Game Forty-Eight – Cubs 7 Dodgers 0
WP – Ryan Dempster (4-3) LP – Eric Stults (4-2) Save – None
In front of the largest crowd of the year at Wrigley Field, Ryan Dempster pitched his best game of the season. Dempster tossed a three-hit, seven-inning shutout against the best offense in the National League. Dempster struck out five (four in a row in the third and fourth innings), walked one and did not allow the leadoff hitter to reach all afternoon. After the low-scoring, come from behind victory on Friday, Ryan Dempster turned in the type of performance his team needed.
Lou Piniella pulled Dempster after seven innings for precautionary reasons due to a blister he’s been fighting. Dempster will be re-evaluated on Tuesday and might have to be pushed back a couple of days but will not miss his next start.
The Cubs played one of their better games of the year. Great starting pitching, a solid outing by the bullpen but most importantly…timely hitting. The Cubs were 3-for-9 on the day with runners in scoring position and scored their first two runs with two outs.
Reed Johnson and Mike Fontenot had huge days for the offense. While Milton Bradley finished the day 3-for-4 with a run scored, it was Fontenot and Johnson that was the difference.
Reed Johnson scored the Cubs first run after leading off the second inning with a single to left. With two outs and Mike Fontenot at the plate, Johnson stole second on the first pitch of the at bat. Fontenot ripped the next pitch from Eric Stults into right center…Johnson scored easily on Fontenot’s first extra base hit of the game.
Eric Stults hit Ryan Theriot with one-out on a 1-2 pitch in the third inning. Milton Bradley singled Theriot to third and with two outs, Reed Johnson dropped a beautiful bunt up the third base line that plated Theriot with the game’s second run.
Mike Fontenot drove in his second run of the game with a triple off the wall in right center that just missed leaving the park. Bobby Scales scored and two outs later, Ryan Theriot delivered a clutch single to left.
Reed Johnson hit his third home run of the year in the seventh off of Jeff Weaver. Johnson’s blast ended up on Waveland and completed the Cubs’ scoring on the afternoon.
Mike Fontenot (2-for-3 with a double, a triple, a walk, a run scored and two RBI) and Reed Johnson (3-for-3 with a home run, a walk, two runs scored and two RBI) gave their skipper the production from the bottom half of the lineup he’s been looking for.
Ryan Dempster by far put together his best outing of the year…and the Cubs have won four of their last five games. For the Cubs to stay in the race this season they will need more outings like Saturday from Ryan Dempster. Dempster picked up where Randy Wells and Ted Lilly left off and held the explosive Dodgers’ offense to just three hits. Cubs’ pitching as a whole has limited the Dodgers to only three runs in the first three games.
Lately, and that could all change very quickly, the pitching staff has done their job for the most part…but the offense has struggled mightily. On Saturday that all changed after Reed Johnson stole second base in the second inning.
In case anyone has not noticed, the Cubs have a new leader and his name is Reed Johnson.
Mike Fontenot, who was told prior to the game he will play exclusively at third base until Aramis Ramirez returns, delivered a big two-out double that drove in Johnson with the Cubs’ first run.
Alfonso Soriano (0-for-5 with two strikeouts) continued to struggle on Saturday. After he struck out to start the third, Eric Stults hit Ryan Theriot on a 1-2 pitch. With Theriot running on the first pitch, Milton Bradley delivered a single to right. Bradley was thrown out trying to steal second but Derrek Lee worked a two-out walk.
Reed Johnson dropped a perfect bunt up the third base line on the first pitch of the at bat. Lou Piniella said following the game that he did not call for the bunt…Johnson was on his on. Piniella said Johnson saw the third baseman playing back and made the right decision. Ryan Theriot scampered home as Stults slipped trying to make a throw to first.
Bobby Scales led off the fourth with a four-pitch walk. Mike Fontenot followed with a triple to right center on a 3-1 pitch. Scales was running and scored easily. Ryan Dempster struck out and Soriano grounded out to first base.
Ryan Theriot delivered a single to left on a 2-1 pitch….Fontenot scored, 4-0 Cubs.
Milton Bradley started the scoring in the fifth with a single to right. Derrek Lee followed with a double to left and Reed Johnson walked to load the bases…with no outs.
Jeff Weaver continued to struggle with his command. He fell behind Geovany Soto before walking him with the bases loaded and forcing in Bradley with the Cubs’ fifth run. Bobby Scales grounded into a 4-6-3 double play but Derrek Lee scored the Cubs’ sixth run of the afternoon.
Ron Santo said following Reed Johnson’s blast onto Waveland in the seventh, “These little guys are hitting the ball a long way.” Johnson’s third home run of the year came six days after his first in San Diego…it also marked the eighth game in a row that the Cubs hit at least one longball.
For two days in a row, the Cubs have played the way most envisioned they would when the season began…now it’s time for them to build on the past two games.
Sean Marshall will face fellow southpaw Eric Milton on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.