Cubs

Despite run support, Dempster still can't get a win

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Despite run support, Dempster still can't get a win

ST. LOUIS -- Alfonso Soriano singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Chicago Cubs sent the St. Louis Cardinals to their fourth straight loss at home with a 6-4 victory on Monday night.Bryan LaHair had three hits for the Cubs, including a two-run homer - his ninth overall and fourth against the Cardinals - to break a 1-for-14 slump. Chicago's runs in the 8th and 9th innings came too late to make a winner of starter Ryan Dempster, whose winless streak reached 15 starts dating to last August.Shawn Camp (2-1) allowed one hit in two innings of work and Rafael Dolis worked the ninth for his fourth save in six chances for the Cubs, who won for only the fourth time in their last 13 games in St. Louis despite stranding a season-worst 14 runners.Jake Westbrook became the latest Cardinals starter who couldn't pitch deep into the game, allowing four runs on 11 hits in five innings. Of the other four pitchers during this run through the St. Louis rotation, only rookie Lance Lynn lasted six innings.Dempster gave up four hits over the first five innings before surrendering four runs on five hits in the sixth that tied it 4-4. Three of Dempster's first five innings were perfect and he retired 10 of 11 batters from the second to the fifth inning - totaling just 27 pitches.Soriano's go-ahead RBI single off Mitchell Boggs (0-1) salvaged the Cubs' eighth after the Cardinals turned an unusual 3-5-4 double play earlier in the inning. First baseman Lance Berkman fielded Starlin Castro's popped-up bunt and threw to third to force David DeJesus, then David Freese's relay to first was there in plenty of time to get Castro.The Cubs still had Tony Campana on second, and after La Hair was intentionally walked, Soriano's first hit in 10 career at-bats against Boggs - seven of them strikeouts - gave them the lead.Freese's wild throw to first in a bid for a double play on another bunt allowed an insurance run to score in the ninth against Boggs. The Cardinals committed a season-high three errors, two in the ninth.Dempster entered with a majors-best 1.02 ERA, the lowest for a Cubs pitcher winless through the first five starts since the NL began tracking earned runs in 1912. He is 0-1 mainly because the Cubs have totaled just eight runs combined in his starts. The Cardinals got to Dempster after the Cubs' four-run sixth, and the right-hander exited with a 1.74 ERA.LaHair's two-run homer was the highlight of the Cubs' four-run fifth, and he added a pair of singles and his first career steal in the seventh.Molina's two-run double and Skip Schumaker's tying RBI single were the key hits in the Cardinals' four-run sixth. Schumaker is a career .431 hitter against Dempster, the best ever against the right-hander with a minimum of 30 at-bats, according to STATS LLC.

One of the early hits in the rally was Matt Holliday's liner off the left-field wall that gave Soriano a perfect rebound to hold him to a single.Both teams had a three-hit inning without scoring early. The Cardinals loaded the bases in the second, the last two infield hits, before Westbrook struck out for the third out. The Cubs topped that in the third, getting three hits plus a walk that added up to zilch because David DeJesus was an easy out trying to steal after a leadoff hit and Ian Stewart struck out on a pitch near the dirt on a full count for the third out.NOTES: The Cardinals' Carlos Beltran, who entered with six homers in six games and a NL-leading 13, did not start due to knee soreness. He's 6 for 12 against Dempster with a homer and three RBIs. ... The three-hit game was LaHair's third of the season, matching his career best. He has reached base safely in 31 consecutive games and is 8 for 19 with eight RBIs against the Cardinals. ... The Cubs have scored three or fewer runs when Dempster was in the game 13 times during his winless drought.Box scoreCopyright2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Is Joe Maddon covering for Wade Davis? Where do Cubs go from here?

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USA TODAY

Is Joe Maddon covering for Wade Davis? Where do Cubs go from here?

Is Cubs manager Joe Maddon taking the heat and covering for Wade Davis while the All-Star closer deals with atypical soreness in his right arm?

“No, no,” Maddon said Tuesday when asked if Davis felt anything unusual that lingered into the National League Championship Series after last week’s all-out effort eliminated the Washington Nationals from the divisional round.

The Los Angeles Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven bullpen battle without Davis throwing a single pitch, the backlash from Cubs fans, Twitter and the national media again putting Maddon on the defensive, the year after he got second-guessed for pushing Aroldis Chapman so hard during the World Series.

This NLCS truly is a bizarro world, with Maddon comparing the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax, getting so little benefit of the doubt – the Cubs really did beat the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 – and working the baseball term “dry-hump” into one answer during Monday’s Wrigley Field press conference.

Maddon said he would have to check first with Davis – who would have almost five full days in between relief appearances – if the Cubs need a four- or five-out save in Game 3.

“Nevertheless, I always check,” Maddon said. “I can’t just assume that.”

Maddon’s Game 2 calculus on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium – sticking with lefty reliever Brian Duensing in a 1-1 game to start the ninth inning and then bringing in John Lackey to serve up the walk-off, three-run homer to Justin Turner – made you wonder if Davis was still dragging after ending Washington’s season and traveling on the overnight cross-country flight that got diverted to New Mexico for about five hours when Jose Quintana’s wife experienced a panic attack.

“I think he just got mentally exhausted,” Maddon said. “Physically, 44 pitches, he hasn’t done that in a while. But also the seven outs and what it meant and the plane ride itself, sitting on the tarmac, there was a lot of non-rest going on right there, so it was harder to recover.

“So, no, he was fine for the last game, but we set up the parameters before the game.”

Maddon is sticking with his story, that he would only deploy Davis in a save situation and not use him for one out against Turner (1.115 career postseason OPS) or have him totally warm up without the guarantee of getting him into the game.

“To put Wade in that position would be wrong on my part,” Maddon said. “We had already talked about the circumstances, so my loyalty there lies with Wade, or my decision-making lies with Wade, nobody else.

“That was a heavy day for him (in Washington). Going into the last game in L.A., like I talked about, we talked about one inning only, and not to get up and not put him in the game.

“If you get him up and sit him down, then you have no idea what it’s going to look like. My responsibility is to him, also, and to the players, so I told him that before the game, so I had to stick with our decision.”

Before finalizing the Jorge Soler trade at the winter meetings, the Kansas City Royals took the unusual step of allowing the Cubs to meet with Davis at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley and go through a physical exam. The Cubs wanted reassurances after Davis spent parts of last season on the disabled list with a forearm strain and a flexor strain.

The Cubs wondered if “dry-humping” had contributed to those injuries, and tried to stay conservative with Davis during his free-agent year, watching him convert his first 32 save chances and using him for three-plus outs only three times during the regular season, all in mid-to-late September.

“If you look at the numbers this year, I thought going into the playoffs his usage has been really good,” Maddon said. “Minimal, in a sense. We didn’t get him up hardly at all where we didn’t utilize him.

“He just wasn’t set up for it the other day. So honestly, I think he’s in really good shape right now, actually. I don’t think he could have gone those seven outs the other day if he had been overly dried up during the course of the season. He felt good. But that was above and beyond, and that wasn’t part of the game plan the other night.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Ben Zobrist shares his leadoff approach

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Ben Zobrist shares his leadoff approach

Sports Talk Live is on location at the Brickhouse Tavern at Wrigley Field to get you set for Game 3 of the NLCS. David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Jesse Rogers (ESPNChicago.com) and Bob Nightengale (USA Today) join Kap on the panel. 

Plus, Ben Zobrist and Curtis Granderson drop by to talk about the big matchup.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: