Role reversal: Pirates double up Dempster, Cubs

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Role reversal: Pirates double up Dempster, Cubs

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
11:52 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

For Mike Quade, the biggest difference hes found managing in the majors has been the volume of information. Quade was the Oakland As first-base coach while the best-selling book Moneyball was being reported, so he understands the value of statistics.

But at the Triple-A level you never get these sample sizes or numbers for specific situations. The game is too transient there. Now Quade can analyze Alfonso Sorianos performance across 40 at-bats against a particular pitcher.

The Cubs manager is no longer working off handwritten notes either. But computer printouts dont give easy answers for this.

The Cubs had their most reliable starter (Ryan Dempster) on the mound Tuesday night against the worst team in baseball (Pittsburgh Pirates). They fell behind by nine runs and lost 14-7 in front of 31,369 fans, though the Wrigley Field crowd seemed smaller than that.

Six days earlier, Dempster had no-hitter type stuff until Quade pulled him after 79 pitches in the eighth inning of a scoreless game. It was a bold move that paid off for the rookie manager when the pinch-hitter scored the go-ahead run and the Cubs beat the Washington Nationals.

Until Tuesday night, Dempster had been so good in August 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA that you wondered if something was wrong. Seventy pitches got him through three innings and he gave up seven runs. It marked his shortest start since June 27, 2008 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Physically, hes fine, Quade said. He just gets furious with himself.

The Pirates (44-88) havent had a winning season since 1992. Their internal financial documents were recently leaked to the website Deadspin for the whole world to see. It has become a place for players like Aramis Ramirez to go for awhile before getting rich somewhere else.

Tuesdays edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wondered: Is this their worst team ever? Yet the Pirates are now 10-4 against the Cubs this year.

I got no explanation why, Ramirez said. Weve played well against them before. This year for some reason we just havent been winning.

During this line of questioning, Lou Piniella would invariably point out that the Cubs (56-77) have had trouble winning against all types of teams this season. It is why theyve never been above .500 in 2010 and will be playing in front of empty seats throughout September.

The jobs still the same coming to work, Dempster said. It doesnt say in your contract: Ill try as hard as I can as long as were in it.

Dempster is one of the few people in the clubhouse who knows what hell be doing next year, probably pitching on Opening Day. For everyone else, there will be auditions, from Quade to the pitching staff to the September call-ups, most likely six or seven players once Iowa completes its season.

I look back when I first came up, I was a young guy who (definitely knew he) didnt belong in the big leagues, Dempster said. Were in this together. Whoever else is here a day from now, or a week from now or two weeks from now whenever it is (will) get a great experience that you cant get anywhere else.

For the fifth-place Cubs, the good news is that by late Wednesday afternoon they should be done with the Pirates this season. Consider it another weird data point in an unpredictable season.

Weve talked so much about starting pitching and Demps going to pitch well, Quade said. You dont play games on paper. And the last thing in the world I expected was to be making a change for Demp in the third inning. But thats the nature of the beast.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs, White Sox react to news of Jose Fernandez's death

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Cubs, White Sox react to news of Jose Fernandez's death

The baseball world was rocked Sunday morning by the news that Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident at the age of 24.

"All of baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez," Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He was one of our game's great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life."

Chicago baseball teams and players shared their own messages on Twitter after the news broke.

Born in Cuba, Fernandez had a long and dangerous journey defecting to the United States. Unsuccessful attempts to defects were followed by prison terms, and during his successful attempt, he rescued his mother from drowning after she fell overboard. He was only 15 years old at the time.

Fernandez, who won National League Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, was twice named an NL All Star, including this season. He had a sparkling 2.58 ERA in his four big league seasons. After dealing with injuries that limited him to 19 combined starts during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Fernandez was stellar this season, posting a 2.86 ERA and striking out a whopping 253 batters in 182 1/3 innings.

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

At the end of the day, a loss means essentially nothing for the Cubs right now.

But the Cubs also certainly don't want to hand games to their division rival as the St. Louis Cardinals make a run at the National League wild card spots.

After the Cubs clinched homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs with the Washington Nationals' loss Friday night, they had no answer for the Cardinals in a 10-4 loss in front of 40,785 fans at Wrigley Field Saturday afternoon on national TV.

A few disturbing trends popped their heads above ground for the Cubs again Saturday, including the offense's struggles at manufacturing runs, Jason Hammel getting shelled and some bullpen woes.

The Cubs had no trouble putting runners on base against Cardinals phenom Alex Reyes, but they had a tough time plating those guys, cashing in only once with a runner on third base in six tries over the first four innings.

In two of those spots, a Cubs hitter came up with only one out, but failed to bring the run home as Addison Russell struck out in the first inning and Kris Bryant popped out to shallow left in the second.

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Hammel recorded only seven outs and was tagged for six runs on six hits and a walk, watching his season ERA rise nearly 30 points to 3.83. The veteran right-hander fell to 15-10 as he attempts to make a push for one of the Cubs' final postseason roster spots.

"Honestly, I would love to be a part of [the playoff roster], as the rest of the guys on the team would love to," Hammel said. "I know there's only a certain amount of spots, so if I'm handed the ball, I'll be ready. That's the way I'm gonna view it.

"Obviously you wanna be a part of something special like that, but I think everybody here has already been a part of something special to get to this point. We're all very proud. We still got eight regular season ballgames left to build some momentum. Whether I'm on the roster or not, I'm still gonna enjoy it."

Hammel was also clearly on the wrong end of some bad luck Saturday, as the four runs he allowed in the first came via a check swing and a couple hits just out of the reach of his fielders. 

Joe Maddon won't put too much stock into one rough start in late September.

"I'm not too worried about a good or bad outing right now. I'm not," he said. "Pretty much, you know who the guy is. You know if the guy's go this stuff going on or if he doesn't. ... The greater body of work matters."

Setup man Hector Rondon struggled in his appearance, needing 26 pitches to notch just one out, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk before handing the ball off to Felix Pena.

Of course, it's also just one game and one loss for a team with 98 victories and hopes of the World Series.

Rondon had been nearly unhittable since returning from the disabled list two weeks ago and the Cubs offense had been efficient and relentless in the past four games after Maddon's meeting with the hitters earlier in the week.

Maddon also used the blowout to get regulars like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Russell out of the lineup to help keep them fresh for October.

After the game, Maddon chose to look on the bright side.

"Our starter had a tough day today; that's it. Otherwise we did some nice things," he said, referencing the solid offensive days from Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. "We had chances to score runs - runners on third, less than two outs - and we didn't fulfill that.

"We made their starter throw 115 pitches in five innings; I think that's a positive."

The Cubs will close out their season series with the Cardinals on another nationally-televised showdown Sunday night between Jon Lester and St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez.