Ryan Dempster has been one of the biggest disappointments for the Cubs in 2009. Coming off of a brilliant 2008 season – 17-6 record, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 206 2/3 innings pitched, 187 K’s v. 76 walks – Dempster has failed to live up to the high expectations that the Cubs had for him when they signed him to a lucrative deal in the off-season (4 years, $52 million).
After spending a few weeks on the DL with a broken toe that he injured jumping over the Cubs dugout fence after a win, Dempster made his return last night and crapped the bed. Dempster labored through 86 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 6 runs (5 earned) on 9 hits. Although he didn’t walk any batters, he had a mental lapse in the 3rd inning when he failed to throw home on a weakly hit groundball right back at him. Instead of nailing the advancing runner at home, he tried to turn a double play by throwing to 2nd base, and ended up chucking the ball into center field and prolonging the inning. The Astros scored 3 in the frame and opened up a big 4-0 lead at the time.
Now granted, after the Cubs got back in the game with back-to-back 3-run innings in the 4th and 5th, the Cubs bullpen had a rare off-night, but Dempster dug the team into a deep hole, and has been largely inconsistent all season long. In 18 starts during the 2009 MLB schedule, Dempster has pitched a full 7 innings only 5 times. Dempster has won only 2 games since May 14th. Dempster has given up at least 8 hits in each of his last 4 starts and he has given up 4 earned runs in 7 starts. A $13 million starting pitcher should have better numbers than these – 5-5 record, 4.31 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 92 K’s v. 44 walks. If the Cubs expect to compete for a 3rd straight NL Central division title the rest of the way, Dempster will need to step up his performance in his final 12 starts.
On a bright note, the Cubs offense drew 10 walks. All 3 batters that walked in the 4th inning came around to score and Derrek Lee (who walked in the 5th inning) came around to score on Aramis Ramirez’ 3-run home run. And while the Cubs only had 5 total hits in the game, the patience at the plate created scoring opportunities for the Cubs. Another Ramirez is always nice to see as well.
With the 11-6 loss, the Cubs dropped a half game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central race. It will likely be an up-and-down roller coaster ride for the Cubs and Cubs fans all across the nation the rest of the pennat race…