Cubs

Cubs escape rain, start four-game set in Arizona

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Cubs escape rain, start four-game set in Arizona

Thursday, April 28, 2011Posted: 10:25 a.m.

Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs are glad to be headed to some warm weather, but their next opponent could be difficult for Ryan Dempster.

The struggling Dempster has a poor history as a starter against the Arizona Diamondbacks heading into Thursday night's opener of a four-game series at Chase Field.

Chicago (10-13) just completed a homestand that was scheduled for 10 games. Only eight were played after two weather-related postponements, including Wednesday's finale of a three-game set against Colorado. The Cubs, losers of three straight, did not have one game rained out last season.

"We know the conditions are going to be better, you know what to expect in Arizona," manager Mike Quade said. "It can wear on you when you get 10 days of this kind of weather. We'd love to have the conditions we're going get (in Arizona) right here at home. Warm weather will not be frowned upon."

Quade opted to push Casey Coleman's start to Sunday to keep the rest of his rotation in line. That means Dempster (1-2, 7.63 ERA) will try to put aside both his recent woes and his problems against the Diamondbacks (10-13) on Thursday.

The right-hander allowed seven runs and nine hits over 5 2-3 innings Saturday and did not get a decision in a 10-8 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He surrendered three homers to bring his season total to eight in 30 2-3 innings.

"He's just not executing his pitches," Quade told the Cubs' official website.

Dempster is 2-7 with a 6.24 ERA in 14 career starts against Arizona. He yielded five runs over seven innings in a 6-4 loss April 6 at Wrigley Field - the Cubs' only loss in their last nine meetings with the Diamondbacks.

Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra is 5 for 8 against Dempster, and shortstop Stephen Drew is 4 for 8. Justin Upton has not joined in that success, going 2 for 15 off Dempster.

Arizona center fielder Chris Young hit two homers and drove in three runs in Wednesday's 8-4 home loss to Philadelphia. He's got six homers and 15 RBIs in 12 home games.

The Diamondbacks missed a chance to sweep the Phillies after Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson turned in strong starts in the first two games of the series. Joe Saunders allowed six runs over 5 2-3 innings Wednesday.

"You are not going to pitch good in every game," manager Kirk Gibson said. "Give them some credit. They put some good swings on us and hit good pitches as well."

For the opener of this series, Gibson will give the ball to Barry Enright (0-2, 6.65), who is 0-7 with a 7.40 ERA in his last nine starts. He gave up season highs of five runs and 12 hits over 5 2-3 innings Saturday in a 6-4 road loss to the New York Mets.

Enright is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts against the Cubs. The right-hander did not receive a decision in a 6-5 loss at Wrigley on April 5, when he yielded four runs over six innings.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

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USA Today

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

For the second time in 1998, Sosa went back-to-back games with multiple home runs. After going yard twice on June 19 of that season, Slammin' Sammy again sent two balls into the bleachers on June 20.

He singlehandedly beat the Phillies that night, driving in 5 runs in a 9-4 Cubs victory.

But that wasn't the most impressive feat of the day from Sosa. His second homer was actually measured at a whopping 500 feet! It was the longest of the season, but not the longest of his career. On June 24, 2003, Sosa hit a homer at Wrigley measured at 511 feet.

The back-to-back big games raised Sosa's season OPS to 1.083 with a ridiculous .685 slugging percentage. He began June 1998 with a .608 slugging percentage.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings on June 20, 1998 to pick up his 7th big-league victory. As Wood marched to the National League Rookie of the Year that season, he finished with a 13-6 record and 233 strikeouts in only 166.2 innings for a career-high 12.6 K/9 rate.