Game Seventy-One: Cubs (45-25) vs. Rays (40-29)
Game Time – 6:10pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 179
Location – Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg
Ryan Dempster (8-2, 2.81/1.06) vs. Scott Kazmir (6-2, 1.74/0.97)
Updated – 5:25pm C.T. – Matt Murton Recalled – Eric Patterson Optioned
After spending a day in the rain at the Hall of Fame, the Cubs will get a first hand look at the most exciting young team in baseball. Lou Piniella returns to the place he used to call home while the Cubs will play their first series at Tropicana Field….and try to be the first team to beat Scott Kazmir at home this season.
Piniella mentioned on Sunday with Scott Kazmir starting the opening game of the series that Geovany Soto would be the team’s DH and Henry Blanco would be the receiver for Ryan Dempster. Piniella stated Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez or Kosuke Fukudome would be used as the designated hitter in the last two games of the series.
The surprising Rays (remember there is no longer a devil in Tampa) are one of the best teams in the American League. Joe Maddon has a well-rounded squad that combines solid defense with a very good offense to go along with excellent starting pitching. The Cubs will face one of the best young southpaws in all of baseball in Scott Kazmir tonight. The Rays are winning, not only at home, but on the road. They have posted a winning series in 11 of the last 15 they’ve played and 8 in a row at Tropicana Field.
Dempster is coming off a complete game win against the Braves. He allowed only 2 runs on 4 hits in 9 innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks….the first time all season Dempster had not given up a free pass.
The Cubs offense needs another strong outing from Dempster in order to give them time to figure out Scott Kazmir.
Dempster is 3-4 in 7 starts against the Rays with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP….at Tropicana, 2-3 in 5 starts with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. The last time he faced Tampa, they were still the Devil Rays and Lou Piniella was their skipper back in 2003.
- Carl Crawford – 1-for-3
- Cliff Floyd – 0-for-4
- Gabe Gross – 0-for-3
The Cubs will get their first look tonight at Scott Kazmir. After missing the first month of the season on the DL with a left elbow strain, Kazmir has been just about unhittable….especially at home. Kazmir is coming off only his second loss of the year. He gave up 3 runs on 6 hits in 6 2/3 innings to the Angels in Anaheim. In 8 outings this season, Kazmir has failed to record a quality start just once….his first appearance off the DL on May 4th against the Red Sox.
Kazmir is an amazing 4-0 in 4 starts at home this season with a 0.35 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. Kazmir has allowed only 1 run on 12 hits in 26 innings.
Tonight will be his first career start against the Cubs and his first outing against his former manager.
Only two active Cubs have faced Kazmir in their career….
- Mark DeRosa – 0-for-3
- Reed Johnson – 8-for-31 with 2 doubles, a triple, a home run and 10 strikeouts
Update – According to several reports out of Chicago, the Cubs have officially recalled Matt Murton from Triple-A Iowa and optioned Eric Patterson back to Iowa to make room on the active roster. Matt Murton is in the starting lineup for Lou Piniella tonight against the Rays.
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….