Chicago completed a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres with Thursday’s 9-3 win. Sammy Sosa hit a two-run homer for the second straight game and Moises Alou and Eric Karros also connected for the Cubs, who have won four straight. The Cubs outscored the Padres 15-5 in the series.
“I hope we can continue this run,” Karros said. “We haven’t had a prolonged run at all this year.
“Maybe this is our time.”
The second-place Cubs, who trail the NL Central-leading Houston Astros by 1 1/2 games, have won nine of 12.
Six Cubs had two hits Thursday and four had two RBIs.
“We’re starting to put it together,” manager Dusty Baker said. “You can’t get overconfident. Key is getting big pitching. Whenever our pitching holds them to three runs, we have a great chance to win.”
The Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds with Thursday’s 4-3 triumph. Eric Gagne closed out the ninth for his 38th save, tying Jose Mesa’s major league record for consecutive saves to start a season.
Gagne, who saved all three games in a series for the fourth time this season, struck out the side for his 46th straight regular season save overall.
STANDINGS: Cubs - 2nd place, 1 1/2 GB, NL Central. Dodgers - 3rd place, 12 1/2 GB, NL West.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Shawn Estes (7-8, 5.70 ERA). Estes is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in his last three starts. The veteran left-hander is coming off one of his best outings of the season but wasn’t around Saturday when the Cubs fell 4-3 to Arizona. He allowed two runs and four hits over seven innings, while striking out a season-high eight and walking two. Estes has struggled in his 18 career starts against Los Angeles, going 3-7 with a 5.22 ERA.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Andy Ashby (2-9, 5.49 ERA). Ashby is carrying a 6.58 ERA during a five-game losing streak. The veteran right-hander, who hasn’t won since a 4-2 victory over Anaheim on June 21, was reached for five runs and eight hits over 4 1-3 innings on Saturday in a 6-4 loss to Atlanta. However, he has thrived in his career against the Cubs, going 8-2 with a 3.48 ERA in 20 appearances, including 19 starts.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cubs - Mark Grudzielanek, .305 avg.; Sosa, 26 HRs; Alou, 72 RBIs; Kenny Lofton, 67 runs and 23 SBs. Dodgers - Paul Lo Duca, .294 avg.; Jeromy Burnitz, 22 HRs; Shawn Green, 55 RBIs and 56 runs; Dave Roberts, 28 SBs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: Dodgers, 3-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - OF Sosa is hitting .500 in 20 career at-bats against RHP Ashby with one double, one homer and three RBIs. … Chicago has won four straight series. … Starting with a three-homer game July 4 against. St. Louis, OF Alou is hitting .324 (35-for-108) with seven homers, 11 doubles and 22 RBIs. Dodgers - Los Angeles’ bullpen has a major league-low 2.09 ERA. … OF Burnitz has 15 homers and 33 RBIs over his last 49 games. … 1B Fred McGriff, sidelined since June 14 because of a right groin strain, ran on angles for the first time Thursday and expects to begin running the bases on Friday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 31-25 on the road; Dodgers - 32-25 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - 2B Grudzielanek (hand), 15-day DL; OF Tom Goodwin (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Corey Patterson (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 60-day DL. Dodgers - C Todd Hundley (back), 15-day DL; 1B McGriff (abductor), 15-day DL; OF Brian Jordan (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Kazuhisa Ishii (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day DL.