D-backs' offense remains shackled by Cubs

D-backs' offense remains shackled by Cubs

D-backs' offense remains shackled by Cubs
CHICAGO -- The D-backs' offense has been slow to return from the All-Star break.

For the second straight day, the D-backs had trouble getting runners home, as they fell to the Cubs, 4-1, on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

In two games against the Cubs, the D-backs have scored a total of two runs. During their three-game winning streak prior to the break, the D-backs scored 17 runs.

"We scored two runs in Wrigley Field in two days," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "That's not what we expect to do. We've got to be better than that."

The problem is, they simply haven't.

"It's two games after the break, I don't think anybody in here is freaking out," third baseman Geoff Blum said. "But we'd like to get on a run and feel good about ourselves."

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster (5-3) worked six innings to run his streak of scoreless frames to 33. The right-hander allowed four hits and walked three, while striking out five.

"He threw the ball good," Gibson said. "He located all of his pitches. He's a veteran guy, and he got us in some times where we got a little aggressive -- and then he got the best of us."

The D-backs were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, and are 1-for-12 in those situations during the series.

"Give credit where credit is due," Blum said. "Dempster's a good pitcher. He went out there and made pitches when he had to. It looked like he was laboring a little bit, and I thought we were going to have a chance to maybe take advantage of some of the pitches up in the zone. But he just never caves in. He always throws the ball just near enough to the zone that you can't get enough on it to really hurt him."

The Cubs jumped on top, 1-0, in the third when Luis Valbuena scored from third on Starlin Castro's groundout.

One inning later, Darwin Barney drove home Alfonso Soriano with a double down the left-field line, and Valbuena followed with a single to center to score Barney and give Chicago a 3-0 lead.

The Cubs capitalized on a throwing error by Stephen Drew to score another run in the sixth to go up, 4-0.

"We haven't played well," Gibson said. "[The Cubs] played well again today. Just good baseball by them."

The D-backs finally got on the board in the seventh when Chris Young hit a solo homer to left-center off reliever James Russell. The homer was the ninth of the year for Young.

"I was just able to keep the ball down, keep it out of the air," Dempster said. "They've got a lot of guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. It was a nice win for us, another series, another win at home. We've been playing well at home, so we'll just keep building on that."

Joe Saunders (4-6) allowed four runs (three earned) over six innings in his first start since being activated off the disabled list.

"I felt great, it was fun to get back out and start contributing again," said Saunders, who went on the DL on June 23. "It stinks that we couldn't pull it out, but we knew runs were going to be hard to come by with Mr. Dempster out there. He's been throwing the ball great."

The D-backs have gone through their ups and downs offensively throughout the season. They were shut out three times during a six-game road trip in late June, and then came home and scored 51 runs in six games.

"It's just one of those things where we may be pressing a little bit at the plate," Saunders said. "It's like, either we score a lot or we don't score hardly any. We just have to find a happy medium and I think we'll be just fine."

The D-backs close out the three-game series with the Cubs on Sunday before heading to Cincinnati for a four-game set with the Reds.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @dbackswriter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.