Manny, Dodgers take 2-0 lead over Cubs

  • Follow Baseball

CHICAGO (AP) — After two duds by the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Manny Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers look ready to run Chicago's championship drought to 100 years.

Ramirez hit a mammoth homer to extend his postseason record, Russell Martin had a three-run double and the Dodgers took advantage of four errors by the clumsy Cubs in a 10-3 victory Thursday night that gave them a 2-0 lead in the NL division series.

"It wasn't good baseball. In fact, the last two days, that's probably been the two worst games we've played all year," frustrated manager Lou Piniella said. "It wasn't fun to watch, I'll tell you that."

Chicago became the 23rd major league team to lose the first two games at home in a best-of-five playoff series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Only one has come back to win — the 2001 New York Yankees against Oakland.

Of course, that Yankees team was managed by Joe Torre, now in the Dodgers' dugout.

The series switches to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 on Saturday night. Rich Harden will face Hiroki Kuroda, who pitched a four-hit shutout against the Cubs in Los Angeles on June 6.

"We're going to come out and try to jump on them again at home. That would be nice," Billingsley said.

Just days ago, Cubs fans were excited about the team's chance to win its first World Series title since 1908. But suddenly, Chicago is on the brink of elimination. The Cubs must win two consecutive games in Los Angeles to get the series back to Wrigley.

Billingsley shut down Chicago's slumping lineup and Ramirez's 26th postseason home run landed on the roof of the batter's eye club in center, at least 450 feet away. It was his second jaw-dropping shot in two nights.

On defense, the Cubs collapsed. All four infielders made an error, including two in the second that led to a five-run inning for Los Angeles. The four errors by Chicago tied a division series record.

Billingsley allowed five hits and a run in 6 2-3 innings to the Cubs, who haven't played like the team with the NL's best record or one that went 55-26 this season in its home park.

After losing 7-2 in Wednesday night's opener when starter Ryan Dempster walked seven, they played tight, even with ace Carlos Zambrano on the mound, dropping their eighth straight playoff game overall.

Los Angeles got four unearned runs in the second when Chicago's defense faltered as back-to-back errors by normally reliable Mark DeRosa and three-time Gold Glove winner Derrek Lee ignited the Dodgers' five-run inning capped by Martin's three-run double off Zambrano.

Andre Ethier hit a leadoff single and when he took off for second on a hit-and-run, Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot, who was headed to the bag, couldn't reach a bouncing ball off the bat of James Loney. The single went off of Theriot's bare hand and into left field, putting runners at the corners.

With the crowd chanting "Let's Go Z," Zambrano then got a third strike past Matt Kemp for the first out. Blake DeWitt hit a hard grounder to second that was made for a double play, but DeRosa fumbled it — the error allowing Ethier to score and putting runners at first and second.

Next, Lee muffed Casey Blake's grounder for another error, loading the bases before Billingsley struck out. But Rafael Furcal pushed a bunt past the pitcher's mound toward second and beat DeRosa's throw for an RBI single and a 2-0 lead.

With the bases still loaded, Martin drove a three-run double into the gap in left center and a crowd of 42,136 at Wrigley Field fell silent as L.A. went ahead 5-0.

"It allowed me to be more aggressive," Billingsley said. "I didn't have to be too fine and I was still attacking hitters and keeping them off balance. That was a big thing for me to get the off-speed across."

Chicago's third error, this one on third baseman Aramis Ramirez, allowed Billingsley to reach with two outs in the fourth. After Furcal singled, Zambrano struck out Martin.

Kemp had an RBI double off reliever Neal Cotts in the seventh to put L.A. ahead by seven.

Zambrano worked 6 1-3 innings, giving up seven runs — three earned — with seven strikeouts.

In the fifth, Ramirez, not known for his defense, leaned into the ivy-covered wall in left field to catch Jim Edmonds' fly ball. He then flipped the ball out to center fielder Kemp, who playfully slapped Ramirez on the shoulder.

Manny capped his performance with an RBI single in the Dodgers' two-run ninth.

The Cubs' postseason losing streak dates back to the 2003 NLCS. They squandered a 3-1 lead against the Marlins five years ago, losing a Game 6 when they were five outs away from the World Series. They dropped three straight to the Diamondbacks last year and now they're in jeopardy of being swept again.

Bothered by a sore shoulder, Zambrano missed a start early in the final month of the regular season. But when he returned after 12 days between outings, he was never better, pitching a no-hitter against the Astros in Milwaukee on Sept. 14.

But his final two starts were shaky and he decided not to take a short tuneup in last Sunday's regular season-finale.

Alfonso Soriano, 0-for-5 in the opener and 2-for-14 against the Diamondbacks in the first round a year ago, singled on Billingsley's first pitch and moved up on a wild pitch. But Billingsley struck out Theriot and Lee and got Aramis Ramirez on a fly to center and the Cubs' offense never took off.

Chicago ended the shutout bid in the seventh when DeRosa and Edmonds hit consecutive two-out doubles. After Geovany Soto singled to make it first and third, Cory Wade came in to retire Kosuke Fukudome.

DeRosa added a two-run double in the ninth off Takashi Saito.


Top headlines

Paine plans furloughs, salary cuts, layoffs

Paine College President George C. Bradley on Friday announced the college will implement furlough days, salary reductions and layoffs to save $2.4 million over the next fiscal year.
Search Augusta jobs