The defeats over the previous two days felt like something from the distant past. Zack Greinke was pitching, which these days equates to an automatic victory for the Dodgers.
With Greinke taking a shutout into the ninth inning, the Dodgers won their sixth consecutive game started by their $147-million co-ace, a 6-2 victory over the inexperienced and overmatched Chicago Cubs on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
This almost looked unfair, as one of baseball's best pitchers did more or less whatever he wanted to one of the National League's sorriest teams.
"Location was good, defense was good," Greinke said. "It was a fun game all the way around."
Greinke faced one batter more than the minimum over the first seven innings and held the Cubs scoreless until he served up a two-run double to Brian Bogusevic with two out in the ninth.
Smiling, Greinke lamented the loss of the shutout.
"It was frustrating," he said. "I made some good pitches."
Greinke limited the Cubs to five hits and two walks. Brian Wilson recorded the final out of the game.
The dominant performance maintained a pattern that has developed in recent weeks, as Greinke (13-3) won his fifth consecutive decision. Over his last four starts, he has given up three runs.
For the last-place Cubs, life won't become any better Tuesday. Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to start for the Dodgers.
Knowing Greinke and Kershaw's turns in the rotation were coming up was a reason why the Dodgers didn't appear particularly concerned about losing the final two games of their series against the Boston Red Sox.
The games against the Red Sox, however, made alarms sound in Don Mattingly's head. The manager was disturbed by what he perceived to be lackadaisical approaches at the plate by his hitters.
Of the Red Sox, he said, "I think over there, it was a little more intense and more fight in their at-bats.
"I saw them foul off more tough pitches and just take advantage of everything we did wrong.
"If we're going to get to where we want to go, those are the kinds of teams we're going to have to be. That's how everybody is going to be playing. It kind of gives you a little barometer of the kind of baseball you have to play."
The Cubs didn't offer the Dodgers that caliber of opponent. But the Dodgers responded by playing the kind of baseball Mattingly wanted.
The Dodgers were blanked by Jake Arrieta over the first three innings, but gradually wore him down. By the end of the game, they had scored more runs than they had in the entire Red Sox series (five).
Arrieta was knocked out of the game two batters into the sixth inning. He has already thrown 111 pitches as the Dodgers worked counts and drew five walks.
The Dodgers' first three runs were scored by players who walked.
A.J. Ellis was driven in on a single by Greinke in the fourth inning. Nick Punto scored on a ground-rule double by Carl Crawford later in the inning.
Mark Ellis drew a leadoff-walk in the sixth and scored on a double by Punto that ended Arrieta's night.
The Dodgers increased their lead to 4-0 that inning, as Crawford drove in Punto on a sacrifice fly.
The Dodgers' final two runs came on home runs by Hanley Ramirez in the seventh inning and by Yasiel Puig in the eighth.
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