This season, they may be about to do essentially the same thing two weeks before Labor Day.
The Dodgers can complete a four-game whitewash of Chicago on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, with the fading Cubs looking to salvage a win to close what has been a dismal road trip.
After finishing the 2008 season with the NL’s best record, the Cubs were optimistic going into the playoffs - until the Dodgers won three straight in their NL division series by a combined 20-6 margin, making it 100 years since Chicago’s last World Series title.
Hope seems to be disappearing for the Cubs (61-60) even sooner this year. They’ve dropped 10 of 13 overall to slide out of striking distance in the NL Central and wild-card races, and their 1-5 start to this trip has made things even worse.
After the club lost two of three in San Diego, Chicago’s bats have gone all but silent at Dodger Stadium, totaling three runs in three games. The Cubs managed one hit in Friday’s 2-1 loss, and couldn’t score off rookie knuckleballer Charlie Haeger(notes) or two relievers in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat.
They’re batting .197 as a team on this trip to lower their team average on the road to .239.
“That rather elusive hit with men in scoring position didn’t materialize,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “What can I do? I wish I had a magic formula or magic dust. I really do. But I don’t. We’ve struggled on the road offensively for a long time. We’re in a rut right now and we’ve just got to work our way out of it.”
Los Angeles (74-50) has used this series to bolster what had been a shrinking lead in the NL West. While the Dodgers’ bats have been inconsistent lately - with Manny Ramirez(notes) managing one RBI in his last 10 games - the pitchers have allowed three or fewer runs in seven consecutive contests.
“Everybody that’s come out of that bullpen or has started has had to be pretty much bulletproof because we’ve been struggling scoring runs. But what we’ve scored has been holding up,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
The Dodgers will have Chad Billingsley(notes) (12-6, 3.70 ERA) on the mound Sunday. The right-hander won Game 2 of last year’s division series against the Cubs, allowing one run in 6 2-3 innings of Los Angeles’ 10-3 victory. He also pitched well against the Cubs on May 29 at Wrigley Field, but lost 2-1 despite tossing seven strong innings.
Billingsley (12-6, 3.70 ERA) was recently scratched from a start due to a straight left hamstring, but allowed two runs and three hits in six innings of a 7-3 win over St. Louis in his return Tuesday.
“I’m just trying to get back in it, and I’m happy with how it went,” Billingsley said. “I just have to pitch my game, and I can win any time.”
After walking seven in 4 2-3 innings of a loss to the Dodgers in Game 1 of last year’s playoff series, Ryan Dempster(notes) responded with a brilliant start against Los Angeles on May 30, allowing three hits in seven innings of a 7-0 win.
Dempster (6-7, 4.28) has lost his last two starts overall. The right-hander gave up four runs in seven innings of a 6-3 loss at San Diego on Tuesday despite striking out a season-high 10.