Heading Home: Cubs vs. Pirates Preview, Tuesday 9/29, 7:05 CT

Ryan Dempster is a class act, as we all know -- but today, Gordon Wittenmyer tells us more about what Dempster had to go through after his daughter was born with a rare congenital disease, and notes that the toughest person on Ryan Dempster is... Ryan Dempster:
Dempster has a hard time accepting that he didn't pitch better when things were most upside-down.

"Sometimes just not knowing how to handle it all," he said. "Just life in general. I had a 3-year-old that's running around doing his thing and you're trying to give attention to him but at the same time, that's your daughter lying there with the tubes in and out of her and surgeries and all kinds of stuff.

"I wish I could have handled things a little bit better, especially when I came to the field, and tried to separate those two. At times it was a little bit tough."

As recently as a few starts ago, Dempster's most recent rough start coincided with another hospital procedure for Riley.

"He's human," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "And he handled it better than most people. But that doesn't mean it didn't have an effect. It did. Clearly."

I'm glad the Cubs signed Dempster to a four-year deal. He's exactly the kind of guy you need in your clubhouse -- and I'm sure that now that his family situation has stabilized, he'll be back stronger than ever in 2010.

Bruce Miles writes today about Jake Fox and what he's going to do this offseason to help himself improve. And Bruce notes that Jake (given name "Jacob") shares a name with a Hall of Famer:

Fox shares the same first and last name of White Sox Hall of Famer Jacob "Nellie" Fox. A native of Indianapolis, the Cubs' Fox says it's a coincidence, but one he enjoys.

"I knew that," he said of his name. "My grandparents went to Cooperstown when I was real young, and (the Hall of Fame) sells those little cards in the gift shop.

"They brought me one back of Jacob Nelson Fox. Jacob Nelson 'Nellie' Fox. So I always knew there was a Jacob Fox in the Hall of Fame. I thought that was really cool. I still actually have a card at home, but I always thought that was really cool."

It's a good story, but Jake Fox couldn't have been "real young" when that happened. Jacob Nelson "Nellie" Fox was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997 -- when the Cubs' Jake Fox was 15.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
Cubs
vs. Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart
Pirates
10-8 W-L 4-8
3.68 ERA 5.38
156 SO 47
62 BB 40
21 HR 11
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Ryan Dempster 10-8 29 29 0 0 0 0 186.0 185 89 76 21 62 156 3.68 1.33

NOTE: Kevin Hart's stats below are with the Pirates only. See the pitcher box above for his full-season stats.

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Kevin Hart 1-7 9 9 0 0 0 0 49.1 68 41 38 8 22 34 6.93 1.82

After pitching fairly well in four starts for the Cubs (with a large number of walks), Kevin Hart has thrown... really badly in nine starts for the Pirates, going 1-7 with a bad ERA (6.93) and worse WHIP (1.82). This includes this game vs. the Cubs on September 9 in Pittsburgh, his only career appearance against his former team, in which he walked six in five innings and allowed four earned runs and a homer to Micah Hoffpauir.

The September 8 start in Pittsburgh was Ryan Dempster's only really "bad" start of the month; he allowed four runs in 6.1 innings, but got the win anyway. Since that start he has been lights-out in three starts, throwing 23 innings with a 1.17 ERA and only three walks and 16 K's. For those three starts he has a win and a pair of no-decisions. Since August 1, Dempster is 5-3, 2.75 in 11 starts, similar to his production of last year. He needs 14 innings to reach the 200-inning mark for the second year in a row, and he'll get tonight and Sunday to try to reach that milestone.

Today's game is on WGN and FSN Pittsburgh. For other games today see the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout. They seem a little lonely over there.

Overflow comment threads will post today at 8:15 and 9:15 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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