Cubs hope to continue winning ways against Dodgers


After sweeping the division rival Cincinnati Reds while allowing only one run in three games, the Chicago Cubs will look to continue their strong finish in 2014 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team right in the thick of the playoff hunt. There is no better opportunity to play a spoiler, as the Cubs’ remaining 10 games are all against teams in playoff contention.

It’ll be no easy task as the Cubs will be facing one of the top pitching staffs in all of baseball, including perennial National League Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw, who may very well pull in not only pitching’s top honor but the NL MVP, as well.

The series opener will feature left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada (4-3, 3.34 ERA) facing off against Zack Greinke (15-8, 2.64 ERA). After a strong start, Wada is coming off two short outings that lasted only 3 1/3 and 4 1/3 innings, respectively. Wada has a team option for next season and reports indicate that Chicago is not planning on picking it up.

Greinke, in many seasons, would be a Cy Young candidate himself if not for Kershaw’s stellar season. The veteran has been a rock down the stretch, going 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA over his last five starts.

Friday’s matchup will see the aforementioned Kershaw (19-3, 1.70 ERA) against Edwin Jackson (6-14, 6.09 ERA), making his first since heading to the disabled list on Aug. 20. Kershaw will enter the contest on a five-game winning streak, while Jackson is coming off a performance in which he allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings to the Giants. If the Cubs can steal game two it would be considered a monumental upset.

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On Saturday, Felix Doubront (2-1, 1.50 ERA) will face off against Roberto Hernandez (2-3, 4.76 ERA). Doubront comes off a strong start against the Pirates in which he keyed in on the points pitching coach Chris Bosio had been stressing – be aggressive and get ahead of hitters.

Hernandez is similar to Wada in terms of his hot start; he got off to a hot start with the Dodgers, only to flame out in his last three starts, during which he failed to go five innings in any.

Sunday’s series finale will see Jacob Turner (1-3, 6.93 ERA) battle the Dodgers’ Danny Haren (13-11, 4.14 ERA). Turner looked solid through the first four innings of his last start, before allowing the first two batters in the fifth to get on base. That exploded into a six-run fifth inning in which he took the loss.

Haren has pitched well in his last three starts, going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA, but in his career against the Cubs the numbers are not as good. He is 2-3 with a 5.71 ERA across 41 innings pitched.

Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly hopes to have Hanley Ramirez back for the series. Ramirez is battling a right elbow strain and was a late scratch from Tuesday’s game. It’s likely he’ll return to the lineup, but the Dodgers are being cautious. There are no plans for Ramirez to get an MRI.

The Cubs will finish with the Dodgers, Cardinals and then the Brewers to close out the year. The Cubs are 18-17 combined against the three clubs in 2014.