LOS ANGELES (AP)—Ronny Cedeno’s game-winning hit eased some of Derrek Lee’s pain, though it wasn’t enough to reduce manager Dusty Baker’s anxiety level after losing his most productive hitter because of a sprained right wrist.
Cedeno drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with an eighth-inning single after Lee departed, and Ryan Dempster set a club record with his 23rd consecutive save to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Lee, the reigning NL batting champion and a two-time Gold Glove winner, was injured on a freakish play in the Dodgers’ seventh. Rafael Furcal led off the inning with a bunt single to the right of the mound, and reliever Scott Eyre dove for the ball before flipping it toward first base with his glove. The ball sailed over Lee’s glove as Furcal crashed into him at the bag.
X-rays were inconclusive and Lee was to be re-examined in Chicago on Thursday. Erye also was hurt on the play, leaving the game with a bruised right knee.
“You never see anyone lose two guys on one play,” Baker said. “But nobody cares if Lee’s hurt or not, except us and the people in Chicago and the people who know him. We’ll just have to adjust and just keep on adjusting.
Lee has appeared in no fewer than 155 games in any of the previous six seasons and has never been on the disabled list since making his big-league debut in 1997 with San Diego. He had a career year last season with a .335 average, 46 homers and 107 RBIs, and played in his first All-Star Game.
The Cubs overcame Lee’s injury with a three-run eighth inning against reliever Danys Baez (0-1), turning a two-run deficit into a 5-4 lead. All three runs were unearned due to an error by the right-hander, who bobbled Jacque Jones’ dribbler to the right of the mound with two outs.
“They gave him an error on that? That was a tough play,” Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said. “The ball was going away from him. How we were able to get three runs in that inning was hard to understand for us. But I don’t think he was rattled after that play. When you’re a closer, you’ve probably seen worse things that that.”
Barrett’s RBI single narrowed the gap to 4-3 and Cedeno followed with a sinking liner that Jose Cruz Jr. trapped in short right field.
“I knew it was going to be close. I had a decent jump on it, but the ball just kind of sank on me at the end,” Cruz said. “If it hangs up there a split-second more, I catch it. It’s never easy to lose like that.”
Scott Williamson (2-0) pitched a scoreless seventh, Bob Howry the eighth and Dempster got the last three outs for his fourth save, breaking Joe Borowski’s franchise mark for consecutive conversions. Dempster has not allowed an earned run in 31 1-3 innings spanning his last 32 appearances.
Dempster converted 33 of his 35 save opportunities last season for the Cubs after being converted into a closer. He began his career as a starter with the Florida Marlins, but his career took a detour after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2003 while with Cincinnati.
“I enjoy this role, but I don’t think it was a silver lining because it was a grueling 12 months of rehab before that,” Dempster said. “I’d much rather have just stayed healthy and continue doing what I did before I got hurt. But I got a second life, and I’ve just tried to make the most out of that opportunity by preparing every time and get ready and stay focused every time that ninth inning comes up.”
Dodgers starter Brad Penny allowed two runs and nine hits, struck out seven and walked one.
Chicago left-hander Sean Marshall allowed two runs and two hits over five innings in his third major league start, striking out four and walking three.
The rookie was pulled after 86 pitches and gave way to David Aardsma, who made his Cubs debut and walked the first two batters in the sixth. Cruz advanced to third after Olmedo Saenz flied out, and Sandy Alomar Jr. snapped a 2-2 tie with a two-out RBI single to right.
Three of Chicago’s hits against Penny were bloop singles by Jones, Juan Pierre and Todd Walker, whose first-inning hit fell in front of a charging Repko in left field and gave Chicago the lead after Pierre’s leadoff double.
Among the press box crowd observing the Penny-Marshall pitching matchup was actor David “Squiggy” Lander, who was Penny Marshall’s co-star on “Laverne and Shirley” back in the 1970s. “She’s probably at the Lakers game tonight,” said Lander, who works as an associate scout for the Seattle Mariners.