8:00 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Chicago -184
After splitting the first two games of this series, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs head into the rubber match tonight at Wrigley Field. Dave Roberts’ charges got off to an inauspicious start in the form of Monday’s 2-0 defeat, in which they were held to one lone hit over the course of the night, otherwise spoiling a promising stretch in which they had strung together six victories in seven outings. Thankfully, Los Angeles (28-25, 2nd in NL West) was able to rebound last night, on the strength of Scott Kazmir (4-3, 4.38 ERA), who held the National League’s top team in check, while the dormant offense awoke late. Kazmir, the 32-year old lefthander, was part of the Front Office’s attempt to fill the void left by the outgoing Zach Grenkie, despite the veteran having suited up for five teams in as many years. Though he didn’t earn the win, Kazmir held the ship together, allowing just one hit over the course of six innings, racking up seven strikeouts to one walk, in what was arguably his most impressive start of the campaign. Relievers Joe Blanton and Adam Liberatore were huge over the final three innings of play, with the former logging a perfect Seventh and Eighth, in which he struck out three, while the latter closed the deal in the Ninth. However, it wasn’t until the penultimate inning that they would receive any support from the Batting Order, where finally the bats came alive, highlighted by Shortstop Corey Seager’s trifecta of hits, none more so important than his three-run home run in the Top of the Ninth off Chicago’s Trevor Cahill. The two runs in the Eighth snapped a 26-inning scoreless streak against the Cubs, dating all the way back to last season. Now, as they trail the Giants by 4.5 games in the National League West, Roberts will send the little-used Mike Bolsinger (1-1, 4.50 ERA) to the mound, who will make just his third start of the term. With that said, the 28-year old righthander is coming off a very positive showing last Tueday against the Reds, in which righted the ship after yielding a home run, permitting just two other hits along with six strikeouts over the course of 5.2 innings in the 8-2 victory. Returning from the Disabled List two weeks ago after rehabbing from an oblique injury, Bolsinger is likely one of the many arms that Roberts will be considering to replace fellow hurler Alex Wood, who just landed on the 15-day Disabled List himself. The young pitcher has only made two career starts at Wrigley Field, putting together a 1-0 record with a solid 1.24 ERA. It remains to be seen though whether or not he’ll get the kind of run support that he received in his last start, for during this seven-game stretch, the offense has been very inconsistent; on three occasions, the Dodgers managed to score five or more runs, yet in the three games afterward they have scored a total of four runs combined. The uncertain availability of one Yasiel Puig will likely influence this matter, as the struggling Right Fielder has been in one helluva slump of late, going a mere 2-of-14 with five strikeouts over his last five games. He was a late scratch for Tuesday’s showdown due to an ailing left hamstring.
Meanwhile, all good things must eventually come to an end. While the Cubs (35-15, 1st in NL Central) continue to pace the National League, their impressive 23-game winning streak in starts made by Jake Arrieta (9-0, 1.56 ERA) came to a screeching halt in Tuesday’s 5-0 defeat at Wrigley Field. Though he didn’t take the loss, Arrieta was as advertised, tossing seven scoreless innings, as the Dodgers looked all but helpless at the plate. Of the twenty-seven batters he faced, the ace allowed a mere two hits, while racking up eight strikeouts to four walks, before finally bowing out and handing the ball of to Manager Joe Maddon. It would be his successor, Clayton Richard, who would wind up taking the loss, yielding a pair of runs on three hits in the Eighth Inning, while fellow Relievers Adam Warren and the aforementioned Cahill would give up another three runs before the end of the night. All in all, the defeat snapped a six-game winning streak for the Southsiders, mostly because their own offense was stuck in the mud throughout the entirety of the game, mustering juts one lone hit in twenty-nine plate appearances. Indeed, the group of Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Ben Zobrist was a dismal 0-for-13 from the plate, with no walks and half-a-dozen strikeouts. Hell, Zobrist himself accounted for half of that total, as he saw his personal sixteen-game hitting streak come to an end. Now, with the rubber match on deck, Maddon will turn to a pitcher looking to rebound himself, as Jon Lester (5-3, 2.48 ERA) will take the mound for the tenth time this season. The 32-year old lefthander has been inconsistent of late, allowing five runs on six hits with three walks in a scant 2.2 innings of a 4-3 loss to the Giants back on May 21st, only to recapture his form a week later in a 6-2 victory over the Phillies, in which he permitted just one run and struck out seven over the course of 6.1 innings. However, he’s been very effective at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, where he has registered a stellar 2.29 ERA, all the while logging forty-five strikeouts opposed to just eleven walks. With that said, in two meetings with the Dodgers last year, Lester was tagged nine runs on a dozen hits in over ten innings of labor. And it’s with that said, the he receive some help from his teammates at the plate, for the Cubs must get back into the offensive swing of the things (no pun intended). Maddon’s charges rank in the top eight in virtually every meaningful offensive category in the National League, and have topped seven runs in a game on eighteen different occasions this season. The aforementioned pair of Bryant and Rizzo have gone yard with eleven home runs apiece, while four different players have accumulated at least thirty RBIs. Rizzo, for his trouble, is 0-of-6 lifetime against tonight’s opponent, Bolsinger, while Heyward is 2-of-3 with double against the Righthander.