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Rotation's on a roll


Rotation's on a roll
Jake Peavy pitched at Wrigley Field this week and barely elicited a yawn, much less a fresh rumor.

And as the Cubs ushered Peavy's San Diego Padres out of town Thursday with an 11-3 rout to finish off a three-game sweep, it became increasingly obvious why: The Cubs don't need him.

They showed it all week, with Ryan Dempster (3-2) underscoring the point with his best start of the season Thursday in a game the Cubs put away with a five-walk, six-run fifth.

''Our starting pitching has been good all year,'' Piniella said of the only area of his team that hasn't sprung a serious leak six weeks into the season.

Especially impressive considering:

The Cubs passed on assembling a dream rotation in the 11th hour of the Peavy trade talks last December, entered the season with depth questions dogging their rotation, and four weeks into the season put their Opening Day starter on the disabled list.

But look at them now.

Despite nagging injuries and early slumps affecting several key hitters, a generally sloppy April and bullpen troubles that bottomed out last weekend in Milwaukee, the Cubs are a half-game out of first place, have the best record in the majors in May (10-3) and take a four-game winning streak into this weekend's series against Houston.

Credit a rotation that ranks second in the majors with 20 quality starts, and has the majors' third-best record (16-8) and eighth-best ERA (4.13).

In fact, since Carlos Zambrano was placed on the disabled list May 4, the starters have gone 7-2 with a 3.59 ERA -- 3-0, 3.26 against the Padres.

''Those guys have really carried us,'' said shortstop Ryan Theriot, who walked twice and missed his sixth homer of May by a couple of feet when he doubled off the right field wall in the third.

As heavy as the Peavy talks got over the winter, a case could be made that starting pitching wouldn't crack a top-three list of needs if the Cubs were buyers in the trade market right now.

''That's a great point,'' Theriot said. ''That's kind of made a U-turn.''

But don't get him, or anybody else on this team, wrong when it comes to the former Cy Young Award winner.

''If we were to have [Peavy], it would really be welcome,'' said catcher Geo Soto, who walked and singled off the Padres ace Tuesday night. ''But that's not the situation. We've got to compete with who we've got, and who we've got is obviously doing a great job.''

Certainly good enough that it's about to provide needed reinforcements for the bullpen, when Zambrano returns from the DL next Friday -- with Piniella making what could be a tough call on whether to move lefty Sean Marshall or Zambrano's replacement, right-hander Randy Wells, to the bullpen.

Wells, who starts today against Houston, is the only starter to get a no-decision in that 7-2, post-Zambrano run, and that was despite pitching five shutout innings at Milwaukee last Friday. Marshall follows him Saturday.

''Wells had a really good start in Milwaukee, and the bullpen's been doing a great job, too,'' Soto said, referring to an impressive job during this four-game winning streak. ''For right now, everything is kind of sinking into place, and we've just got to roll with it.''

And even though team officials from the front office to the manager's office on down would still privately tell you they'd love to add Peavy, they don't need him. Not now. Not yet. And not if guys like Marshall and Wells -- or eventually even Jeff Samardzija -- keep contributing.

''Definitely, he's a guy that you would welcome with open arms no matter what the scenario,'' Theriot said. ''But our starting pitching's been great -- everybody. Those guys have helped us out tremendously.''

Comment at suntimes.com.

THE RECAP

AT THE PLATE

For five innings the Cubs either walked (nine times) or doubled (three) -- with the exception of a bloop single by pitcher Ryan Dempster -- against former Cub Chad Gaudin and the San Diego bullpen on the way to a 7-1 lead. Ryan Theriot missed extending his May home run tear by a foot or two with a third-inning double off the right field wall and walked twice. Rookie Bobby Scales' pair of two-run doubles extended his hitting streak to seven games, tying Jerome Walton's 1989 club record for a career-opening streak.

ON THE MOUND

Dempster (3-2) had his best start of the season, allowing just two runs on three hits in seven innings -- and driving in two runs with a single and double to help his cause. Rookie Jose Ascanio made his season debut, striking out three in two innings and giving up a solo home run to Drew Macias.

PIVOTAL POINT

After Gaudin walked the bases full with one out in the fifth and his replacement, Luis Perdoma, walked in a run to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead, Reed Johnson and Scales broke open the game with back-to-back two-run doubles.

TODAY:

VS. Astros

- 1:20, Ch. 9, 720-AM

Astros starter:

Brian Moehler

0-2, 8.44 ERA

This season vs. Cubs : 0-1, 37.80

Career vs. Cubs : 2-3, 5.01

How Cubs have fared: Milton Bradley 1-for-4; Kosuke Fukudome 3-for-9; Derrek Lee 4-for-13

Cubs starter: Randy Wells

0-0, 0.00 ERA

This season vs. Astros: Did not face

Career vs. Astros: 0-0, 0.00


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 15, 2009

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