Dempster bounced back from his worst start of the year, pitching seven sharp innings for Chicago with a blister on his right middle finger in a 7-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.
Piniella said he took Dempster out as a precaution because of the blister, which has been bothering him throughout the season. Piniella said he can push back Dempster in the rotation if the blister becomes a bigger problem. The Cubs have right-hander Rich Harden and slugger Aramis Ramirez on the disabled list, while ace Carlos Zambrano is serving a six-game suspension.
"I've been battling it most of the year, but I've tried to keep it quiet," Dempster said. "Today we did a good job between starts of getting it where it needs to be and got me out before it flared up. Hopefully we can get past this and not be much of an issue for the rest of the season."
Dempster (4-3) allowed just three hits with one walk, striking out five.
The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors, have dropped two straight after winning four in a row. Los Angeles has not lost more than two consecutive games all year.
This was the Dodgers' largest loss of the season -- and the first time they were shut out. In the first three games of a four-game series, Los Angeles has managed only three runs.
"We have to look at this. We're very fortunate that we've scored three runs in three games and we have one win," manager Joe Torre said. "We're certainly more capable of doing more damage, but we haven't done it. But you have to give most of the credit to the two guys who pitched against us these two days."
In his previous start on Monday, Dempster gave up six runs and seven hits in four innings to Pittsburgh as Chicago lost its eighth straight. After his outing ended, he took out his frustrations on the Gatorade machine in the dugout, two days before Zambrano took a bat to the machine.
"His command was so much better today. His stuff was really good, too," Piniella said. "On Monday he had good stuff, he just didn't have the command and he was pitching behind the count the whole time."
It was Dempster's shortest outing since Game 1 of the NL division series against the Dodgers on Oct. 1, when he matched a career high with seven walks in 4 2/3 innings of Chicago's 7-2 loss.
Dodgers starter Eric Stults (4-2) had another short outing. After pitching 4 1/3 innings in his previous start at Colorado, he lasted three-plus innings against the Cubs, giving up four runs and six hits. The left-hander has been battling an injured left thumb and Torre is contemplating putting him on the disabled list.
"I think we'll have to see how it is and talk about it. I haven't made a decision but we're certainly going to have to find out. It just won't go away," Torre said.
Johnson led off the second inning with a single. With two outs, he stole second and scored on Fontenot's double. Fontenot has been given the job at third base for Ramirez, who has a dislocated left shoulder.
"We talked before the ballgame that he's going to play third base exclusively. Today he delivered big-time against a left-handed starter. Good to see," Piniella said.
- Piniella said he expects to get Harden back in the rotation on the next road trip. The Cubs begin a 12-game trip in Atlanta on Tuesday. Harden has been on the disabled list with a mid-back strain since May 18.
- Dodgers 3B Casey Blake was out of the lineup with a tight hamstring. Torre hopes to get him back for Sunday night's game.
- Torre expects suspended OF Manny Ramirez to be at the ballpark during the team's upcoming nine-game homestand. "My guess is he will be there. Whether he is there while we're there is another story. I know he's been working out at the ballpark," Torre said.
- Dodgers reliever Jeff Weaver allowed five walks, one intentional, in 2 1/3 innings.