Game Forty-Six: Cubs (21-24) vs. Dodgers (25-19)
Game Time – 7:05pm CDT
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 186
Location – Wrigley Field, Chicago
Ryan Dempster (2-4, 3.73/1.10) vs. Clayton Kershaw (4-2, 3.23/1.34)
Can the Chicago Cubs win three games in a row? The Cubs return to the field tonight after a much-needed day off Monday. Lou Piniella’s crew put together a good trip to Philadelphia and Texas and has won six of their last eight games. The Cubs enter play tonight three games under .500, five back of the division leading St. Louis Cardinals … third place in the Central Division.
This is a big homestand for the Cubs. After a less-than-stellar start to the season, they have played better ball of late. But tonight they begin a six-game homestand against two of the best teams in the Senior Circuit. If the Cubs want to get back in the race, they must take advantage of playing at Wrigley and win at least four of the next six … and it will not be easy.
Not only are the Dodgers and Cardinals coming to town, the inconsistent offense faces the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. The pitching staff will have to keep the Dodgers (and Cardinals) off the board, while the offense tries to capitalize on every possible opportunity.
Tom Gorzelanny’s scheduled start for tonight has been pushed back until at least Wednesday. Gorzelanny was not with the team in Texas. He went back to Chicago for the birth of his first child and reportedly threw a bullpen session Saturday. Larry Rothschild would like to evaluate Gorzelanny’s left hand before announcing when he will return to the mound.
Carlos Ruiz hit a rocket off of Gorzelanny’s left hand last Wednesday in Philadelphia. X-rays on the ring finger of his left hand came back negative. Gorzelanny said he could not continue and Piniella indicated there was swelling and blood under the nail.
As of this writing, Gorzelanny is penciled in for Wednesday night with Ted Lilly slated for Thursday afternoon. The Dodgers hit .243 against southpaws and .287 versus lefties. If Gorzelanny can pitch effectively, on paper it benefits the Cubs to have their two lefties face the hottest team in the baseball (Dodgers are 8-2 in their last 10, 16-5 in May)
Aramis Ramirez expected to be out of the lineup for the next few games. X-rays taken on Sunday came back negative but Lou said Ramirez would “be sitting for the next few days.” Ramirez has a bone bruise and will not require a trip to the DL.
Jeff Baker should be at third tonight with the lefty Kershaw on the mound … and Mike Fontenot figures to play third on Tuesday (Chad Billingsley) and Wednesday (John Ely). And why did the Cubs sign Chad Tracy in the off-season?
Expect Starlin Castro hitting in the two-hole once again tonight. The Cubs are 6-0 when Castro hits in the second spot of Lou Piniella’s lineup. Piniella is toying with leaving Castro hitting second and moving Kosuke Fukudome down against right-handed starters. With Ramirez struggling and out of the lineup, Fukudome could hit fifth behind Marlon Byrd or Derrek Lee … and in front of Alfonso Soriano.
In other news … Carlos Zambrano threw a simulated game (73 pitches) Monday. Prior to Sunday’s game Piniella said Zambrano would be available out of the pen Wednesday and Thursday against the Dodgers. According to several reports, the Cubs are targeting Zambrano’s return to the rotation for sometime during the Pirates series in Pittsburgh (May 31 – June 2).
Reed Johnson should receive a warm welcome tonight from the Wrigley Faithful.
The Cubs have not been the same since being swept by the Dodgers in the 2008 post-season. From poor play to bad decisions by the front office, the Cubs have seemed indifferent for the past 207 games. Could this be the series Lou Piniella’s crew gets their swagger back?
Tonight it all starts with Ryan Dempster … and just winning a ballgame.
Ryan Dempster has not posted a win since April 23. While he has pitched good enough, in most cases, to have a couple of victories under his belt since he beat the Brewers, the Cubs have lost his last five starts … and are just 2-7 in his nine starts this season.
Dempster has been victimized by the longball in his last five outings … especially late in his starts. After allowing one home run in his first four starts, Dempster has served up seven dingers in his last five games. Dempster must keep the ball in the yard tonight in order for the Cubs to have a chance to win.
Dempster is coming off a no-decision against the Phillies. He gave up four runs on five hits in six innings with two walks and three strikeouts. All four of the runs came off home runs by Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins (a three-run shot). Dempster has struggled with his command of late and has not found a groove on the mound in quite some time.
In his last four starts, Dempster is 0-3 with a 5.00 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP with 11 walks and 26 strikeouts in 27 innings. The key to Dempster winning games is a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio … and that just hasn’t been there of late.
Tonight will be Dempster’s 12th career start against the Dodgers. He is 6-3 (six saves, two blown) in 21 career games, 11 starts, with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP … last year, Dempster posted a 2-0 record in two starts with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.57 WHIP (one run, none earned, on six hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts in 14 innings).
Dodgers’ Career Numbers against Ryan Dempster
- Garrett Anderson – 2-for-3 with a double
- Ronnie Belliard – 5-for-21 with a double and 5 walks
- Casey Blake – 0-for-3
- Jamey Carroll – 0-for-3
- Blake DeWitt – 1-for-5 with a double
- Nick Green – 0-for-1
- Reed Johnson – 0-for-3
- Matt Kemp – 2-for-10 with a double and a walk
- James Loney – 1-for-7
- Russell Martin – 3-for-12 with a double and 3 walks
- Manny Ramirez – 1-for-4 with a double
The Cubs will face one of, if not the best, young lefties in the game. Clayton Kershaw has won his last three games and allowed a total of two earned runs in 22 1/3 innings. After a horrible outing against the Brewers on May 4 (seven runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings), Kershaw has been lights out … and just about perfect.
Since May 9, Clayton Kershaw has given up two earned runs on 12 hits with seven walks and 23 strikeouts (0.79 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP).
Tonight will be his first start against a team other than the Padres since he faced Colorado on May 9.
Kershaw is 1-0 in three road starts this season with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. Tonight will be his first appearance at Wrigley Field … and the first game of his career against the Cubs.
Jeff Baker is the only Cub (active or inactive) that has faced Kershaw in his career. Baker is 4-for-8 with a double, a home run and a walk.
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …