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Dodgers bounce back behind Greinke

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers expected big things out of Zack Greinke when they signed him to the largest-ever contract for a right-handed pitcher during the offseason.

Perhaps not this big.

Greinke struck out nine and smacked an RBI single to raise his average to .340 as he held down the reeling Chicago Cubs in a 6-2 win Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

"You know what a guy like him is capable of, but he's just having a tremendous year," Dodgers infielder Nick Punto said. "You never want to say you can expect this, because he's having one of those fantastic years."

The Dodgers moved to 18-4 this season with Greinke on the mound as they righted the ship following an 8-1 loss to the Red Sox on Sunday. The defeat against Boston completed Los Angeles' first series loss since mid-June.

Benefitting from Chicago's wildness on the mound -- Cubs pitchers issued six walks, all to the Dodgers' last four batters -- Los Angeles picked up some timely hitting and rode Greinke to its 12th win in 15 second-half home games.

"It was just a really good game, kind of just what we needed," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Zack throwing zeros kind of let us shake the cobwebs out from the last series."

Greinke (13-3) allowed five hits and two runs -- both on a two-out double in the ninth inning by Brian Bogusevic that prompted Mattingly to call on Brian Wilson for the last out.

Ending up one strike short of a shutout left Greinke frustrated.

"I threw some really good pitches (to Bogusevic)," Greinke said "Just battled, and he made a good swing (with the count) 3-2, and I couldn't finish it off."

Greinke threw 122 pitches en route to his fifth consecutive win, and the former Cy Young Award winner moved to 10-1 in his past 13 starts.

"We knew we had to bounce back. We felt like we played a little flat against Boston," Punto said. "You have to have a bounce-back game like that, and when you have stoppers like a Zack Greinke, it makes it a lot easier."

Added Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis: "He had it from the get-go and then he really settled in. He had really great stuff, and his changeup was outstanding, and it's been a pitch that's kind of separated him during this run."

By the time Hanley Ramirez drilled his 14th home run of the year off Carlos Villanueva in the seventh inning, the Dodgers were firmly in control at 5-0. When Yasiel Puig hammered his 13th homer of the year in the following inning, his third hit of the night, there was little doubt.

Quiet the previous three games against the Red Sox's brilliant starting pitching, Los Angeles burst out for four runs in the middle innings Monday to seize control.

That was enough to chase Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, who has stumbled in consecutive starts. Five days after allowing six runs on five hits and four walks in four innings against the Washington Nationals, Arrieta (1-1) allowed four runs on six hits and five walks in five innings Monday.

A pair of walks in the fourth inning led to two Los Angeles runs, and another walk in the sixth inning proved costly as well.

"Key walks at the wrong time," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "The big walk to Punto (in the fourth) was the biggest of all of them. We've got to get over that hump of these four- and five-pitch walks. The walks have been the difference."

Los Angeles needed to deliver with men on base, though, and who was one of the Dodgers' clutch hitters? Greinke. The hot-hitting pitcher stroked an RBI single to open scoring in the fourth, and Carl Crawford followed with a ground-rule double, driving in Punto.

Los Angeles added two runs in the sixth inning, on a Punto RBI double and a Crawford sacrifice fly.

The offensive output was a far cry from the previous three days, when the Dodgers totaled just five total runs. However, with Greinke in the groove, they didn't much need it.

"I think I kind of knew what to expect," Mattingly said of Greinke's arrival. "I knew he'd be consistent -- I saw him pitch a few times in the American League and a few times against us -- and I really had a feeling this guy was this good."

NOTES: Chicago RHP Jeff Samardzija shared NL Pitcher of the Week honors for last week with Miami RHP Jose Fernandez after finishing with a 2-0 record and just three runs allowed over 17 innings. He is Chicago's first NL Pitcher of the Week since RHP Ryan Dempster last June and just the third in 10 years (RHP Carlos Zambrano, 2009). ... Cubs OF Nate Schierholtz played Monday despite hurting his back and then getting hit in the helmet with an errant throw on the same at-bat Sunday at San Diego. ... In addition to his impressive batting average, Greinke has taken six walks this season, the most for a Dodgers pitcher since Bob Welch had seven in 1987. ... Puig's three-hit game was his 31st multi-hit game and his 11th outing with three or more hits in just 74 games. ... Crawford extended his hitting streak to eight games. He's batting .313 during the spurt.
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