Game Ninety-Eight: Cubs (57-40) vs. Astros (46-51)
Game Time – 1:05pm C.T.
Coverage – TV: WGN – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 188
Location – Minute Maid Park, Houston
Ryan Dempster (10-4, 3.25/1.18) vs. Brandon Backe (6-9, 4.76/1.56)
Lou Piniella’s crew will try to salvage the last game of the series and attempt to avoid their second 4-game losing streak of the season today behind Ryan Dempster. While some will point to this as a big game for the Cubs, with 65 games left, the most important thing for the Cubs today is getting back to what led them to the best record in the National League thru the first 95 games of the year. The Cubs must relax at the plate and make Brandon Backe work. Swinging early and often has lost them three games in a row, it is time to revert back to the patience they displayed for a majority of the first half. The last time Ryan Dempster pitched in a game, it was the 9th inning of the 79th Midsummer Classic at Yankee Stadium. Dempster struck out the side….Ian Kinsler and Dioner Navarro swinging and J.D. Drew looking….in a game he did not figure to participate in after starting the last game before the break a week ago.
Dempster lost for the first time at Wrigley in his last start and maybe that loss will lead to his first road victory of the season. Dempster allowed 4 runs on 7 hits in 6 2/3 innings with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks. Dempster has been running up his pitch count again with free passes, and he must throw strikes this afternoon in order to pickup his first road win. In his last 3 starts (19 2/3 innings) he has walked 9 and struck out 18.
After coming back down to earth a little in June (2-1 with a complete game in 5 starts, a 4.55 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP while opponents hit .276 against him), Dempster put together three solid starts to end the first half (1-1 in 3 starts with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, opponents hit just .200 against him).
Dempster lost his only start against the Astros on May 20th. Dempster had one bad inning and served up a grand slam to Hunter Pence….the difference in the game as the Cubs lost to Chris Sampson, 4-2.
Dempster is 3-8 with 16 saves in 38 career games, 12 starts, versus the Astros with a 4.94 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP….on the road this year, the Cubs former closer is 0-3 in 8 starts with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP while opponents have batted .225.
- Brad Ausmus – 6-for-25 with 3 doubles
- Lance Berkman – 11-for-36 with 4 home runs and 11 walks
- Geoff Blum – 10-for-33 with a double
- Michael Bourn – 0-for-3
- Carlos Lee – 3-for-12 with 2 doubles and a home run
- Mark Loretta – 4-for-14 with a double and a home run
- Kaz Matsui – 1-for-4
- Hunter Pence – 2-for-6 with a home run
- Miguel Tejada – 1-for-3 with a double
Brandon Backe is coming off a dominating win against the Nationals on July 13th. Backe tossed 7 innings of shutout ball and gave up just 5 hits, walked 4 and struck out 5. He pitched 3 scoreless innings against the Pirates on July 8th and allowed only 3 hits but did not come back out after close to a 3-hour rain delay. Counting his short start, Backe has not allowed an earned run in his last 10 2/3 innings of work.
Backe will be making his second start of the season against the Cubs. He received a no decision back on April 6th in Chicago. The Cubs and Carlos Zambrano won 3-2 on a Derrek Lee home run in the 7th inning. Backe allowed 2 runs on 6 hits in 6 innings with 3 walks and 7 strikeouts.
Backe is 2-1 in 6 career starts, 7 games, against the Cubs with a 4.63 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP.
- Henry Blanco – 1-for-3
- Mark DeRosa – 2-for-6 with a home run
- Jim Edmonds – 2-for-11 with 4 walks
- Kosuke Fukudome – 0-for-2 with a walk
- Reed Johnson – 1-for-5 with a home run
- Derrek Lee – 3-for-15 with a double
- Aramis Ramirez – 7-for-16 with a home run
- Ryan Theriot – 0-for-4
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball….