© 2010 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

04/29/10 9:02 PM ET

Morton looking to break through

Pittsburgh has been waiting all season for Charlie Morton to show he can be a solid part of the 2010 rotation.

Maybe the wait ends Friday against Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers.

So far, Morton has an 0-4 record with a 16.20 ERA.

"When things are going good, it's a lot easier," Morton said. "And in turn, you pitch better. When things are going poorly, you have to train your thoughts and focus on what you can control. What I can control is how hard I work and how much time I put into preparation.

Morton has not pitched a full four innings in three of his four outings and has allowed at least five runs per start. It also seems that he has had a hard time pinpointing the issues. In some cases, pitch selection has been Morton's problem. In other starts, it's been fastball command or a hesitancy to be aggressive enough with his fastball.

He's also working on the mental side of the game.

"You can go out there and not have your best stuff, be a little off on your mechanics, but if what's between your ears is working, you'll be able to get through the game," he said. "My attitude just has to be aggressive. I do have to turn it around. I know that. It's a speed bump and I'm going to get over it."

As for Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, he shook off a first-inning run and allowed the Nationals nothing further in six innings in his last start. It was the closest Billingsley has looked to the first-half All-Star he was a year ago.

The Dodgers will need a strong start from him if they hope to climb out of the NL West cellar anytime soon. Including Thursday night's 2-0 loss to the Pirates, the Dodgers have dropped five games in a row.

"It's that domino effect: The starting pitching is going to affect how much you need the bullpen, and if the starting pitcher can go out there and control the game somewhat, I think offensively we may stop trying to do too much," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "When we think small we're a much better offensive club even though we've scored a lot of runs at times. It's still with the mind-set that we're going to have at-bats and hit line drives. You end up doing more, but you have to have the mind-set that you make the pitcher pitch."

Pirates: Surging ahead
Including Thursday's 2-0 victory, the Pirates have won three straight road games and three in a row overall. They started out 2-8 on road this year. The club went 22-58 on the road last year. ... The Pirates are 7-1 in games determined by two runs or less. ... Ryan Doumit extended his hitting streak to nine games Thursday, going 2-for-4 with a two-run triple in the first inning.

Dodgers: Broxton on a roll
Jonathan Broxton worked the ninth inning Thursday to extend his scoreless-innings streak to eight to open the season. He has allowed just four hits and struck out 12 in his eight appearances this season. ... Blake DeWitt went 2-for-3 for his third multihit game of the season Thursday, his second in three games against the Pirates. ... Clayton Kershaw has thrown 100 or more pitches in six consecutive starts for the first time in career.

Worth noting
The Dodgers' five-game losing streak has equaled their longest slide from 2009, when they lost five straight contests from Sept. 27-Oct. 2. Thursday's loss also marked the fourth time that the Dodgers have been shut out this season.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.