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Apr 4, 2024 2:03 pm

Hot offenses collide in Chicago as Dodgers visit Cubs

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The Los Angeles Dodgers, as expected, have opened the 2024 season strong behind a star-studded lineup that features three former MVPs.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs have slugged their way to a solid opening stretch after losing their first two games.

Both teams will go for their fifth straight win when the Cubs host the Dodgers on Friday to begin a three-game series.

Los Angeles has socked a major league-leading 14 home runs amid its 7-2 start, and the team’s most recent blast carried some extra weight.

After going without a homer in his first eight games as a Dodger, Shohei Ohtani walloped a 430-foot solo shot in the seventh inning of Los Angeles’ 5-4 win over the visiting San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.

Ohtani’s long ball, accompanied by the roar of the sold-out Dodger Stadium crowd, eased some of the pressure the two-time American League MVP has faced since joining Los Angeles in December on a 10-year, $700 million deal.

The slugger’s tenure with his new club began with controversy after his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara was fired on March 20 amid a betting scandal. Ohtani’s issues carried over to the field, where he had struck out nine times over 36 at-bats before belting his first home run in a Dodgers uniform.

“Honestly, very relieved that I was able to hit my first homer,” Ohtani said through interpreter Will Ireton. “It’s been a while, and honestly my swing hasn’t been great.”

Chicago right-hander Kyle Hendricks (0-1, 12.27 ERA) will face an offense that has sizzled despite Ohtani’s early struggles.

Former MVPs Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman both carry an OPS above 1.000. Betts’ five home runs led MLB entering Thursday, while new acquisition Teoscar Hernandez has added four homers.

Los Angeles has scored at least five runs in every game so far this season.

“You’re never going to have everyone lined up or synced up all at once,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But even right now with some guys that are kind of scuffling and trying to find their way with their swing, we’re still putting up five runs a game. … It’s big just for the morale.”

The Cubs’ hitting also has flourished throughout the team’s current four-game winning streak, which began with a 9-5 victory over the Texas Rangers on Sunday in Arlington.

Chicago’s bats remained hot throughout a chilly series with the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs plated 26 runs throughout their three-game sweep. Seiya Suzuki homered for Chicago in each of the series’ final two games, which the Cubs won 12-2 and 9-8, respectively.

Suzuki has driven in a club-high eight runs and is tied with Ian Happ and Christopher Morel for the team lead with nine hits.

“(Suzuki’s) getting into a spot where hopefully we can get some men on base in front of him and drive in some runs,” Chicago manager Craig Counsell said.

Counsell likely would appreciate a longer outing from Hendricks, who lasted 3 2/3 innings and allowed five runs in his first start of the season last Saturday.

Hendricks is 3-3 with a 5.03 ERA in six career regular-season starts against Los Angeles.

Dodgers right-hander Bobby Miller (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who turns 25 on Friday, will face the Cubs for the first time in his career. Miller piled up 11 strikeouts across six scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in his season debut last Friday.

–Field Level Media

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