Following an extra few days of rest, Ricky Nolasco returns to the hill to make his fifth start as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers when he gets the call for the opener of a four-game set with the Chicago Cubs.
Nolasco has gone 1-1 with a 3.13 earned run average since being acquired by the Dodgers in a trade with the Miami Marlins. That includes taking the mound for Los Angeles in both its last game before the All-Star break and its second-half opener, so the club opted to push him back in the rotation this week.
"Ricky didn't get any time during the break, so we looked at this as a stretch to be able to flip Ricky back and give him a couple of extra days," manager Don Mattingly told Los Angeles' website.
So Nolasco will start for the first time since last Wednesday, when he did not factor into an 8-3 extra-inning victory in Toronto. The 30-year-old righty allowed just two runs on a pair of hits and four walks, fanning five over 5 2/3 innings.
Nolasco is 6-9 with a 3.72 ERA in 22 total starts this season and faced the Cubs in Miami on April 28 and won a 6-4 decision. He scattered three runs over seven innings, improving to 5-2 with a 2.98 ERA in nine games (8 starts) lifetime versus Chicago.
The Dodgers had a four-game winning streak snapped with Wednesday's 3-0 setback to the New York Yankees, splitting a quick two-game set.
Los Angeles wasted another gem from Clayton Kershaw, who hurled eight scoreless innings of five-hit ball. Mattingly turned things over to the bullpen in the ninth only to see Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriguez and Brandon League combine to allow three runs on a hit and two walks. Only one of those runs were earned, however.
The Dodgers offense went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, while Hanley Ramirez was hitless in four at-bats to snap an 11-game hit streak.
Kershaw, meanwhile, lowered his ERA to 1.87 on the season and struck out five.
"He kind of painted the fastball down ... He kept hitting the knees, hitting the knees and used the split off of that. It's a tough combination because it's right on the same plane," said Mattingly. "You could see that last inning he was getting kind of tired. He started leaving the split up a little more, but before that he wasn't giving anything to hit."
The Dodgers lost for only the second time in their past 12 games and hold a 2 1/2-game edge over the Arizona Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West.
The Cubs flip the calendar after going 14-13 in July, their first winning month since posting a 15-10 mark last July. It wasn't easy for the club, which used a 6-1 victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday to avoid a four-game sweep.
Edwin Jackson keyed the win by hurling eight innings of one-run ball. He scattered eight hits and fanned four without issuing a walk and stayed in the game despite a 66-minute rain delay in the top of the sixth inning.
"It was a combination of everything," Jackson said of the victory. "We had great defensive plays all around from pretty much every position."
Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer and David DeJesus had two hits and three RBI for the Cubs, who start left-hander Chris Rusin in tonight's opener.
Rusin has been solid over three starts this year since joining the rotation following the trades of Scott Feldman and Matt Garza. He made the 10th start of his career last Saturday in San Francisco and logged a career-high seven innings. Rusin yielded just three hits over the scoreless effort, but did not get a decision in a 1-0 victory.
"Rusin was phenomenal," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He had his sinker working and got a bunch of ground balls and made the strikes when he had to. Just a heck of a job."
The 26-year-old is 1-0 with a 2.93 ERA this season. He'll pitch for the first time at home in 2013 and has never before faced the Dodgers.
Los Angeles won four of six versus Chicago a season ago.