The Los Angeles Dodgers believe they have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, and it's difficult to argue with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw forming an imposing combo at the top of the rotation.
Greinke gets the nod Monday night as he looks to stay hot against the visiting Chicago Cubs , who hope to avoid losing an eighth consecutive meeting.
The Dodgers' 3.14 rotation ERA is the best in baseball, as Greinke (12-3, 2.91 ERA) and Kershaw (major league-best 1.72 ERA) have continued to shine.
Greinke has been stellar during his four-start winning streak, posting a 0.96 ERA. He gave up one run and struck out seven in eight innings of Wednesday's 4-1 win over Miami.
"I've been executing better and I've been throwing harder with a better changeup than at any time in my career," Greinke said.
The right-hander has helped Dodgers starters post a 2.13 ERA over the last eight contests.
"It's by far the deepest starting staff," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told the team's official website after Greinke's last start. "At the top end, we've never had (this good of a) one-two combo."
Greinke has yet to face the Cubs as a member of the Dodgers, but he gave up two hits and struck out 12 in seven innings of an 8-0 win while pitching for Milwaukee on June 6, 2012.
Kershaw will start Tuesday, and Chicago manager Dale Sveum realizes the challenges his club is facing in this three-game series.
"They're on a roll that baseball hasn't seen in many, many years," Sveum said. "When you have Greinke, Kershaw going two out of five days, you're talking about two guys who can win Cy Youngs in any given year or throw a no-hitter on any given day.
"That's not something you want to think about until you arrive at Dodger Stadium."
Los Angeles (76-54) leads the NL West by 9 1/2 games over Arizona and has won seven straight against the Cubs - including a four-game sweep at Wrigley Field from Aug. 1-4 - but it is coming off an 8-1 loss to Boston on Sunday.
Adrian Gonzalez homered for the Dodgers, who lost the final two of the three-game set to drop their first series since June 14-16 in Pittsburgh."You never want to lose two games in a row," outfielder Carl Crawford said. "We've just got to get back to doing what we do, put these two games behind us real quick and get back to our winning ways."
Chicago (55-75) has lost five of six after falling 3-2 in 15 innings at San Diego on Sunday. The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the 13th before allowing the tying runs to score and giving up an RBI single two innings later.
They'll look to end their skid versus the Dodgers with help from Jake Arrieta , who is hoping to rebound from his first tough outing since arriving in Chicago.
Arrieta (1-0, 3.71) gave up six runs and walked four in four innings of Wednesday's 11-6 loss to Washington. He allowed one run in 13 innings over his first two outings after being acquired from Baltimore.
The right-hander faced the Dodgers while with the Orioles on April 21, giving up two hits, five walks and five runs in four innings of a 7-4 loss.
Rookie Yasiel Puig reached base in 10 of his 14 plate appearances against the Cubs earlier this month, including a homer and a double.
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||6||.167||1||0||1||0||0||.167||.334||.167|
|August 08, 2013||Matt Guerrier||60-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|August 08, 2013||Thomas Neal||60-Day DL||Dislocated right shoulder|
|August 07, 2013||Thomas Neal||Day-to-Day||Dislocated right shoulder|
|August 07, 2013||Dioner Navarro||Day-to-Day||Right ankle contusion|
|August 03, 2013||Luis Valbuena||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|July 15, 2013||Brian Bogusevic||15-Day DL||Left hamstring strain|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|August 04, 2013||Hanley Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Jammed right shoulder|
|August 03, 2013||Yasiel Puig||Day-to-Day||Left hand contusion|
|July 30, 2013||Brian Wilson||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|July 30, 2013||Brian Wilson||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|July 23, 2013||Jose Dominguez||15-Day DL||Left quad strain|
|July 22, 2013||Matt Kemp||15-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Zack Greinke had been badgering manager Don Mattingly for a month to let him pitch deeper into games.
Mattingly finally obliged, even getting booed by Los Angeles Dodgers fans when he made a mound visit to Greinke late in the game against the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
"Then I don't do the job," Greinke said after coming within one strike of his fifth career shutout in the Dodgers' 6-2 victory that ended their two-game skid.
Greinke got the first two outs of the ninth before running into trouble. Anthony Rizzo doubled and then Greinke hit Nate Schierholtz . Greinke had a 3-2 count on Brian Bogusevic before he doubled to deep left to score Chicago's two runs.
"It was frustrating," Greinke said. "I made some good pitches. Rizzo had a nice hit. The pitch to Schierholtz was pretty close to where you want to throw it and it hit him. I'm more frustrated I couldn't get him (Bogusevic) out. Did everything you could but just didn't happen."
Brian Wilson came in to strike out Donnie Murphy for the final out.
"I knew he really wanted to stay in the game," Mattingly said of Greinke. "I'm a little torn with it, honestly. I wanted to keep him at 115 (pitches, Greinke threw 122), but he's earned the right to go for it."
Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig homered to help the Dodgers beat the Cubs for the eighth straight time, including a four-game sweep at Wrigley Field earlier this month. The Dodgers tied their longest streak over Chicago in franchise history, set from June 9, 1974-May 19, 1975.
Greinke (13-3) allowed two runs and five hits in 8 2-3 innings. He tied his season high with nine strikeouts and walked two while improving to 5-0 this month with a 1.23 ERA in five starts. The right-hander has won 10 of 11 decisions, going 10-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 13 starts since June 22.
He didn't allow a runner to reach second base until the eighth.
"Zack throwing zeroes early gives us a chance to shake out the cobwebs from the last series," Mattingly said, referring to the Dodgers dropping two of three against Boston.
Greinke helped himself offensively, too, with a two-out hit in the fourth that scored the Dodgers' first run.
"Pitching is like the business and hitting is more the fun part," he said.
After giving up a single to Starlin Castro to open the game, Greinke retired the next 13 batters before Murphy singled in the fifth.
Greinke issued consecutive one-out walks to Murphy and Welington Castillo in the eighth before Darwin Barney grounded into a fielder's choice to third. Murphy advanced to third and Castillo was out at second.
The Dodgers thought they had completed the double play, but second baseman Mark Ellis ' throw didn't beat Barney to first, leading Mattingly to shout, "Out!" from the dugout.
Greinke then got pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro to ground out to third, ending the inning.
"He's been on a pretty good stretch and it continued," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We really didn't muster up a whole lot until that last inning. He can pitch to a game report and he's got all the pitches to do it. He can pitch to weaknesses and that's what he did."
Jake Arrieta (1-1) gave up four runs and six hits in five-plus innings, struck out three and walked five in his first road start for the Cubs since being acquired on July 2 from Baltimore.
"I flat-out just got outpitched by one of the best in the game," he said. "I didn't do a good enough job. I've got to be better than that. I've got to be better at staying focused and having better concentration."
Puig hit his 13th homer on his first pitch from Michael Bowden with two outs in the eighth. The Cuban defector finished a triple shy of the cycle for his 31st multi-hit game in 74 career games.
Ramirez homered off Carlos Villanueva with one out in the seventh, extending the Dodgers' lead to 5-0.
Los Angeles had tacked on a pair of runs in the sixth on Nick Punto 's RBI double and Carl Crawford 's sacrifice fly that made it 4-0.
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on two-out hits by Greinke and Crawford. Greinke's single scored A.J. Ellis, who walked, and Crawford's ground-rule double to deep left scored Punto, who walked.
Notes: Dodgers OF Matt Kemp got a day off from rehabbing the sprained left ankle that has had him on the DL since July 24. He will run the bases on Tuesday and Wednesday. "When you start running the bases you're usually getting closer," Mattingly said. ... The Cubs fell to 30-35 on the road, where they are better than at home (25-41). ... The Dodgers clinched the 15th calendar month with 20 or more wins since 1958. Their previous was a 20-8 mark in May 2010.