CHICAGO – The Los Angeles Dodgers had been scoring enough runs lately that it was easy to ignore their starting pitching, which has struggled uncharacteristically all week and placed a heavy burden on the bullpen.
But the Chicago Cubs pulled back the veil Saturday and rallied for six runs in the final three innings to beat the Dodgers 8-7. The Dodgers, who haven’t had a starting pitcher go more than five innings since this past Sunday in San Francisco, have a magic number to clinch the NL West that remains stuck on six.
How it happened: It looked like Adrian Gonzalez would give the Dodgers another blowout win on a trip full of them when he launched a pair of home runs and drove in five in the first three innings to give the Dodgers a big early lead, but Roberto Hernandez continued to struggle, and the Dodgers had to empty the bullpen on a drizzly day at Wrigley Field. The Cubs rallied for four runs in the seventh inning, with the big shot being Arismendy Alcantara’s three-run home run off J.P. Howell. Then Chris Coghlan hit a two-run shot off Brian Wilson in the eighth to complete the comeback.
Hits: Gonzalez leads the National League with 111 RBIs, and he leads the Dodgers with 25 home runs. He had a hot April and a cold May and June, and he has been steadily productive ever since. He is batting .328 with 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 50 RBIs since July 21. He’s also one of the best throwing first basemen in baseball. He picked up Matt Szczur's bunt and threw on the run to second base to retire the lead runner, John Baker, at what appeared to be a crucial moment in the eighth inning before Wilson gave up the long ball.
Misses: One of the reasons the Dodgers have ridden A.J. Ellis so hard -- starting him at catcher in eight of the first nine games of this road trip -- is they aren’t overly excited about their other catchers. Drew Butera got the start Saturday and struggled. He went 0-for-4 at the plate -- with two strikeouts with runners in scoring position -- and was a little rough behind it. Dodgers pitchers had three wild pitches with Butera in there. Dodgers catchers collectively have a .553 OPS, second worst in the majors behind Tampa Bay.
Stat of the game: Dee Gordon has had at least two hits in eight straight games. The only Dodger with a longer multi-hit game streak in the past 100 years is Pee Wee Reese, who had nine straight in 1949, according to Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA.
Up next: The four-game series concludes Sunday at 11:20 a.m. PT. The Dodgers have not announced their starting pitcher. The Cubs will start Jacob Turner (1-3, 6.93 ERA).