Ryan Dempster got into a bases loaded one out jam in the very first inning thanks to a hit batter and a walk, and Cubs fans must have been thinking that the team was well on their way to a ninth consecutive loss. But the Cubs Opening Day starter got out of the jam unscathed and cruised to a solid outing, only allowing one run on three hits through six innings of work while striking out eight. A baseball team’s staff ace needs to be the stopper when it comes to losing streaks, and Dempster did just that on Wednesday afternoon. What really helped him out was the fact that he did not issue another walk after the one in the 1st inning.
Meanwhile the Cubs offense was able to support Dempster with a few runs to earn the ace his fifth win of the season. Kosuke Fukudome kept rolling as the Cubs lead off hitter, going 2 for 4 and keeping his season average above .300 for yet another day. But the big hits came off the bats of the middle of the order for once. Carlos Pena launched a two run home run (video courtesy of MLB.com) in the top of the 4th inning to cash in on the Reds error that allowed Blake DeWitt to get on base in front of him. Comcast Sports Net barely finished showing the replay, and before Pena could even take off his batting helmet after celebrating with his teammates in the dugout, Aramis Ramirez jumped on Bronson Arroyo’s very next pitch (video courtesy of MLB.com) to give the Cubs back to back jacks and a 3-1 lead.
Just as important as it was to see the Cubs stringing some hits together for a multi run inning for once, it was also good to see Ramirez hit a home run, just his third of the season. The slugging third baseman’s power outage so far this season is still a mystery, but hopefully this home run is a sign of things to come. Rookie Tony Campana went 2 for 4 and stole his sixth base of the season. The kid has only appeared in 18 games since his call up last month, and he already leads the team in stolen bases, ahead of Starlin Castro by one. Granted four of Campana’s stolen bases came in one game against Houston on the Sunday before Memorial Day, but he is showing glimpses of the Juan Pierre mold that could see him competing for the lead off spot in the future for the Cubs.
Koyie Hill also deserves honorable mention for his 2 for 3 day considering he is a light hitting back up catcher. However the lowlight on offense was Brad Snyder going 0 for 4 in his first start of 2011. The rookie has struggled during his cups of coffee at the Major League level and will most likely be the first candidate to be sent back down to the minors with Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker getting closer to returning off of the disabled list. In Snyder’s defense, the kid has not had consistent enough at bats at this level to settle in. Even the youth movement options for the outfield seem plenty at this point and it will be tough for him to cement a spot if he is not able to shine in limited action.
The eight game losing streak got to that point thanks in part to a couple blown saves by Carlos Marmol along the way. And his bullpen mates have not been helping either. But yesterday all the parts were working together to get the Cubs a win, and that included a scoreless effort by the back end of the bullpen. Marmol got the save with a perfect inning of work for his eleventh of the season, while Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall did an excellent job bridging the gap from Dempster with scoreless frames of their own, including two strikeouts a piece.