• Hero: The left-handed-hitting Ethier, whose homer to the opposite field in a pinch-hit role left Lou Piniella shaking his head at his relief corps yet again.
• Unsung hero: It's Jason Marquis -- if you look ahead to the stretch. He put in another solid start that the Cubs hope will continue. Marquis retired his first 14 batters and allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings.
• Figure this: Ten of Alfonso Soriano's 22 homers this season have put the Cubs ahead. Entering Thursday, Chicago was 13-4 in games in which Soriano hit a home run.
• Hunt for October: The Dodgers are 3½ out in the West and just 2½ games behind the Padres in the wild card.
• Quotable: "Every game is important for us now. We have no time to waste to get the job done." -- Dodgers manager Grady Little
-- ESPN.com news services
Dodgers 7, Cubs 4
Ethier connected on a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the ninth off closer Ryan Dempster, and the Dodgers used a four-run rally to beat the Cubs 7-4.
"Take, for instance, the bleachers out there. Everyone out there is having a good time enjoying the party, and then all of a sudden something like that happens," Ethier said.
"The stadium is still filled, but it's like everybody left. It really changes the complexion, the way the game is going and the way it had been up to that point. It takes life not only out of the crowd, but also their team."
Alfonso Soriano hit two homers for the Cubs, including a three-run drive in the seventh that put Chicago ahead 4-2. But it wasn't enough to avoid a deflating defeat that dropped the Cubs into a first-place tie with idle Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Dodgers took three of four in the series and closed within 3 1/2 games of NL West-leading Arizona.
Matt Kemp's homer off reliever Bobby Howry closed the gap to 4-3 in the eighth, and the Dodgers took the lead in the ninth against Dempster (2-5), who blew a save for the third time in 28 chances.
"These are big games. That was a tough loss," said Dempster, who was booed when he was removed from the game. "We battled back and got the lead, they hit a couple of balls in the right spot and then I gave up the homer. As tough as it comes, right there."
Dempster, who had converted 13 straight save chances, was tagged for four runs and five hits in two-thirds of an inning.
"I didn't put guys away, and that's what you are supposed to do in that situation. For whatever reason, I left some pitches up and they hit them," he said. "They hit good pitches but mostly mistakes and I made too many of them."
Russell Martin singled past first to start the rally, and James Loney followed with another single off Derrek Lee's glove at first. Ethier followed with a drive over the wall in left-center for a 6-4 lead, and the Dodgers added a run on Michael Wuertz's wild pitch that allowed Rafael Furcal to come home.
Ethier was running hard, figuring he had a double off the wall. The ball kept carrying and cleared it for his 11th homer of the season.
"I looked up at the umpire, and he is signaling home run," Ethier said. "I had my head down running trying to get to second base. Luckily the wind was blowing out there and helped it out a little bit more."
Dodgers manager Grady Little said the wind picked up in the later innings and was a factor. But he wasn't complaining. At the first pitch, it was blowing out at 12 mph.
"That flag kind of turned around in that seventh and eighth inning pretty good, and any ball had a chance. And that one made it," Little said. "Every game is important for us now. We have no time to waste to get the job done."
Cubs starter Jason Marquis retired his first 14 batters and allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings on a muggy day. Dodgers starter Derek Lowe gave up three runs, five hits and five walks in six innings.
Soriano hit his seventh leadoff homer this season and 39th of his career but Lowe escaped a big inning, thanks to a nice throw from catcher Russell Martin, who sat out Wednesday's game with a sprained knee.
One out after Soriano's homer, Derrek Lee singled and Daryle Ward walked. Martin fired to first to pick off Ward for the second out of the inning, and another walk to Mark DeRosa followed before Lowe struck out Jacque Jones. The Cubs also had first and third with two outs in the fourth before Marquis bounced out.
Loney homered to tied the score in the fifth and doubled for a 2-1 lead in the seventh. Soriano hit a three-run homer in the bottom half off Jonathan Broxton, who had given up only one homer in 71 2/3 innings this season.
Soriano leads the Cubs with 22 homers.
"I felt very comfortable at the plate," Soriano said. "I felt good about how I swung the bat, but we lost the game."
Martin, who hurt his knee trying to score on a fly ball Tuesday night, underwent an MRI exam on Wednesday. He tested the knee in the outfield and bullpen before the game Thursday and was given the go-ahead ... The Cubs finished their homestand at 5-5. ... Soriano now has 18 career multihomer games, including three this season. ... It was Ethier's second career pinch-homer. He also hit one against the Cubs on May 27 to tie the game in the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium.