It wasn't long ago that the Chicago Cubs followed a three-game skid with six straight victories.
With Jon Lester on the mound, the visiting Cubs look to end a similar slide and perhaps begin another positive run Saturday night while keeping the Los Angeles Dodgers from a fifth consecutive victory.
Chicago (73-54) had its nine-game winning streak end with a 3-1 loss to the White Sox on Aug. 16, then yielded 25 runs in dropping the next two against Detroit. The Cubs rebounded with a six-game winning streak, but have totaled four runs to lose the next three.
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After they struck out 12 times over six innings against Madison Bumgarner in Thursday's 9-1 loss at San Francisco, Clayton Kershaw fanned 14 and yielded only Anthony Rizzo's homer over eight of their 4-1 defeat Friday.
"We were schooled a little bit (Friday) again," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team averaged 6.0 runs in the 20 games prior to their current losing stretch. "But that needs to happen for us to get better.''
Leading the Giants by 4 1/2 games for the NL's second wild-card spot, the Cubs hope Lester (8-9, 3.44 ERA) can build on his latest effort.
The left-hander allowed a season-high seven runs in 2 2-3 innings of a 15-8 loss to Detroit on Aug. 19, then pitched into the ninth before yielding the tying run with two outs in Monday's 2-1 victory over Cleveland. Though he didn't get the win, Lester is 4-1 with a 3.09 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break.
"You've got to try to keep your team in the game the best you can," he told MLB's official website.
Lester, who last pitched on the road July 18 when he took a no-hitter into the eighth at Atlanta, has given up one run in his last three starts away from Wrigley Field and none in the last 18 2-3 innings.
He was hardly that effective June 25 while allowing four runs, four hits and walking four in four innings of a 4-0 loss to the West-leading Dodgers (71-56), who bring Mat Latos (4-9, 4.81) back into the rotation to help them try for a 16th win in their last 21 at home.
The right-hander allowed a run in six innings of a 5-3 win over the Angels in his Dodger debut Aug. 2, then yielded 11 in 8 2-3 innings to lose the next two.
''I'm healthy,'' he said. ''The ball is coming out of my hand good. It's just a matter of stringing innings and pitches together. It is like spring training again trying to get used to a new team and catcher.''
With three off days over an eight-day span following Latos' most recent start Aug. 13, Latos wasn't needed for that stretch. He returns after throwing a five-inning simulated game at the Dodgers' complex in Arizona earlier this week.
Latos has fared well against the Cubs, going 7-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 12 starts. He gave up a run, one hit and struck out seven in seven innings but suffered a 2-0 loss at Wrigley on July 5 with Miami.
Rizzo is 2 for 15 against Latos.
Chase Utley is batting .208 in seven games since coming over from Philadelphia, but recorded his first RBI with Los Angeles in his home debut Friday.
He's 2 for 12 against Lester.