Ryan Dempster pitched seven strong innings, and was backed up by Jake Fox at the plate, leading the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the Dodgers in the series finale in front of 49,711 at Dodger Stadium. I don't know if there were simply a large contingent directly below the press box, but it seemed like there were a lot of Cubs' fans at the stadium today.
Dempster retired 10 in a row at one point, and allowed just one unearned run on three hits in seven innings. He threw a first pitch strike to 19 of the 24 hitters he faced. "Dempster kept us off balance all game," Matt Kemp said, "He had his good slider working today." Dempster started the eighth inning, but was lifted after walking Russell Martin, Dempster's only free pass of the game. This was a far cry from the Dempster that walked seven Dodgers in Game 1 of last year's NLDS.
Fox had his first career four-hit game, including a towering home run in the second inning. The home run snapped a streak of five straight starts by Chad Billingsley without surrendering a long ball.
Billingsley threw a quality start, but the two runs he allowed in the sixth inning proved to be the winning margin. For whatever reason, Billingsley has had trouble in the sixth inning all year, allowing 24 of his 72 runs in that one frame. However, as Joe Torre noted, Billingsley wasn't the problem today:
He was alright; again, we are putting a lot of pressure on our starters when we aren't scoring runs. It just makes it a little bit tougher because every single inning you try to be careful. He ran the pitch count up a little bit, but otherwise he did well.
It seemed every time the offense would begin to formulate a rally, a double play reared its ugly head to end the inning:
- In the second inning, Mark Loreta struck out and Tony Abreu was thrown out trying to steal
- In the sixth inning, Andre Ethier grounded into a 1-6-3 DP
- In the eighth inning, after two controversial plays (one fielder's choice in which it appeared Ryan Theriot took his foot off second base before catching the ball, followed by a pop fly RBI single by Orlando Hudson that wasn't -- he had called time before the play so no pitch), Hudson grounded into a 6-4-3 DP
Torre noted the offense was going through the normal ebb and flow of a baseball season, saying, "I think you go through that little bit of a dip. I don't think they're tired; they may be trying a little too hard. Its just a baseball season, where we are in this situation; we go out there any day."
The lone Dodger run came on an RBI single by Tony Abreu, who started at second base today to give Orlando Hudson a day off. It was Abreu's first RBI since September 23, 2007. Abreu, a switch-hitter, also got to bat from the right side in the eighth inning against John Grabow, and drew a walk, giving him two walks in his two plate appearances from the right side so far this season.
Juan Pierre did have a pinch-hit single in the sixth inning, and has seven hits in his last ten pinch-hit at-bats. On the season, Pierre has 11 hits in 31 pinch at-bats, and is hitting .355/.394/.419 in that role.
Manny Ramirez had a tough day at the plate, going hitless in four at-bats, and in the field, with a couple of misplays. Manny did get an assist in the eighth, throwing out Aramis Ramirez at third, although the throw was off line and it is hard to blame Aramis for trying to advance in that situation. Torre noted that, although Manny wouldn't admit it, "he is trying to carry everybody on his shoulders, and is overanxious at times."
The Dodgers have tomorrow off before starting a three-game series in Colorado. Torre is looking forward to it:
Its up to us to take care of business, whatever the difference is in the standings, you still have to go out there and play the game. We have plated them well this year and we have to continue to do that.
Clayton Kershaw faces Jason Hammel Tuesday in a rematch of their 1-0 thriller on July 1 at Dodger Stadium.
WP - Ryan Dempster (7-7): 7 IP, 3 hits, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, strikeouts
LP - Chad Billingsley (12-7): 6 IP, 9 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, strikeouts
Sv - Carlos Marmol (5): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts