Cubs

Dempster vs. Lilly matchup falls flat

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Dempster vs. Lilly matchup falls flat

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 5:22 p.m.
By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.com

Ryan Dempster stood alone on the mound and rubbed his eyes and adjusted his hat. It was almost as if he couldnt believe what he was watching.

Rod Barajas had just deposited an 85 mph slider into the left-center field seats, a game-tying homer in the sixth inning. The Cubs certainly didnt see this coming. Their Opening Day starter now has a 7.63 ERA.

Hes done it for too many years, manager Mike Quade said. You believe hes going to get himself back in sync.

Saturdays pitching matchup between Dempster and Ted Lilly didnt really live up to the hype. Ultimately, the Cubs came back to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-8. But competing against one of his best friends didnt exactly bring out the best in Dempster.

Dempster threw three sliders that wound up in the bleachers and was charged with seven runs on nine hits. A 5-1 lead evaporated on his watch. Hes now given up eight home runs in 30.2 innings this season.

The good news for Dempster was that Lilly didnt pitch any better.

I wish we both could have hadwell, actually, I dont really wish (Lilly) had better results, Dempster said. I wish I could have done a better job, but at the end of the day, we won the game, and thats all that matters. Its about Ws for our team.

Lilly didnt know what sort of reaction hed get at Wrigley Field. In the end, there were no loud cheers or boos, just a kind of indifference.

The buzz should have been back 63 degrees and sunny for a marquee opponent. There was a standing-room-only crowd of 41,161 and Arcade Fire singing the seventh-inning stretch.

The response wouldnt have really mattered, because Lilly was always harder on himself than everyone else. But as Lilly walked off the mound in the fifth inning, the fans essentially shrugged their shoulders.

Lilly never lit up the radar gun, but found a way to survive by changing speeds, creating angles and locating his pitches with pinpoint precision. But this time he didnt get by with guts.

Across the past four seasons only two pitchers in the National League Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain accounted for more quality starts than Lillys 84.

That reliability helped Lilly win many friends in the Cubs clubhouse, but its a changing place. Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney who were unknowns when Lilly signed that 40 million contract in the winter of 2006 essentially stole the show.

Combined the new middle-infield combination went 7-for-10 with six RBI and four runs scored. They chased Lilly, who gave up five runs on 11 hits and lasted only 4.1 innings.

They bring a lot of energy, especially at the top of the lineup, Dempster said. They bring a different aspect we havent had in the last couple years speed.

At times like this, Dempster leaned on Lilly. They drove each other to get better. Now its time to go back to the drawing board.

Im just going to continue to work hard (and) push through this, Dempster said. Ive been there before and Ill be there again.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Kris Bryant's 'fatigued' shoulder looms over Cubs, but they insist there's no cause for concern

Kris Bryant's 'fatigued' shoulder looms over Cubs, but they insist there's no cause for concern

This obviously isn't where the Cubs or Kris Bryant wanted to be heading into the final week of the regular season.

Instead of talking about Bryant's level of play or the Cubs' second straight decisive win on the South Side, the 2016 NL MVP stood near his locker, entertaining more questions about his sore left shoulder while he watched Tiger Woods lock up a victory at the Tour Championship.

Bryant did not suit up for the Cubs Sunday, out with what his manager Joe Maddon called "fatigue." 

"His shoulder's just a little bit fatigued. Not hurting, just fatigued," Maddon said before the Cubs' 6-1 victory. "So you want to be proactive. You can wait 'til tomorrow [to give him a day off], but then if you wait 'til tomorrow and something were to happen today, I'd feel really badly about that. 

"So just talking to him, listening to him and his body, we're gonna give him today off."

Maddon later described Bryant's shoulder "fatigue" as a lack of strength given the superstar has missed essentially two months of action due to the injury.

Maddon acknowledged the Cubs may play things safe with Bryant and keep him out of the lineup Monday, too, but would leave that up to the player.

Bryant insisted he will be in the lineup, telling the group of reporters several times that he already told Maddon he would be ready to go for the first ame of the homestand Monday night at Wrigley Field.

The 26-year-old admitted he just needed a breather Sunday after appearing in every game since returning from the disabled list Sept. 1.

"I'm still kinda in the early stages — I've had 60-something at-bats, which is like a spring training load, I think," Bryant said. "I wouldn't say I'm feeling something — I was just tired from playing."

He said he and the Cubs are just trying to exercise caution to ensure his left shoulder doesn't get any worse with postseason baseball a week away.

"I haven't had any pain or any of that, which is great," Bryant said. "I just gotta stay on top of my shoulder program and stuff like that, which we're doing, so that's good."

Bryant said he hit in the cage and went through a normal pregame routine Sunday, but instead of trying to catch up to big league pitchers throwing in the mid 90s, he got to sit back and let his shoulder rest.

The only possible concern there may be more at play with Bryant's shoulder is the timing of Sunday's day off.

Maddon said he was going to be cautious with Bryant when he first got off the DL and make sure he got enough rest, but then Bryant played every inning but two in his first six games back, only receiving a day off on Sept. 7 because rain washed away the game at Nationals Park.

Of the Cubs' 13 games since the other rainout in Washington D.C. on Sept. 9, Bryant started and played the entire contest in 12 of those games (he came in in the seventh inning in the other).

Bryant has had to utilize that left shoudler quite a bit since beginning his rehab four weeks ago, but he also received a day of rest just two days ago, when the Cubs had their only off-day of the month. 

If Bryant is back in the lineup on Monday, then this is all a moot point. And at the moment, there's no need to think the sky is falling and the Cubs will be without Bryant at all moving forward.

In fact, exercising caution is the right move given the potential danger that any one swing could bring the pain back in that left shoulder.

The Cubs woke up Sunday morning with a 2.5-game lead in the division and will maintain that gap into the final week of the regular season. There's no point in pushing Bryant to exhaustion or risking injury at the moment.

But if and when he does return, what type of force will he be in the Cubs lineup?

Since returning, Bryant is slashing .275/.346/.406 (.752 OPS) with 1 homer, 6 doubles and 5 RBI in 69 at-bats. He's also struck out a whopping 27 times (including a pair of 4-whiff games) against only 6 walks.

A healthy and successful Bryant is vital to the Cubs' World Series hopes next month and it will be interesting to see how much his shoulder becomes a talking point around this team over the final seven games of the regular season.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The timely emergence of the Kyles and a low level of concern about Kris (Bryant)

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The timely emergence of the Kyles and a low level of concern about Kris (Bryant)

The Cubs reduced their magic number to five Sunday behind another stellar outing from Kyle Hendricks and a second straight game of encouraging offense from Kyle Schwarber. The emergence of the Kyles at the most critical point in the season should come as no surprise for two guys who have built their reputations as big-game performers, but what they’re doing right now is huge entering the final week of the season.

Meanwhile, Kris Bryant’s balky left shoulder is a talking point yet again. Is there any level of concern regarding the health of the Cubs superstar with October right around the corner? Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: