Starting pitcher Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on June 29, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
I debated a long time about whether to mention anything about Mike Quade taking out Ryan Dempster after eight outstanding innings.
I guess I shouldn't, since the Cubs beat the Giants anyway, 2-1, on Aramis Ramirez's pinch-hit, walkoff single. And Quade explained his reasoning in his postgame remarks, and actually made sense: he said he would have left Dempster in if he'd allowed a single, but a walk (more pitches) or a double (runner in scoring position) led him to take Dempster out. Quade also said Dempster "fought" (not literally, of course) and wanted to stay in. Good for Demp, whose ERA is now under 5.00 for the first time all year (4.99, and since May 1, in 12 starts covering 75.1 innings, it's 2.63).
Carlos Marmol could have nailed it down, but we got Bad Marmol tonight, although he managed to preserve the tie by getting Cody Ross to hit into a double play, setting up Ramirez's heroics after Tony Campana singled, went to second on a Reed Johnson sac bunt and to third on a Geovany Soto groundout.
The reason I think Dempster might have been allowed to finish is this number: 83. Just 83 pitches, 59 for strikes. He had an amazing rhythm going, retiring the last 20 hitters he faced and giving up just a pair of doubles, one in each of the first two innings before Pat Burrell's pinch-hit, leadoff double in the ninth.
And that's the thing: Burrell was the only hitter Dempster hadn't previously faced. The next three hitters -- Andres Torres, Emmanuel Burriss and Pablo Sandoval -- were 1-for-9 against Dempster and only Sandoval (who doubled in the first) hit the ball out of the infield. Sure, maybe the Giants send up a pinch-hitter for Burriss, but Dempster handled those guys easily all night, save Sandoval. The Cubs have had so little to celebrate this year -- why not give the guy a shot at a complete-game shutout?
The last Cubs pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout at Wrigley Field was, in fact, Dempster, on September 29, 2009 against the Pirates. Dempster is the only Cub to throw a CG at all since then, in a 2-0 loss to the Mariners on June 22, 2010 in Seattle.
OK, I'm done complaining. It was a gorgeous night, not a cloud in the sky, most of the 37,221 paid crowd actually in attendance (with several hundred empty bleacher seats), including the US Navy "Leap Frogs" Parachute Team, who sat right in front of us in the bleachers for a couple of innings, doing some recon for a pregame jump on Friday. Blake DeWitt drove in Carlos Pena, who had doubled, with the Cubs' first run, off Tim Lincecum, who also threw a really nice game, striking out nine. I love old-fashioned pitchers' duels like this, and for a time, it appeared the game might even come in under two hours' time, something that almost never happens in the modern game with multiple mid-inning pitching changes and longer between-inning breaks.
Perhaps the Cubs, with Carlos Zambrano facing Matt Cain Thursday afternoon, can actually split this series. That would be a nice start to the second 81 games of the year; the season is at its midway point with the Cubs 33-48, a pretty poor record.