Sports Network) - The Chicago Cubs roll into Hollywood fresh off a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks and will now turn their attention to the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight in the opener of a four-game set at Chavez Ravine.
The Cubs have won four of their last five games and completed the desert sweep with Thursday's 8-3 victory thanks to Aramis Ramirez's insurance blast, a three-run homer, in the top of the ninth inning. Starlin Castro knocked in two runs and Marlon Byrd ended with two hits and an RBI for the Cubs, who are still 10 1/2 games off the lead in the NL Central.
Chicago starter Ryan Dempster was charged with eight hits and three runs over five innings, but still came away with the win.
"It's a good win for us," Dempster said. "We haven't played like this in a while. We swept them, and it's huge for us. We need as many wins as possible."
Cubs starter Randy Wells got some relief his last time out and will take the mound again on Thursday. Wells had been 0-6 with a 5.76 earned run average in his previous 11 starts, then beat Cincinnati on Saturday in a 3-1 win. He limited the mighty Reds to a run on five hits over 7 2/3 innings to push his 2010 mark to 4-6 with a 4.67 ERA in 17 starts.
The right-hander will shoot for his first career win against Los Angeles and is 0-2 with a 1.32 ERA in two lifetime starts, spanning 13 2/3 innings.
Los Angeles has split its last six games and dropped two of three matchups with the Florida Marlins to open a seven-game homestand. In last night's 4-0 loss at Dodger Stadium, Marlins starter Josh Johnson hurled eight shutout innings and Jose Veras closed the door with two K's in the ninth.
"Our goal was to work his (Johnson's) pitch count, but he dominated," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "He is one of the premier pitchers in the league."
James Loney had two of LA's six hits and starter Hiroki Kuroda was saddled with the loss for allowing four runs and six hits in seven innings of work. Rafael Furcal went 0-for-4 and had his 10-game hitting streak come to an end. He had also scored in 12 consecutive games for the first time since Gil Hodges in 1953.
The Dodgers, who are tied with Colorado at three games off the lead in the NL West standings, will send young hurler Clayton Kershaw to the mound Thursday. Kershaw has won four of his last five decisions and is 8-4 with a 3.02 earned run average in 17 starts. He previously took center stage in Saturday's 14-1 pounding of the D'Backs, as he tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings and struck out eight batters.
Kershaw, a left-hander, is 4-2 in nine home starts this season and will face the Cubs for the second time in his career. He dropped a 3-0 decision back on May 25 this season at Wrigley Field and yielded one unearned run on four hits in six frames.
Chicago won two of three meetings that series, but the Dodgers are 8-6 in the past 14 encounters between the teams.