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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

A lot to chew on at Wrigley

Dodgers were 0-3 at Cubs' ballpark this season and 2-5 overall against Chicago, their playoff opponent. But they say that doesn't matter now.

September 29, 2008|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Dodgers head to Chicago to open the postseason, they find it of little consequence that Wrigley Field proved to be unfriendly confines in the regular season.

They might have lost all three games there as part of a 2-5 record against Chicago, but those games were played in late May when the Dodgers were a vastly different team.

"It doesn't make any difference, I think we match up well against anybody" in the playoffs, said Chad Billingsley, who is scheduled to start the second game of the best-of-five National League division series at Wrigley.

"We're playing our best ball of the year right now in September, which is what you want," he said.

The Dodgers ended the regular season Sunday with a 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants shortly after learning that they had drawn the Cubs in the first round.

Having clinched the NL West title Thursday, the Dodgers had to wait to see whether they would open against the Cubs, the Philadelphia Phillies or the New York Mets.

It became the Cubs, winners of the NL Central, after the Florida Marlins beat the Mets, 4-2, and the Milwaukee Brewers defeated Chicago, 3-1, clinching the wild card for Milwaukee and eliminating New York.

The East champion Phillies will play the Brewers in the other division series.

Dodgers rookie right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who is scheduled to start the third game against the Cubs on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, gave up only two hits Sunday against the Giants in five shutout innings.

The Giants, meanwhile, ended a disappointing year (72-90) with another strong outing by Tim Lincecum (18-5), who gave up one earned run while striking out 13 in seven innings for the win.

The Dodgers' first nine outs were all strikeouts by Lincecum, the first time that's happened since the Mets' Sid Fernandez did it against the Cubs in 1986.

Lincecum also finished as the NL leader in strikeouts with 265.

Derek Lowe (14-11) is scheduled to start Game 1 Wednesday at Wrigley, and the Cubs are expected to start Ryan Dempster (17-6). Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden are likely to start Games 2 and 3 for Chicago.

"I'm really satisfied with the outing today, but there are so many things I still have to go over" with the Cubs' lineup, Kuroda said through an interpreter.

Veteran Jeff Kent said it would be a mistake to place emphasis on the earlier Dodgers-Cubs games.

"I think throughout the course of the year, this team has come a long way," he said. "We've gained some experience with some of our players and hopefully we've gained some confidence where we can now handle the pressures of playing a good team."

Despite the Dodgers' regular-season record against Chicago, Lowe and Kuroda enjoyed success.

Lowe won one of two starts and had a 1.93 earned-run average in 14 innings. Kuroda was 1-1 with an 0.59 ERA in 15 1/3 innings, and his win was a four-hit shutout June 6.

The Dodgers' Nomar Garciaparra said that "in a short series it really doesn't matter how you match up" with the other team.

The Dodgers finished the regular season 84-78 after losing on a sun-splashed afternoon at AT&T Park as Garciaparra ran the club, the latest chapter in Manager Joe Torre's tradition of handing his team to a veteran player on the final day.

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

When the Dodgers and Angels hit the road in their divisional playoff series, they'll play in two of the most storied ballparks in baseball: Chicago's Wrigley Field and Boston's Fenway Park. The Red Sox went 86 years between World Series titles before winning it all in 2004 (and then again last year); it's been exactly 100 years since the Cubs were champions. The Game 1 matchups:

Dodgers vs. Chicago

Game 1: Wednesday at Chicago, 3: 30 p.m.

Lowe (14-11) vs. Dempster (17-6)

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Angels vs. Boston

Game 1: Wednesday at Angels, 7 p.m. Lester (16-6) vs. Lackey (12-5)

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