Game Ninety-Eight – Cubs 9 Astros 0
WP – Ryan Dempster (11-4) LP – Brandon Backe (6-10) Save – None
It took more than half the season for Ryan Dempster to record his first victory on the road….and it could not have come at a better time for his team. Dempster tossed a gem on Sunday, became the Cubs first 11-game winner of the season, ended his team’s 3-game losing streak and started his second half the same way his season began….with a big win against a division rival. Dempster threw 8 shutout innings and if not for the Cubs’ offense plating 5 runs in the top of the 9th would have taken the mound in search of his second complete game of the season. Dempster allowed 6 hits, struck out 7 and issued only 1 free pass on 104 pitches, 73 for strikes. Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect 9th retiring Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada and Geoff Blum on just 8 pitches. Dempster and Marmol combined for the Cubs first shutout since May 15th and the team’s fourth of the season.
The Cubs offense woke up and scored as many runs in the 1st inning on Sunday as they had in the first two games of the series. After back-to-back doubles by Kosuke Fukudome and Derrek Lee gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead, Jim Edmonds added to the lead with a 2-out single to center. Derrek Lee added a 2 RBI single in the 9th and Kosuke Fukudome hit his second double in the 9th….it was Fukudome’s first multi hit game since July 9th.
Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot drove in 5 of the Cubs’ 9 runs and were a combined 6-for-9 with 4 runs scored and 5 RBI’s. Little Fontenot gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the 5th with his 8th home run of the season and added a 2-run double in 9th. Ryan Theriot extended his hitting streak to 13 games with his 39th multi hit game of the season. Theriot drove in Fontenot with the Cubs’ 4th run in the 7th.
With the win the Cubs improved to 18 games over .500 on the season and moved to within 7 games of .500 on the road at 21-28. The day truly belonged to Ryan Dempster. After a solid performance from Ted Lilly on Friday night and a less than stellar outing from Carlos Zambrano on Saturday, the Cubs needed the game they received from Ryan Dempster. While the offense gave him a little breathing room, and most importantly kept tacking on, the outing by Dempster quieted a team looking to sweep the first place Cubs at the Juice Box.
Ryan Dempster scattered 2 hits through the first 4 innings and pitched his way in and out of trouble in the 5th….after a questionable call. Miguel Tejada led off the inning with a single to left center. Geoff Blum followed with a single to right and Hunter Pence reached on an infield single after Blum beat Ryan Theriot’s throw to 2nd base. Dempster struck out J.R. Towles with the bases loaded and no outs on 3 pitches. Brandon Backe worked the count to 3-2 after a check swing went the Astros’ way. Dempster then struck out Backe on a call that infuriated the Astros’ pitcher. With 2 outs, Kaz Matsui fouled out to Aramis Ramirez to end the inning.
With the Cubs up 4-0 in the 8th, Dempster sat the Astros down in order that included his last two strikeouts of the game….Dempster retired 9 of the last 11 batters he faced.
Kosuke Fukudome jump started the struggling offense with a double to left in the 1st inning. Derrek Lee followed with a double to right center that just missed leaving the park. Aramis Ramirez (0-for-13 in the series) flied out to center but Jim Edmonds came through with another clutch hit. Edmonds singled to center and Lee scored a big 2 out run.
Brandon Backe retired the next 11 batters he faced before Mike Fontenot stepped to the plate in the 5th. Backe threw two quick strikes to Little Babe Ruth but the third ended up in the stands in right. Fontenot gave Dempster more breathing room and seemed to loosen up the rest of the team.
Mike Fontenot reached on an infield single up the middle with 1 out in the 7th. Dempster sacrificed him to 2nd (Dempster’s 12th sacrifice bunt of the season) and Ryan Theriot drove him home with a single to left.
Chris Sampson retired the Cubs in order in the 8th, but they came out swinging in the 9th. Mark DeRosa doubled to left on a 2-1 pitch and Geovany Soto reached on an error by Geoff Blum. With runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs, Mike Fontenot cleared the bases with a double to left center. Ryan Dempster grounded out to 3rd for the first out, but Fontenot advanced to 3rd on the play. Cecil Cooper brought in his infield and Ryan Theriot blooped a single into right….Fontenot scored, 7-0 Cubs.
Kosuke Fukudome followed with his second double of the game and with runners on 2nd and 3rd and the infield in, Derrek Lee singled to right center. Theriot and Fukudome scored….9-0 Cubs.
The Cubs showed on Sunday they could plate a lot of runs on the road, now they must work on their consistency away from Wrigley….and finally, where would this team be without Ryan Dempster this season?
Lou Piniella’s crew opens a big 3-game series in Phoenix on Monday night. Rich Harden against Randy Johnson….
A quick site note….for feed purposes, the CCO will have the final score in the title of each game recap from this point forward. Was supposed to start adding the final score after the break, but was waiting for a win.