Alex Presley of the Pittsburgh Pirates is tagged out at home plate by Koyie Hill of the Chicago Cubs during the game on July 9, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
I wish I could report to you that there were no controversies or other issues in tonight's 6-3 Cubs win over the Pirates in front of a packed house at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
And, in fact, the Cubs played a solid game, taking a first-inning lead that they never relinquished.
Starlin Castro, headed to the All-Star Game, had three hits and drove in a run. Aramis Ramirez, not headed to the ASG to replace the injured Chipper Jones (Scott Rolen is going instead -- what a joke, Ramirez is having the best offensive season of any NL 3B) -- had two hits. Koyie Hill did a nice job of blocking the plate to keep the Pirates scoreless in the first inning. Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Pena, Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney all also had a pair of hits Saturday night.
And the Cubs bullpen threw four innings and allowed just one hit; Carlos Marmol posted his 19th save, just a day after he spectacularly blew one Friday night, ending it with adouble-play ball.
No, of course, the 2011 Cubs can't just win quietly and await the final game before the All-Star break Sunday afternoon. No, the 2011 Cubs have to have controversy.
As Dempster came off the field after the fifth against the Pirates, he was greeted at the dugout steps by Quade, who apparently told the pitcher that he was finished. This was Dempster's first start since June 29. He missed his scheduled outing last Monday because of back problems and a stomach ailment.
Dempster was obviously upset at Quade's decision and argued in the dugout before disappearing down the steps.
True that Dempster had to wait five extra days for this start, though he wasn't placed on the DL. Also true that Dempster was yanked after 83 pitches in his previous start on June 29, the eight-inning gem he threw against the Giants.
And if Quade loses Dempster, does that means he's lost the team? Dempster was the first to lobby for Quade to keep job last September.
This is a valid point. Quade has been a players' manager (just as Jim Hendry is a players' GM) and if he's lost the team, what happens the rest of the season to the club? What happens to Quade? In 1999, with the Cubs in a tailspin, it was pretty clear that the players quit on Jim Riggleman, leading to Riggs' firing just a year after he led the team to the wild card in 1998.
Maybe it's nothing. But maybe it's something. This team just can't seem to get through an ordinary week, even with a nicely-played win behind them Saturday night.
One more game Sunday afternoon and the Cubs hit the All-Star break. We fans need the time off as much as the players do, I think.