The Dodgers (77-68) defeated the Cubs 6-0 on Wednesday as Brad Penny scattered seven hits, struck out six and didn’t walk batter over seven innings to become the NL’s first 16-game winner.
Los Angeles maintained its 1 1/2 -game lead over second-place San Diego after the Padres routed the Reds 10-0.
“Every game from here on out is important,” Penny said after the Dodgers won for the 10th time in 14 games at Wrigley Field. “If we play the way we should, we should win the division or we’ll all be disappointed.”
Following their respective series, the Dodgers and Padres will meet for the final time in the regular season with a four-game set in Los Angeles starting Friday night.
Since Aug. 29, Furcal is hitting .448 (26-for-58) with six doubles, five homers, 12 RBIs and 12 runs.
After an impressive outing in a start against a playoff-caliber team, rookie Hong Chih-Kuo (1-4, 4.46 ERA) looks to build off his first major league win for the Dodgers.
The left-hander limited the NL East-leading New York Mets to three hits over six innings with three walks and seven strikeouts in a 5-0 road win on Friday.
Even more impressive is the 25-year-old Kuo has twice undergone Tommy John surgery.
“(Kuo) deserves to have another chance,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “At least one or two more, and maybe 10 years worth.”
Another pitcher trying to comeback from arm injuries is Wade Miller (0-1, 12.00), who starts for Chicago (58-88).
Miller hadn’t pitched in a major league game in more than year when he faced Atlanta on Sunday. He lasted just three innings, allowing four runs and five hits—including two homers—and five walks in a 7-3 loss.
“I was just trying to prepare myself mentally to go out there,” said Miller, who had arm surgery in August 2005. “Physically, I wasn’t quite sure. I warmed up good before the game. My arm felt good, and it’s just a matter of pinpointing some pitches.”
Miller won a career-high 16 games for Houston in 2001, but missed much of the 2004 season with rotator cuff problems. Since then, he’s made only 33 starts with the Astros, Red Sox and Cubs.
Chicago has lost 20 of its last 26 and owns the worst record in the NL. The Cubs are on the way to their fifth 90-loss season since 1997.
“You have to continue to go out there with the same mindset everyday. Has it been an easy season? No. It hasn’t. But again like we’ve talk about, you’re a professional, you have to continue to go out there and compete,” left fielder Matt Murton said.