Cubs beat Dodgers 11-5 to finish disappointing trip with series split in L.A.
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LOS ANGELES — If all goes well in the next few days, the Cubs hope to get their MVP third baseman back from the disabled list Tuesday.
Maybe they’ll have their top setup reliever back from the DL by then, too. Of course, the Cubs still have no idea when their $126 million starting pitcher might be ready to rejoin the rotation.
But for one day near the end of June — one inning really — they got a glimpse of what this season could look like, even without all those key players.
After seven days of a mostly hellish trip, the Cubs survived three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, then pounded the Dodgers’ bullpen late to beat their postseason nemesis 11-5 on Thursday and earn a split of the four-game series.
“We’re not where we want to be, obviously, but this is a step in the right direction,” said center fielder Albert Almora Jr., who homered after Kershaw left during a two-run sixth that tied the score.
“It’s a good ending to a not-so-good road trip,” said Anthony Rizzo, who responded to a recent slump with a four-hit game after a scheduled day off Wednesday.
The Cubs were swept in four games by the last-place Reds — the hottest team in the National League the last two weeks — to open the eight-game trip.
They put third baseman Kris Bryant on the DL with a sore shoulder before playing the Dodgers, and then on Thursday had to shut down starter Yu Darvish (triceps) again after the right-hander reported pain when he tried to throw a light bullpen session.
And they played the entire trip without setup man Carl Edwards Jr., who makes a minor-league rehab start Friday.
“Give our guys a lot of credit,” manager Joe Maddon said.
With victories in two of the last three games, the Cubs won the season series against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year.
“We’re doing this without everybody, too, right now. That’s even the better part,” Maddon said.
One day after playoff star Kyle Hendricks’ inexplicable command issues bottomed out in the shortest outing of his career in a late loss Wednesday night, the Cubs came back for a noon start and kept the game close until breaking out for seven runs in the seventh.
“Those guys are good, but we’re good, too,” said shortstop Addison Russell, who capped the big inning with a two-run homer. “You put our lineup against any team, and I think we’d have a pretty good shot at winning.”
Several players this week referred to the emotional energy they felt playing the Dodgers, especially in their ballpark (including crowds of 50,000-plus in two of the games), and especially after facing them in the National League Championship Series each of the last two years.
When compared to the relative monotone level of excitement at half-filled Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, it made this 2-6 road trip a microcosm of the Cubs’ roller-coaster season — of inconsistent starting pitching and extreme highs and lows in scoring.
“Obviously this streak will send the roller coaster down into a valley,” said Rizzo, whose three-run double broke open the game in the seventh. “But we win a couple games at home, we go right up to the peak again. It’s just the way it is right now. I promise you we don’t ride it as hard as everyone else.”
Maddon sees mostly the peaks anyway, referring to “Hurricane Cincinnati” as just catching a hot team at the wrong time.
“The Reds are screwing this whole thing up,” Maddon said, “because overall, you take that Cincinnati series out, and this has not been a bad stretch at all.”