Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Stars come out in Hollywood for Cubs

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For one night in Hollywood, the Cubs who needed it most finally got the happy ending they were looking for.

Whether guys like Ryan Dempster and Carlos Pena turn Tuesday's results into the start of something bigger, they at least offered a glimpse for one night of how the Cubs planned for this season to look.

And whether the ninth-inning rally that produced a 4-1 win leads to the elusive streak the team has been searching for they at least take the field Wednesday with a chance for a winning road trip through Phoenix and L.A.

Dempster, who lugged a 9.58 ERA into Tuesday's start, pitched seven impressive innings after walking the first two guys of the game on eight pitches. And Pena, who endured the first homerless April of his career, finally got his first Cub homer - to tie the game in the seventh.

``He needed that, and we needed that,'' manager Mike Quade said of Pena's homer - but who might as well have been talking about both guys.

That set the stage for another pair of struggling Cubs, Geo Soto and Blake DeWitt, to deliver back-to-back, run-scoring hits with two outs in the ninth for a 4-1 Cubs win.

``That was as big win for us,'' said Dempster, whose April was so rough that he still has the worst ERA in the majors (8.05). ``If we can win tomorrow, we can have a winning road trip on the West Coast - that's not easy to do.''

Of course, easy doesn't describe much of anything for the fifth-place Cubs this season - or even for much of this night.

And when Dempster opened the game with a pair of walks it only looked like a continuation of all that had gone wrong for more than four weeks - with hit-streaking Andre Ethier stepping to the plate.

``It was like a moment of decision,'' Quade said. `` `Where are we going' for Demp. Where's he going? Let's see.''

Said Dempster: ``Geo came out and talked to me, and I just decided to try to get back to being aggressive.''

And when Ethier grounded a 3-2 pitch to second for a double play, it was on.

That was the first of nine straight retired by Dempster, who didn't walk another batter and allowed only six singles in his seven-inning start - good enough for his first quality start, even though he didn't get the win.

``He located. His slider looked better,'' Quade said. ``There were a lot of reasons once he got through those first two hitters that he had success. His stuff was just much better and he located it real well.''

The start of some kind of streak for Dempster? ``Trust me,'' he said, ``I'm not going to let this one outing let me relax at all. I've got to just keep going out and executing pitches.''

For Pena, his first homer since Sept. 28 not only tied the game in the seventh but it finally rewarded him after three near misses over his previous two games.

``It sure feels nice to have one finally go over the fence,'' said Pena, who had just three hits in his last 37 at-bats leading up to the homer. ``It's definitely a relief feeling. ... My teammates have been right behind me, always cheering me on, always supporting me. That certainly helps.''

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on May 4, 2011 1:34 AM.

Pena still cold as the other side of that pillow contract was the previous entry in this blog.

Cubs' Cashner re-injures shoulder, could be out till July is the next entry in this blog.

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