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A surprise ending for Cubs
It was a day of unusual happenings at Wrigley Field, but then what else is new in this strangest of seasons?
Other than their first series victory at home since mid-August, the most unusual occurrence was Bob Howry coming out to save Thursday's 6-5 victory the Dodgers.
Thus the Cubs have a "closer controversy," although no one involved would admit it.
In fact, Ryan Dempster, who has closed all season, had nothing at all to say afterward except a very terse: "I have nothing for you guys."
Howry said he was "not getting into that" when broached about closing.
Manager Dusty Baker, when asked about his closer for the future, said "we'll address that later. But in the meantime we're going to savor a series win. We haven't had one in a long time."
No, they haven't, not since Howry saved a sweep of Houston on Aug. 16, after Dempster saved the opener of the series.
The odd part Thursday was Dempster had warmed up in the eighth inning for an apparent ninth-inning save. Howry, however, replaced him on the bullpen mound, then trotted in for a perfect ninth inning.
"Right now Bobby is throwing better," Baker said. "There's not anything to look into other than he's throwing better and is rested. With the hitters coming up and the top of the lineup coming [soon] we thought it would be better with Howry today."
Dempster was coming off two straight scoreless appearances after giving up runs in seven straight outings for a total of 10 runs in 10 innings. He blew two saves and had three losses in that span.
Howry has saved 57 games in his career, although he has been mostly as a right-handed setup man. He also is unscored upon in his last eight appearances.
"I like those kinds of situations," Howry said. "I like to be in tight ballgames. [But] I know what my role is and I know what Dempster's role is. I just throw when they tell me."
It could be their roles will be changing.
Yet that's the way it has been all season for the beat up and beat on pitching staff.
One of the newest role changes is Wade Miller's insertion into the rotation after a winter, spring and summer of rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
Miller pitched five innings Thursday and allowed only one hit, Marlon Anderson's two-run homer. His first time out, he allowed four runs in three innings.
Miller did not get the victory, but Aramis Ramirez's three-run seventh-inning homerwhich gave him at least 100 RBIs for the fourth timegave Scott Eyre his first victory as a Cub in his 68th appearance.
"This time I had a little bit less adrenaline and I was able to get the ball down," Miller said. "I'm real happy where I'm at now compared to a couple of weeks ago when I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen the rest of the year."
Taking Carlos Zambrano's spot in the rotation, Miller probably will remain when the ace returns. Zambrano, nursing tightness in his back, was scratched from weekend duty but threw with minimal pain Friday.
"I feel OK. I'm close to being ready," Zambrano said.
The Cubs, as a team, are in the hunt for nothing, except trying to avoid 100 losses. Beating the Dodgers two out of three times may have clinched that because they would have to go 3-12 to gain the dubious distinction.
The Cubs finished the season 4-2 against the West-leading Dodgers, 3-3 against the East-leading Mets and 11-8 against the Central-leading Cardinals.
And, in a very unusual occurrence, they won their second one-run game of the series against the Dodgers. That raised their record in that category to 14-24 for the season and 7-12 at Wrigley Field.