"You don't fill the best pitcher in baseball over the last month in Paul Maholm, and it's very difficult to fill a spot of a guy who's No. 1 in baseball in earned run average this year [in Dempster]," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's difficult to go forward [without them] as well as losing the best utility outfielder in baseball, the best pinch-hitter [in Reed Johnson]. Those things are very, very difficult to fill."
They're going to try. Samardzija (7-9) served up eight hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out three. The five runs are the most runs he's given up in his last five starts.
"It's been a whirlwind over the last few days, with all the stuff that's going on when you lose a couple team leaders, a couple veteran guys in Paulie and Demp," Samardzija said. "Not to make excuses -- you still need to come out and play every day.
"I can only speak for myself -- I've got to get that ball down in the zone and get some clutch outs when you need them to keep your team in the game," he said. "You can sit and make all the excuses you want, but those guys aren't coming back and you've got to figure out a way around it and what you can do to make it work."
It was tough for Samardzija to get key outs without his split-finger pitch working.
"The split was just up today and wasn't very consistent," Samardzija said. "When you've got to get those punchouts, the splitter is a big pitch. It made me work a little harder."
Samardzija came into the game with a 1.91 ERA over his last five starts. He says he doesn't pay attention to the numbers.
"There are times you can pitch really well and the numbers don't speak for it," he said. "I look at it as a whole and the pitches I make. I obviously don't want to walk guys, which got me in trouble earlier. I really like where I'm at. When I don't perform well, it's a really fine line on why I didn't. It's little adjustments I need to make from start to start and it's nice to have the confidence to make those adjustments."
Chad Billingsley (7-9) was stingy, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings. He has served up two runs over his last 20 1/3 innings in his last three starts.
"He had his fastball," Sveum said of the Dodgers right-hander. "That was about the best command of his fastball and cutter that I've seen him have. He's always had good stuff, but I think that was the best command I've seen him have with his hard stuff."
Said Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger: "We made a lot of outs on pitches we should've hit."
Ellis got things started when he launched a 1-2 pitch from Samardzija to left-center field with one out in the third for his ninth home run. The Cubs tied the game in the fifth as Darwin Barney was safe on an infield hit and scored on Luis Valbuena's double down the right-field line. Valbuena entered the game batting .197 overall but was hitting .310 with runners in scoring position.
"They have a good lineup," Samardzija said. "[Ellis] hit a mistake off me. I'd been attacking him with fastballs, and I probably should've stayed hard there. ... You leave the ball up out over the plate and they're going to make you pay for it."
Ramirez, who was 0-for-10 in his first three home games with the Dodgers, and James Loney hit back-to-back doubles in the fifth to go ahead, 2-1, and one out later, Loney scored on Ellis' single. The Dodgers had two on and one out in the sixth, and both scored on Ramirez's single to right over a pulled-in infield to chase Samardzija. Ellis belted his 10th home run with a leadoff blast off Manuel Corpas in the seventh.
Despite the loss, Samardzija impressed Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
"Their guy out there is pretty good," Mattingly said. "Samardzija has got a good arm and he's a tough guy to handle."
But he has to do it without his training partner, Dempster, and also without his regular catcher in Soto.
"You get used to the guys around you and get comfortable with everybody," Samardzija said. "It's definitely a little different. Take a guy like Geo out, who's been around for so long and knows the pitching staff real well. I'm not here to make excuses. That's the way the business goes. We need to find out what we can do as a team with the guys who are here to win ballgames. We're going to do that for sure. We fought all year and fought through some different things. We just need to play better baseball, that's all."