Dempster Gets the Nod

Manager Lou Piniella made it official Thursday, naming Ryan Dempster his Game 1 starter for the National League Division Series, which begins next Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

Piniella hinted as much Wednesday after Carlos Zambrano lasted only 4 2/3 innings against the Mets, making it two shaky starts in a row after Zambrano pitched a no-hitter.

Part of Piniella's reasoning is that Dempster has flat-out earned the start. The other part is that he's 14-3 with a 2.86 ERA at Wrigley Field, which will be the site of Game 5, if necessary.

That would put Dempster in line to possibly make two home starts in the first series.

"He deserves it," Piniella said of Dempster. "He's 14-3, won more games than any other pitcher at home. He's been extremely consistent and reliable all season long."

Dempster is 17-6 with a 2.99 ERA overall. He made the switch from closer back to starter this season and made the All-Star Game.

Piniella said his pitching plans for the rest of the NLDS have not been set.

METS 7, CUBS 6: Kevin Hart gave up the game-winning single to Carlos Beltran in the ninth. Rich Harden turned in a quality start, going six innings and giving up two hits and three runs, two earned. Rookie Micah Hoffpauir went 5-for-5 with five RBIs. He hit his first two major league homers.


--INF/OF Mark DeRosa may miss the rest of the regular season because of a strained left calf. He suffered the injury running out a double Wednesday.

--INF Ronny Cedeno was a lineup scratch because he jammed his right shoulder diving into first base Wednesday.

--RHP Bob Howry may have pitched himself back into consideration for a roster spot and a key role in the playoffs. Howry worked out of a ninth-inning jam Wednesday, allowing the Cubs to come back and win in the 10th. Manager Lou Piniella has rested Howry of late in an effort to get some life back on his fastball.

--1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir may be edging out OF Felix Pie for a postseason roster spot. Hoffpauir hit his first two major league homers to go along with a double and two singles.

Manager Lou Piniella wants another left-handed bat, and Hoffpauir has hit with more authority than Pie, who provides speed and outfield defense.

"Impressive," manager Lou Piniella said. "We're looking. We really are."

--RHP Chad Gaudin, who is on the mend from a back injury, gave up a run and a hit in one inning. In addition to looking for bench help for the playoffs, manager Lou Piniella is watching to see how his bullpen shakes out.

"We're getting Gaudin some work to see if he's going to be ready," Piniella said.

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