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Dodgers Clean up the Offense, Zack Greinke Cleans up the Cubs
The Dodgers head into this series with the Chicago Cubs coming off of a losing series to the Boston Red Sox, their first losing series since losing two of three games to the Pittsburgh Pirates from June 14 to 16.
"It's a series we got pretty much outplayed," manager Don Mattingly said. "You see a team over there that was a little more intense, more fight in their at-bats, fouling off more tough pitches and taking advantage of everything we did wrong."
It must be noted that neither Clayton Kershaw nor Zack Greinke pitched in the series, so it's hard to make any hard conclusions about any future playoff matchups. However that didn't mute the disappointment from Mattingly.
"If we're going to get where we want to go, those are the kinds of teams we're going to have to beat," Mattingly noted.
Coming into the game, the Dodgers had a 9 1/2 game lead in the NL West making the playoffs an almost certainty for the team. But now is not time to take the foot off the pedal.
"This is the time we keep working and we keep getting better," Mattingly said. "We get to the point we don't make mistakes, we don't give up extra outs, we don't give up at-bats. This is the time we can enhance what we're trying to do."
Against a team that was 20 games under .500 and 21 games out of the division coming into the game, the Dodgers were able to mute the panic meter with the 6-2 win. It wasn't until the fourth inning when Zack Greinke came to the plate against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta with A.J. Ellis and Nick Punto having been walked earlier.
Greinke who have looked like a professional hitter this season armed with a .333 batting average, looked like a pitcher in his first two swings on Arrieta's curveball. However Arrieta went to the well one too many times, and Greinke lined a single over shortstop Starlin Castro's head into left field to score Ellis. Carl Crawford then hit a ground-rule double that scored Punto to cash in both walks for the 2-0 Dodger lead.
After the Dodgers added two runs in the sixth, Hanley Ramirez belted a solo shot to left field in the seventh and Yasiel Puig belted one to the left field pavilions that went almost as far as Mike Napoli's blast on Sunday night. Almost.
Overall the quality of the at-bats were much improved from over the weekend.
"The key for us was driving [Arrieta's] pitch count up," A.J. Ellis said. "We forced him to throw strikes and get some walks to get the traffic going."
In the ninth inning the chants of "Grang-Key! Grang-Key!" from what remained of the 40,965 crowd as Greinke attempted his second complete-game shutout of the season. After the second out, things got a bit hairy, a double by Anthony Rizzo that sent Mattingly trotting to the mound amid the boos of the fans thinking he was going to take Greinke out of the game.
"I can't worry about that," Mattingly said about the boos. Mattingly did ultimately leave Greinke in the game although there was an internal struggle with that decision after 112 pitches.
"It is a tough one because you're looking farther down the road. You know he's getting the extra day this time. He didn't really have any battles during the course of the game, so I know he didn't have a lot of stress."
The boos were music to Greinke's ears as he desperately wanted to stay in the game. "They were good," he said of the crowd. "It was funny."
After Grienke hit Nate Schierholtz with a pitch, Mattingly let him face Brian Bogusevic. On the seventh pitch of that at-bat, Bogusevic won hitting a double down the left field line that scored two runs for the Cubs.
"It was frustrating," Greinke admitted. "I made some good pitches. It was a good hit on a pitch that I thought was pretty well located."
Greinke over the past couple of starts had pestered Mattingly to allow him to toss a complete game. He was upset that he was not able to deliver once given the opportunity.
"I feel a lot of times I've been able to go one more inning," Greinke explained. "That's what you've got to do as a pitcher — throw as much as possible."
Nevertheless after the double Mattingly gave the hook to Greinke as the fans cheered on. Brian Wilson got Donnie Murphy to look at a called third strike to end the game.
The Dodgers have now won eight straight games over the Cubs tying for their longest streak in Los Angeles history from June 9, 1974 to May 19, 1975. The Dodgers with a 20-5 record in August have now gotten 20 wins in a month for the 15th time since the move.
So after a hiccup over the weekend, it seems the Dodgers have righted the ship.
Cubs Scorecard: (click to embiggen)
Dodgers Scorecard: (click to embiggen)