The Cubs will face three starting pitchers who have excelled at one point or another in their careers in right-handers Jeff Weaver and Hideo Nomo, and lefty Kazuhisa Ishii. However, the starting pitching is not what separates the Dodgers from the rest of the pack, but rather the tough, gritty L.A. bullpen.
RHP Guillermo Mota (2-0, 1.65 ERA, 16 appearances) is one of the top setup men in baseball, and he gets to do it all ahead of the game's best closer, Eric Gagne, who has recorded 73 straight saves--including 10-for-10 in save opportunities this year.
For the Cubs, Corey Patterson's RBI single in the 13th inning Sunday beat the Colorado Rockies to give the North siders their third win in their last four games.
One thing the Cubs will have to take advantage of is the absence of outfielder and leadoff hitter Dave Roberts. Roberts, out with a strained right hamstring, had swiped 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts prior to going on the 15-day disabled list. He was also batting .265 with an on-base percentage of .382. In his absence, the Dodgers have been going with recently aquired outfielder Milton Bradley in center, and infielders Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis in the leadoff spot.
Another key factor for the Dodgers this season has been the resurgance of third baseman Adrian Beltre, who at 25 years old is putting together the best season of his major league career. Beltre leads Dodger starters in batting average (.386), homeruns (9), RBIs (26), and OPS (1.066). That .385 mark is also best in the National League, six points ahead of San Francisco's Barry Bonds and nine ahead of Cincinnati's Sean Casey. The Dodgers enter play with a team batting average of .277, which is second in the NL behind only Houston.
Here is a look at the probable pitching matchup's in the series:
Tuesday, May 11, 9:10 CT: Kerry Wood (3-2, 2.53 ERA) vs. Jeff Weaver (1-4, 5.40 ERA) - WGN
Kerry Wood is winless in his last two starts, but pitched well enough to earn a victory in both games. Wood allowed two runs and three hits over seven innings last Wednesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field, but suffered the loss thanks to a lack of run support.
Jeff Weaver's numbers are not great, but he is resting the Dodgers' bullpen with four starts in which he went at least seven innings. The 27-year-old right-hander still has good stuff, and his sweeping slider could cause trouble for a Cubs lineup that features many right-handed bats.
Wednesday, May 12, 9:10 CT: Matt Clement (5-1, 2.29 ERA) vs. Kazuhisa Ishii (5-1, 3.76 ERA) - ESPN/Fox Sports Net Plus
Matt Clement continued his absolute baffling of National League hitters last Thursday when he went seven innings and gave up three runs on seven hits to pick up his fifth victory in a row. Clement is among the league leaders in many categories, including wins (5), ERA (2.29), and strikeouts (41).
Left-hander Kaz Ishii is an extremely tough customer when he has command of his fastball and curve. So far this season, Ishii has been somewhat up and down, but has won three of his five victories at home this season, where he is 3-0 in as many starts with a 1.29 ERA. Ishii's five wins leads the Dodgers' staff.
Thursday, May 13, 2:10 CT: Carlos Zambrano (3-1, 2.18 ERA) vs. Hideo Nomo (3-3, 6.00 ERA) - WGN
Ever since giving up seven runs on 10 hits in a start against Arizona back on April 27 at Bank One Ballpark, Carlos Zambrano has been lights out in his last two starts. In those starts, Zambrano went a combined 16 innings, including a career best 2-hit complete game shutout against Colorado Friday. Zambrano has allowed no runs on five hits to go with 17 strikeouts in his previous two outings.
Right-hander Hideo Nomo has been most inconsistent so far this season, but looks to rebound by discovering his deceiving fastball and nasty forkball. Walks have also been a problem with Nomo this season. Nomo has issued 14 in 39 innings pitched to go with 18 strikeouts.
Inside The Ivy: Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
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