Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the New York Mets at CitiField in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY -- Little storms here and there dot the Kansas City area Sunday afternoon; hopefully nothing will interfere with the Futures Game, for which I'm leaving soon.
No such storms bothered the Cubs in New York, where the weather was beautiful and the baseball was better; the Cubs shut out the Mets 7-0 to not only win the series -- their second road series win of the season -- but win the current road trip, four games to three, and finish play before the All-Star break definitely on an upswing. I was going to wait till morning to recap this one, but it wound up being the second-fastest Cubs game of the season at two hours, eight minutes. Guess everyone on both teams was in a hurry to catch a plane for the days off, or, in the case of the team's All-Stars, head to Kansas City for the festivities.
Since a loss to the Diamondbacks in Phoenix on June 24, which dropped the team record to a season-low 24-48 (24 games under .500), the Cubs are 9-4, and 8-4 of that is in the Anthony Rizzo era. Rizzo's eight-game hitting streak ended Sunday, but it was just the second game of his 12 with the Cubs in which he didn't have at least one hit.
Rizzo's teammates picked him up in the very first inning, scoring four times off Jon Niese. Five of the first six Cubs got hits -- Rizzo made the only out -- and the biggest blow was a two-run double by Jeff Baker.
Ryan Dempster had a successful return to the rotation, throwing five shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out four. He threw only 63 pitches; he was supposedly on a 70-80 pitch limit, and could be seen in the dugout after the fifth, apparently lobbying Dale Sveum to stay in the game. But with essentially everyone (maybe except Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood, who started the last two games) available, Sveum opted to make the rest of the day a bullpen day; Paul Maholm threw a scoreless sixth, then Manuel Corpas gave up a single in an otherwise harmless seventh, James Russell did the same as Corpas in the eighth, and (thank you, Dale, for not putting Carlos Marmol into this game) Shawn Camp completed the blanking with a 1-2-3 ninth, the Cubs' seventh shutout of 2012.
Starlin Castro finished up the Cubs scoring with a three-run homer, his seventh; the partial day off Friday seems to have done Castro some good, as he's 4-for-10 since Sveum inserted him into the lineup late in Friday's game.
And in the "it figures" category, my Kansas City hotel room has WGN America; of course, that would have been useful yesterday, when the game was on WGN. Since I am no longer in a blackout area, I was able to watch the game on my computer via my MLB.TV subscription. Thanks again for nothing, Bud.
I'm off to the Futures Game; looking forward to seeing Jae-Hoon Ha as the Cubs representative. I'll have a full recap of the game here Monday morning.