The remarkable Dodgers statistics keep piling up: 34-15 record, 16-10 on the road, 10-3 in one-run games, 4-4 in games they scored two runs or less, 19 games over .500 (the highest since 1977) and a commanding nine game lead over San Diego, 9.5 over San Francisco, 2.5 over Arizona and 14.5 over Colorado. The Padres won 10 games in a row and cut one game off the L.A. lead.
And one funky record. The Cubs and the Dodgers have been banging heads since the National League opened in 1890, 2,225 games, and Brooklyn/Los Angeles holds a 1,113-1,112 lead in the series.
Los Angeles scored single runs in the first and second inning and finished the evening 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Chicago was even worse. They were 8-for-15 (.533) with no on on base but a dismal 1-for-17 with runners on.
The pitching of Randy Wolf had a great deal to do with that, along with a solid defensive effort that resulted in four important double plays. "As far as location and my stuff, this was probably my best this year," said Wolf. "And the defense was great."
Wolf buzzed through five innings, allowing three scattered hits and striking out seven, three in the fifth alone. Then he struggled a bit in the sixth and seventh as double plays erased the Cubs, then he allowed a leadoff home run in the eighth and manager Joe Torre went to the bullpen.
Broxton had labored over 38 ugly pitches in recording a save in the final game in Colorado and Belisario had worked two innings and was also unavailable. However Troncoso, a 25-year-old Dominican in his second major league season, was not only available he was up to the challenge and earned his third save.
He's allowed only one run in 17 innings on the road this year and he lowered his earned run average to 1.95.
"Troncoso was amazing," said Torre. "And that high-wire act he wiggled himself off of was terrific. He's proven to me. I'm not worried about him anymore. That was really huge. I didn't want to use him in that situation but had to send him in in the eighth. I didn't have anybody to pitch."
Torre shuffled his lineup again, sliding James Loney into the #4 slot, Casey Blake down to #5 and following with Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and Matt Kemp.
None of the above had much to do with the club's offense.
L.A. scored in the first inning when the magical Juan Pierre singled and stole second. Rafael Furcal squared to bunt, then pushed a ground ball past the charging Cubs third baseman and with the shortstop covering second, Pierre almost walked in with the run when the ball rolled to a stop in the thick grass in left field.
"It was a squeeze bunt from second," Furcal laughed.
In the third, Furcal walked and Loney seemed to hit the ball off the end of his bat, the ball again rolling into left field. Furcal dashed to third base, easily beating the throw and Loney took second. Furcal's effort was most crucial as Blake bounced what would have been a double play ball to the shortstop as the second run scored.
That was a complete summary of the Dodgers' offense. They managed five more singles and a double (Ethier) but only one per inning.
Wolf, who is holding left-handed batters to a microscopic .083 average so far this season, was superb. He was helped by three double plays and allowed only three fly ball outs.
The Cubs pinch-hit Bobby Scales leading off the eighth inning. Scales, a 31-year-old career minor leaguer, finally made the show this season but was optioned out a couple days ago only to be recalled just before the game because of an injury to outfielder Ryan Freel.
He fell behind Wolf 0-2, worked the count to 3-2 and then deposited a high fly ball into the first row of the left field seats to cut the Dodgers' lead in half.
Troncoso was called in and immediately gave up a stinging single to center field that nearly took his cap off and then gave up a walk. With the chilled Chicago fans finally getting something to cheer about, he struck out Alfonso Soriano and induced Ryan Theriot to bounce into the Dodgers' fourth double play of the game.
In the top of the ninth Los Angeles threatened when Blake and Martin walked and with one out, Kemp hit into a force at second, Martin decking the second baseman so he could not make a throw to first.
Torre was then faced with a very unusual situation. Should be pinch-hit for Troncoso to get an important insurance run? And if he did, who would he have available to pitch? Guillermo Mota was warming up in the bullpen but he had allowed 24 hits in his 18 innings of work this season, had allowed opponents a staggering .427 batting average and had a 7.50 earned run average.
His decision was to let Troncoso hit and he struck out.
It looked like the wrong move when former Dodger Milton Bradley led off the bottom of the ninth with a safe bunt. Derrek Lee whacked the first pitch he saw into center field for single and again the crowd became excited.
After a ground ball moved both runners up a base, Geovanny Soto was walked to load the bases and the infield pulled in for a play at the plate.
And as the gods of baseball often do, Scales, who had homered the inning before, came to the plate for a second time. With the tension thick enough to cut with a stick of butter, Troncoso struck him out.
Another rookie, Jake Fox, was the final hope for the Cubs. Fox had just been promoted from AAA Des Moines after recording a .435 average with 17 homers and 60 runs batted in over the first 40 games of the season.
But Dodgers' announcer Steve Lyons prophetically remarked, "But we're not in Iowa anymore," and Troncoso used a sharp slider well off the plate and nearly in the dirt to strike him out to end the game.
In the second game of a four game series, the Dodgers will send RHP Chad Billingsley (6-2, 2.82 ERA) to the mound after his worst start of the season against the Angeles. He was given a four-run lead in the second inning had trouble with his cut fastball and the Angels beat him up pretty good.
The Cubs will start former Dodgers minor leaguer LHP Ted Lilly (5-4, 3.77 ERA) who allowed five runs on eight hits to the Padres last start. Lilly has thrown six or more innings in seven starts this season, but he has lost his past two starts.
Score by Innings
Los Angeles 101 000 000-2
Chicago Cubs 000 000 010-1
Los Angeles ab r h bi ave
Pierre lf 4 1 2 0 .407
Furcal ss 3 1 1 1 .240
Hudson 2b 4 0 0 0 .340
Loney 1b 4 0 2 0 .298
Blake 3b 3 0 0 1 .301
Ethier rf 4 0 1 0 .257
Martin c 3 0 1 0 .257
Kemp cf 4 0 1 0 .295
Wolf p 3 0 0 0 .083
Trancoso p 1 0 0 0 .000
Totals 33 2 8 2
Chicago Cubs 32 1 9 1
2B- Ethier (10). RBI- Furcal (10), Blake
(33). LOB- Los Angeles 7, Chicago Cubs
7. SB- Kemp 2 (11), Pierre (10).
DP- Furcal and Loney; Blake, Hudson,
and Loney; Hudson, Furcal and Loney;
Furcal, Hudson and Loney.
Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era
Wolf (3-1) 7.0 6 1-1 1 7 2.84
Trancoso (sv 3) 2.0 3 0-0 2 3 1.95
T- 2:51. At- 39,579.
Will Ohman Moves Onto the Disabled Lis
Left-handed reliever Will Ohman was placed on the disabled list with sore shoulder and indicated his 5.84 ERA had resulted in the poor Performance. "It's been bothering me for a while," said Ohman. "Rushing to get ready, probably."
Catcher A.J. Ellis was recalled from Albuquerque and is expected to be available this afternoon in Chicago. However, he'll stay only until Hiroki Kuroda is activated off the disabled list, which could be as soon as next week.
Ohman was signed as a free agent late in the spring season and rushed to get ready. Originally scheduled to spend a week or more in the minor leagues he made the 25-man-roster when there was no other option available.
"I've had this problem before," he said. "The situation -- we're playing exceptionally well, and I haven't been doing my job. Everybody wants to be a tough guy. But this situation, you do what's best for the team."
That means the Dodgers will go with a seven-man bullpen, although they were squeezed in the first game of the Chicago series with an eight-man bullpen.
Brent Leach will be the only left-hander in the bullpen until the Dodgers are satisfied that Kuroda is ready. That would perhaps move a left-hander (Eric Stults or Eric Milton) out of the rotation and into the bullpen.
Dodgers Blue Notes -- Juan Pierre had out-Mannied Manny. Since Ramirez was suspended, Pierre has scored 20 runs while hitting .425 and the Dodgers are 13-7. ...Orlando Hudson went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, snapping his career-high 17-game hitting streak. ...James Loney extended his hitting streak to 11 games, during which he's hitting .370. ...Matt Kemp stole two bases and has taken over the team lead with 11 on the season. Juan Pierre stole his 10th base. The Dodgers are one of four teams that has two players in double figures in stolen bases. ...Randy Wolf lowered his ERA to 2.84.