Opening a series with a victory is something the Chicago Cubs have not done much lately. After accomplishing that small feat, stringing together back-to-back wins could help get them back on track.
The Cubs look to win consecutive games for the first time in more than two weeks when they continue their three-game postseason rematch Saturday against the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field.
Chicago (20-15) managed to accomplish something in Friday’s series opener it was unable to do against the Diamondbacks (23-13) in October - win a game. The Cubs defeated Arizona 3-1 in the first meeting between the teams since the Diamondbacks swept last year’s NL division series.
It was also a needed win for Chicago, which has lost two of three in each of its last four series.
“This year is this year, and last year was last year,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella told the team’s official Web site.
Friday’s victory was the Cubs’ first in a series opener since a 7-6, 10-inning win at Colorado on April 23. Chicago, which opened the season 15-6, has not won consecutive games since winning a season-high six in a row April 18-23.
First baseman Derrek Lee, who hit his ninth homer of the season Friday, is likely excited to be back at Wrigley. Lee went just 4-for-25 (.160) with no extra-base hits during the Cubs’ recent six-game road trip, but is batting .370 with eight home runs and 15 RBIs in 18 home games.
Similarly, Saturday’s scheduled starter Ryan Dempster (4-1, 2.72 ERA) is probably happy to be pitching at home.
Although he has a 4.30 ERA at Wrigley, Dempster has won all four of his starts there thanks to an average of 13.30 runs in support.
Dempster had a solid outing Monday at Cincinnati, but didn’t get much help from his defense. The right-hander gave up five runs - all unearned - four hits, one walk and struck out a season-high seven in six innings of a 5-3 loss.
Dempster is 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA in 13 games - nine starts - lifetime against Arizona.
The Diamondbacks counter with prized prospect Max Scherzer (0-1, 5.40), who hopes his second major league start goes a bit better than his first.
After retiring all 13 Houston batters - including seven strikeouts - in a relief appearance in his major league debut on April 29, Scherzer’s first start was a different story. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed five runs, seven hits, two walks, hit a batter and struck out five in four innings of an 11-4 loss to Philadelphia on Monday.
“I didn’t get ahead of the hitters as well as I did last time, and that’s just the difference,” said Scherzer, Arizona’s first-round pick in the 2006 draft.
The Diamondbacks, who entered this series leading the majors with 201 runs, were held to a season low in the series opener. They also managed only four hits and struck out 12 times.
Arizona still owns the best record in the majors, but has lost four of its last six games.
Chris Young homered in his third straight game Friday, but struck out in his other three at-bats. The center fielder leads the Diamondbacks with nine home runs, but has also struck out 42 times.