While the Chicago Cubs send a rookie making his fourth major league start to the mound, it might be the Los Angeles Dodgers' veteran hurler who has more to prove.
Dan Haren faces a potential career-worst losing streak Friday night as the teams open a three-game series with his club hoping to extend its season-best win streak to seven.
Haren (8-8, 4.49 ERA) has already matched the worst stretch of his 12-year career with losses in four straight starts, compiling a 9.47 ERA in that span to raise his season mark nearly a run from 3.57.
Days off Monday and July 24 led the Dodgers to skip Haren's latest turn. He last pitched July 23 and allowed five runs in five innings of a 6-1 loss at Pittsburgh.
"It's really gotten away from me the last four times out," Haren said. "I was having a great year, I felt great throwing the ball, then a few starts ago it kind of snowballed and everything that could go wrong has gone wrong."
Three of his last four starts have come on the road, and a return home could help. The right-hander is 4-2 with a 3.40 ERA in nine starts at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers (62-47) have won nine of 10 against the Cubs (45-62) with 19 runs allowed and shutouts in three of the last five. Chicago has also dropped nine of 10 on the road, while Los Angeles has won a season-best five straight at home.
Should Haren falter, Los Angeles will have a rested bullpen to fall back on after another complete game from Clayton Kershaw in a 2-1 victory Thursday that moved it 3 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco in the NL West.
Offensively, the Dodgers took a step back with just five hits, but Yasiel Puig went 2 for 3 with a homer and is batting .462 on the winning streak. Adrian Gonzalez went 2 for 3 and is batting .417 over his last nine. Puig is 11 for 21 in six games against Chicago.
The Cubs head to Los Angeles having won three of four in a home series against Colorado after Thursday's 3-1 victory.
Chris Coghlan remained hot with a 2-for-3 day. The left fielder is batting .385 in 23 games since July 4, which ranks best in baseball ahead of the Dodgers' Matt Kemp (.382).
Pitching, though, has been the main vehicle lately for the Cubs, who have a 2.04 ERA over five games with the bullpen surrendering just two runs in 22 2-3 innings. That stretch started with Kyle Hendricks, who will open the series on the mound.
Hendricks (1-1, 2.33) suffered his first big league loss in Sunday's 1-0 contest against St. Louis. The rookie allowed a solo homer and a total of seven hits in 6 1-3 innings. It's the only run he's allowed in 13 1-3 over his last two starts.
Hendricks returns to Los Angeles, where he pitched at Dodger Stadium in high school.
"I'll prepare the same as always, watching a lot of video," he told MLB's official website. "So I pitched three innings (against the Dodgers) in a start in spring training and faced a lot of their starting lineup, at least for one at-bat. That will help a lot to watch that video, how I pitched them there. Not seeing them won't be a big deal now."
The Cubs will head west without utilityman Emilio Bonifacio and left-handed reliever James Russell, who were dealt to Atlanta before Thursday's trade deadline.