Ryan Dempster made his return to the Cubs from the Disabled List today, on the last day of games before this year’s AL and NL All-Stars head to Kansas City for the mid-summer classic. He breezed through five innings, shutting out the Mets on only 63 pitches, and the Chicago bullpen kept the New York offense quiet despite multiple threats to take their second series against the Amazins in two weeks.
Mets Offesnsive Highlights:
There weren’t all that many highlights coming from the Mets offense today, especially since they were able to put two runners on with less than two outs multiple times without being able to cash in. Daniel Murphy was the lone Met to record a multi-hit game with his three hits, raising his season average back up to .295 heading into the break. David Wright also ripped a single, extending his current hitting streak to seven games, as he looks for his third different hitting streak of 10 games or more this season. Jordany Valdespinfound himself in center field today, playing the position quite well, and getting another hit, but the Mets went 0-for-8 as a team with runners in scoring position, leaving six runners stranded on base.
Cubs Offensive Highlights:
Chicago didn’t have many chances to score runs off Jonathon Niese, but when they did in the first and seventh innings, they capitalized, going 4-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Reed Johnson and Starlin Castro started the game off with back-t0-back singles, followed by three straight run-scoring hits. Alfonso Soriano started it with an RBI single, followed by a Jeff Baker double, and a Geovany Soto two-run single. After that, Niese settled down and took control of the game, but got victimized by the long ball in his last inning of work. Luis Valbuena and Johnson singled in front of Starlin Castro with one out, and he cashed in with his seventh homer of the year, a fly ball that soared into the left center field seats beyond the Party City Deck. Castro, Johnson, and Baker each enjoyed a multi-hit game, combining for six hits.
The Cubs didn’t want to over-extend Dempster in his first start back from the disabled list, but he made things looks easy on the mound, extending his current scoreless inning streak to 27 with five more shutout innings this afternoon. He only gave up four hits and no walks while striking out four, and gave way to Paul Maholm, who in his 202nd appearance as a Major Leaguer, was appearing as a reliever for the first time. Him, Manny Corpas, James Russell, and Shawn Camp combined for four scoreless innings to finish the game, allowing only four hits.
On the other hand, Jonathon Niese did pitch pretty well in between the two Chicago scoring rallies, but the offense couldn’t do anything while he kept his team in the game after his rough first inning. Still, Niese provided more length from the starting rotation, going 7 innings, giving up 9 hits on 7 runs, and striking out 3 hitters. Pedro Beato and Tim Byrdak threw scoreless innings in relief, while they both struck out two hitters each.
Although it’s been in limited time since returning to the Big Leagues, Beato has appeared in two games out of the Mets bullpen, and has looked solid, hopefully allowing Sandy Alderson to not have to make moves to bring in multiple relievers at the trade deadline to alter this relief corp. Jonathon Niese recorded another hit today, and is now hitting .240 on the season, and sporting an on-base percentage of .367 (5 walks) in his 25 at-bats this season.
The Nationals dropped another game to the Rockies this afternoon, while the Braves beat the Phillies, meaning that Atlanta has leapfrogged the Mets into sole possession of second place, 4 games behind Washington. With their second straight loss, New York drops to 46-40 to close the first half, but still only 4.5 games out of first place. The biggest surprise? The Phillies are 37-50 going into the break, losing their last four games going into the All-Star game, and going 1-9 in their last 10. Wow.
Be sure to tune into the Home Run Derby tomorrow and All-Star Game Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City to see how Wright fares in his 6th mid-summer classic, and how R.A. Dickey will perform in his first trip. The Mets will return to action Friday in Atlanta against those second place Braves, where Dillon Gee (6-7, 4.10 ERA) will head to the mound again, taking on Tim Hudson (7-4, 3.56). First pitch at Turner Field is scheduled for 7:35pm.