After going more than two months without losing a series, the Los Angeles Dodgers are in danger of dropping two in a row.
Ricky Nolasco hopes to help the Dodgers prevent that from happening when he tries to continue his recent success Wednesday against the lowly Chicago Cubs.Since June 19, Los Angeles (77-55) went 18 straight series without losing one before dropping two of three to AL-leading Boston last weekend. The Dodgers avoided a third straight loss with Monday's 6-2 win over Chicago (56-76), but fell 3-2 on Tuesday.The Dodgers last dropped consecutive series June 10-16, and at home April 29-May 8. They have an 8 1/2-game lead over Arizona in the NL West.Clayton Kershaw struck out nine but labored while giving up two runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings Tuesday while Chicago's Travis Wood yielded a run over seven. Starlin Castro and Dioner Navarro each had two hits with an RBI for the Cubs, who snapped an eight-game slide to the Dodgers by winning for the eighth time in 29 contests."Unfortunately, I couldn't go deeper into the game for our guys, but I was just trying to limit the damage," Kershaw said.The Dodgers hope to get back on track behind Nolasco (10-9, 3.42 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA over his last four starts. His best as a Dodger came Friday, when he allowed two hits without a walk in eight innings of a 2-0 victory over Boston.The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.53 ERA in nine starts since Los Angeles acquired him from Miami on July 6."He gets a variety of breaking balls over to get ahead in the count and then he can change speeds," manager Don Mattingly said. "When he gets in a bit of trouble, he has another gear. He doesn't seem to get rattled out there."A fourth-round pick of the Cubs in 2001 who never pitched for the major league club, Nolasco is 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA in nine starts against Chicago. He's won three straight starts against them, but has a 4.50 ERA during two 6-4 victories this year.Rookie outfielder Junior Lake hit two of the Cubs' three homers off Nolasco on Aug. 1 at Wrigley Field.Hanley Ramirez had three hits and Yasiel Puig added two Tuesday for the Dodgers, who have been held to two or fewer runs four times in five games.Puig is 5 for 10 in the series following a 4-for-28 slump. He's 11 for 20 in five games against the Cubs.Castro, meanwhile, is batting .333 during an 11-game road hitting streak.Chicago starter Edwin Jackson (7-13, 5.00) is 0-2 with a 6.37 ERA in his last five road starts. He was staked to a 6-0 first-inning lead Friday at San Diego, but was charged with six runs and 10 hits in six innings of an 8-6 defeat."If you can't hold a six-run lead, it's real disappointing," the right-hander said. "You don't get that done, it's just a terrible job, a terrible job of protecting the lead."Jackson, who broke into the majors with Los Angeles in 2003, is 3-1 with a 3.62 ERA in five starts against the Dodgers, but hasn't faced them since 2011.
Ricky Nolasco enters Wednesday's start 5-1, 2.53 ERA since joining the Dodgers. One of the keys to his success has been the effectiveness of his slider, which has been on full display against the Cubs - he's already recorded multiple strikeouts with the pitch on Wednesday.
*65 pct of strikeouts coming with slider (48 pct while with Cubs)
With his loss today, Edwin Jackson is now 7-14, becoming the 1st Cubs SP to record 14+ losses in a single season since Ryan Dempster went 10-14 in 2011. Jackson is the 1st SP in the NL to reach 14 losses this season.