LOS ANGELES (AP) — Enrique Hernandez has been around the Los Angeles Dodgers long enough to know that an extended hot streak, even from a utility player, can lead to regular playing time.
Hernandez hit another homer, Kenta Maeda pitched seven strong innings and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 on Monday night.
Chicago lost its fifth straight, to tie a season high, after getting swept over four games at Cincinnati. The Cubs have scored a combined 13 runs over their past five games.
Hernandez has six home runs, nine RBIs and a .773 slugging percentage over his last 13 games. Hernandez also went deep twice Sunday. He has a career-high 13 home runs, surpassing his 12 from 2017.
A nagging hamstring injury to Chris Taylor — he came off the bench for a pinch-homer Monday — has given Hernandez more chances to deliver of late.
“I would say that getting a little more playing time over these last two, three weeks has definitely helped me to stay sharp,” said Hernandez, who hit three home runs against the Cubs in Game 5 of last year’s NL Championship Series-clinching victory.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts gave extended runs to offensive performers like Taylor and Austin Barnes in the second half of last season. Max Muncy has earned at-bats this year with 15 home runs and 32 RBIs.
Hernandez is making a case for himself.
“(Hernandez), on this run for us, has been as valuable, if not more valuable than anybody on our club,” Roberts said.
Maeda (5-4) struck out nine and allowed three singles over seven innings. The Dodgers returned to Los Angeles to open a 10-game homestand after sweeping the New York Mets over the weekend in a three-game series.
As a team, the Dodgers have hit 48 home runs and gone 16-5 in June.
Kenley Jansen gave up deep a sacrifice fly to Javier Baez in the ninth inning before closing out the Cubs for his 20th save.
“We just have to work better at-bats,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We are chasing way too much. We have to force the pitcher into the strike zone. Once we do that we will be fine.”
Cubs starter Duane Underwood (0-1) made his major league debut, recovering from a 41-pitch first inning to give up just two hits and a run over four innings, with three walks and three strikeouts.
DREAM COME TRUE
Underwood didn’t sweat a 14-pitch duel with Matt Kemp in the first inning — he embraced it. Kemp walked to load the bases, but Underwood escaped the jam by retiring Yasmani Grandal on a fly ball to the warning track.
“That was beautiful,” Underwood said. “For me it was poetry in motion. I loved it going back and forth with the guy. … That was great, especially idolizing the guy growing up. To go one-V-one with the guy was great. Bases loaded, I loved it.”
Cubs: RHP Yu Darvish felt soreness in his troubled triceps tendon after a minor league rehabilitation start Monday. Darvish hasn’t pitched in the majors since May 20 because of right triceps tendinitis. The Japanese ace threw five sharp innings for Class A South Bend. Darvish was set to rejoin the team in Los Angeles on Tuesday to discuss his next steps. … 3B Kris Bryant (sore shoulder), who was out of the starting lineup, is not expected to go on the DL, but is not expected to play Tuesday. … RHP Brandon Morrow (lower back tightness) threw a bullpen and is expected to be activated Wednesday without needing a minor league rehab outing.
Dodgers: Taylor (sore left hamstring) was out of the starting lineup for the fourth consecutive game. … RHP Walker Buehler (right rib microfracture) will throw another bullpen this week that will increase the intensity from his 17-pitch bullpen Sunday, but his return remains undecided. … RHP Pedro Baez (right biceps tendonitis) and LHP Tony Cingrani (left shoulder strain) will throw bullpen sessions this week. … LHP Julio Urias (left shoulder surgery) will throw two bullpens this week, as his fastball is nearing 90 mph, but his return remains undecided.
LHP Jon Lester (9-2, 2.10 ERA) will try to win his sixth consecutive start and faces the Dodgers for his second consecutive outing. RHP Ross Stripling (6-2, 1.99), who saw his six-start win streak come to an end last week at Chicago, will get another chance to beat the Cubs for the first time in his career.