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Toughening up, falling down

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Ryan Dempster's assignment Saturday was not a tough one: Beat a team with a 46-83 record. Yet, the Cubs couldn't get it done Friday and needed a win Saturday to give them a chance to win the series and stay in a strong pace-setting position. Dempster was as stingy as he's been all year, with 1 ER and 1 BB being the key stats in 7.1 innings. He's had only one truly bad outing all year (8 ER in 2.1 IP against our White Sox down at The Cell on June 27), and though he often puts himself in trouble with walks, he has been very good about avoiding getting shelled.

Much has been made of Demp's WS prediction in spring training, but what matters most, is that he came into the year fit and has stayed fit and amazingly consistent. He's 15-5, and you don't see any reason why he can't keep winning, unlike the hugely talented but topsy-turvy Zambrano. A-Ram helped Demp with 2 3-run HRs. DeRosa had another HR, and is in a groove.

I had a strange dream last night in which I met Mark DeRosa at a bar, and he came off in person as the fun-loving guy he seems to be on field and in interviews. Then I went to introduce him to Mrs. SBW, saying to her, "This is Mark De----,"and I suddenly couldn't remember the rest of his name. He got kind of annoyed and walked away. I ran after him, saying I always liked him even before he was on the Cubs, putting him on a couple of my fantasy teams because of his multi-position eligibility. How embarrassing...

Speaking of which, Javier Vazquez had a much tougher assignment than Dempster Saturday, facing the extremely resourceful Rays. He was fantastic through 7 innings and seemed a distant cousin of the Vazquez who often falls apart after 6 IP (By the way, when did we all start noting perfect games after 5 IP? Isn't the unwritten rule to wait until after the 6th?) With the Sox ahead 3-1 in the 8th, Vaz loaded the bases with no outs. Matt Thornton, who had struck out the side the day before, came in and things fell apart from there.

Though Vazquez doesn't do well in the late innings, you can't really blame Ozzie for staying with him. He could have gone to Thornton or D.J. Carrasco to start the inning (The first man up, Dioner Navarro, swings both ways, literally, but is worse vs. southpaws.) But, Vaz was under 90 pitches at the time. The bullpen got a very tough assignment, but that's what the job is all about (Ask Carlos Marmol, who came in with 2 on and 1 out Saturday and shut down the Nats, but also knows what it's like to unravel.)

Ultimately, the Sox, with the exception of JeDye, did almost nothing against the talented, but very beatable (especially if you're patient) Scott Kazmir. The power output on the Southside has been absolutely amazing, but it's not enough if guys aren't on base for those jacks, or if the infantry can't be counted on to keep inching the Sox forward between the heavy artillery hits (I'd like to dedicate that sentence to Sox fan G.B., who loves a good military metaphor.)

The Angels helped keep things tight in the A.L. Central by beating the Piranhas, but I think a lot of Sox fans today are feeling vulnerable. But, it ain't over yet, not nearly.

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