Dempster, Cubs defeat Diamondbacks

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Dempster, Cubs defeat Diamondbacks

It wasnt all Ryan Dempster that helped the Cubs to a 4-1 victory over Arizona on Saturday. Throwing six shutout innings sure helped. But so did some rare two-out clutch hitting, strong defense, and steady nerves.
Dempster (5-3) extended his shutout streak to 33 innings as the Cubs clinched a series victory with their second straight win over the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field. Luis Valbuena had two hits, an RBI and scored a run to lead the offense.
The Cubs extended their season-high home winning streak to five games, moving above the .500 mark at Wrigley for the first time since they were 6-5 on April 23.
Dempster, the constant subject of swirling trade talks, worked six innings, allowing four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in his second start since returning from a disabled-list stint. His scoreless inning pitched streak is the longest for a Cubs starter since Ken Holtzman also went 33 innings in 1969.
Its pretty crazy, said Dempster, whose previous career high shutout streak was 30 innings, which he did as a reliever. As a reliever when you do something like that, it seems a little more realistic because youre going out there one inning at a time. To go out there start after start and not give up any runs is pretty humbling. Im just trying to get outs and win ballgames.
Dempster allowed runners on base in every inning but this last, yet no Arizona runner reached third base against him. That in large part came from the defense, which turned two double plays for Dempster and another for closer Carlos Marmol to end the game.
Rookie Anthony Rizzo started two of them, and also made a nice unassisted play on a hard ground ball to get the Cubs and Dempster out of third-inning trouble.
The Cubs have turned at least one double play in nine consecutive games, their longest stretch in a single season since 1994.
Every one of our players is playing as good as he can defensively right now, from the guys on the bench to the everyday guys, manager Dale Sveum said. Defensively its -- knock on wood -- about as good as it can get right now.
Chicago built a 4-0 lead with a two-run fourth and single runs in the third and sixth. The runs in the fourth came from consecutive two-out hits with runners in scoring position, a a rarity this year for the Cubs.
After Alphonso Soriano led off with a single and moved to second a wild pitch, Darwin Barney scored Soriano with a double into the left-field corner. Barney then scored on a hard single to center by Valbuena, who scored the games first run in the third.
The Cubs entered the game hitting .209 with two outs and runners in scoring position, good for 11th in the National League. They were 15th in RBI in those situations with 80.
Weve been working hard all year to give our pitchers some support, especially a guy like Demp, Barney said. Early we struggled to get him some runs, so it feels good to get him a little bit. Right now he just needs one. Just get him one and youre feeling pretty good about yourselves.
Leading 3-0 in the sixth, the Cubs tacked on an unearned run when Jeff Baker scored after reaching on a two-base throwing error from Stephen Drew.
In Dempsters only perfect inning, he retired the Diamondbacks in order, striking out Justin Upton and Miguel Montero before Paul Goldschmidt popped out to Barney at second.
The Diamondbacks didnt score until Chris Young hit a one-out home run off James Russell, who pitched the seventh in relief of Dempster.
Marmol earned his ninth save, and his eighth consecutive, in a scary final inning. After Drew doubled to right-center to start the inning, Marmol walked Young. Geoff Blum then hit a deep fly ball to right, but Reed Johnson made the catch crashing into the wall.
Pinch-hitter Jason Kubel then grounded into the game-ending double play, which was started by Rizzo.
The double plays all came at the right time, Sveum said. That one at the end was real good. Rizzo didnt panic or anything. He gave Castro a perfect feed so where he could get off a strong throw, too.

Cubs bring Tommy La Stella back to big league team, option Spencer Patton

Cubs bring Tommy La Stella back to big league team, option Spencer Patton

Tommy La Stella is back with the Cubs.

The team announced Wednesday that the infielder was recalled from Triple-A Iowa, with reliever Spencer Patton heading back to Iowa to make room for La Stella.

La Stella made headlines when he refused to report to the minors following his demotion on July 28. He spent several weeks away from the organization and even said in one interview he was contemplating retirement. He eventually made his way to the minors, getting 27 at-bats in eight games while working his way back to big league shape. He hit .296 with a pair of doubles and four runs scored in those eight games with Iowa and Double-A Tennessee.

On the season, La Stella is hitting .295 with a .388 on-base percentage, two home runs, eight RBIs and 14 runs scored in 51 games.

La Stella was in the Cubs' lineup for Wednesday's series finale with the Pittsburgh Pirates, batting seventh and playing second base.

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Pirates on CSN

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Pirates on CSN

The Cubs wrap up their three-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage from the North Side starts at 7 p.m., and be sure to stick around following the final out for reaction and analysis on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jason Hammel (13-7, 3.21 ERA) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (3-3, 3.02 ERA)

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How Kyle Hendricks transformed into a Cy Young-level performer for Cubs

How Kyle Hendricks transformed into a Cy Young-level performer for Cubs

No, Kyle Hendricks didn’t plan to quietly nudge his way into the Cy Young Award conversation when he outlined his goals for 2016. But here he is, leading the majors with a 2.09 ERA while the Cubs watch their nominal fifth starter transform into a dominant pitcher who should be at or near the front of a playoff rotation.

“I had my sights set a little lower,” Hendricks admitted. “I’m just taking it in stride.”

Hendricks continued his systematic destruction of National League lineups on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, shutting down the Pittsburgh Pirates during a 3-0 victory as the Cubs continued their march toward a division title and what they expect will be a deep run into October.

The magic number to clinch the NL Central is 18 after Hendricks crafted seven scoreless innings against a dangerous Pittsburgh lineup, not allowing a Pirate to go past second base while working efficiently (99 pitches, 61 strikes) during a clean game that lasted only two hours and 36 minutes.

On the one-year anniversary of Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter/onesie press conference at Dodger Stadium, Hendricks didn’t allow a hit until Gregory Polanco’s soft single to center field leading off the fifth inning. Hendricks (13-7) has entered his own zone — where he’s confident enough to throw whatever he wants whenever he wants — the way Arrieta did during last year’s Cy Young campaign.

“It’s just a different method,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Jake was a little bit more power — obvious power — but (Kyle’s) got a power changeup. (And) Jake had this freaky movement (on his fastball) — and so does Kyle. It’s just maybe not as hard but still equally effective. Give him credit. Stop looking at the gun. This guy’s really good.”

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The radar readings don’t matter as much when Hendricks can pinpoint two- and four-seam fastballs while dropping curveballs that play off his changeup, neutralizing hitters to the point where entire opposing lineups become very-good-hitting pitchers (.205 average/.581 OPS).

When Hendricks is on, Miguel Montero describes his job as putting down fingers and catching the ball.

“It’s all about location,” Montero said. “Nowadays, everybody’s just trying to overpower everybody (else) and they forget about the secondary stuff.

“He knows he doesn’t throw as hard, but he locates his fastball. He locates his secondary stuff and he works the edges. He worked the corners, and that’s actually even harder to hit than 97 (mph) down the middle. Even if you know the fastball’s coming, or the changeup’s coming, (when he executes the) pitch, you can’t do much with it.”

The Cubs (84-47) gave Hendricks — a pitcher already working with an understated confidence and a belief in his scouting reports — an early lead when Anthony Rizzo slammed a Chad Kuhl fastball off the small video panel above the right-field wall for a two-run homer in the first inning.

Whether or not Rizzo can catch up to Kris Bryant in the MVP race, Hendricks has to be among the leading Cy Young candidates, given his metrics (0.98 WHIP), remarkable consistency (18 straight starts with three earned runs or less) and strong August push (4-0 with a 1.28 ERA in six starts).

Hendricks has done it at home (9-1 with a 1.21 ERA through 14 games at Wrigley Field) and helped preserve the bullpen (3-0 with a 0.79 ERA in three starts following an extra-inning game the day before).

“It’s amazing how he does it,” Rizzo said. “He’s not the guy who’s getting away with plus-plus stuff. He’s just executing his game plan. He knows how to attack hitters. He studies hitters. And he went to Dartmouth and has a really good education, so he out-tricks guys.”

But this is much more than just a hot streak or a run of good matchups. Hendricks now ranks fifth in career ERA (2.96) among all active pitchers with at least 70 starts, trailing only Jose Fernandez, Jacob deGrom, Chris Sale and Madison Bumgarner.

Not that Hendricks is wondering about whether or not he will start Game 1 in the playoffs or where he will finish in the Cy Young voting compared to big-money aces like Max Scherzer.

“You can’t look that far in the future in this game, because it will come up and bite you,” Hendricks said. “I’m definitely a different pitcher than a lot of those guys. But, again, getting noticed, that kind of stuff, I’m just out there trying to pitch my game.”