There comes a time in each of Ryan Dempster's starts where you know, just know, that he's going to start giving up home runs.
But you'd think the manager of the team would start to notice after he gave up a home run to Bill Hall, then another ball which came within inches of being a second home run. That would have been the time to go to the bullpen, you'd think.
Instead, Mike Quade left Dempster in at 113 pitches, and Angel Sanchez -- who had not hit a home run and who had only 15 extra-base hits in 340 career plate appearances coming into last night -- lofted one into the Crawford boxes in Houston and a game that appeared easily in the Cubs' hands instead was now 5-4. Fortunately, John Grabow, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol kept the Astros from scoring again (not without some unneeded excitement) and the Cubs had a 5-4 win over the Astros, evening up their road trip record at 2-2.
So, Mike Quade -- next time you're hesitating in the seventh inning or so about taking Dempster out, just do it. I suppose one thought Quade had last night was "saving" the bullpen for tonight when James Russell starts -- but seriously, you've got to win the game you're playing.
Only one of the Cubs' 10 games so far this season has been decided by more than three runs -- the 6-0 loss in Milwaukee last Saturday night. Of the five wins, two are by one run, one by two runs, and two by three runs. The Cubs are currently 2-2 in one-run games, which is a distinct improvement over the early-season record in such games a year ago. But four out of ten games decided by one run? How about a nice blowout 10-0 win tonight?
There was, besides Quade's call to leave Dempster in too long, plenty of good to go around last night. Starlin Castro, placed in the leadoff spot due to the minor injury to Kosuke Fukudome, had three hits and scored three runs. Historical trivia: Castro became the first Cubs shortstop to score three runs in a game vs. the Astros since Ricky Gutierrez did it on August 22, 2000 in a 10-7 loss. Thanks to Ryan Deyoe for the heads-up on this one.
Cubs leadoff hitters are now batting .475/.553/.675 -- best in the major leagues to date. That breaks down as 19-for-40 with a double, two triples, a home run, seven walks and seven runs scored. What they need to do is take more advantage of all these leadoff spot baserunners. Hitting with RISP was better last night -- 4-for-9 -- after being awful on Sunday. The Cubs even stole their first base of the season last night, a swipe of second by Castro.
Attendance in Houston last night was 20,175 -- third smallest crowd in the history of Minute Maid Park -- and it looked like maybe half that number showed up. It's early in the season and the Astros aren't a very good team. But attendance numbers across baseball bear watching this season.