(Sports Network) -- The Chicago Cubs started out their current West Coast trip in fine fashion, but the club still hasn't been able to solve its longtime problems at Dodger Stadium.
After dropping the first two tests of this four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the disappointing Cubs will try to get back in the win column when the two teams square off again this afternoon at Chavez Ravine.
Chicago came into this set with a bit of momentum after winning all three meetings with the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks to kick off this seven-game road swing, but the contending Dodgers have proven to be a more difficult opponent so far. Los Angeles came through with a 3-2 decision in Thursday's opener, then held off a late rally to post a 9-7 victory last night.
The loss was Chicago's seventh in its last nine visits to Dodger Stadium and put Lou Piniella's squad 11 games under .500 nearing the All-Star break. The Cubs presently trail first-place Cincinnati by 10 1/2 games in the National League Central race.
Russell Martin clubbed a three-run homer and All-Star starter Andre Ethier delivered three hits and two RBI to help the Dodgers win for the eighth time in their last 11 contests and close within two games of San Diego's lead atop the NL West. The Padres were beaten by Colorado on Friday.
Casey Blake also knocked in two runs to help back seven-plus effective innings for Los Angeles right-hander Chad Billingsley (7-4). The 2009 All-Star selection halted a five-start winless streak after allowing four runs on seven hits.
"I was aggressive in the strike zone [Friday]," Billingsley said. "I was able to get quick outs in the middle of the game, which allowed me to go back out there in the eighth. I was able to make pitches when I had to."
Ted Lilly (3-8) wasn't nearly as strong for the Cubs, as the veteran lefty was rocked for seven runs (five earned) on seven hits before being lifted after just 3 2/3 innings. He's now surrendered 14 earned runs and 18 hits over his last two appearances.
"Ted wasn't sharp at all. He's gotten the ball up in his last couple of starts," Piniella said. "The key to the game was we had ample opportunities early and we didn't take advantage of it and they did."
Chicago did make a late bid to get back in it, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the eighth to pull within 9-5 and two more off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in the ninth. Marlon Byrd, the Cubs' lone representative for Tuesday's Midsummer Classic, had an RBI single in the final frame and finished 4-for-5 with three RBI in a losing cause.
The Dodgers, who had lost seven of their last nine home games prior to Thursday's triumph, will shoot for another win today behind the struggling John Ely. The rookie enters this matchup having lost five of his last six decisions after a 3-1 beginning to his big-league career and is coming off a poor performance against Florida on Monday, in which he was battered for six runs (five earned) and nine hits before being removed after only 2 2/3 innings.
The young right-hander had pitched well in his two previous outings, yielding just one run over seven innings to defeat rival San Francisco on June 29 and limiting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to two runs -- one earned -- and a mere three hits through another seven-frame stint in a hard-luck loss six days earlier.
A Chicago-area native, Ely faced the Cubs for the first time at Wrigley Field back on May 27 and was also dealt a tough defeat. The 24-year-old allowed only one run and four hits while lasting a career-high 7 1/3 innings, but didn't receive any offensive support in a 1-0 loss.
Tom Gorzelanny gets the call for Chicago today and will be making his third start since rejoining the club's rotation in place of the suspended Carlos Zambrano. The former Pittsburgh Pirate threw five shutout innings and struck out five in a no-decision against his old team on June 30, then picked up his first victory since May 19 this past Monday despite giving up three runs and walking six batters in a five-inning stint at Arizona.
Gorzelanny began the season as a starter but was removed from that role following a rough showing against the Dodgers on May 28, with the left-hander tagged for seven runs (five earned) in five innings to take the loss. In 11 overall starts in 2010, he's compiled a 3-5 record with a 3.50 ERA.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old is 1-1 with a 6.08 ERA in five career appearances versus Los Angeles, four of which were starts.
Chicago won two of three meetings with the Dodgers at Wrigley Field back in late May, but Los Angeles is 10-6 in the last 16 encounters between the teams.