With their fourth and fifth starters sidelined by injuries, the Chicago Cubs are searching for answers.
James Russell, a reliever suddenly thrust into the rotation, hasn't been able to fill the void the way he or the team had hoped.
Russell gave up five runs — four earned — and six hits over 4 2-3 innings in his fourth major league start, dropping the Cubs' record to 0-10 when their starters fail to reach the sixth. Shut down by Clayton Kershaw, they lost 5-2 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.
"We're pitching guys that are stretched out and are giving us everything they've got," manager Mike Quade said. "I mean, I didn't look at Russell as a starter, but he's starting for us and he's taken that role and done the best he can with it."
Russell (1-4) is 0-4 with a 10.05 ERA after being inserted into the rotation because of an injury to No. 5 starter Andrew Cashner. One consolation for left-hander: He got his first big league hit with a single in the second inning.
"He's gotten better, and I think his approach tonight was better. So we'll see what happens down the road, as far as Russell's concerned," Quade said. "But at this point, he's done a nice job."
The Cubs, who hadn't faced a left-handed starter or reliever since last Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Colorado's Jorge de la Rosa, opened the scoring in the first against Kershaw (3-3) with a two-out RBI double by Geovany Soto after the team went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position during Sunday's 4-3 loss at Arizona.
Until then, the Dodgers were the only team in the majors that hadn't allowed a first-inning run at home.
Los Angeles pulled ahead with two runs in the second. Matt Kemp singled, stole second and came home when Juan Uribe got the green light from rookie manager Don Mattingly on a 3-0 pitch and doubled over the head of right fielder Reed Johnson. Rookie Ivan DeJesus Jr., whose father played shortstop for the Cubs and Dodgers and is now Chicago's third base coach, drove in Uribe with a single inside first base.
The Dodgers didn't get another hit until the fifth, when Rod Barajas led off with a double and rookie Jerry Sands hit a two-run double. Andre Ethier chased Russell with an RBI infield single, extending his hitting streak to 28 games.
"He makes a real good pitch on Ivan's kid in the second and jams the daylights out of him, but he fights it off and gets it down the line for an RBI single," Quade said. "Then he's a pitch away from getting Sands out in the fifth. And as good as Ethier's been, that wasn't a horrible matchup for him, either."
Ethier, halfway to the record 56-game streak Joe DiMaggio had in 1941, kept his alive with a grounder to deep shortstop that Starlin Castro couldn't make a play on. The All-Star right fielder is three games shy of the Dodgers franchise record, set by Willie Davis in 1969.
"I put it in a good spot and I just had my nose down, trying to get to first, and I'm not sure what happened after that," Ethier said. "It was a tough pitch and I just tried to put it in play. The last seven or eight days I've been saying the same thing: Just go up there and try to execute and get the job done."
Ethier is batting .393 during his streak with three homers and 17 RBIs, a stretch in which the Dodgers have gone 13-15. Davis' streak included all 28 games he played in August and his first three games in September. He batted .435 during that stretch with one homer and 23 RBIs, while the Dodgers went 13-18.
The closest anyone has come to DiMaggio's streak since he eclipsed Wee Willie Keeler's 45-gamer was Pete Rose, who hit in 44 straight in 1978 before it was stopped by Atlanta's trio of Larry McWilliams, Dave Campbell and Gene Garber.
"Only halfway? It's nothing to get too caught up in or excited about right now," Ethier said with a grin. "There's still a long way to go. I'm more happy about Kershaw getting back on track and us bouncing back after two tough losses to San Diego."
Kershaw pitched seven innings, allowing two runs and eight hits, including Alfonso Soriano's major league-leading 11th homer leading off the seventh. The 23-year-old left-hander struck out four and did not walk a batter for the first time in seven starts this season.
NOTES: Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster, who turns 34 on Tuesday, will be pitching on his birthday for the first time in 14 big league seasons when he opposes RHP Chad Billingsley. Dempster is 7-3 with a 2.81 career ERA against the Dodgers in 23 appearances, including 13 starts.