MLB Picks 2012: Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Chicago Cubs (43-60) and Los Angeles Dodgers (56-50) will open up a three-game National League series Friday night at Dodger Stadium, with the first pitch scheduled for 10:10 ET

Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers    

Los Angeles Dodgers OF Matt Kemp has swung the bat well since coming off the disabled list with hamstring issues

Chicago enjoyed a solid July in posting a 15-10 record during the month, but suffered an 8-4 home setback to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday afternoon when the calendar turned to August.  The Cubs clubhouse has been a revolving door of late around the July 31 Trade Deadline, with Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson and Geovany Soto all going elsewhere.  Rookie first baseman Anthony Rizzo is clearly seen as the future of the franchise, but went just 2 for 11 against the Dodgers as a member of the San Diego Padres last year.  Chicago is 3-7 versus NL West opponents.

Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (7-8, 4.19 ERA) has led the club to three consecutive wins, but didn’t factor into the decision of a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on July 28.  The right-hander is 4-5 with a 4.71 ERA in 11 road outings, surrendering three home runs in 63 combined frames.  In two career relief appearances versus the Dodgers, Samardzija has tossed 3.1 shutout innings and struck out five batters without issuing a walk.

Los Angeles has endured the ups and downs that can occur over the course of a 162-game season over the last week, sweeping a three-game road series against the San Francisco Giants last week, but then getting beat in three consecutive games against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  “The series scared me form the very beginning when I looked at the schedule,” commented Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.  All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp has swung the bat well since returning from the disabled list, batting .350 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 18 games.  Los Angeles is 12-4 in its last 16 games following an off day.

Dodgers starting pitcher Chad Billingsley (6-9, 3.89 ERA) has won back-to-back starts, allowing just a single run and 11 hits over 13.1 combined innings.  The right-hander is 1-4 with a 4.32 ERA in nine home outings, with opposing hitters batting .300 against him.  In 11 career games (nine starts) versus the Cubs, Billingsley has tallied an even 4-4 mark and 3.47 ERA, including a 5-4 road loss on May 4.

Sports bettors will likely back the Cubs due to their 10-4 mark in series openers, while the Dodgers are 1-7 in their last eight home games.

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