CHICAGO — Ryan Dempster's 10-0 start at home was one reason to celebrate Tuesday night. And there was another. The Cubs' rotation is getting another front-line starter in Rich Harden, who hails from British Columbia. Just like Dempster.
”Awesome. We're taking over. ... From my neck of the woods. Finally somebody who speaks my language,“ Dempster said after the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-3 behind his seven strong innings and homers from Mike Fontenot and Geovany Soto.
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Harden, expected to pitch this weekend against the Giants at Wrigley Field, joins the staff of the NL Central leaders that already includes Dempster and Carlos Zambrano. He was acquired Tuesday in a six-player deal from the Oakland Athletics.
Dempster (10-3) is the first Cubs' pitcher to win his first 10 decisions at home since Rick Reuschel in 1977. He allowed two hits and a run in seven innings, while throwing 103 pitches on a muggy night at Wrigley Field.
What the Cubs need from Dempster ”is another 10 (wins) in the second half and we're in business,“ manager Lou Piniella said.
The Cubs capitalized on Cincinnati starter Aaron Harang's wildness. The 6-foot-7 right-hander walked a career-high seven and gave up six runs and five hits in 41⁄3 innings. Harang had been scheduled to start last Saturday but was given a few extra days to recover from stiffness in his right forearm.
Reds Manager Dusty Baker wasn't sure what to make of the latest performance.
”He didn't say anything. There were some balls in the low-90's and the next inning there were balls in the mid-80's,“ Baker said. ”This is puzzling for me. This has gone on for quite a while. We certainly need him on track.“
Harang is 1-5 since making a relief appearance on May 25 in which he pitched four innings, striking out nine.
”Some days I wake up and feel great, other days I feel like trash. Some of the days I've woken up and felt like trash on the days I'm pitching,“ Harang said. ”But you have to go out there and take the ball every fifth day and go out there and try to get a victory. Things just haven't been working out.“
Fontenot gave Chicago a 4-1 lead in the fourth with his sixth homer of the season, a drive over the wall in center.
Soto, the first rookie catcher to start for the NL in the All-Star game, had a two-run shot, his 16th of the season, to chase Harang (3-11) in the fifth and make it 6-1.
Aramis Ramirez legged out a triple in the second after right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. missed a diving attempt at his sinking liner. Soto's sacrifice fly made it 1-0.
Ryan Theriot's single and two walks loaded the bases for the Cubs with no outs in the third but all Chicago managed was a sacrifice fly from Ramirez.
Cincinnati had a big inning brewing in the fourth when Dempster had trouble throwing strikes. He walked Griffey and Adam Dunn, but when Jeff Keppinger blooped a ball into right field for what appeared to be a single, Dunn hesitated and was forced out on right fielder Kosuke Fukudome's throw to second. Dempster then walked two more to force in a run before Harang struck out.
The Reds also had two on in the second before Paul Bako lined into an inning-ending double play.
Cincinnati, which didn't have a hit from the third to the eighth innings, got three in the ninth when it scored twice off Bob Howry. Pinch-hitter Javier Valentin had an RBI double, the Reds' only extra base hit of the night.