Dodgers-Cubs Preview

The Los Angeles Dodgers have put together two of their best

offensive showings of the season in their first two games against

the Chicago Cubs.

Coming up with another strong performance could be tough.

In Sunday’s series finale, the Dodgers will try to better

Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano, who is coming off a stellar outing and

has been outstanding lately at home.

After pounding out a season-best 14 hits and scoring its most

runs this year in Friday’s 12-2 win over the Cubs, Los Angeles

(11-11) again had little trouble generating offense Saturday.

Casey Blake, Matt Kemp and Rod Barajas homered, and Andre Ethier

extended his major league-leading hitting streak to 20 games with a

two-run double in the Dodgers’ 10-8 loss.

Ethier is batting .408 (31 for 76) with two homers and 12 RBIs

during his career-best hitting streak.

“He’s been good, there’s no doubt about it,” Dodgers manager

Don Mattingly said.

Los Angeles seemed poised to win for the sixth time in seven

games Saturday after scoring seven unanswered runs to take an 8-5

lead, but Chicago responded with a five-run eighth. Jeff Baker hit

a tiebreaking two-run double for the Cubs (10-10), who had combined

for nine runs in their previous four games combined.

The top three hitters in Chicago’s order led the surge, as

Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Marlon Byrd combined for nine

hits, six RBIs and four runs.

“We never lost confidence that we could come back,” Castro said

through a translator. “The way we play right now, everybody was

aggressive and everybody had confidence.”

Zambrano (2-0, 4.21 ERA) is also feeling especially confident

following a brilliant performance.

In Monday’s 1-0, 10-inning win over San Diego, Zambrano allowed

three hits and struck out 10 in eight innings. The right-hander

retired the last 13 batters he faced.

“You watch the way Z’s throwing and you feel like one run is

going to win this game,” manager Mike Quade told the Cubs’ official

website. “If you get two, it’s like a 2-0 lead in soccer.”

Although Zambrano didn’t earn the win, the three-time All-Star

is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA in his last seven starts at Wrigley

Field.

Zambrano is 2-3 with a 3.40 ERA in eight career regular-season

starts against the Dodgers, yielding two runs or fewer six times.

In his last start against Los Angeles in Game 2 of the 2008 NL

division series, Zambrano permitted seven runs – three earned – in

6 1-3 innings of a 10-3 loss.

Dodgers scheduled starter Hiroki Kuroda (2-2, 3.33) also hasn’t

faced the Cubs since 2008 playoffs.

Kuroda went 1-1 with a 0.59 ERA in two starts against the Cubs

in the 2008 regular season and threw 6 1-3 shutout innings to beat

them in Game 3 of the NLDS in sweeping the series.

Kuroda was saddled with the loss in Tuesday’s 10-1 defeat to

Atlanta but wasn’t much of a factor in the final score, as the

Braves scored eight runs in the ninth inning.

The right-hander threw five shutout innings before serving up

solo homers in the sixth and seventh. He exited after giving up

five hits in 6 1-3 innings.

Although Kuroda pitched well for the most part, there were some

concerns. He seemed to labor a bit, throwing 101 pitches, and

walked three. He had only issued two walks over 20 2-3 innings in

his first three starts.