Anyone thinking that getting away from Wrigley Field would solve Ryan Dempster’s early-season troubles was left searching for answers yet again after another dismal outing from the Cubs’ Opening Day starter. Dempster lasted only 1/3 of an inning, giving up seven runs on four hits, four walks, a hit batsman, and a home run in Thursday's 11-2 loss.
Cubs manager Mike Quade was perplexed as to why Dempster once again failed to deliver, saying he’d seen glimpses of the good Dempster in previous starts, but there was none of that on Thursday.
“[He’s] got a lot of work to do in the next four day [before his next start],” Quade said. “He really looked out of sync. … He was off his game big-time tonight.”
: Off his game would be putting it kindly. With Thursday's loss, Dempster’s ERA jumped to an ugly 9.58. Moreover, he’s allowing a crazy 2.61 homers per nine innings -- good for second on the Cubs' pitching staff behind James Russell’s 4.15. That stat emphasizes just how much the Cubs’ starting pitching has struggled so far this season. The ugly numbers continue to mount as Cubs’ starters’ ERA, already last in the NL entering Thursday night’s game, fell to further depths, now sitting at 6.39.
Dempster was roughed up from the get-go. He followed up a leadoff double to Chris Young by walking Kelly Johnson and hitting Justin Upton. He got ahead of shortstop Stephen Drew 0-2, but Drew pulled Dempster’s third pitch over the right-field fence for a grand slam and staked the Diamondbacks out to an early 4-0 lead. Dempster never recovered from that initial blow.
“Didn’t really start out how I dreamt it up last night,” Dempster said. “Just gotta continue to make pitches and go from there.”
After a loss like this, searching for something to be pleased about can be an exercise in futility, but Quade did find one positive spin.
“[Justin Berg] did a great job protecting our pen, so we’re in decent shape tomorrow, which is huge,” Quade said. “And he also protected our starter for Sunday.”
Berg was far from perfect (3 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 3 BB), but he kept Quade from using Casey Coleman, who is scheduled to start on Sunday. Quade has yet to name a starter for Monday’s game, both Berg and Marcos Mateo were mentioned for the role, but didn’t seem to be likely choices (Berg’s may be completely eliminated due to throwing 54 pitches on Thursday). It’s also possible that Dempster could be brought back on short rest due to his short outing.
Kosuke Fukudome provided the lone bright spot for the Cubs going 1-for-2 with two walks in the lead-off spot, bringing his OBP on the season to .556.