The Cubs-Dodgers rivalry is one of the most evenly matched in baseball history, dating back to their first meeting in Brooklyn in 1890.
Heading into Tuesday night's game at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers had won 1,003 games in the 116-year-old series to 1,002 for the Cubs.
Fittingly, the long-time rivals battled into the bottom of the ninth inning, where the Dodgers won 2-1 on J.D. Drew's two-out, run-scoring single off Will Ohman.
In a game that featured an intriguing pitching duel between Carlos Zambrano and Derek Lowe, the Cubs managed to tie it at 1-1 in the seventh before the bullpens took over. Ohman entered in the ninth and retired the first two batters before walking Kenny Lofton.
Lofton stole second and came around with the winning run when Drew dumped a single down the right-field line. The Dodgers' victory snapped the Cubs five-game winning streak in Dodger Stadium.
Ohman is one of the few relievers struggling but is not worried about being sent down.
"I know that I'm not going to finish the year with a 20-something ERA," he said. "I've gotten left-handers out at this level before and I will continue to. There are times people go through rough spots, pitchers and hitters, and it stinks. You've just got to keep going about your business the same way, make the adjustments, pitch better and keep moving on."
Zambrano was under the microscope after falling apart and suffering concentration lapses in his most recent start, an 8-3 loss to Cincinnati last Thursday at Wrigley Field. He acquitted himself well in his fourth start, allowing one run on four hits in six innings before being pulled for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
"I think Z's primed and poised to run off quite a few [victories]," manager Dusty Baker said before the game. "That first one is the toughest one, and then after the first one you're like 'OK, now I can really start rolling.'"
Zambrano now won't get a chance to win that first one until April 24 against Florida at Wrigley Field. He owns a 0.93 earned-run average against the Dodgers in four career starts, but has only a 1-1 record to show for it.
When Zambrano and Lowe were locked in a scoreless duel into the fifth, the only question was who would blink first.
The Dodgers finally broke through in the fifth on a rally that began with leadoff man Rafael Furcal's one-out infield single. Lofton's groundout advanced Furcal to second, where he scored when Drew reached out and sliced an opposite-field double down the left-field line.
The Cubs blew a prime scoring opportunity in the sixth after Juan Pierre reached on first baseman James Loney's error. One out later, after Pierre stole second, Derrek Lee's smash towards third glanced off the glove of ex-Cub Bill Mueller, putting runners on the corners with one out.
But Lowe struck out Aramis Ramirez and induced Michael Barrett to hit into an inning-ending force, preserving the one-run lead, albeit briefly.
The Cubs ended Lowe's streak in the seventh when Jacque Jones led off with a single and pinch-runner Freddie Bynum scooted to third on Matt Murton's hit. Neifi Perez beat out a potential double play grounder, scoring Bynum with the tying run.
With the major-league's stingiest bullpenposting a 3.03 ERA through the first 12 gamesZambrano's departure wasn't a recipe for disaster, as it might have been last year.
Scott Eyre pitched a perfect seventh to keep his scoreless string intact in '06, and Bob Howry bailed himself out of a jam in the eighth, stranding a pair of runners when he got Olmedo Sanez to pop out and he fanned Dioner Navarro.
But the Dodgers finally broke through off Ohman in the ninth, setting up a rubber game matchup Wednesday between rookie left-hander Sean Marshall and Brad Penney.
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