Dempster baffled by lack of control
Starter walks seven, yields grand slam in Game 1 loss to LA
CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster couldn't find his groove.
Dempster walked seven, including three in the fifth to set up James Loney's grand slam, and the Cubs fell, 7-2, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday.
"I felt like I really let the guys down today," said Dempster, the first Cubs pitcher to issue seven walks in a postseason game since Tex Carleton did so in 1935. "We'll be ready tomorrow. We'll come out and win a game tomorrow and get right back on this thing. You don't have to win all five, just three."
Dempster (0-1), who has notched 14 of his career-high 17 wins this season at Wrigley Field, lasted 4 2/3 innings, his second-shortest outing of the year. He gave up four hits and walked seven, which matches his career high set Aug. 20, 1999.
This was the first playoff start for the right-hander, who said this spring that the Cubs would win the World Series. They've got an uphill climb. Since 1995, the winner of Game 1 of the NLDS has gone 23-3 in the series.
"It's just a loss," Chicago's Derrek Lee said. "We're not even thinking about last year. They did the job tonight and we didn't. It's a short series, you don't want to go down 0-2. Tomorrow's a huge game and we'll be ready."
Dempster did escape a bases-loaded jam in the third, getting Andre Ethier to swing at a nasty split-finger pitch for strike three. But with one out in the fifth, Dempster walked Rafael Furcal. One out later, he walked Manny Ramirez and Ethier to set up Loney, who drove a 1-2 split that he hung into the left-center field seats.
"I didn't execute and he did, and that was the difference in the game," Dempster said.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella was confused by Dempster's wildness.
"I asked [pitching coach Larry Rothschild] a few times," Piniella said. "He said he was overthrowing and he couldn't get a good rhythm out there."
Piniella did not consider removing Dempster before the grand slam.
"He hadn't given up a run," Piniella said. "He had pitched himself out of trouble an inning or two before. We were concerned about his pitch count, but we were going to let himself get out of trouble. Invariably, if you keep putting people on, they are going to score. They scored there quickly with the grand slam."
Dempster was bewildered by his wildness.
GAME 2: JUST THE FACTS
|Dodgers starter: RHP Chad Billingsley|
|2008: 16-10, 3.14 ERA|
|2008 on road: 6-6, 3.33 ERA|
|2008 vs. Cubs: 0-1, 4.91 ERA|
|Career vs. Cubs: 1-1, 3.60 ERA|
|Career postseason: 0-0, 0.00 (two relief appearances)|
|Cubs starter: RHP Carlos Zambrano|
|2008: 14-6, 3.91 ERA|
|2008 at home: 7-2, 3.77 ERA|
|2008 vs. Dodgers: 0-1, 4.91 ERA|
|Career vs. Dodgers: 2-3, 3.75 ERA|
|Career postseason: 0-1, 4.37 ERA (four starts)|
|Dodgers lead series, 1-0. The team that has won Game 1 of an NLDS is 23-3 in those series.|
|Game 1: Dodgers 7, Cubs 2|
|Did You Know? The Dodgers' win in Game 1 gave them the all-time head-to-head series lead over the Cubs 1,013-1,012.|
"I haven't done that in a long time," Dempster said. "It was frustrating. I was prepared mentally and physically and I didn't go out and execute. If you don't execute and put the ball where you need to put it, you won't get the results you want.
"Even as bad as I was and erratic as I was tonight, I had a chance to get out of there and make a pitch," he said. "I was ahead in the count and I didn't do it. It was tough. We had a 2-0 lead against a good team and a really good pitcher who is throwing as well as anybody, and unfortunately it came down to my lack of execution."
His teammates were supportive.
"You're surprised by the walks," Chicago's Mark DeRosa said. "When you consistently put yourself in jams with walks, eventually somebody's going to get a knock. That's just the way the game is. I'm hoping he gets another chance. I want to give him that chance to get on the mound and redeem himself."
The Dodgers simply were patient at the plate and made Dempster work.
"You have to give credit to their hitters for laying off some of those pitches," Ryan Theriot said. "They were good pitches. It wasn't like he was throwing the ball all over the place. He was right there around the zone, maybe just barely missing. Instead of talking about the walks, I think the credit needs to go to their hitters for laying off some of those pitches."
It wasn't just the walks. It was who they walked. Lowe was issued a free pass twice.
"I can't remember us doing that all summer," Piniella said.
|"I haven't done that in a long time. It was frustrating. I was prepared mentally and physically and I didn't go out and execute. If you don't execute and put the ball where you need to put it, you won't get the results you want."|
|-- Ryan Dempster|
"I know there are a lot of guys who are down right now but bottom line is you come back tomorrow, you win tomorrow and you go from there," DeRosa said. "You have to even up the series. I want guys, once they get out of the shower, to forget about it and move on."
The Cubs do know DeRosa's left leg can handle home run trots. He did not play in the final four games of the regular season because of a strained left calf suffered one week ago. With one out in the Chicago second, Jim Edmonds singled and DeRosa then tucked a 1-0 pitch from Lowe (1-0) into the corner of the right-field bleachers, the ball landing in the second row of seats just fair.
The lead was short-lived.
"After Loney hits that grand slam, we didn't answer," DeRosa said. "Those tack-on runs are huge. They're demoralizing."
The northwest wind wasn't a problem, especially for Manny Ramirez, who golfed a low curve from Sean Marshall deep into the left-center-field seats for his 25th career postseason homer leading off the Dodgers' seventh. Russell Martin also connected leading off the ninth off Jason Marquis.
Lowe (1-0), making his eighth career playoff start, struck out six and gave up two runs on seven hits over six innings. He walked one.
There was no panic in the Cubs clubhouse, even if this was their seventh straight postseason loss.
"Players don't think about that, they really don't," DeRosa said. "We play for the moment. We're not worried about 100 years. We'd love to be able to give the Chicago fans a championship, not only for the guys in the clubhouse but for everyone who follows this team and is a diehard to this team. You can't worry about that stuff."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.