"The defense tonight was ridiculous. I mean the guys were making plays all over the place and diving for balls and picking balls," Dempster said after getting his team-leading 13th victory as the Cubs beat the Cardinals 6-2.
"Especially in conditions like this with the wind blowing in," he said. "Here it is, hit it. That's why you have nine guys out on the field who can make plays, and some guys make spectacular plays. And they did that for me."
While the Cubs caught the ball -- including two nice grabs by former Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds -- St. Louis did not.
The Cards made two key errors, one by Adam Kennedy that sparked Chicago's five-run sixth inning when he let a potential double play grounder go through his legs. It was a bad inning for the Cards because they lost starter Chris Carpenter to a strained right triceps.
"Losing a game and then Carp going down. Not good," Kennedy said. "I just didn't play it good. They took advantage of that one mistake that I made and really poured it on."
Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, was making his third start since opening day last year. He underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery in July 2007, but said the latest injury is not related to his elbow. He hopes to throw on the side Tuesday in Florida.
"I felt it come down my triceps," Carpenter said. "The elbow feels fine."
Carpenter (0-1) pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and four runs -- two earned -- and the Cardinals fell seven games behind the first-place Cubs in the NL Central.
Dempster (13-5) took a shutout into the seventh before Joe Mather hit a two-out RBI double. Albert Pujols then greeted rookie reliever Jeff Samardzija with another run-scoring double to make it 6-2 before Ryan Ludwick struck out.
Closer-turned-starter Dempster, 11-2 at Wrigley Field this season, allowed six hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings.
"We had a good idea he would pitch well in the rotation," manager Lou Piniella said. "We gave him the opportunity and he ran with it."
"We're looking for a huge lift from him and so far we've gotten it," La Russa said. "This is definitely not good news to see him leave the game. Maybe he'll catch a break and we'll catch a break and it's nothing more than a funny pitch that sent him a stinger."
Ron Villone was given as much time as he needed to warm up. He got Edmonds to hit a sharp grounder to Kennedy, but the ball went through him for an error and Chicago scored its third run.
Brad Thompson relieved and Mark DeRosa delivered an RBI single. Geovany Soto followed with another single before Ronny Cedeno doubled to deep right-center to make it 6-0. He was thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
The Cubs took advantage of another St. Louis error to manufacture an unearned run in the second inning. Ramirez hit a broken-bat single to right-center, and when Ludwick fumbled the ball for an error, Ramirez made it to second. He moved to third on Edmonds' long fly to center and scored on DeRosa's sacrifice fly, just beating Ludwick's throw to the plate.
The Cardinals missed several chances against Dempster. Troy Glaus singled and Yadier Molina singled on a hit-and-run in the fourth, but Edmonds denied his former team with a nice diving catch of Carpenter's sinking liner with runners at second and third to end the inning. In the third, Edmonds had raced to deep left-center to make a nice basket catch of Skip Schumaker's long drive.
- Cubs manager Lou Piniella wants more production from All-Star outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. If he doesn't start producing, the Cubs' right fielder and biggest offseason acquisition (four years, $48 million) could have his playing time reduced. "We need him to start hitting," Piniella said before Sunday's game. And if Fukudome doesn't get out of his slump, Piniella said he would have to start looking for other options. That could mean more playing time for Reed Johnson in right or for Mike Fontenot at second with DeRosa moving from second to right. Fukudome went 0-for-4 Sunday night and is in a 30-for-138 slump over his last 39 games. "I'm trying to make adjustments, not just in practice but in the games, as well. It's not going to click immediately," Fukudome said through a translator.