Dempster, Soriano looking on the bright side

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Dempster, Soriano looking on the bright side

ST. LOUIS The Cubs are nearing the quarter mark. Their Opening Day starter doesnt have a win yet. The only established power hitter still hasnt homered.

That doesnt tell the entire story. But the Cubs are hanging around and havent been buried by a brutal early schedule. If you are relentlessly optimistic, like Ryan Dempster and Alfonso Soriano, you believe it all balances out and things will turn around.

The Cubs were pumping the music in the clubhouse after Mondays 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in front of a sellout crowd at Busch Stadium.

Baby steps, Dempster said. We got a win when I started a game.

Theres no chance Dempster (1.74 ERA) would ever complain publicly about the lack of run support. But heres what the Cubs put on the scoreboard in his first five starts this season: one; three; two; one; one. Thats pretty much going to be the trend line with this lineup.

Thats why manager Dale Sveum wont move Soriano down, because theres really no one else to take his place in the middle of the order right now. Soriano came through in the eighth inning with a two-out single to left, which marked his sixth go-ahead RBI this season.

Im happy with what I do for the team, Soriano said. Im not hitting with the power, but I think (part of its) the knee. When the team needs a big hit, Im there. I know that my power is coming sooner or later.

Soriano sat at his locker with his left knee all wrapped up.

One day its good, one day its bad, Soriano said. Like I joke with my teammates, Im a warrior. I want to play every day no matter what.

Im not 25 anymore. I have to play through the pain.

Dempster just turned 35, but hasnt shown his age. By the sixth inning, he had allowed four runs all season and had a four-run lead he immediately gave away.

The Cardinals (20-15) responded with four runs, and thats the way its gone for the staffs leader. Hes now winless in his last 15 starts dating back to Aug. 16 of last season.

I feel bad for him, because hes been so good for the team and hes not getting the win, Soriano said. I hope the next time we score a lot of runs and we can get (it) for him. But hes pitched so good so far.

The Cubs have now won four of seven games against the defending World Series champs.

This is a weakened National League Central. The Cubs, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers are tied for last place at 15-20. The Cincinnati Reds are the only other team in the division above .500.

We got as good a shot as anybody else, pitcher Matt Garza said. Were (five) back in the division and we played like crap the first three weeks of the season. Were putting it together. Youre going to go through growing pains with youth, and we certainly are.

(Theres) going to be a lot of mistakes, a lot of growing pains, but I think were good enough and mentally strong enough to get through it.

The Cubs have a new dimension on offense with Tony Campana, who stole another base and scored two more runs. Bryan LaHair sent his ninth home run soaring, a two-run shot that traveled 356 feet, just inside the right-field foul pole.

After reaching a breaking point with Carlos Marmol whose meltdown on May 3 in Cincinnati ruined a brilliant Dempster start and cost him the closers job the Cubs have stabilized the ninth inning.

Rafael Dolis threw nine pitches, eight for strikes, and picked up his fourth save, making it all look stress-free.

If you are a Cubs fan, you have to wonder where they could be if they had really capitalized on their lights-out starting pitching, and what might happen if it regresses just a little bit. Dempster never thinks that way.

Were pitching really well, Dempster said. Were playing good defense and were running the bases extremely aggressive and were getting the results because of it. Hopefully, those just keep coming and we keep playing good baseball and climb our way back to .500.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."