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LOS ANGELES DODGERS (39-33) at CHICAGO CUBS (39-30)
One of the best young teams in baseball, the Chicago Cubs, look to grab their third straight win against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
The Dodgers have yet to really put everything together since dropping tons of money into the team over the past few years, but are always competitive and come into this one with a half game lead over San Francisco in the NL West. Theyve held this advantage despite taking losses in seven of their last nine games and have been unable to get any offense going in this series. They have been outscored 5-2 in these last two losses against Chicago and did not put any runs on the board in the 10-inning, 1-0 defeat on Tuesday night. They had just three hits in the game, and while OF Joc Pederson (.248) failed to get on base, he is a constant power threat with 19 homers on the year (4th in NL) and has two in the past four games. The Cubs have been building the core of this team for a few years now and with those players all making it to the show at the same time, they have performed better than most would expect and are currently the second wild card team. They come into this one riding a four-game winning streak, allowing a miniscule three runs in that time against both Minnesota and Los Angeles. They held this opponent to eight hits in the first two wins and put up a dominating pitching performance in the 1-0 win on Tuesday, all made possible by the impressive start (7.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 6 K) from Jason Hammel. Although 3B Kris Bryant (.278) went hitless in the victory, he is one of the best young hitters in the game and has shown impressive plate discipline, ranking in the top-10 in the NL in walks (36). A couple of young righties will take the mound in this matchup as 27-year-old RHP Mike Bolsinger (4-2, 2.87 ERA) looks to outduel 25-year-old RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-3, 4.28 ERA) for the host group. It has been very tough for the Dodgers to get wins on the road as evidenced by their 12-20 record away from home as Chicago is a solid 20-13 when at Wrigley Field. The Cubs win on Tuesday brought them a little closer in the series against Los Angeles since the start of 2013, going 6-10 against them and doing poorly (3-7) when at home during that time. Trends show that the Dodgers have gone a solid 35-24 (.593) against right-handed pitchers this year as Hendricks teams are 18-8 (.692) in his starts over the past two years. The injury report has OF Carl Crawford (Oblique) out for Los Angeles as OF Dexter Fowler (Ankle) is questionable for Chicago with OF Jorge Soler (Ankle) and 2B Tommy La Stella (Ribs) on the DL.
Bolsinger was unsuccessful as a member of Arizonas rotation, but he has excelled since joining the Dodgers and through nine starts has seen his club win five times as he has four quality starts. He has allowed two or fewer runs in 7-of-9 outings while showing solid strikeout numbers (8.3 K/9). His control (3.4 BB/9) has been a struggle this year, but he is a groundball pitcher (56.4percent GB) and can get the opponent to hit into plenty of double plays. Keeping the ball on the ground has aided him in giving up a mere 0.51 HR/9 thus far in 2015 and he has been able to keep 79percent of runners on base. He was dominant in his one career start against the Cubs when he saw them last year and pitched 6.2 scoreless innings with one run allowed (0 ER) on four hits with seven strikeouts (2 walks). There are plenty of new faces on this Chicago team that he did not see last year, but of those who he did face, only 2B Tommy La Stella, who is currently injured, has a hit against the righty. The trio of SS Starlin Castro, OF Junior Lake and 1B Anthony Rizzo are a combined 0-for-6 in the matchup. The bullpen for Los Angeles has done well, going 16-13 with a 3.12 ERA (1.17 WHIP) and is 16-for-26 (62percent) in save chances. Kenley Jansen (0.71 ERA, 9 saves) has been tremendous in his 12.2 innings on the mound with one run allowed on four hits with a flawless 22:0 K/BB ratio.
Hendricks has never really instilled fear in his opponents with a low strikeout rate throughout the minors, but despite seeing his ERA jump from 2.46 over 13 starts in 2014 to his current ERA, has shown improvements in strikeouts (7.3 K/9) while keeping his walks to a minimum (1.7 BB/9). His biggest change from last year is home runs, and while he has not done too poorly in the category with 0.86 HR/9, it is a large jump from the 0.45 HR/9 given up over 80.1 frames last year. Chicago has come away with the win in five of his last seven starts and he has gone at least five innings in all but his first outing of the year, but is coming off his worst performance when he gave up seven runs (6 ER) on 11 hits over five innings in a loss to Minnesota last week. He has one start against this opponent and it came last year when he pitched a stellar game (7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 K) in a winning effort. OF Yasiel Puig (1-for-3) and 3B Justin Turner (1-for-3) had a hit against the righty, but a majority of the hitters struggled against him with C Yasmani Grandal and OF Scott Van Slyke being hitless in their four at-bats. The Cubs relievers have gone 18-12 with a 3.09 ERA (1.24 WHIP) and have been successful in 17-of-26 (65percent) save opportunities. Hector Rondon (2.43 ERA, 12 saves) has not allowed an earned run since May 22nd (10.2 IP) with a 7:2 K/BB ratio in that time.