Dempster seeks first win in Houston on CSN Plus

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Dempster seeks first win in Houston on CSN Plus

Monday, April 11, 2011
Posted: 10:12 a.m.
Associated Press

Although Ryan Dempster has been saddled with a loss in each of his first two starts, the Chicago Cubs right-hander seems to be headed in the right direction.

Dempster, who has recently pitched well at Minute Maid Park, again seeks his first win of the season Monday night when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Houston Astros.

Dempster (0-2, 6.59 ERA) is taking the ball in the series opener for No. 5 starter Andrew Cashner (strained right rotator cuff), who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday. Cashner is one of two starting pitchers Chicago (4-5) put on the DL on Friday, along with Randy Wells (right forearm strain).

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Casey Coleman was called up from the minors to take Wells' turn in the rotation on Sunday in Milwaukee. He allowed four runs in five innings, and the Cubs ended up losing 6-5, their third defeat in four games.

This stretch started Wednesday, when Dempster allowed five runs and 10 hits in seven innings of a 6-4 loss to Arizona. Although he lost again, there were some positives to take from his latest outing.

After serving up a pair of homers and permitting four walks in an opening-day loss to Pittsburgh, Dempster kept the ball in the park and didn't issue a base on balls in his second start.

"I like the way I was throwing the ball," said Dempster, who has only lost three consecutive starts once since joining the Cubs rotation in 2008 - a four-game skid April 29-May 15.

Dempster could have a decent chance of earning his first victory in Houston, where he is 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA in his last five starts.

Although he has pitched well against the Astros, Dempster hasn't had much luck. He is 2-4 in 11 starts versus Houston since 2008 despite a 3.65 ERA.

The Cubs went 7-11 against the Astros in 2010, their most losses in the season series since going 8-11 in 2002.

Houston (2-7) is coming off a 7-2 win over Florida on Sunday to become the last NL team to win its second game.

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The Astros, who averaged 3.5 runs in their first eight contests, pounded out a season-high 16 hits and the top three hitters in the batting order - Michael Bourn, Angel Sanchez and Hunter Pence - went a combined 8 for 14.

J.A. Happ, who pitched four-hit ball into the eighth inning, also contributed to the offensive outburst, driving in a pair of runs with a double.

"A real good team win," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "What a pitching performance, and then everybody in the starting lineup getting a hit. That's pretty special, when you're able to put together an attack like that, that's balanced."

Mills will now give the ball to Nelson Figueroa (0-1, 10.13), who is hoping to put a rough season debut behind him.

Figueroa was knocked around for career highs of 11 hits and 10 runs - six earned - in 5 1-3 innings of a 12-4 loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday.

The right-hander will try to bounce back against the Cubs, whom he recorded a 2.45 ERA in winning two starts against last season.

Figueroa will have to be careful pitching to Aramis Ramirez, who is batting .316 with two homers in 19 career at-bats against him.

Ramirez, who drove in three runs on three doubles Sunday, had six homers and 19 RBIs in 14 games against Houston in 2010.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Preview: Cubs look to sweep Reds on CSN

Preview: Cubs look to sweep Reds on CSN

The Cubs take on the Cincinnati Reds today, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: John Lackey (1-2, 4.00 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (1-2, 8.40 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

Cubs offense explodes with three home runs in victory over Reds

Cubs offense explodes with three home runs in victory over Reds

CINCINNATI — After a sputtering start, the Cubs' offense is finally rolling. And it's no surprise that they're breaking out at Great American Ball Park, a place that's just their style.

Wilson Contreras hit his first career grand slam and Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward added three-run shots on Saturday, powering Chicago to a 12-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Jake Arrieta (3-0) returned to the mound where he threw his second career no-hitter last April 21 and struggled mightily at the outset, giving up two homers in the first inning. Chicago's offense pulled him through with another homer-filled game at Great American Ball Park. Arrieta helped with an RBI triple.

"We've been making the most of them the last few games," Heyward said of the big hits.

The Cubs have won 20 of their last 24 games against the Reds, including 17 of 21 at Great American. The Cubs have homered in each of their last 14 games in Cincinnati, which suits their power-laden lineup.

"We've had some hiccups, but we've been picked up by our offense," said Arrieta, who gave up five runs in six innings. "As starting pitchers, we have to take advantage of our offense."

In the series opener, Rizzo's three-run homer tied it with two outs in the ninth and set up a 6-5 win in 11 innings. He connected in the first inning on Saturday against left-hander Cody Reed (1-1), who was moved into the Reds' injury-depleted rotation. Contreras hit his grand slam in the second, which was Reed's final inning.

"We score, what, nine runs and we lose? That's tough," Reed said.

Heyward's second homer in two days made it 11-5 in the sixth. The Cubs hit 42 homers against Cincinnati last season, the most by any Reds' opponent in their history. Chicago has six homers in the first two games of the series.

Arrieta was pitching on six days' rest. He needed 53 pitches to get through the first two innings. Joey Votto hit a three-run homer in the first - he drove in five runs overall - and Eugenio Suarez followed with a solo shot.

"I feel like I did my job after that first inning or so," said Arrieta, who struck out eight and didn't walk a batter. "After that, you want to protect the lead and get as deep into the game as you can."

Arrieta knocked in a run with his fourth career triple , a drive to right field that Scooter Gennett misplayed and missed as he tried to make a diving catch on the warning track.