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A Season On The Brink: Cubs vs. Dodgers Preview, Tuesday 5/25, 7:05 CT

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I'm stealing the title of John Feinstein's book about Bobby Knight to describe where the Cubs are tonight as they return home to start a critical homestand.

As I have written many times, the National League this year is filled with teams that seem about equal -- going into tonight's action, apart from the three division leaders and the three bottom-feeders (Pirates, Brewers, Astros), the other 10 teams are all within six games of each other. The Cubs have beaten up on one of the bad teams (Brewers, 5-1) and gotten beat up by one of the others (Pirates, 1-5). But they are 3-2 against first place teams (Phillies, Rangers, all on the road) and overall, here's how they stand against winning and losing teams:

Against teams .500 or better: 10-12 Against teams below .500: 11-12

The .500 or better includes the two-game sweep over the Rockies, who are 22-22 but were over .500 when the Cubs played them last week.

So, this season could be on the brink of having the Cubs get back into contention -- they played good ball against two good teams last week and could do it again -- or, to start fading away. It says here that they'll rise to the occasion.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
Cubs
vs. Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw
Dodgers
2-4 W-L 4-2
3.73 ERA 3.23
58 SO 59
21 BB 31
8 HR 3
vs. LA -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Ryan Dempster 2-4 10 9 0 0 0 0 62.2 48 26 26 8 21 58 3.73 1.10


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Clayton Kershaw 4-2 9 9 0 0 0 0 53.0 40 19 19 3 31 59 3.23 1.34

Clayton Kershaw, though now in his third major league season with 60 starts in his career, has never faced the Cubs. The only current Cub who has faced him is Jeff Baker, who went 4-for-8 (1 double, 1 HR) vs. Kershaw in his days with the Rockies. With Aramis Ramirez getting some time off, Baker was probably in the lineup anyway, but this is good news. And doesn't Kershaw look like a younger version of Orel Hershiser in that photo?

Ryan Dempster has a pretty good lifetime mark vs. the Dodgers -- 6-3, 2.52, which includes 21 appearances and 11 starts. He beat them twice last year and gave them only six hits and no earned runs in 14 total innings. Current Dodgers are hitting .208 (15-for-72) against Demp with no home runs. (SHHH! We're not mentioning a certain October 2008 game here.)

Today's game is on cable in Chicago and LA, CSN Chicago and Prime. Here is the rest of the MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Dodgers site True Blue LA.

Tonight's first pitch thread will be up at 7 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 8, 9 and 9:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.