While the Cubs were stumbling in Cincinnati this past weekend, the Dodgers were sweeping the Diamondbacks right out of the NL West lead. With their 5-3 victory on Sunday, L.A. had won eight straight and established a game-and-a-half lead in the division over Arizona, who had assumed first place all the way back on April 6th and remained there until this latest visit to Dodger Stadium.
If the Dodgers can hold onto their lead, the Cubs win the NL Central, and the Brewers claim the Wild Card, the Cubs would host Joe Torre's club in the NLDS. In 7 games this year, the Cubs went 5-2 against L.A., sweeping a tense, low-scoring three-game series at Wrigley in late May (by scores of 3-1, 3-1, and 2-1), and splitting a four-game series at Dodger Stadium in early June. All of this, of course, happened during the Dodgers' pre-Manny Ramirez days.
Bob Howry claimed two of the Cubs' five wins, with Ryan Dempster, Sean Gallagher, and Jason Marquis earning the others. Gallagher and Carlos Zambrano accepted the two Chicago defeats. Hiroki Kuroda and Derek Lowe registered the only Dodgers wins in the series. Coincidentally, the Dodgers' highly regarded rookie lefthander, Clayton Kershaw, who started Sunday's game against Arizona, never had his turn in the rotation come up when the Dodgers and Cubs played this season.
If telescoping ahead to a post-season series that may never happen seems like a way to avoid confronting Sunday's loss or thinking too intently about a future without a healthy Zambrano and/or Rich Harden in the Cubs rotation, well, that's pretty much what it is. The Cubs, however, are hopeful that Harden will be have benefited from his recent rest when he starts Thursday's game at St. Louis and that Zambrano will be able to make his next scheduled start on Saturday, in the middle game of the Cubs/Astros series in Houston.
(In the time it took me to finish this post, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks both lost games on the West Coast, to the Padres and Giants, respectively, so L.A. will remain atop the West. For their part, the Brewers' dreadful bullpen, i.e., Salomon Torres, allowed the Reds to pull out yet another 9th inning win, dropping the Milwaukees 4 1/2 games behind the Cubs. If I didn't hate the Reds so much, I might actually be feeling some fondness for them right now.)