The Dodgers play their final game of the season against a non-NL West opponent on Thursday when they complete a four-game set against the NL Central-leading Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Los Angeles (73-66) trails first-place Arizona by four games in the West and San Diego by three for the wild card. After Thursday’s game, the Dodgers will play exclusively within their division, which means 16 of their final 22 games are against teams with winning records.
It’s possible that Chicago (71-67) may not play another winning team after Thursday. The Cubs have completed their season series with second-place Milwaukee, but have five left against third-place St. Louis, which is currently at .500.
Every other team on Chicago’s remaining schedule has a losing record.
The Cubs lead the Brewers by one-half game and are two ahead of the Cardinals.
“I think everybody is relaxed,” Chicago manager Lou Piniella said. “Nobody is putting undue pressure on themselves. … It can be a stressful time if you let it.”
Los Angeles had won two the first two games of the series before an 8-2 loss on Wednesday. The Dodgers went just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and had eight hits after going 12-for-28 (.429) with 27 hits in the first two games.
All-Star catcher Russell Martin may be back in the Dodgers lineup after he sat out Wednesday. Martin had an MRI on a right knee injury suffered in Tuesday’s 6-2 victory, and could return depending on the results.
“Hopefully he’ll be ready to play tomorrow,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said.
The Cubs have received fairly a quiet series to this point from sluggers Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Lee is 2-for-11 in the first three games and Ramirez is 2-for-9, although he had a two-run homer in the third inning on Wednesday.
Derek Lowe (11-12, 3.78) gets the start for Los Angeles after a rough outing his last time out. He was tagged for seven runs over 4 1-3 innings in a 7-0 loss at San Diego on Saturday.
The right-hander went 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA in his three previous outings, issuing only one walk over 20 innings.
Lowe is 1-1 with a 3.58 ERA in five career starts against the Cubs. He is facing them for the second time this year after yielding one run over six innings and not receiving a decision in a 9-8 victory on May 25.
The Cubs are 12-3 at home when they hand the ball to Jason Marquis (11-8, 4.20), who pitched very well against the Dodgers last year with St. Louis. Marquis went 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles, which hasn’t faced him this season.
Marquis won his outing Saturday by limiting Houston to two runs and five hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 4-3 victory. The right-hander improved to 8-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 15 outings at home.
“The guys on the other side are competing to beat you, and they’d like nothing better than to knock you off,” Marquis told the Cubs’ official Web site. “We’ve just got to take care of business and worry about the Cubs, and that’s it.”