The Dodgers are rolling, and the Cubs know it.
Los Angeles is 11-2 in the second half after winning the opener of a four-game series against Chicago, 6-4, on Thursday. The Dodgers are 28-7 since June 22, the best record in the Major Leagues during that span.
"It's obviously the best team in baseball right now, so we've got to play our best to beat them," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum.
The Dodgers were 12 games under .500 before they started their blistering run toward the end of June, and will look to move 10 games over .500 on Friday afternoon when Hyun-Jin Ryu takes the mound at Wrigley Field.
Ryu has been sensational during his first season in the Majors, going 9-3 with a 3.14 ERA. The 26-year-old South Korean has given the Dodgers 15 quality starts in 20 outings.
The Dodgers knew they would have a strong rotation with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top, so Ryu has been an added bonus. The left-hander is a workhorse, going at least six innings in all but three of his starts.
"I don't think we really knew what to expect," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "I'll have to say, he's been better than expected, really."
While not on the same pace as the Dodgers, the Cubs were 14-13 in July to complete their first winning month since last July. They started August in the loss column, but will look to bounce back Friday behind All-Star starter Travis Wood.
Wood is 7-7 with a 2.79 ERA in 21 starts. The right-hander beat the Giants his last time out, allowing only an unearned run on four hits with seven strikeouts over seven innings.
Similar to Ryu, Wood typically turns in a quality start and has done so 18 times this season. Still, Wood is 2-4 over his past 10 outings despite eight quality starts.
Dodgers: Ellis swinging hot bat
Like many of his teammates, Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis is finally healthy and having a strong start to the second half.
Ellis doubled in his first at-bat on Thursday to extend his hit streak to 12 games. He's hitting .409 (18-for-44) with eight RBIs during the streak, which began when the Dodgers returned from the All-Star break on July 19.
On Tuesday, Ellis had a walkoff single to beat the Yankees. He missed time in May because of a strained quadriceps and struggled when he came off the disabled list, but Ellis is no longer limited by the injury.
"I feel great now that my legs are under me," he said. "I feel very confident at the plate, and I feel like I can be myself a little more now."
Cubs: Castro rejuvenated
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has been solid over his past 33 games following a rare day off on June 25, which ended his streak of 269 consecutive games played.
Castro is hitting .283 (40-for-141) and has committed just one error since June 26. Prior to this stretch, Castro hit .140 (6-for-43) and committed five errors in 10 games from June 14-23.
• Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo belted a pair of solo shots on Thursday and is hitting .450 (9-for-20) with two doubles and four homers over his past six games.
• Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena is in a 3-for-34 (.088) skid over his past 10 games.
• The Dodgers have not lost a series since dropping two of three to the Pirates June 14-16 in Pittsburgh.
• The Cubs have 12 wins against the NL West this season, matching their total from last year.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.