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07/08/10 1:48 AM ET

Heating up, Kershaw hosts Cubs

The last time the Dodgers and Cubs met, Chicago took two out of three. Of course, the Cubs didn't have to face Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, which might shift the odds for the series opener in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Kershaw has been in strong form over his last two starts, allowing just two runs over 12 2/3 innings while striking out 13.

The southpaw has delivered a quality start in nine of his last 11 outings and allowed more then three runs just once in that span.

Dodgers catcher Russell Marin said Kershaw's ability to harness his dominant stuff has improved the most this season, the lefty's third in the Majors.

"Throwing strikes -- he's a lot more consistent down in the zone, especially with his fastball," Martin said. "He's gotten a better feel for his slider. It's a breaking pitch that he can throw for strikes more often than his curveball. That's really the two things."

For the Cubs on Thursday, it will be Randy Wells taking the mound. The righty has performed similar to Kershaw in his past two games, giving up two runs in his last 13 2/3 innings.

Wells is 4-6 on the year, however, with a 4.67 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. The Dodgers are second in the National League in runs scored, tied for third in on-base percentage and have scored 29 runs in their past five games, despite being shut out on Wednesday by the Marlins.

Dodgers: Bullpen shortage
If the Cubs do manage to get to Kershaw early, the Dodgers will face trouble covering the later innings from their bullpen. With Ronald Belisario on the restricted list, only Jeff Weaver and Travis Schlichting are suited to play the long-reliever role. Carlos Monasterios was activated in Belisario's place. ... Rafeal Furcal's 10-game hitting streak was snapped on Wednesday night in the Dodgers' 4-0 loss. ... Matt Kemp was also held hitless on Wednesday after hitting four home runs in his previous six games.

Cubs: Best against the West
The Cubs have gone 10-2 against NL West opponents this season. Against all other teams, Chicago has gone 28-45. ... On Wednesday, the Cubs swept a series for the first time since late April, against Milwaukee. It's the first time they have won three games in a row since May 22-25.

Worth noting
The Cubs' top four hitters in terms of total bases are all right-handers. Kershaw's strikeout-to-walk ratio against right-handers is 1.88, as opposed to 4.10 against lefties.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.