Dempster remains perfect in victory
Hurler wins 10th straight at home; Soto collects three RBIs
CHICAGO -- There's no place like home for Ryan Dempster.
The All-Star right-hander improved to 10-0 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night as the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-3.
"What is that, his 10th win of the season?" Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "All we need is another 10 from him in the second half, and we're in business."
He'll take that, and another 10 from newly acquired starting pitcher Rich Harden, who was acquired shortly before Tuesday's game from the Oakland Athletics with reliever Chad Gaudin in exchange for four players. Harden and Gaudin are expected to join the Cubs on Wednesday.
All-Star Geovany Soto and Mike Fontenot each hit two-run homers, and Aramis Ramirez tripled, scored a run and drove in another to back Dempster (10-3), who has yet to win on the road. Maybe the Cubs will leave him behind on the next road trip.
"I sure do enjoy pitching here," Dempster said.
Is it home cooking? The mound? The sound of the "L" train rumbling past Wrigley Field?
"Seven runs and all the good defensive plays help," Dempster said. "I'll win a game on the road eventually this year. It'll happen, it'll come. I'll keep plugging away. We play so well at home and, for whatever reason, it's just been rolling at home, for me and for the team, and that's the way it should be."
Dempster, named to the National League All-Star team for the second time in his career and the first time since 2000, gave up one run on two hits and four walks over seven innings while striking out five. He's the first Cubs starter to win his first 10 decisions at home since Rick Reuschel did so in 1977. Dempster also is 7-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last eight home starts, and has gone at least six innings in each of those games.
The only trouble he had was in the Reds' fourth, when he gave up a single and walked four -- including Paul Bako with the bases loaded to force in a run.
"I don't like to do that," Dempster said. "I like to try to make them earn it."
Piniella felt Dempster's closer mentality took over in the inning and helped him escape the jam. He retired the last 10 batters he faced.
"I don't fear those situations, and try to keep making one pitch," Dempster said. "Sometimes inning management is as big as anything in the game."
Almost as big as great defensive plays, beginning with Jim Edmonds' diving catch in center field off leadoff man Jerry Hairston Jr.'s fly ball. Ramirez made three great stops at third as well for the team win.
Fontenot connected in the fourth, driving in Mark DeRosa, and sent an 0-1 pitch from Aaron Harang (3-11) into the basket in straightaway center field.
"He's always been able to hit the ball out of the park," shortstop Ryan Theriot said. "It might have something to do with his arms being shorter than anybody else's."
OK, no short jokes.
"I try to get wood on it as much as I can," said Fontenot, who is a powerful 5-foot-8. "Bat speed, I guess. That's all I have to say about it."
Soto, who will start behind the plate in next week's All-Star Game, launched his 16th homer in the fifth, and now has more than any rookie catcher in the Major Leagues since Mike Piazza belted 18 in 1993.
"I really didn't think I hit it," Soto said. "I thought it was going to be a towering fly ball. I don't know if it was the wind that carried it."
With the win, the Cubs are 34-10 at Wrigley Field, and 54-36 for the season. It's the first time since 1977 the Cubs have won 54 games before the All-Star break.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.