Dodgers stymied at Wrigley Field
Offense unable to do much against Dempster, Cubs
CHICAGO -- Nothing can take away the Dodgers' postseason sweep of the Cubs last year, but that was then.
Right now, the best team in baseball doesn't look like it. Los Angeles' Wrigley Field slump worsened Saturday when the Dodgers suffered their first shutout -- and worst loss -- of the season, 7-0, to the Cubs.
After scoring 31 runs in three Coors Field games that helped lead to the dismissal of Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, the Dodgers have scored only three runs while losing two of three games to the Cubs, with the series finale Sunday night.
"We just haven't hit the ball that good," said Matt Kemp, who had two of five Dodgers hits Saturday. "You've got to score runs to win. One run the past two days -- that ain't good."
The Dodgers had only three hits in seven innings off Ryan Dempster, whom they beat last year in the playoffs, even though on Saturday he was pitching with a finger blister.
"We're certainly capable of doing more damage, but we haven't done it," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "Give most of the credit to the two guys who pitched the last two games [Ted Lilly won Friday night]. You're talking about two quality pitchers. We could probably be more patient, but they threw a lot of strikes early."
The Dodgers went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners Saturday. For the series, they are 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
On Saturday, the offense was only part of the problem. Dodgers starting pitcher Eric Stults went only three-plus innings and allowed four runs for the loss. He now has a bruised ERA (4.80) to match a bruised thumb suffered two starts earlier.
With Hiroki Kuroda returning Monday night and a rotation spot needed, Stults will probably give way, perhaps to the disabled list. Torre wasn't saying, but he couldn't argue about the results of Stults pitching hurt.
"The first couple of innings I thought he did well, but then he looked tentative," said Torre. "I know the thumb isn't completely gone. Put it this way, we're going to have to figure it out. We'll talk about it. I haven't made a decision. We're certainly going to have to find out. It just won't go away."
Stults threw a shutout against the Giants on May 9, but jammed the thumb making a sprawling flip to first base while fielding a bunt in Florida on May 15. Before the injury, Stults had a 3.82 ERA. He missed one start and in his next two has a 9.81 ERA.
"It's still sore and will continue to be, but I felt I was still able to execute pitches," said Stults, promoted to replace Kuroda when he strained an oblique muscle after an Opening Day win.
"The last couple of days I haven't noticed a change. It's one of those things I wished never happened. I was throwing the ball good [before the injury]. That's baseball. There are aches and pains you have to battle through. I don't want to take time off, but I don't know what will make it heal faster."
Stults said he didn't want to go on the disabled list.
"On the other hand, obviously I haven't helped the team the last two times," he said.
The Cubs scored in the second inning on a leadoff single by Reed Johnson, who stole second and was doubled home by Mike Fontenot with two outs. Chicago created a run the following inning after Stults hit Ryan Theriot, who took third on Milton Bradley's hit-and-run single. Bradley was thrown out by catcher Russell Martin trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt, but Derrek Lee walked and Johnson put down a two-out squeeze bunt and Stults fell down trying to pick it up.
Fontenot chased Stults in the fourth inning with an RBI triple, and Fontenot scored on Theriot's RBI single off Guillermo Mota. The Cubs extended their lead to 7-0 with three runs off Jeff Weaver, who walked five (one intentionally) in 2 1/3 innings.
Weaver's been dealing with a finger blister of his own that cut short a May 20 spot start. He pitched only once in nine days, allowing two runs in 1 1/3 innings Monday in Colorado, then was all over the place Saturday.
Weaver conceded the erratic work schedule is a hurdle he must clear in learning how to relieve, especially when sinkerball pitchers are more effective with frequent work.
"Sometimes when you haven't thrown in a while, you try to overthrow, and that's what happened more than anything today," Weaver said. "You feel good and want to blow everybody away. I've got to hold back and trust whatever comes out and no do too much.
"I had a lot of right-handed hitters to face, and I shouldn't worry about velocity and overpower and just stay down in the zone and let them put it in play. I got caught up with striking everybody out and fell behind and that's not me."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.