(AP) — Ryan Dempster had one of the worst, and the shortest, start in his major league career in the Chicago Cubs’ series opener with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Carlos Zambrano’s personal-best winning streak came to an end thanks to a similar situation during his most recent outing.
Looking to bounce back, Zambrano takes the mound for the visiting Cubs as they continue a four-game set with the Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Dempster gave up seven runs and lasted a career-low one-third of an inning in Thursday’s 11-2 loss at Arizona (11-13) – Chicago’s season-worst fourth straight and sixth in seven games.
“That was not how I drew it up,” said Dempster, as the ERA of the Cubs’ starting rotation increased to a major league-worst 6.39.
Chicago, (10-14), averaging 2.8 runs during its skid, has scored three runs or fewer in seven of 10 games.
Aramis Ramirez had hit safely in 11 of 12 contests prior to going 0 for 3 Thursday, dropping his average to .314. Carlos Pena, signed in the offseason to provide some power in the middle of the lineup, went hitless in four at-bats and is 1 for 21 (.048) over his last seven games.
Pena, who had averaged 36 home runs over the previous four seasons with Tampa Bay, has failed to go deep in his first 21 games.
Meanwhile, Zambrano (2-1, 5.28 ERA), who went 10-0 from Aug. 14-April 18, saw his impressive run end with Sunday’s 7-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed season worsts of six runs – five in the first frame – and eight hits over five innings.
“Pitching in the first inning wasn’t good. My sinker was not good, but other than that I was able to throw five innings,” Zambrano said. “I knew sooner or later I was going to lose a game, unfortunately it was (Friday).
“I enjoyed the winning streak a lot, but it’s over with. Let’s get another win on my next time and I’ll be ready for that.”
The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.65 ERA over five career starts against Arizona, all on the road. While Zambrano has won eight straight starts as the visiting pitcher dating to last season and recorded a 2.56 ERA, he’s given up nine runs in 11 2-3 innings over two outings away from Wrigley Field in 2011.
He’ll also face a Diamondbacks offense thriving at home.
Arizona has won four of five at Chase Field and leads the NL with 81 runs at home. They reached double digits for the fourth time Thursday thanks largely to Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero.
Drew went 3 for 5 and hit his first-career grand slam en route to a career-best five RBIs. Montero also homered and drove in three.
Drew is batting .333 in his last 12 games against the Cubs while Montero is hitting .391 over a six-game hitting streak in the series.
Diamondbacks scheduled starter Armando Galarraga (3-1, 6.00), whose eight home runs allowed are the second most in the NL behind Dempster’s nine, had won his first three starts of the year before surrendering six runs – two earned – and a season-worst four walks in three innings of Sunday’s 8-4 loss at the New York Mets.
“Armando didn’t throw the ball like he wanted to,” manager Kirk Gibson said of the right-hander, who is 2-0 lifetime against the Cubs despite a 5.54 ERA.
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