PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Dempster wanted to finish the first half of the season on a positive note. Instead, it ended with an angry and public disagreement with Cubs manager Mike Quade.
"I don't think he was very happy," Quade said of Dempster.
Making his first start since June 29, Dempster gave up three runs over five innings in the Cubs' 6-3 win over the Pirates in front of a sellout crowd of 39,235 on Saturday night. All-Star Starlin Castro had three hits and an RBI, and Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Pena and Kosuke Fukudome each drove in a run in the win.
"We won the game and that's all that matters," said a much calmer Dempster after the game. "I think anybody who is competitive, they want to be out there. At the end of the day, the 'W' is what matters."
Dempster (6-6) missed his last scheduled start on Monday because of problems with his back and stomach, which required him to be hospitalized as a precaution. He threw 87 pitches on Saturday against the Pirates, and as he came off the field at the end of the fifth, he was met at the dugout steps by Quade, who told the right-hander his work was done.
Dempster, due to lead off the Cubs sixth, argued with Quade, and threw his hat and glove. He then went down the steps toward the visitor's clubhouse and out of view. Quade said he didn't feel that Dempster was being disrespectful.
"I'd prefer that we take stuff [to the clubhouse], but sometimes those things happen," Quade said. "If it's happening because a guy's a competitor and is [ticked] off, I'm OK with that. He's earned the right [to disagree] as much as anybody from a veteran standpoint."
The Cubs bullpen is probably looking forward to the All-Star break more than anyone else on the team, due to the amount of innings that it's accumulated. Dempster said that he felt he could have gone deeper.
"[Disagreements] happen all the time, and he was a little more forceful," Quade said. "He's looking to save the bullpen, he's looking to do a lot of stuff for the club. I thought it was time and he obviously disagreed."
Other pitchers have argued with Quade, the manager said, but have done so out of sight.
"I have a decision to make one way or the other," Quade said. "He wants to keep pitching, and I have to take into account what I saw, what I've got available, where we're at, his physical condition and everything else.
"He's interested in trying to win a game for the team, and that's the guy I want," Quade said. "I'm thinking about a million things, like how he's going to recover. His pitch count was 87 or whatever it was, and that doesn't always matter to me."
Dempster's outburst was uncharacteristic.
"Guys used to do it all the time," Dempster said. "People called them 'fiery' and they loved it. Now they call it 'out of control.'"
Is he fiery?
"I'm fiery," said Dempster, who didn't feel a need to talk to Quade. "I used to try to beat my little brother up all the time and we love each other to death. Sometimes you go through things during the season and you have to figure out a way to move past them, and we did that during the game. We kept going out there and won the game."
This isn't the first time Quade has pulled Dempster earlier than the right-hander would have liked. In his last start against the Giants, Dempster was lifted after throwing 83 pitches over eight innings. He was in line for the win but didn't get one as the Giants rallied. When Quade first took over the Cubs last August, he pulled Dempster after seven scoreless innings -- and only 79 pitches -- against the Nationals
"You don't have to like it, but that's the decision," Cubs catcher Koyie Hill said. "If you make a decision and you feel in your heart that you're right, you're right."
Hill felt that the argument looked worse than it was.
"We've weathered a lot of storms here already," Hill said. "We came back from 8-0 the other day [against the Nationals]. It's one thing to get beat, to not play well, to not be as consistent as you'd like. It's another thing not to care.
"I don't care if you come back against a Double-A team, 8-0, you hung in there and played well and you wanted to win the game," Hill said. "I think that's what we've done every day. Guys want to go out there and do their job. [Dempster] is no different. He wanted to go out there and soak up a couple more innings for his bullpen."
Dempster said that he felt good physically, but his command was off a little from the layoff. He got some help in the first inning when Fukudome threw out Alex Presley at home when he tried to score on Chase d'Arnaud's single. The Pirates stranded two runners that inning.
Carlos Marmol, who blew a save opportunity on Friday, got the final three outs for his 19th save. He had a little session with the pitching coach before the game, and it ended up paying off.
Fukudome walked to lead off the game and reached third on Castro's double. Two outs later, Byrd hit an RBI single and Castro scored on a wild pitch by Kevin Correia (11-7) during Soriano's at-bat.
"I've faced this lineup three times in the first half," Correia said. "When a team's seen you that much, you have to be on your game."
Fukudome's RBI single in the second made it 3-0, and Soriano added an RBI single in the third.
The Pirates tallied a run in the third, but Darwin Barney singled to open the fourth and scored two batters later on Castro's single, raising the shortstop's RBI total to 39. The Cubs' lone All-Star representative, Castro drove in 41 runs in 125 games last year.
Sunday will be the 38th game in 38 days for the Cubs before a much-needed break.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.