LIVE: Cubs trailing Dodgers 9-2 at Wrigley

452257.jpg

LIVE: Cubs trailing Dodgers 9-2 at Wrigley

Friday, April 22, 2011
Posted: 10:04 a.m.
Associated Press

Despite the drama surrounding the Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Kemp has made a recent habit of dramatic hits in helping them win four of five.

Los Angeles will try to keep rolling as Chad Billingsley looks to build on his best outing of the season in the opener of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday.

Kemp hit his second game-ending home run in five days, a two-run shot in the 12th inning to beat Atlanta 5-3 on Thursday. It marked the second straight victory for the Dodgers (10-10) since commissioner Bud Selig announced Wednesday that Major League Baseball seized control of the team due to the well-publicized divorce of owner Frank McCourt and his wife.

Andre Ethier went 2 for 5 on Thursday, extending his career-best hitting streak to 18 games. Kemp and Either are tied with Cubs' shortstop Starlin Castro atop the NL with 30 hits.

"Matty's awesome," said starter Clayton Kershaw, who gave up a two-out, two-run single in the ninth allowing Atlanta to take the lead. "I told him what an incredible job he did and thanks for picking me up.

"In that situation, where both bullpens are getting eaten up, for Matty to pull it out like that with an 0-2 count, it was an awesome at-bat."

Kemp ended Billingsley's last start with a two-run homer in the ninth, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 victory against St. Louis on Sunday. Billingsley (1-1, 4.91 ERA) pitched eight scoreless innings, giving up three hits and striking out 11.

He's won his last two starts against the Cubs, allowing six earned runs in 12 1-3 innings. The right-hander is 3-3 with a 3.79 ERA in eight appearances versus Chicago (9-9).

Billingsley will be opposed by Casey Coleman (1-0, 4.22), who is coming off a solid outing of his own.

The right-hander allowed one run in 5 2-3 innings Saturday, beating Colorado 8-3. He's never faced the Dodgers.

Chicago split a doubleheader Wednesday against San Diego, as Reed Johnson homered in the bottom of the 11th for a 2-1 victory in the opener before the Cubs fell 5-4 in the second game.

Manager Mike Quade has been pleased with the play of his club, though he said there's still a long way to go.

"We've got to work some things out and we still have to get better," Quade told the team's official website. "I'm just so pleased with the effort."

Castro, the youngest player in the majors, went 1 for 9 in the doubleheader but is hitting .375 with a team-high 14 runs. He's hit in each of the first three spots in the lineup this season.

"The 1-2-3 hole could be musical chairs depending on who I have in the lineup on a particular day," Quade said. "Other than my cleanup hitter (Aramis Ramirez), everybody's able to adjust and understands if we do make some changes."

However, the Dodgers may pose a problem for Castro as he went 3 for 22 (.136) in six games against them in 2010.

Los Angeles won three of four meetings at home last season, but the Cubs took two of three in Chicago.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Jon Lester vs. Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field – the playoff matchup the Cubs dreaded in an elimination game – will happen more than seven months later under far different circumstances.

The Cubs have a 2016 championship banner flying next to the iconic center-field scoreboard – the ultimate response to any questions about their slow start to this season. The San Francisco Giants can’t have Madison Bumgarner saunter out of the bullpen when he’s recovering from a dirt-bike accident, another reason why an odd-year team is much closer to last place than first in an improved National League West.

The Giants don’t have the same aura, because the Cubs staged an epic comeback to end a best-of-five division series last October, scoring four runs again five different relievers in the ninth inning at AT&T Park.

“I’m telling you, man, Game 4 pretty much won the World Series,” Joe Maddon said. “I did not want to see Mr. Cueto pitching back here again. I’ll get to see him (Tuesday night), but that’s OK, compared to whatever that day would’ve been.”

Maddon has admitted this already, but it is still telling from a manager who always tries to stay in the moment and ignore the negativity. It says something about a Giant franchise that had won 10 straight postseason elimination games and World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – and a fan base that used to expect things to go wrong in Wrigleyville after more than a century of losing.

“That whole Game 4 in San Francisco, I did focus on that a lot,” Maddon said. “Just trying to understand Game 5 back at home – how this is going to play out – and do whatever we possibly can to win that game there that night in San Francisco.

“That was the game for me – out of the entire postseason. To have to play the Giants where they were battle-tested – Game 5, back here with (Cueto) pitching – I did not like that at all. I thought that pretty much the postseason hinged on that one game in San Francisco.”

Even though the Cubs still had to survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers before winning their first NL pennant in 71 years. And come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series and beat the Cleveland Indians on the road in a 10-inning Game 7 for the ages.

[RELATED: Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen]

“That’s what good teams do,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re a very talented club, very solid all around. You don’t win the World Series unless you are.

“Look back at our success, how many times were we looking at elimination? No, you’re never surprised in the postseason. Anything those teams do, it’s because they’re there for a reason. They’re very good.”

Lester beat Cueto in a 1-0 instant classic when Javier Baez lifted a 3-2 quick pitch into the basket beneath the video ribbon in the left-field bleachers. Cueto kept the Cubs so off-balance in Game 1 that Baez actually walked up to home plate in the eighth inning thinking bunt.

The Giants reacted to that Game 4 meltdown by giving All-Star closer Mark Melancon a four-year, $62 million contract at the winter meetings, trying to fix a bullpen that led the majors with 30 blown saves last season.

“It was close,” Bochy said. “Three outs from taking it to Game 5 with a pretty good pitcher going. We can speculate all we want. There’s no point in that. It didn’t happen.

“But, sure, you look back. That’s how tight that series was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on. Give them credit – great job coming back. We’re a team that plays very well under pressure, and we did there. Just couldn’t hold on to that ninth inning.”

Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (2-2, 3.57 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (4-3, 4.50 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.