Ryan Dempster has endured the buzz of trade rumors for weeks, and it might not stop until the deadline at month's end.
In the meantime, the Chicago Cubs right-hander will try to add to his lengthy scoreless streak and record a career-best fifth consecutive win Saturday afternoon against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.
Dempster (4-3, 1.99 ERA) is experiencing one of the best seasons of his career as his NL-best ERA is nearly one run better than in any of his 15 seasons, and he has lowered that mark significantly over his last four starts.
The right-hander has not allowed a run in 27 innings, the longest stretch by a Cubs starter since Ken Holtzman in 1971. A 7-0 win at the New York Mets on July 8 marked his return from the disabled list for tightness in his right lat.
Dempster's performance this season has made him an enticing starter to acquire, especially for contenders, but he said he isn't distracted by the talk.
"I don't read the paper a whole lot or watch much TV, and when I do it's usually 'Swamp People' or things like that," Dempster told the team's website. "I don't notice the rumors. I just handle what I can handle and that's going out there and pitching and doing my job and wherever the cards fall, that's where they fall."
The right-hander has received 23 runs of support over his four-start winning streak after getting 30 during a career-worst winless streak that spanned 18 starts.
His teammates, especially Alfonso Soriano, appear ready to continue providing him runs Saturday after an 8-1 win in Friday's series opener. Soriano had two homers and two doubles while tying a career high with five RBIs.
"Those four days I cleared my mind and my body, too. The game I had, I hope I have a couple of more like that," he said.
In his return from the DL, Joe Saunders (4-5, 3.44) will try to slow down the Cubs and earn his first win in three matchups. The left-hander had been dealing with a strained throwing shoulder and is making his first start since June 16.
He's 0-2 with a 7.27 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs (34-52) but gave up two runs over six innings during his most recent matchup, a 4-1 loss at Wrigley on April 4, 2011.
Chicago is 8-18 against left-handed starters but has won five of the last seven matchups.
Dempster is 1-4 with a 9.26 ERA over his last five games against Arizona (42-44) and gave up seven runs while recording only one out - the shortest start of his career - in an 11-2 drubbing at Chase Field on April 28, 2011.
Stephen Drew hit a grand slam off Dempster during that game and is 5 for 9 lifetime against the right-hander. He's also a career .348 hitter at Wrigley Field and had two hits Friday after batting .179 in his first nine games of an injury-shortened season.
Soriano is batting .420 (34 for 81) with 15 homers and 33 RBIs over his last 23 games against Arizona, and he's 2 for 4 with a home run lifetime against Saunders.