Dempster's issues magnified by lack of offense

Dempster's issues magnified by lack of offense

Dempster's issues magnified by lack of offense
CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster was reunited with the catcher who was behind the plate for his last win but even that couldn't help him or the Cubs end their respective winless streaks.

Dayan Viciedo and A.J. Pierzynski hit back-to-back home runs off Dempster, and Adam Dunn belted his 13th homer to power the White Sox to a 7-4 victory over the Cubs on Saturday night and take a 2-0 lead in the intracity Interleague series.

The Cubs overloaded the lineup with right-handed hitters against John Danks (3-4), but he shrugged it off. The lefty retired the first 13 batters he faced before Alfonso Soriano doubled with one out in the fifth, one of three hits off the left-hander. The Cubs lost their fifth in a row in front of 40,228, including several dignitaries in town for the NATO summit.

"He's good," Joe Mather said of Danks. "I think especially in the game of baseball today, it's happening a lot where lefties are seeing a lot of right-hand hitters and for them to make a living, they have to learn to get us out and I think they are. Those guys are pros and they make adjustments and we have to make adjustments and go from there."

But they didn't.

"He went through us pretty easy, obviously," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We've been making it pretty easy on pitchers who have been coming in struggling. We're making them look pretty good."

Dempster (0-2) didn't look as sharp as he did in his earlier starts. He entered the game ranked second in the Major Leagues with a 1.74 ERA, and that ballooned to 2.28 as he gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings. The right-hander has received the second-lowest run support in the Major Leagues with the Cubs now scoring three or fewer runs in six of his seven starts.

"I don't think he had any command down in the strike zone," Sveum said of the right-hander. "A lot of the pitches were up. Some key pitches, he couldn't get down."

Said Dempster: "I didn't pitch well enough to win the ballgame."

It didn't help to have veteran catcher Koyie Hill back. He was playing for the Reds' Double-A team after being released in March by the Cardinals. The Cubs acquired him because their two Opening Day catchers, Geovany Soto and Steve Clevenger, are both on the disabled list, and their No. 3 backstop, Welington Castillo, is out with a sprained right knee.

Eight of Dempster's 10 wins last season came with Hill behind the plate, including his last on Aug. 11. But not this time. His winless streak has now reached 16 starts.

"We're pretty familiar with each other," Dempster said of Hill. "He did a good job back there considering all the circumstances and flying all over the place. He did a real good job behind home plate, and I just didn't do a good job executing pitches. In the third inning, I walk Adam Dunn with two out and nobody on and it costs us three runs and ultimately probably cost us the game."

Alejandro De Aza singled to lead off the game, stole second, and scored two batters later on Viciedo's single. Viciedo struck again in the White Sox third when he hit his seventh home run with one on and two outs. Two pitches later later, Pierzynski hit his sixth homer to go ahead, 4-0.

"Viciedo had a huge hit in the first," Pierzynski said. "Dempster made some good pitches after that. Then Viciedo again in the third to give us a little cushion. We watched his video, and [Dempster] has been lights out. He just made a couple of mistakes."

"Those were two pitches that changed the game around," Sveum said of the pitches to Viciedo and Pierzynski.

The Cubs avoided being shutout when Soriano hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth. After a single by Jeff Baker, Mather followed with a two-run shot of his own. Soriano had three hits, and now has homered in three of his last five games. He's done so despite some aches and pains.

"He's in one of those streaks where he's feeling pretty good at the plate and seeing the ball good and putting some good swings on the ball," Sveum said. "He's the biggest surprise as far as me coming from the other side of the fence as far as his work ethic and the way he goes about his business and how much he wants to play every single day with the pain he has to go through with his knees. He's a very refreshing guy to be around all the time."

That's one of the few bright spots. With the loss, the Cubs dropped to 10 games under .500, their low point of the season. They've been shuttling players in from the Triple-A team because of injuries and ineffectiveness.

"It definitely affects the pitching," Sveum said of the turnover. "You're putting people in the bullpen in situations that they shouldn't be in but that's what we have to go with now. We have to make do and they have to do the best they can. The bottom line, too, is we still have to do something against starting pitching. That's the bottom line is we have to score and score early."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.