LOS ANGELES -- Jake Fox made a case to stay in Chicago's lineup with the first four-hit day of his career. Cubs manager Lou Piniella has other ideas about digging out of an eight-game hole with his veterans.
Fox went 4 for 4 with a home run and two RBI, and the Cubs rallied for a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday to avert a four-game sweep.
Fox started in place of outfielder Alfonso Soriano, given his second consecutive day off because of a sore knee. Piniella would only commit to getting Fox in as much as he can.
"I said I was going to play my veteran players. They're going to have to get it done," Piniella said. "I'm going to lean as much as I can on my veteran players to see what they can do and how far we can go."
St. Louis won 5-2 at San Diego on Sunday to remain eight games ahead of second-place Chicago in the NL Central.
The Cubs avoided being swept in a four-game series in Los Angeles for the first time since 1965 while closing out their West Coast trip with a 2-5 record. They return to Wrigley Field having lost 12 of 18 overall.
"If we come out and play with the same intensity we had today, come out with that same fire, that same fuel, I think you'll like what you see down the stretch," Fox said. "This game is a good game to build off because it shows that we went through a rough patch, but we're not out of it. We're not laying down and folding."
Ryan Dempster (7-7) allowed one run and three hits in seven-plus innings, struck out five and walked one to end a two-game slide.
The right-hander credited his breakfast of "pancakes and a little bowl of whip-your-butt cereal" for his solid outing.
"When you get ahead of hitters, especially a lineup like that, they don't ever give you a break and you just got to try and pound the strike zone as much as possible. I was able to mix speeds, kind of go back and forth between hard and soft," he said. "I just threw the ball to the plate and those guys made the plays behind me."
Chad Billingsley (12-7) gave up three runs and nine hits in six innings, struck out five and walked one in losing for the first time since July 28 at St. Louis.
The hitting woes that plagued the Cubs in recent days were transplanted to the Dodgers, who managed three hits. Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez each went 0 for 4 (Ramirez struck out to end the game), Casey Blake was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and Matt Kemp went 0 for 3.
"It's a long season and that's going to happen. We're trying to hold the lead," Ramirez said. "We won three out of four against Chicago, so it's good. We've got to keep going and try to beat everyone."
The Dodgers' run came on Tony Abreu's RBI single in the second.
Abreu was called out at second on a disputed play. Second base umpire Chad Fairchild ruled that second baseman Mike Fontenot was still on the bag when he took a throw in the dirt from shortstop Ryan Theriot on Mark Loretta's grounder in the hole. Martin advanced to third on the play, but pinch-hitter Orlando Hudson grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre came out to tell Fairchild that he saw it differently.
"I asked him if he could ask for help and he said, `Not on that,"' the manager said. "I said, `Well then, you better look at it later.' He had to made a quick decision, but it just looked to me from my angle that he was off the bag."
Moments earlier, Hudson hit a popup that fell in short center field after Theriot lost it in the sun. Martin jogged home for an apparent run, but the play was nullified because third base umpire Wally Bell had called time.
"I saw the third base umpire coming in before the pitch," Piniella said. "My emotions were, boy, what a bad break and then, what a good break. They went from bad to good immediately."
The Cubs stranded runners in scoring position in three different innings before snapping a 1-all tie with two runs in the sixth.
Billingsley opened the inning by giving up three consecutive hits. Aramis Ramirez tripled and scored on Kosuke Fukudome's double down the right-field line. Fox followed with a single, giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
Chicago struck first for the first time in the series on Fox's ninth homer. He sent a 3-2 pitch from Billingsley into the left-field pavilion in the first.
- Torre said RHP Hiroki Kuroda might join the team on its road trip that begins Tuesday at Colorado. Kuroda, on the 15-day disabled list with a concussion after getting hit in the head with a line drive, has been throwing on flat ground and will throw from a mound this week.
- Torre said newly signed RHP Vicente Padilla is on schedule to join the Dodgers this week and make his first start Thursday against the Rockies.
- Cubs OF Reed Johnson, on the DL with a broken foot, probably won't return until Sept. 1, Piniella said.