The road less traveled by the Los Angeles Dodgers has made all the difference.
The Dodgers have ripped off a franchise-record 14 straight victories on the road and look to keep the remarkable run going Monday in the opener of a four- game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Los Angeles continued its tear as the visitor with Sunday's 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field to complete a four-game sweep. A.J. Ellis drove in Hanley Ramirez with a base hit in the second inning and starting pitcher Stephen Fife, who was activated off the disabled list prior to the game, tossed 5 1/3 shutout innings for the win.
Fife made his first start since July 6 after missing time due to right shoulder bursitis.
"I've been watching the games as much as I can, being away, and the guys have been playing well," Fife said. "I knew, go out there and throw a decent game, we're going to have a really good shot at winning."
Ramirez walked and scored a run for Los Angeles, but left the game in the seventh inning after he made a catch in foul ground and ran into the wall past third base. He held his right shoulder as he walked off the field and is expected to undergo an MRI Monday.
"It's really sore now," Ramirez said afterward. "We'll see how I feel tomorrow."
The Dodgers, who sit 5 1/2 games ahead of Arizona for the NL West lead, were without rookie sensation Yasiel Puig because of a left thumb injury. Puig suffered a bruise making a diving catch on Saturday and was not in the starting lineup Sunday. Puig appeared in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning, but did not have the opportunity to pinch hit. He could make his return in the opener of this Gateway City series.
The NL record for consecutive road wins is 17, which was set by the 1916 New York Giants. Zack Greinke will try to pitch L.A. closer to that mark when he takes the hill against the Cardinals. Greinke received an extra days' rest when Fife pitched against the Cubs and is winless (0-1) in his previous three starts. Greinke did not receive a decision in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the New York Yankees and struck out seven over seven innings of two-run ball.
Greinke is 8-3 in 17 starts with a 3.43 earned run average and owns a 7-3 record to go along with a 3.13 ERA in 11 career matchups (9 starts) with the Cardinals.
The Cardinals just went a rocky 3-8 on a recent road trip, but did manage to take two of three against the Cincinnati Reds this weekend. St. Louis won for the third time in four tries with Sunday's 15-2 pounding of the Reds, as starting pitcher Lance Lynn fanned 11 batters and gave up two runs in eight innings.
St. Louis' offense backed its starter and got home runs from David Freese, Matt Adams and Tony Cruz. Freese had three hits and three runs scored, while Jon Jay added three hits and two RBI for St. Louis, which is 1 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh for the top spot in the NL Central.
"We go out there and grind at-bats out, we battle," said Jay. "Whenever we have that attitude we can get good results."
Now the Cards will commence a 10-game homestand and hope Adam Wainwright can nail down his 14th win of the season. Wainwright is 13-6 in 23 starts with a 2.61 earned run average and posted a no-decision in Wednesday's 5-4 loss at the Pirates in which he surrendered four runs in seven innings.
The right-handed Wainwright has made 12 career appearances, nine of which have been starts, against the Dodgers and is 4-3 with a 3.02 ERA in that time.
Los Angeles, which is 14-2 since the All-Star break and 31-7 in the last 38 games, is unbeaten in its previous 13 series, going 9-0-4. The Dodgers, though, lost two of three versus St. Louis from May 24-26 at Chavez Ravine.