Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Rockies – 04/17/11

Game Fifteen: Cubs (7-7) vs. Rockies (11-3)
Game Time – 2:10pm CDT
Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 187
Location – Coors Field, Denver

Ryan Dempster (1-0, 6.30/1.45) vs. Alan Johnson (0-0, -.–/-.–)

The Cubs long ten-day, nine-game, three-city road trip comes to an end this afternoon with a rubber game against the Rockies. The Cubs have been very inconsistent on this trip but still have a chance to fly back to Chicago with a 5-4 record in their last nine games with an 8-7 mark on the season.

The Cubs could be going for their third straight road series win but a winning record on a difficult trip would make for a more enjoyable flight home.

After being shutout Friday night, the Cubs bounced back Saturday and posted their first win at Coors Field since 2009 (2-7 in last nine games). Ryan Dempster will try to improve on his first three starts of the season. Dempster has not pitched well against the Rockies or at Coors Field throughout his career. A couple of early runs against the rookie right-hander Alan Johnson, who is making his Major League debut, could go a long way.

Geovany Soto is expected back in the starting lineup this afternoon … and don’t be surprised to see Reed Johnson in center.

Following Saturday’s win, Mike Quade announced James Russell would likely make the start Tuesday against the Padres at Wrigley. Prior to the game, Quade said it was down to Russell and Jeff Samardzija then made the announcement Russell would likely get the ball Tuesday … unless he has to use his lefty this afternoon.

Today it all begins with Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster has struggled in each of his first three starts this season. Dempster has yet to pitch well enough to notch a quality start, which is a problem. With the injuries to Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, the Cubs need for Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza to give them innings … and wins. All three have struggled and if Mike Quade is not careful he’s going to burn out the pen before July 1.

The Cubs need for Ryan Dempster to step up this afternoon and give his pen a much-needed break … especially with another ‘Bullpen Day‘ around the corner.

Dempster has shown spurts of being able to throw strikes and record outs … but like the rest of his team Dempster has struggled with consistency in his first three starts. The Cubs are 1-2 in Dempster’s first three starts.

The Cubs Opening Day starter is coming off his first win of the year. Dempster was very good through the first six innings before he started serving up long flies. The Astros scored three of their four runs off Dempster in the seventh (Bill Hall solo home run, Michael Bourn double off top of wall and Angel Sanchez with two-run homer, first longball of his career).

Following the game Mike Quade said he was trying to get Dempster through seven innings due to the upcoming ‘Bullpen Day‘. Quade’s decision to leave Dempster in too long almost cost his team a win … another reason the ‘Bullpen Day‘ was/is a horrible idea, one the Cubs are doing again Tuesday against the Padres.

Ryan Dempster has never fared well against the Rockies and in Denver, which could make today a very long afternoon. Dempster has not been able to keep the ball in a park (four home runs in three starts) plus he’s struggled with issuing free passes at inopportune times. If Dempster struggles early, he might have to take one for the team.

This afternoon will be Dempster’s 18th career game against the Rockies. Dempster is 5-4 in the first 17, 10 starts, with a 6.79 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP … at Coors Field, 1-3 in nine games, five starts, with a 11.35 ERA and a 2.22 WHIP.

The Rockies beat up Dempster the only time they faced him last year. Dempster allowed five runs on seven hits with five walks and five strikeouts in four innings (11.25 ERA and a 3.00 WHIP) on July 30 in Colorado. Dempster started the game in which the Rockies scored 17 runs on 21 hits with 12 of those runs crossing the plate in the eighth inning.

Rockies Career Numbers against Ryan Dempster

  • Dexter Fowler – 2-for-3 with a double
  • Carlos Gonzalez – 3-for-6 with a double and a home run
  • Todd Helton – 9-for-21 with a double, 3 home runs and 5 walks
  • Chris Iannetta – 0-for-6 with 2 walks
  • Jose Lopez – 2-for-5
  • Seth Smith – 2-for-9 with a double
  • Ryan Spilborghs – 0-for-2 with a walk
  • Troy Tulowitzki – 1-for-6 with a walk
  • Ty Wigginton – 3-for-15 with a home run

The Cubs will get their first look at Alan Johnson, which does not bode well for the struggling offense. The 6’1″ 180-pound right-hander signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2005. The 27-year old has gradually worked his way up the Rockies system.

Johnson posted a 10-8 record in 28 games, 25 starts, with a 5.91 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP for Triple-A Colorado Springs last season. Johnson made one start at the Triple-A level this year and allowed two runs on two hits in five innings with a walk and three strikeouts.

Alan Johnson’s Page on Baseball-Reference

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Quote of the Day

"Baseball, just a game as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes." - Ernie Harwell
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