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Cubs, Dodgers collide in meeting of hot teams

Sportsnaut
Jul 6, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Rafael Ortega (66) hits a one-run RBI single in the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs are back in Los Angeles for an extended weekend, setting up shop in a city where some recent franchise history happened.

Winners in six of their past eight games, the Cubs will take their newfound success up against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the National League West leaders who have won seven of their last eight games.

Not quite the power they were when they strung together six winning seasons from 2015-20 and won the 2016 World Series, the Cubs will arrive in L.A. for a four-game series bringing memories of top pitching performances. Two of the franchise’s last four no-hitters were delivered at Dodger Stadium, including one from Jake Arrieta in 2015 and the Cubs’ only combined no-no in 2021.

Tasked with having to live up to the high pitching standard at Los Angeles will be right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. (2-2, 4.85 ERA). Back in the major leagues for the first time since 2018, Leiter will be making his 12th appearance and fourth start.

He earned Thursday’s start on the heels of an emergency outing Saturday against the Boston Red Sox when he went 5 1/3 innings on a mere 57 pitches. It came after Alec Mills had to leave after seven pitches because of lower back pain.

“I was really impressed,” Cubs manager David Ross said of Leiter, who gave up one run on just three hits with one walk and five strikeouts. “The circumstances made it even better. That was a really good performance — a big-time performance.”

Leiter has two appearances (one start) against the Dodgers, with both coming in 2017 as a rookie with the Philadelphia Phillies. He has a 1.29 ERA against them in seven innings.

The Cubs enter off Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, when they rallied with an eighth-inning RBI from Rafael Ortega and a run-scoring double in the ninth from P.J. Higgins off Brewers closer Josh Hader. Four Chicago relievers did not give up a run over 3 1/3 innings.

The Cubs have taken two of three games in each of their past four series.

The Dodgers have won four of their past five series, using four pitchers Wednesday to hold the Colorado Rockies to one hit in their own 2-1 comeback victory.

Los Angeles right-hander Tony Gonsolin (10-0, 1.54) will bring the best ERA in baseball into Thursday’s start as he aims to become the first 11-game winner in baseball. Gonsolin appears to be a lock to make his first All-Star Game, and he could end up as the starter for the National League with the game at Dodger Stadium.

Gonsolin has not given up more than two earned runs in any of his 15 starts and is coming off an outing Friday against the San Diego Padres when he gave up one run over a season-best 7 2/3 innings with no walks and eight strikeouts.

“I’m just trying to stay in the (strike) zone and let them hit it,” Gonsolin said. “We have the best defense behind me so let those guys play.”

The Dodges received a scoreless inning from closer Craig Kimbrel on Wednesday, his first outing since Sunday when he was hit in the back of the right shoulder by a comebacker. Kimbrel, who has 14 saves in 17 chances, was a part of the Cubs’ combined no-hitter at Dodger Stadium in 2021, recording the last three outs.

–Field Level Media