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Dempster gem, HRs lead Cubs past Reds
Whether the Cubs were responding Tuesday to Milwaukee's acquisition of CC Sabathia by trading for Rich Harden was of little concern to Cubs manager Lou Piniella.
"All I do is concern myself with the Chicago Cubs," Piniella said. "And we have gotten stronger."
Seemingly buoyed by the news general manager Jim Hendry had added another potential ace, the Cubs went out and beat Cincinnati 7-3 to maintain their 31/2-game lead over St. Louis.
Ryan Dempster improved to 10-0 at Wrigley Field in his first start since being named to the National League All-Star team, becoming the fourth pitcher in franchise history to do so and the first since Rick Reuschel in 1977.
"I sure do enjoy pitching here," Dempster said.
The Cubs right-hander (10-3) endured one inning of wildness, allowing one run on two hits over seven innings.
"We need another 10 from him in the second half, and we're in business," Piniella said.
Mike Fontenot and Geovany Soto hit a pair of two-run homers off Reds starter Aaron Harang, and Jim Edmonds and Aramis Ramirez turned in defensive gems to help the Cubs to their 16th victory in their last 18 home games.
The day began on a high note for the Cubs, who learned a few hours before the game that Hendry had pulled off a multiplayer deal that brought in Harden, the power-pitching right-hander for the A's. Milwaukee's acquisition of Sabathia Sunday put the Cubs on notice that the Brewers were not going to lay back and concede the NL Central.
Carlos Zambrano was among those who were excited by Milwaukee's bold move, knowing the Cubs would have to react to it.
"It's good," Zambrano said. "That makes us work harder to do a better job and be consistent because the other team is getting better. We know we have a good ballclub, and we just have to be better and better."
The addition of Harden not only gives the Cubs another power arm, but another Canadian to talk hockey with Dempster.
"Finally," Dempster said. "Someone who speaks my language."
After Edmonds got the crowd on its feet on the first play, making a diving catch to rob Jerry Hairston of a hit, the Cubs were off and running. Sacrifice flies by Soto in the second and Ramirez in the third gave Dempster some breathing room, two-run homers by Fontenot and Soto put it out of reach.
Dempster walked four in the fourth but otherwise dominated, retiring the final 11 men he faced before giving way to the bullpen. Now the Cubs await the arrival of Harden, who gives them four quality starters.
"As a manager, you love to see your organization go out and help you, and they have in a rather big way," Piniella said.