CHICAGO // The Major League-leading Los Angeles Dodgers escaped a ninth-inning jam to continue their recent domination of the Chicago Cubs with a 2-1 win on Thursday. In their first meeting since sweeping the Cubs in last year's National League Division Series, the Dodgers reliever Ramon Troncoso struck out two batters with the bases loaded in the final inning to give his team their fourth win in a row.
The right-hander went two innings, pitching his way into and out of trouble, to preserve the win for starter Randy Wolf, who struck out seven and allowed one run in seven innings. "Troncoso was amazing," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "That high-wire act ? he wiggled himself off. He's proven himself to me, I am not worried about him anymore." The Dodgers (34-15), winners of nine of their last 11 games, took an early lead on a bunt single from Rafael Furcal in the first inning and a ground-out by Casey Blake in the third.
Chicago infielder Bobby Scales, a career minor-league player getting his first action this year, hit a home run in the eighth to make it a one-run game but the Cubs (23-23) also squandered a two-on, two-out scenario in the inning, finishing the game 1-for-17 with men on base. Scales and Fox struck out to end the game for Chicago, who have lost nine of their last 11 games. Owners of the best record in the National League a year ago, the Cubs have dealt with injuries this year and recently learnt top pitcher Carlos Zambrano will be suspended six games for an outburst on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"We've got about 100 games to go. We haven't shot ourselves in the foot," said the Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee. "If it was September and we're five games out then OK. It's too early to be worrying about expectations." The streaking Dodgers have played through the suspension of slugger Manny Ramirez, out 50 games for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs from May 7. The outfielder Juan Pierre has thrived in his place and finished 2-for-4 with a run against the Cubs.