Dodgers Hit a Snag at Wrigley Field

The Dodgers, hard on the road to a projected 108-54 record, hit a bump in that road and dropped a 7-0 to the Chicago Cubs, whose second win in a row over Los Angeles puts them two games over .500 and demonstrates to all those fans dreaming of a record-smashing season the reality of Major League Baseball.

Lefty Eric Stults, whose sprained thumb is apparently not healed as of yet, was knocked out in the fifth inning. After lasting just 4.1 innings in his previous start in Colorado, the disappointing loss may cost him his starting job and could land him on the disabled list.

But this day, had he been Sandy Koufax in is prime, the best he could have done is leave the game after nine (or 10 or 12) in a 0-0 tie.

Before the injury, Stults had a 3.82 ERA. He missed one start after jamming the thumb on his pitching hand and has recorded a 9.81 ERA in his two recent starts.

Ryan Dempster, the Cubs starter, was coming off a pounding by the Pittsburgh Pirates during which he had allowed six runs and seven hits in four innings as the Cubs lost their eighth straight. He worked seven innings and held the suddenly impotent Los Angeles lineup to three hits and a walk while striking out five.

He left the game only because he had developed a blister or he might have worked a complete game shutout.

The Dodgers finished with five hits, just two more than former Dodger Milton Bradley had as the Cubs won their fourth game in their last five decisions.

Los Angeles, who owns the best record in the majors, have dropped two straight after winning four in a row, the first time they were shut out and have not lost more than two consecutive games all year. In the first three games of a four-game series, Los Angeles has managed only three runs.

It's difficult to win when you average a run a game.

"We're very fortunate that we've scored three runs in three games and still have a win," manager Joe Torre said. "We're certainly capable of doing more damage, but we haven't done it. But you have to give most of the credit to the two guys who pitched against us these two days. You're talking about two quality pitchers. We could probably be more patient, but they threw a lot of strikes early."

After scoring 31 runs in three games at Coors Field games helped and lead to the dismissal of Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, the club has won the first game 2-1, then lost 2-1 and 7-0.

"We just haven't hit the ball that good," said Matt Kemp, who had two of five Dodgers hits Saturday. "You've got to score runs to win. One run the past two days -- that ain't good." The Dodgers had only three hits in seven innings off Ryan Dempster, whom they beat last year in the playoffs, even though on Saturday he was pitching with a finger blister.

"It's still sore and will continue to be," Stults said of his thumb, "but I felt I was still able to execute pitches. There are aches and pains you have to battle through. I don't want to take time off, but I don't know what will make it heal faster."

Stults followed a scoreless first inning by allowing single runs in the second and third and two runs in the fourth before leaving the game. Guillermo Mota, Brent Leach and Cory Wade held the Cubs scoreless but another veteran, Jeff Weaver, who has also been suffering with a blistered finger, was tagged for three runs on three hits and five walks.

Russell Martin doubled with two out in the first; Kemp singled in the fifth; Andre Ethier doubled in the seventh; Kemp added a second single in the eighth and Furcal led off the ninth with the fifth, and final, Dodgers hit. Only three runners reached as far as second base.

Los Angeles slipped to 34-17, still the best record in Major League Baseball despite the two consecutive losses. Both the Giants and Padres lost so their league-leading margin of 8.5 games was not damaged.

In the final game of the Colorado series this afternoon, rejuvenated Eric Milton gets a chance to stop the bleeding but he'll need a little bit of help from his friends in the run-scoring department.

Milton held Colorado to a single run over five innings in his last start to earn his first victory in almost three years. The left-hander, who is finally recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery, is in the same position Stults was in -- needing a good performance to keep his spot in the rotation. Hiroki Kuroda will come off the disabled list and start against Arizona tomorrow.

Cubs starter Sean Marshall is 0-0 with a 5.19 earned-run average in two starts against the Dodgers and 3-3, 3.70 overall. He beat Pittsburgh in his last start, limiting the Pirates to a run and four hits over five innings in a rain-shortened Cubs victory.

  Score by Innings
Los Angeles   	000 000 000-0
Chicago Cubs	011 220 10x-7

  Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf	4  0  0  0  .384
Furcal ss	4  0  1  0  .240
Hudson 2b	2  0  0  0  .335
Loney 1b	4  0  0  0  .286
Ethier rf	4  0  1  0  .257
Martin c	3  0  1  0  .265
Loretta 3b	3  0  0  0  .306
Kemp cf	        3  0  2  0  .302
Stults p	1  0  0  0  .071
 Mota p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Ausmus ph	1  0  0  0  .344
 Weaver p	0  0  0  0  .143
 Leach p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Hoffmann ph	1  0  0  0  .273
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals  	30  0  5  0
  Chicago Cubs	29  7 10  6

  2B-Martin (9), Ethier (11). LOB- Los 
Angeles 5, Chicago Cubs 6. DP- Hudson, 
Furcal and Loney 2; Furcal and Loney. 

  Los Angeles	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Stults (4-2)	3.0  6  4-4  2  3  4.80
Mota	        1.0  1  0-0  0  1  7.11
Weaver 	        2.1  3  3-3  5  2  4.38
Leach	        0.2  0  0-0  0  0  4.70
Wade	        1.0  0  0-0  0  1  5.40
  HBP- by Stults. T- 2:46. Att- 41,153.
Blake's Other Hammie Hurting
Third baseman Casey Blake, who missed two games earlier this month with a slightly strained left hamstring, was out of the starting lineup Saturday with the same injury only this time to his right hamstring.

Blake is hitting .400 with 18 RBIs and 13 runs in the 19 games since Manny Ramirez was suspended and leads the club with nine homers, although he hasn't had one in the past nine games. After batting eighth most of the season, he was moved into the middle of the batting order seven days ago.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Torre expects suspended OF Manny Ramirez to be at the ballpark during the team's upcoming nine-game homestand. "My guess is he will be there. Whether he is there while we're there is another story. I know he's been working out at the ballpark," Torre said. ...The Dodgers will be happy to return home where they are 18-5.

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