After losing their first road game in more than three weeks their last time out, the NL Central leading-Chicago Cubs expect to have some of the pop back in the high-powered lineup Sunday.
The Cubs try to win three straight road series for the first time in three years in the finale of their three-game set against the Florida Marlins.
Chicago (75-48) lost to the Marlins 2-1 on Saturday as its nine-game road winning streak came to an end. It was its first loss away from Wrigley Field since July 22 at Arizona, and Chicago fell just the fourth time in 16 games overall.
“Let’s win another nine and no one will remember this one,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
Florida’s Cody Ross singled in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning to help the Marlins snap their three-game skid. Florida (64-60), which remained 3 1/2 games back of the NL East-leading New York Mets, has not won consecutive games since July 30 and 31.
The Cubs, who had scored 76 runs during their road winning streak, wasted several scoring opportunities Saturday. Chicago had eight hits and seven walks, but went just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 runners.
The Cubs’ starting lineup was without regulars Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto, who were both given the day off, and Aramis Ramirez, who sustained a left hip contusion in Atlanta on Thursday. Ramirez pinch hit and grounded out Saturday and could be back in the starting lineup for the series finale, as Chicago tries to win three straight road series for the first time since Sept. 2-11, 2005.
On Sunday, Piniella gives the ball to Ryan Dempster (13-5, 2.92 ERA), who has allowed one run in 15 innings in winning his last two road starts after starting the year 0-3 with a 4.03 ERA in his first eight starts away from Wrigley.
Dempster is 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break, and last Sunday, the converted closer allowed two runs and six hits with six strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-2 victory over St. Louis.
Dempster ranks sixth in the NL in ERA and first in opponent batting average (.210), and was rewarded with his second invitation to the All-Star game. The right-hander’s only other All-Star appearance came as a starter with Florida in 2000.
In his only career start against his former team on July 25, Dempster gave up one run, two hits and a season-high six walks in six innings of a 3-2 loss, but was not a factor in the decision.
Florida’s Hanley Ramirez led off Saturday’s game with his 27th homer, his seventh leadoff home run of the season. The All-Star shortstop is 8-for-17 (.471) with two home runs, five RBIs, six runs and a .654 OBP in his last six games.
Rookie Chris Volstad (4-2, 3.03) takes the ball for the Marlins Sunday looking to win his third straight game in his seventh career start.
After giving up three hits in six innings of a 3-0 win over Philadelphia on Aug. 7, Volstad was not as sharp in Tuesday’s 4-3 victory over the Cardinals, but manager Fredi Gonzalez was impressed with the way he kept his composure.
The 21-year-old right-hander allowed three runs, three hits and two walks in the first inning against St. Louis, but then settled down, and yielded only two hits and a walk in his final four innings. He had thrown 72 pitches through five, but the game was then halted by a rain delay of 1 hour, 53 minutes, and Volstad’s day was done.
“Here he is, this young kid who’s able to do it,” Gonzalez said.
Volstad faced the Cubs on July 26, and gave up two runs and six hits in six innings of a 3-2, 12-inning victory.
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