CHICAGO – It wasn’t like Ryan Dempster was about to stand up and cheer in a somber Cubs locker room following the club’s Opening Day defeat, but the veteran had to feel good about what transpired Thursday.
Sure Strasburg was more efficient and his pitches far nastier than Dempster’s, but the Cubs’ right-hander will take his line any day. He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits with 10 strikeouts. Strasburg went seven innings, giving up one run on five hits with five strikeouts.
Dempster gave up a run too, but it came after he left the game and only because Kerry Wood uncorked three walks to let the inherited runner score.
Like a country-club regular with a little course knowledge, Dempster used what he knew about the venue to his advantage. Wind blowing in? Dempster stayed in the strike zone and took his chances.
“You pitch to the elements,” Dempster said. “Ryan Zimmerman hit two home runs off me today but Mother Nature brought them back into the ballpark. That’s part of pitching here, you can have that advantage some days, really have it as a pitcher, and I just tried to keep pumping it in the strike zone and stay as aggressive as possible and put the pressure on them to swing the bats.”
Zimmerman hit a ball in the first inning and another in the seventh that would have been out of the park on most days. But the Cubs lost some home runs too, one from Alfonso Soriano in the first inning and another from Ian Stewart in the ninth that would have tied the game.
But where the Cubs looked unlucky with their experience with the wind, Dempster made himself look crafty with his blatant use of the steady gusts. As a result, he is off to a much better start than last season, even though the win-loss record doesn’t necessarily reflect it.
“He was incredible,” manager Dale Sveum said “He got out of a couple of early jams and after that he was as good as you can get. He had command of his fastball, his splitter, his cutter, his slider. Everything was tremendous. It was really nice to see that he came out and did a great job.”
If you want to get technical, his 0-0 record after one start does look better than his 0-1 mark after last season’s opener when he gave up six runs on six hits and four walks and was beaten by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I know he was ready to prove everybody wrong about last year and getting the Opening Day start as well,” Sveum said. “He did one heck of a job.”