Dodgers dodge Cubs

Chicago CubsKobe BryantMilwaukee BrewersMark GrudzielanekEric Karros

Eric Karros' return to Dodger Stadium on Friday night would have been big local news if the city wasn't so obsessed with the latest developments concerning Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kobe Bryant.

Karros received a warm reception in his first game back since being traded to the Cubs last winter, though it wasn't like the ovation Dusty Baker got in his return to San Francisco in April.

Karros went 0-for-3 against his former team Friday as the Cubs lost 3-1 to the Dodgers in the opener of a three-game series.

Adrian Beltre's two-run homer in the fifth inning off Cubs starter Shawn Estes provided the winning margin.

Dodgers closer Eric Gagne retired the Cubs in order in the ninth inning to set a major-league record with his 39th consecutive save to start the season.

Despite his love for all things Dodgers, Karros maintained that leaving Los Angeles was one of the best things to happen to him.

"Every player in the big leagues should have the opportunity to play one summer in Chicago," Karros said. "The experience is like nothing I could have ever imagined. I walk to the park. The fans are unbelievable. We had a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, and it was a Tuesday afternoon and it was a sellout. No giveaways, no nothing. ... You just don't see the kind of fan support elsewhere you see in Chicago."

The Dodgers' trade of Karros and Mark Grudzielanek for catcher Todd Hundley and outfielder Chad Hermansen turned out to be the biggest steal by the Cubs since they plucked Jon Lieber from Pittsburgh for Brant Brown in 1999.

Hundley played in only 12 games and hit .200 for the Dodgers before undergoing back surgery, while Hermansen was demoted to Triple A.

Karros came into Friday's game hitting .319 with 10 home runs, while Grudzielanek had been the sparkplug at the top of the lineup before breaking his hand last week.

Karros hit .235 in 2001 and .271 in '02 while battling back and shoulder injuries. The Dodgers dumped him for salary reasons and signed ex-Cub Fred McGriff, who has been on the disabled list since July 4 with knee and groin injuries.

"For me, the last two years [in Los Angeles] were the results of health issues," Karros said. "I knew that if I resolved those and if I could be 100 percent, I could play at a level I've been accustomed to. To this point, the way Dusty has handled me has contributed to the way I've played. We still have two months to go, and hopefully I can continue to play at a high level."

Karros didn't burn any bridges when he left town—unlike Grudzielanek, who feuded with Dodgers manager Jim Tracy and basically forced management to get rid of him. But Grudzielanek said Karros was probably as upset with his treatment by Dodgers management as he was.

"The things that happened with him were kept under the rug a little bit more because I'm more outspoken and speak my mind about what's going on," Grudzielanek said. "It's a situation where obviously they wanted me to move on and they didn't think I had a whole lot of game left in me, I guess. I'm sure they're questioning the situation now.

"I think Chicago fans and the organization are happy with what … we can offer this team."

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