Cubs-Dodgers Preview

Andre Ethier, owner of the longest active hitting streak in the

majors, is halfway to Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game streak from 1941.

Given the way Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster pitched all

April, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ All-Star right fielder seems to

have a good chance to extend his run.

Ethier and the Dodgers take their hacks at Dempster, who will

take the mound Tuesday on his 34th birthday trying to bounce back

from an ugly opening month.

Ethier had an RBI infield single during a three-run fifth inning

Monday, extending his streak to 28 games and helping the Dodgers

(15-15) beat the Cubs (12-16) 5-2 in the series opener.

“Only halfway? It’s nothing to get too caught up in or excited

about right now,” said Ethier, who is 7 for 19 with a homer and

four doubles off Dempster. “…It’s neat to be a part of this and

keep it going, but I’m not going up there every at-bat just to

extend the streak. I want to get my knocks and do my damage

offensively.”

Los Angeles is averaging just 3.1 runs at home – among the worst

in NL – but could break out against the struggling Dempster (1-3,

9.58 ERA), whose ERA last month was a career-worst for April.

The right-hander has surrendered at least four runs in all six

of his starts, giving up seven in each of his last two outings –

including a 10-8 victory over the Dodgers on April 23.

Dempster, who didn’t receive a decision in that game, was even

worse in his most recent appearance, lasting a career-low one-third

of an inning Thursday in an 11-2 defeat at Arizona.

“This was a really bad outing,” Dempster told the Cubs’ official

website. “The game really didn’t start out like I dreamt it up.

I’ve been there before. I hope to not be there again. You’ve got to

learn from it and you need to go out there and put your work in the

next four days and give yourself a chance to win a ballgame.”

Dodgers first baseman James Loney, batting .202 on the season,

is 1 for 13 lifetime against Dempster, who is 6-0 with a 2.73 ERA

in his last nine starts against Los Angeles.

Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley (2-1, 4.46) has also

experienced success in this series, posting a 3.38 ERA while

winning his last three straight starts against the Cubs – including

a 12-2 victory at Wrigley Field on April 22.

“The guy knows how to pitch for sure and, like most veteran

guys, knows how to pitch with a lead,” Cubs manager Mike Quade told

MLB.com.

Billingsley had a rocky outing at Florida on Wednesday, giving

up four runs in six innings but not getting saddled with a

decision. The Dodgers won 5-4 on Ethier’s 10th-inning solo

shot.

Billingsley, who is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two home starts this

season, is 1-1 with a 5.50 ERA in three career starts against the

Cubs at Chavez Ravine.

While he has held Alfonso Soriano to three hits in 18 at-bats

with eight strikeouts, Billingsley could have trouble slowing down

baseball’s current home run leader. Soriano went deep for the 11th

time Monday, matching the combined total for the rest of Chicago’s

lackluster offense.

Soriano is batting .400 with five homers in his last five

games.