board, have the
second-worst record in the majors at 26-50 and have been shut out
seven times.

"Anytime you lose, it gets old after a while," Casey said.
"We had a lot of high expectations in the beginning of the year. I
don't think there's any such thing as quick fixes in baseball, but
Tracy and Lett and T-Bone and Colby are the right guys to get this
thing turned around -- if anyone's going to do it. There's no doubt
in my mind."

Zach Duke (5-7) lost for the first time in exactly a month after
going 3-0 in his previous five starts. He allowed five runs and 10
hits in 5 1-3 innings. The 23-year-old left-hander has an 8.15 ERA
in three career starts against Los Angeles, surrendering 16 earned
runs over 17 2-3 innings.

Olmedo Saenz, who hit a two-run homer against Duke in the
Dodgers' 8-3 victory at Pittsburgh on April 10, led off the second
inning with a single that gave him seven hits in his first eight
career at-bats against the Pirates' starter. Matt Kemp followed
with a double and Ethier drove in both runners with a broken-bat
single to left.

"It's really frustrating," Duke said. "I didn't make the
pitch I wanted to. I got it a little bit over the plate so he was
able to get enough of it."

Duke finally got Saenz out in the third, fanning him on a
breaking pitch with runners at first and third to end the inning.
But Saenz singled again in the sixth, took third on Kemp's second
double and scored on Ethier's second two-run single. Russell Martin
followed with an RBI single that chased Duke and made it 5-0.

Pirates right-hander Salomon Torres, who won two games in relief
against the Dodgers in their first series of the season at PNC
Park, gave up a two-run homer to Kent in the seventh.

Game notes
With Gagne's status uncertain because of his troublesome
elbow, all of Dodger Stadium's souvenir stands have reduced their
Gagne merchandise 30 percent. Gagne made only two appearances
between stints on the disabled list, following his surgery on April
7. ... Four of the Pirates' Dominican-born players -- Bautista,
Torres, Ronny Paulino and Damaso Marte -- posed for pictures with
Dominican Republic president Leonel Fernandez in front of the
Dodgers' dugout moments before Fernandez threw a ceremonial first
pitch.