A two-game losing streak for the Dodgers? Hey, no problem when you have Zack Greinke about to take the mound.
Greinke turned in another fantastic performance, literally coming within a strike of a complete game shutout. Instead, he settled for a 6-2 victory over the Cubs behind homers from Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig, and his own RBI single to start the scoring. The Diamondbacks also won, so the NL West lead stays at 9 1/2 games.
The Dodgers were just coming off their first series loss since mid-June, a span of 19 overall. To say that going from playing the Red Sox to the Cubs was a bit of a letdown would be an understatement. So, I can see why they seemed a bit sluggish at first.
It took until the fourth, but the Dodgers were first to strike. A.J. Ellis and Nick Punto took walks with a couple down. Greinke has turned into possibly the best hitting pitcher in baseball, and his RBI single to left made it 1-0. He actually took a walk the previous inning, so he's earned the respect from pitchers to not simply groove a fastball over the middle to.
Still with two outs, Carl Crawford hit a ground rule double to left that was close to getting over the short fence, making it 2-0.
Mark Ellis started the next rally in the sixth, taking a walk and going to second on a wild pitch to start. Punto hit an RBI double off the wall in right center, and it was 3-0. Punto then went to third on Greinke's sacrifice, and scored on a sac-fly RBI from Crawford to go up 4-0.
The big bats of Ramirez and Puig were quiet on the weekend, as the Red Sox did a great job holding them down after Ramirez's two-run blast beat them on Friday. In this one, they both exchanged monster solo shots, with Puig holding the edge in distance 430 feet to 427.
Greinke did everything he could to go the distance, but just didn't have enough left in the tank. He actually got the first couple of outs with relative ease, but then Anthony Rizzo doubled and Nate Schierholtz was beaned. On a full count, Brian Bogusevic lined a two-run double to left, and that was it for Greinke. Brian Wilson struck out Donnie Murphy to end the game.
A complete game gem would have been nice, but Greinke was still awesome in giving the Dodgers a lift after being pounded by Boston on Sunday. He lasted 8 2/3 innings for five hits, two runs, two walks, and nine strikeouts. His numbers just keep getting better, as he's now 13-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. And he's the #2 starter! There's 29 other teams that would gladly take those numbers as their ace.
Well, maybe 28, as the Angels passed on signing him to get Josh Hamilton instead. Boy has that worked out... NOT.
Anyway, with the offense in a bit of a lull, there were some encouraging signs, even if it came against the lousy Cubs. Of their nine hits, four were doubles and two were homers. Puig had three hits and was a triple away from the cycle, Ramirez hit a laser home run, and Crawford had a double and a couple of RBIs. About the only one who didn't have a good night was Adrian Gonzalez, who went 0-for-5. But I doubt anyone is (or should be) worried about him.
The upcoming schedule is very favorable, as the next eight games come against the Cubs, Padres, and Rockies. Their combined record is 176-219. I'd say the Dodgers have a slight edge. They already have a big lead in the division, and this is a time to stretch it out even a bit more.
After that, it's three games in Cincinnati and three at home against the Diamondbacks. As of now, Greinke and Clayton Kershaw are lined up to pitch the final two games of the Reds' series, then be off against the Diamondbacks. Then again, the Dodgers and DBacks play four more in mid-September, so the big two will eventually see them again.
Tuesday night is Kershaw time, as over his last three starts (all wins), he's given up one earned run in 24 innings. Every start from here on out will be closely watched with all the MVP talk, so going against the light hitting Cubs should only further his case to win the award.