Cubs sweep Sox out of Wrigley Field
Starter Dempster improves to 9-0 at home this season
CHICAGO -- Round One goes to the Cubs.
Aramis Ramirez hit his fourth homer in the last three games and drove in two runs, and rookie Eric Patterson belted a two-run blast to power the Cubs to a 7-1 Interleague victory Sunday night over the White Sox and help Ryan Dempster stay unbeaten at home.
Ramirez hit a solo homer in the fifth and an RBI double in the seventh, as the Cubs posted the third sweep at Wrigley Field of their intracity rivals since Interleague play began in 1997. The White Sox will get a chance to play by American League rules next weekend at U.S. Cellular Field. Cubs fans who had their brooms confiscated by ushers might want to hang onto them.
Dempster (9-2) improved to 9-0 at home, giving up 10 hits and striking out four over eight-plus innings. His streak is the longest by a Cubs pitcher since Jon Lieber won 11 in a row in 2001.
"Next time we go on the road, we'll leave him here and he can start the first game of the next homestand," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
He's kidding. Dempster's next scheduled start actually will be on the road in his hometown when the intracity series resumes on the White Sox home turf.
"It's Chicago -- South Side, North Side, what's the difference?" Piniella said. "That's why we're pitching him twice [in the series] -- Sunday and Friday."
Actually, Dempster now will go on Saturday in the second game of the rematch. The right-hander nearly notched his second complete game in his last three outings, and talked Piniella into letting him go back out in the ninth. But he gave up back-to-back singles to Jermaine Dye and Nick Swisher, and was pulled.
What's the reason for his home-field advantage?
"Otis' cooking," Dempster said of clubhouse manager Tom Hellman's clubhouse cuisine. "We're going to start having him cook on the road."
It's more than the tuna fish sandwiches.
"I don't think my fastball command has ever been as good as it is right now," Dempster said. "That comes with work and consistent delivery. I'm trying to throw as many strikes as I can. We have a very good defense, and they're making plays all over the place and turning double plays. I feel if I stay aggressive, and the fewer guys I walk, the better my game is."
All he wants to do is attack the hitter, get ahead, and make them earn it. It's working. Dempster posted his 10th quality start, and got double plays when he needed them.
Piniella even seemed to be caught up in the energy of the evening when he sprinted to the mound in the eighth to check on Dempster, instead of his usual saunter.
"I just wanted to make sure Dempster told me he was OK," Piniella said. "He said he got a split-finger up [to Jim Thome] and told me he was fine. [Ted] Lilly told me I moved rather well. I told him that was my best movement."
Dempster is making the move from closer to starter look smooth.
"I've said it many times so far, he's been by far our first-half MVP," Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa said. "What he's been able to do, coming into Spring Training, to transfer from closer to starter, he's been amazing."
"Every game he's pitched, he's kept us in it and given us a chance to win," Piniella said. "His home record is impeccable."
So is the Cubs'. They've won 14 straight at home for the first time since June 4-July 10, 1936, and boast a franchise-best start of 32-8 at Wrigley Field.
White Sox starter Javier Vazquez (7-6) walked the first two batters he faced in the first, and Derrek Lee then singled to center to drive in one. But Patterson, who had been on first, scampered home as center fielder Dewayne Wise lobbed the throw to shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who dropped it for an error.
Vazquez hit Kosuke Fukudome on the back of his right arm to open the Cubs fifth, and Patterson, starting in left in place of injured Alfonso Soriano, followed with his first big league homer to make it 4-0. One out later, Ramirez connected on the first pitch from Vazquez for his 14th homer. The Cubs third baseman kicked off the series by hitting two on Friday, including a walkoff homer leading off the ninth. Ramirez now has a nine-game hitting streak at home, and is batting .469 in that stretch.
Patterson would just like to stick around for nine games.
"By no means am I a home-run hitter or anything like that," Patterson said. "I do have the ability to drive the ball in the gap here and there, and I'll pop a few out here and there. For me, it's just about getting on base and scoring runs."
He did get the ball for a souvenir. This is Patterson's third call-up. He's finally getting regular at-bats.
"The good thing about Lou is when you get here, he'll put you in the lineup and let you go out and play," Patterson said. "That's definitely good for young players that he's confident in us to put us out there."
It had been a little frustrating in his previous trip up.
"You have to understand the situation going into it," he said. "I just try to come out here and have a good mindset every day. Hopefully one day it'll stick."
It was an intense weekend, with fans cheering every pitch, every play, no matter whether they were wearing white pinstripes or silver and black. Some exuberant fans set off fireworks in the seventh inning during Lee's at-bat, which startled the sellout crowd of 41,034.
"We're going to have this type of atmosphere all summer," Piniella said. "I don't place any special significance [on this series]. This is a game on our schedule. It just so happens both teams are from Chicago and the fans really get into it, and the media really gets into it, and it makes for a good story and good copy, but its one game, that's all it is.
"Put it this way -- I've only been in town a year and a half, and I certainly enjoy the competition against the White Sox, but I don't go crazy over it," added Piniella, who could be excused for being a little giddy. He's 8-1 against the White Sox since taking over the Cubs.
"So far, I'm fortunate," he said. "I respect their team, I respect their organization, and I do what's best for the Chicago Cubs in my mind, and I let it go at that. That's all I can do."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.