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Matt Kamlet, CBSLA.com
CHAVEZ RAVINE (CBSLA.com) — Members of the Boston Red Sox doubtless considered themselves lucky — they didn’t have to face either Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke during their three-game series in Los Angeles over the weekend.
The Chicago Cubs would not enjoy such luck.
Greinke came within one strike of his fifth career shutout and struck out nine for his fifth win in a row and Yasiel Puig was a triple short of the cycle as the Dodgers beat the cubs 6-2.
The Dodgers tied their longest winning streak against the Cubs in Los Angeles history (8 in a row), originally established from June, 1974 to May 1975.
Much as has been the case in previous starts throughout the season, Greinke supported himself through setting an example for the rest of his lineup early in the ball game.
After Greinke earned a lead off walk in the third, Puig took a fastball outside for ball two, but had to step out of the batter’s box after he began favoring his right leg. After fouling off a number of pitches, Puig, who had doubled down the right field line in the first inning, grounded a single to left to put runners on first and second with one out for Adrian Gonzalez. However, Gonzalez struck out and Hanley Ramirez lined a pitch back into the glove of Arrieta on the mound.
In the fourth inning, it turned out to be Greinke to who put the first run of the series on the board.
After A.J. Ellis and Nick Punto worked walks, Greinke smacked a two-out RBI single to left center to score Ellis, giving the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. It was the first time since Friday that a Dodger other than Gonzalez had knocked in a run. Crawford kept the fun going with a ground-rule double down the left field line that dropped just out of the reach of Brian Bogusevic to tack on another run.
Not to be outdone in the sixth, Punto worked ten pitches to a full count and smacked a high fly ball off the wall in right center, scoring Mark Ellis from second. The hit snapped an 0-for-13 skid for Punto and chased Arrieta out of the ball game.
On the mound, Greinke’s breaking ball was spot on all night. Keeping his pitch count well in tune with his innings pitched for most of the ball game, Greinke’s cutter proved to be a his put-away pitch, helping him earn 9 strikeouts. He also mentioned after the game that his changeup has been better than usual lately, and that the addition of the extra pitch has helped greatly.
The first real danger Greinke found himself in was in the eighth inning, in which he gave up back to back walks to Donnie Murphy and Welington Castillo. The inning, and consequentially the threat, came to an end when Punto back handed a grounder behind the third base bag and made a tremendous throw to first to retire former Dodger Dioner Navarro.
If Greinke provided the lighting, Ramirez and Puig provided the thunder in the seventh inning.
Ramirez unloaded a monstrous shot to left that left no doubt from the moment it left the bat. The ball soared well above the wall in the corner and ricocheted off the second deck boards with such force that it nearly bounced back into the field. Hanley’s 14th homer of the season gave the Dodgers a 5-0 lead.
Subsequently, Yasiel Puig launched a titanic home run halfway up the left field pavilion in the eighth inning, that was estimated at a beastly 439 feet, putting any doubt about his right leg to rest. The homer was Puig’s 13th of his career, and gave the Dodgers a 6-0 lead.
Despite having made over 100 pitches, Greinke returned in the ninth. After retiring the first two batters, he gave up a double to Anthony Rizzo, prompting Don Mattingly to come out of the dugout. Much to the delight of the crowd, however, Greinke was left on the mound to face Nate Schierholtz, who was hit by a pitch.
The relief finally came after Bogusevic doubled a 2-strike pitch to left, giving the Cubs two runs.
The ovation Greinke walked off the field to was as loud and vociferous as that of either home run.
“It was frustrating (not getting the shutout)” Greinke said in the clubhouse. “I made some good pitches.”
Brian Wilson carried the torch briefly enough (5 pitches) to finish the ball game.
The win snapped a two-game losing bout for the Dodgers — showing that Los Angeles is capable of looking beyond their first lost series in two months, when the Dodgers were in last place.
“We’re just playing with a lot of confidence,” Punto said after the game. “We knew we had to come in here and get a win against Chicago and just keep it rolling.”
According to Retrosheet’s David Smith, the Dodgers are just the third team to be 12 games under .500 and then improve to at least 22 games above the .500 mark in the same season (1914 Braves, 2009 Rockies).
Andre Ethier, who had doubled in the fifth inning, achieved a particularly exciting feat.
Ethier’s 238 doubles between 2007 and 2013 are reported by Eric Stephen as the most ever by a Dodger in a 7-year span, surpassing Dixie Walker’s 237 for Brooklyn from 1940 to 1946.
The Cubs will have no time to lick their wounds, as they face NL ace Clayton Kershaw (13-7, 1.72 ERA) on Tuesday.