Cubbies hopeful after sweep of free-swinging Rattlers
Posted: Thursday, July 8, 2010 3:08 pm
By: By JOHN MARSHALL, AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) — Aramis Ramirez seemed to take the first steps toward breaking out of his season-long funk. The rest of the team was swinging, too, scoring more runs than the previous 10 games combined. Even the pitching was decent.
Their first three-game sweep at Chase Field could go a long way in turning the Chicago Cubs from woeful to at least hopeful.
Ramirez hit a three-run homer, Ryan Dempster labored through five innings and the Cubs beat the free-swinging Arizona Diamondbacks 8-3 Wednesday night.
“Let’s enjoy it,” Dempster said. “We’ve had a tough go of things, so we’re going to enjoy this and build off it. It gives us positive energy.”
Outscored 35-12 in a recent seven-game homestand, the Cubs heated up in Chase Field’s air conditioning, scoring 23 runs to notch their first three-game sweep at Arizona’s spacious stadium in 16 series all-time.
Starlin Castro had a two-run single as Chicago roughed up Edwin Jackson (6-7) early and Ramirez put it out of reach in the ninth, hitting his third homer in two games off Chad Qualls to give Chicago its first series win of any kind in Arizona since 2003.
With four games against the Dodgers left before the All-Star break, the Cubbies have reason for optimism in a season that hasn’t had much.
“We’re starting to score a few runs,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “It should give us some momentum and some confidence. I like a lot of things I saw in this series.”
The Diamondbacks are building momentum toward a record they don’t want.
Continuing its whiff-a-palooza, Arizona hit 10-plus strikeouts for the fifth straight game to match a team record. The 10 Ks against the Cubs gives the Diamondbacks 69 in six games under interim manager Kirk Gibson and 793 on the season as they swing and miss toward the all-time record.
It’s more than just strikeouts, though.
Arizona hasn’t made many tangible strides under Gibson, losing five straight since winning in his debut last Thursday. The bullpen still has a knack for blowing up, the key hits never seem to come in the late innings and the Diamondbacks haven’t budged from the bottom of the NL West.
In other words, they don’t look a whole lot different under Gibson than they did under A.J. Hinch — at least so far.
“It’s being kind of cruel right now to us,” Gibson said.
Dempster (7-7) struck out six, but gave up three runs on eight hits in failing to reach the sixth inning for just the second time in 18 starts.
He was still better than Jackson.
Two starts removed from the second no-hitter in Diamondbacks’ history, Jackson was sharp early, holding Chicago without a hit until Derrek Lee led off the fourth with a single to left.
Once the Cubs got one hit, they kept going.
Marlon Byrd knocked in Lee with a double, then Alfonso Soriano drove him in with a single. Dempster helped himself out in the inning, too, pushing a bunt toward first for a fielder’s choice that scored another run and put the Cubs up 3-0.
He just couldn’t hold it in the bottom half.
After working around three singles in the second inning and two baserunners in the third, Dempster gave up three runs in the fourth on Jackson’s flare single to center and Chris Young’s broken-bat, two-run single just over the head of Ramirez at third.
“I hate that,” Dempster said. “Shutdown innings are huge and they go out and score three right after we did.”
Didn’t matter against the Diamondbacks.
The Cubs continued to knock around Jackson in the fifth inning, going up 5-3 on a two-run single by Castro that left the right-hander so irritated he didn’t see the ball bound off the backstop on left fielder Gerardo Parra’s throwing error.
Jackson didn’t come out for the sixth inning after giving up five runs on six hits for his first loss since May 28.
The Diamondbacks went out with a whimper after Dempster left, unable to get a runner into scoring position against four relievers over the final four innings to get swept for the eighth time this season.
“It’s tough working though it, struggling and the team struggling,” said Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds, 14 for 69 over his last 20 games. “Then it snowballs, so it’s tough.”
NOTES: Soriano was 0 for 2 in career game No. 1,400 and left in the bottom of the fifth inning after being hit by a pitch on the left elbow in the top half. … Arizona previously struck out 10 times or more in five straight games from April 29-May 3 earlier this season. … Piniella said he expects right-hander Carlos Silva to be ready for his next start after injuring his right calf against Arizona Tuesday night.