Game Sixty-Six – Cubs 7 Braves 2
WP – Ryan Dempster (8-2) LP – Jeff Bennett (0-4) Save – None
What will be lost in the Cubs’ 10th straight win at Wrigley on Wednesday night is the performance of Ryan Dempster. Dempster turned in the best outing of the year for a Cubs’ starter and in the process notched the team’s first complete game of the season. Dempster allowed only 2 runs on 4 hits in 9 complete innings. He struck out 11 and did not walk a batter on 119 pitches, 77 for strikes and he recorded his first complete game since 2002. The only mistake Dempster made came in the 7th inning. Corky Miller hit a 2-run home run into the bleachers in left that broke up the shutout.
The Cubs offense scored all 7 of their runs off of 3 big hits….and a 2-out walk by Derrek Lee. Kosuke Fukudome hit his 5th home run of the season, a 3-run shot to right, in the 1st inning following the free pass to Lee and a single by Aramis Ramirez. Ryan Theriot doubled in a pair in the 3rd following Alfonso Soriano’s departure and Jim Edmonds singled home two in the 3rd.
However the big blow to Lou Piniella’s crew came in the 2nd inning when Jeff Bennett hit Alfonso Soriano on the left hand on a pitch up and in. The ball hit Soriano on the back of the hand and ricocheted toward his face. Soriano sat on the ground for a while, eventually walked to 1st but replaced soon after by Mike Fontenot. Soriano was taken to the hospital for X-Rays and the announcement was made during the game that Soriano has “a minimally displaced fracture of the left metacarpal, located just under the fourth finger on his left hand.” Soriano will reportedly be out at least 6 weeks.
With the win, the Cubs improved to a season high 18 games over .500 and for the first time since 2000 they won a regular season series against the Atlanta Braves…. Ryan Dempster pitched an excellent game on Wednesday night….and the difference was the shutdown innings. After Fukudome’s blast in the bottom of the 1st, Dempster retired the Braves in order in the 2nd on just 11 pitches. After Theriot’s double in the 2nd, Dempster gave up a 2-out single to Yunel Escobar but retired the Braves on just 16 pitches. In the 4th after Jim Edmonds gave him a 7-0 lead, Dempster allowed only one batter, Brian McCann, to reach….and shutdown the heart of the Braves’ order on only 11 pitches.
Dempster’s ability to get his defense off the field and his offense back at the plate was the difference while the game was still in question.
Dempster retired 20 of the first 23 batters he faced and at one point 9 in a row. Dempster gave up a 2-out single to Jeff Francoeur in the 7th and Corky Miller followed with the 2-run shot to left.
Dempster completed his gem with his 11th strikeout of the game….
The Cubs offense picked up where it left off on Tuesday and several players will have to step up in the absence of Alfonso Soriano. Jeff Bennett retired the first two batters he faced to start the game but Derrek Lee worked a 2-out walking after falling behind in the count 0-2. Aramis Ramirez followed with a single to left and Kosuke Fukudome deposited a 1-2 pitch from Bennett into the bleachers in right….Fukudome’s 5th of the year gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead and proved to be the game winner.
Mark DeRosa singled to right center with 1-out in the 2nd inning. Dempster sacrificed him to 2nd then Jeff Bennett hit Alfonso Soriano. The pitch was high and tight and Soriano could not get out of the way. Mike Fontenot replaced Soriano at 1st. Both DeRosa and Fontenot scored on a double to left center by Ryan Theriot….the Cubs’ first 5 runs were scored with 2 outs.
Aramis Ramirez reached on an error by Kelly Johnson to start the 3rd inning. Kosuke Fukudome walked after starting his at bat with a 0-2 count. Geovany Soto singled to center to load the bases. Jim Edmonds followed with a single to center that plated Ramirez and a sliding Fukudome.
10 of the first 16 batters reached against Jeff Bennett and Bobby Cox replaced him with Phil Stockman with no outs in the 3rd inning.
The Braves bullpen kept the Cubs from adding to the lead.
Ryan Dempster did his job and not only will the offense have to step it up with Soriano on the DL, so will the starting pitching. Not every game can be like Wednesday, but Lou will need deeper outings from his starters over the next sveral weeks while a big part of the offense recovers from a broken hand.
Wednesday was a great win, but as Piniella said following the game….it was a costly one.
Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face Tim Hudson in the series finale on Thursday afternoon.
On a side note….this recap is the CCO’s 2000th article. A big thank you goes out to all of the readers and posters that makes this site what it is….and to Brian, Shaun, Jason, Tom, Jim, Raul and Jim, thanks for all you guys have done to contribute over the years.