Offense Continues to Sputter in 3-1 Loss

The pitching staff couldn't save the Dodgers in the fourth and final game of the Chicago series and Ryan Dempster allowed only three hits and an unearned run as the Cubs won 3-1. Colorado topped the Giants 4-2 and if they can win tonight, the Dodgers and Rockies will tangle in Coors Field with the Los Angeles lead at an even three games.

Los Angeles finished the game with three hits, a bloop double by Andre Ethier in the first, a ground single up the middle by Tony Abreu in the second that drove in their only run, and a pinch-hit infield single by Juan Pierre in the sixth. Matt Kemp's line out to right field in the fourth was their hardest hit of the hot afternoon.

After a Wolf (Randy) beat the Cubs in the second game of the series, a Fox (Jake) done in the Dodgers in the finale. He homered in the second, singled in the fourth but was left at third, singled in a run in the sixth and singled in the eighth only to be left on second.

In fact, Chad Billingsley did a remarkable job of holding the Cubs to three runs. He allowed nine hits and walked one, pitching with men on base in every inning but the fifth before leaving after six.

Manny Ramirez was hitless in four trips and also had his worst day in left field this season. He made a throwing error in the fourth inning on a single that left runners at second and third with one out. He cut in front of Matt Kemp to make a catch in the fifth without apparently calling for the ball and only a last minute swerve by Kemp avoided a collision and he misplayed a leadoff double in the sixth into a triple.

None of the mistakes cost an extra run, however, and he did make a casual, and probably lucky, throw to third base in the eighth to nail a runner attempting to move from first to third on a single. "I'm not a Gold Glove," Ramirez told reporters after the game.

In all, Chicago rapped out 12 hits against Billingsley, McDonald and Belisario but were only 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base.

Over the four game series, Chicago was 4-for-32 (.125) with runners in scoring position and scored only eight runs. Save for Russell Martin's grand slam in the first game, the Dodgers could come up with only eight of their own but remarkably won three of the four.

Tony Abreu started at second base to give Orlando Hudson a breather. his first Major League start since 2007 due to injuries, and James Loney has a mild case of the flu and Mark Loretta made his 11th start at first base.

After Ethier's high pop fell into short left-center for a double, the Cubs jumped out in front 1-0 on Fox's line shot into the left-field seats in the second. Aramas Ramirez threw Matt Kemp's ground ball away in the last of the second and Abreu singled sharply up the middle for what would be the only Dodgers' run of the day.

Billingsley was wild high to start the game and allowed a pair of leadoff singles in the first but was saved by a double play. After Fox homered in the second he allowed a walk and a single by Dempster but wriggled out of that.

Then suddenly everything fell into place for him and the retired five in a run, allowed a pair of bloop singles that were unreachable and then set down the next five Cubs in a row.

But as suddenly as it came, his command left just a s quickly. He allowed the double/triple Ramirez misplayed, an RBI double and a sharp single that put the Cubs up to stay. Another double play save him further scoring.

McDonald allowed a single and a walk in the seventh and another walk p;us a second single in the eighth before Hong-Chih Kuo got the final Cub in the eighth. Belisario worked around a leadoff double in the ninth but the three of them kept Chicago from scoring.

Dempster retired 11 straight Dodgers after Abreu's RBI single. Pierre beat out an infield hit in the sixth but Ethier ended the inning by hitting into a double play.

The last and best chance the Dodgers had came in the eighth inning. Russell Martin and Abreu walked to lead off the inning and Loretta hit into a force play but Mike Fontenot appeared to leave the base before the ball arrived and manager Joe Torre made a trip to second base to question the call.

It was apparently a "vicinity" call, with the umpires usually allowing the out if the fielder is in the vicinity of the bag.

Orlando Hudson pinch-hit and popped up into short center field and Abreu scored with Loretta moving to second -- but time had been called to put in a pinch-runner for Loretta, Juan Castro, and the pop single was erased.

"I saw the third-base umpire coming in before the pitch," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "My emotions were, 'Boy, what a bad break,' and then, 'What a good break. They went from bad to good immediately.'"

So too was the threat erased as Hudson hit into a double play, the third of the day for Chicago, to end the inning. The Dodgers went down meekly 1-2-3 in the ninth with Ramirez taking a called third strike to end the game and drawing a chorus of boos from the disappointed Dodgers fans.

Ramirez's bat has been sporadically silent since returned from suspension, and his batting average has slid 45 points (from .348 to .303), the on-base percentage 113 points (from .492 to .379) and the slugging percentage 95 points (from .641 to .546). During the homestand he hit .200 with one RBI.

The Dodgers were 21-8 with a 6 1/2-game lead when Ramirez was suspended. In the 50 games he was gone, they went 29-21 and increased their lead to 9 1/2 games at one time. Since his return, they are a mediocre 24-22.

It was the eighth straight game the pitching staff had held the opponents to three runs or less. Billingsley fell to 12-7 with the loss and Los Angeles is 17-10 in his 27 starts this season.

If ever a team needed a day off, it is the Dodgers who will fly into Denver later in the day for three games against the upstart Rockies who trail by 3 1/2 games. Colorado and San Francisco play tonight and for a rare instance in Dodgers history, they will be pulling for the Giants to win.

Tuesday, the Dodgers will start LHP Clayton Kershaw (8-7, 2.96 ERA) who left his last start after hitting 97 pitches just 3.2 innings into the game with the Cardinals. Kershaw is winless in his past six starts and he's 2-2 with an 8.64 ERA at Coors Field.

Colorado will counter with RHP Jason Hammel (8-7, 4.54 ERA) who has struggled at Coors Field, where he's 2-3 with a 7.02 ERA.

  Score by Innings
Chicago	        010 002 000-3
Los Angeles	010 000 000-1

  Dodgers	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  0  0  0  .256
Ethier rf	4  0  1  0  .282
Ramirez lf	4  0  0  0  .303
Blake 3b-1b	3  0  0  0  .280
Kemp cf        	3  1  0  0  .312
Martin c	2  0  0  0  .258
Loretta 1b	3  0  0  0  .224
 Castro pr-3b	0  0  0  0  .304
Billingsley p	1  0  0  0  .213
 Pierre ph	1  0  1  0  .319
 Mc Donald p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Kuo p        	0  0  0  0  .000
 Hudson ph	1  0  0  0  .291
 Belisario p	0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals	28  1  3  1
  Chicago 	36  3 12  3

  Errors- Ramirez (3). 2B- Ethier (32).
RBI- Abreu (1). LOB- Los Angeles 2,
Chicago 8. CS- Abreu (1). DO- Furcal and
Abreu; Loretta, Furcal and Loretta.

  Dodgers	    in  h r-er bb so  era
Billingsley (12-7) 6.0  9  3-3  1  5  3.73
McDonald	   1.2  2  0-0  1  1  4.04
Kuo        	   0.1  0  0-0  0  0  3.45
Belisario	   1.0  1  0-0  0  0  2.17
  T- 2:47. Att- 49,711.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Los Angeles opens a six-game road trip on Tuesday with a first of three games at Colorado and then three in Cincinnati. Dodgers relievers have tossed 10.2 consecutive scoreless innings, and they have gone 18.0 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run in the last five-plus games. The Los Angeles bullpen has a 0.40 ERA (1 ER/19.1 IP) in its last eight games. ...A win would have given the Dodgers their first series sweep over the Cubs since a three-gamer from April 26-28, 2002 at Wrigley Field and the first four game series sweep against the Cubs at Dodger Stadium since July 15-18, 1965. ...Casey Blake was 0-for-3 on his 36th birthday. The Second Annual ThinkCure! Radiotelewebethon concluded by raising $218,000 to surpass last year's total of $166,000.  ThinkCure!, a partnership formed by the Dodgers and the McCourt Family with City of Hope and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, accelerates collaborative research to cure cancer. It is the official charity of the Dodgers.  Contributions included $25,000 by Japanese-born pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who lost both of his parents to lung cancer.  It also included a donation by Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig of $25,000 on behalf of Major League Baseball.