CHICAGO -- The baseball gods can be cruel, the schedule-maker even crueler.
The Dodgers played a three-hour game against the Yankees at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. After the contest, the Yankees went to San Diego, where they won't play until Friday night.
With the exception of Thursday starter Ricky Nolasco, who traveled ahead of the team, the Dodgers flew through two time zones overnight, arrived at their Chicago hotel at 7:30 a.m. CT, and had to be at Wrigley Field by 3:30 p.m. for a 7:05 game against the Cubs, who played at home on Wednesday night.
That's why manager Don Mattingly didn't start Andre Ethier or A.J. Ellis in the series opener against Cubs left-hander Chris Rusin. Scott Van Slyke started in right field, Yasiel Puig in center and Tim Federowicz behind the plate.
"It's just the way travel is with TV. That's the game today," said Mattingly. "No reason to complain about it. The guys are pretty good about it. It's up to myself to make sure we keep guys rested and not totally crush guys."
Speaking of crushing, full-speed Puig was warned about the brick wall that lurks under the Wrigley Field ivy. Even Dodgers owner and chairman Mark Walter, a former Cubs season-ticket holder, pulled his phenom aside with a word of caution.
"We told him that wall is undefeated," said Mattingly.
Mattingly on Kersh: 'It's hard to say anybody's better'
CHICAGO -- During Don Mattingly's 14-year career, Roger Clemens, Bret Saberhagen and Randy Johnson were among the American League Cy Young Award winners.
But Mattingly said he can't recall a pitcher from his era like Clayton Kershaw, who threw an eight-inning gem against the Yankees on Wednesday night.
"It's hard to compare anybody that was as good as Kersh," the Dodgers manager said Thursday. "Kersh, at this point, is just different. The guys I've seen, it's hard to say anybody's better than that guy."
Kershaw outdid himself in July with a 1.34 ERA, a 0.596 WHIP and a 21.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Since 1916, no pitcher with at least six starts has done better in a month. He struck out 43 and walked only two.
Mattingly said Kershaw's arsenal of pitches coupled with his attacking mentality leaves opponents with hard choices.
"Try to ambush him early [in the count], but that's dangerous, because if you don't get on base, his pitch count is down, and he goes deep into the game," said Mattingly. "That's why I like [the Mets'] Matt Harvey, a power pitcher that throws strikes and can pitch deep in a game. For me, that's a true ace, who gives the bullpen a day off."
Kershaw leads the Major Leagues with a 1.87 ERA and a .185 opponents' batting average. He's second in the National League with 161 strikeouts and 168 1/3 innings pitched. He's tied for second place in the league in both shutouts (2) and complete games (3).
Here's how Mattingly, the former batting champ, would approach an at-bat against Kershaw: "I'd try to give and take," he said. "I'd choose one side [of the plate] and leave the other alone. I'd limit what I've got to cover."
Former Cub Marmol content to be on winning team
CHICAGO -- Carlos Marmol hasn't established anything with the Dodgers yet. He hasn't even pitched in the last five games.
But upon his return to Wrigley Field for the first time since the Cubs traded him on July 2, Marmol said he was looking forward, not back.
"That's over with. That's it," he said. "I'm a Dodger now. I'm happy to be a Dodger."
A former All-Star closer who lost that job when his mechanics went awry, Marmol has appeared only twice for the Dodgers, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks in just 2 2/3 innings. Had he performed better, maybe the Dodgers wouldn't have signed free agent Brian Wilson this week, another former All-Star closer who could take innings away from Marmol.
Surrounded by Chicago writers at his locker in the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field, Marmol sounded happy with his new job.
"It feels great to be on this side [of the ballpark]," he said. "At some point, you've got to make a move that's better for the team. I don't mind. Tell Theo [Epstein, Cubs president] he made a good move. I'm a Dodger, in first place. How about first place, huh?"
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.