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CHC@ARI: Hill blasts his first homer of the season

PHOENIX -- Prior to Thursday night's game at Chase Field, Cubs manager Mike Quade was worried about starter Ryan Dempster. There was good reason for his concern.

The veteran right-hander couldn't make it out of the first inning as the D-backs walloped the Cubs, 11-2.

"We've got a lot of work to do in the next four, five days, that's for sure," Quade said after his club began a seven-game western swing with a thud. "I always look at it as a veteran guy, but he's got to figure some stuff out. He and [pitching coach Mark Riggins] have to get together. Tonight, coming out of the chute, he didn't look right to me."

It was Dempster's worst outing of a season that had already gone south and at one-third of an inning the shortest of his 14-year career.

Dempster allowed seven earned runs on four hits, including the first grand slam of Stephen Drew's career. He also walked four and hit a batter.

Dempster faced 10 batters in the inning, nine of them reaching base safely. Chris Young doubled on Dempster's first pitch and it was all downhill after that. After Drew's homer, Miguel Montero grounded out to first and Dempster walked the bases loaded. A pair of singles drove in the other three runs.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said his club did a good job taking advantage of Dempster's control issues.

"We were patient enough," Gibson said. "Dempster was obviously struggling. We did a very good job of letting him continue to struggle, and when he got the ball over [the plate], we pounded it."

Dempster said he's healthy, although scouts noted during the game that velocity on his fastball was down about four miles per hour. Dempster's pitches were steadily in the 85-90 mph range.

"This was a really bad outing," Dempster said. "The game really didn't start out like I dreamt it up last night. I've been there before. I hope to not be there again. You've got to learn from it and you need to go out there and put your work in the next four days and give yourself a chance to win a ballgame."

Worse still, the performance continued an alarming pattern. Dempster came into the game with a 7.63 ERA and left with it soaring like the Dow on a good financial day to 9.58, the worst among starters in the Major Leagues. He's 1-3 and in none of his six starts has he allowed fewer than four earned runs or worked more than seven innings. In fact, he's been pummeled for 19 earned runs over 11 innings in his last three starts.

"Thank God the month of April, for me, is over," Dempster said. "It was lack of execution today. It put us in a huge hole. I was unable to make pitches when I was supposed to make them. It really wasn't much more than that."

Quade said he's not considering any radical surgery, like pitching Dempster on Monday night in Los Angeles when the Cubs need a starter or having him sit a start to work out his problems in the bullpen.

"I have no desire to do that," Quade said about sitting him for a start. "We need him to pitch better, especially considering the situation. We're counting heavily on him for the entire season, let alone now with what we're going through at the back of our rotation."

About the possibility of him pitching on Monday, Quade added: "Giving the number of pitches he threw tonight [40], that's an option ... but I'd rather not. It's one thing if a guy's been pitching well and had an outing like this. You chalk it up to experience and bring him back quick. But it's more important now that we get Demp straightened out, so I'd rather not do that. I never say never, but that's not on my radar right now."

The beneficiary of all this offensive output off Dempster was D-backs starter Barry Enright, who came into the game suffering from his own struggles. Enright won for the first time in five starts. He allowed five hits and walked the bases loaded with two down in the fifth inning. But D-backs right fielder Justin Upton robbed Starlin Castro of a probable multi-run-producing hit with a spectacular diving catch on a ball hit in front and to the side of him.

Upton was hit by pitches twice in the game: the first time by Dempster after Upton jacked a potential three-run homer just foul down the left-field line, the second time by Justin Berg in the third inning. The benches weren't warned and there was no retaliation by Enright, who allowed two runs in his 6 2/3 innings.

Gibson said that Upton being hit twice was "just part of the game."

Asked if he thought the second one was meant to send a message, Gibson added: "I don't comment on that." Comments