A few more, however, might make them ignore their recent struggles.
The Cubs have won three of four after dropping eight straight, and they can guarantee at least a split of their four-game set Saturday afternoon against the visiting Dodgers, owners of baseball’s best record.
Chicago (24-23) has had its hands full with key injuries to some of its biggest stars in the first two months. With third baseman Aramis Ramirez(notes) and starter Rich Harden(notes) currently on the disabled list, the Cubs were outscored 38-18 in their eight-game skid from May 17-25.
It’s been Chicago’s pitching that’s made the difference recently. The Cubs’ offense has averaged 3.5 runs in their last four games, but the pitching staff has yielded six total runs.
Randy Wells(notes) was outpitched by Randy Wolf(notes) in a 2-1 loss in Thursday’s series opener, but Chicago turned the tables on the Dodgers (34-16) in another pitchers’ duel Friday. Ted Lilly(notes) gave up the game’s first run in the top of the seventh, but the Cubs responded with a pair in the bottom of the inning— including a solo homer from Koyie Hill(notes)—to lift them to a 2-1 win.
The Cubs won for the first time in 20 games this season when scoring three runs or less.
“We had some chances early in the game, but we didn’t take advantage of them,” manager Lou Piniella said. “Finally we got a couple runs there in the seventh inning and we got Ted Lilly a nice, deserved win.”
Ryan Dempster(notes) (3-3, 4.99 ERA) will try to continue Chicago’s stretch of outstanding starting pitching, but he will be trying to bounce back from his worst start of the year. Dempster gave up six runs and seven hits in four innings to Pittsburgh on Monday, but left without a decision in Chicago’s 10-8 loss.
“It was frustrating,” Dempster told the team’s official Web site. “It (stinks) because we hadn’t been scoring runs, and the team went out and scored eight runs today, and I didn’t do my job and I’m better than that.”
It was his shortest outing since Game 1 of the NL division series against the Dodgers on Oct. 1. The right-hander lasted just 4 2-3 innings, allowing four hits, four runs and a career high-tying seven walks in Chicago’s 7-2 loss.
Los Angeles’ offense, though, has struggled at Wrigley after averaging 8.6 runs in its previous five games. Casey Blake(notes), Juan Pierre(notes) and James Loney(notes) went a combined 1 for 10 on Friday, but they’ve been the Dodgers’ catalysts over the past week. The trio is hitting a combined .382 (34 for 89) with 22 RBIs since May 23 despite not hitting a homer.
Loney hit a back-breaking grand slam off Dempster in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS.
Los Angeles has allowed the Cubs to score only 28 total runs in 12 games— including the postseason—dating back to their first regular-season contest last year. One pitcher Chicago hasn’t faced in that span has been Eric Stults(notes) (4-1, 4.29), who gave up four runs in 4 1-3 innings in an 8-2 loss at Wrigley on Sept. 5, 2007, his lone career start against the Cubs.
Stults will try to bounce back Saturday after struggling with wildness against Colorado. The Los Angeles left-hander gave up three hits, seven walks and four runs in 4 1-3 innings Monday, though the Dodgers won 16-6.
He is 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA in his last four road starts.