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Mike Quade realizes Cubs’ starting rotation must do better

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The Cubs talked a lot about the lousy weather and hitting conditions at Wrigley Field in recent days and how their bats figure to warm up with the heat out West.

But there’s no escaping the real problem facing this team:

‘‘The backbone still has to be pitching,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘And for some of the offensive problems we’re having, we still need to pitch it better, too.’’

Offensive problems? Sure, the Cubs rank among the bottom third in the National League in home runs, walks and runs. But they also entered Wednesday ranked second in the league in hitting and, somehow, were fourth in on-base percentage and fifth in slugging.

But as Ryan Dempster starts
tonight against an Arizona Diamondbacks team with its own pile of problems, he lugs a 7.63 ERA. That stat underscores the primary reason the Cubs aren’t four or five games above .500 and in first place.

The starting rotation, supposed to be a strength, is only 5-10 with a major-league-worst 5.91 ERA and a major-league-low six quality starts.

Of those six quality starts, half come from newcomer Matt Garza. His 4.11 ERA is the best among the current five in the rotation, but he doesn’t have a victory in three decisions.

Two of the best starts — including one of the quality starts — were turned in by fourth and fifth starters Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner before they went on the disabled list after a start each.

Meanwhile, the three horses at the top — Dempster, Garza and Carlos Zambrano — are 3-6 with a 5.67 ERA in 15 combined starts.

Dempster, still looking for his first quality start, is tied for the NL lead in home runs allowed.

‘‘I just know there’s a lot of reasons that starting pitching is so
important, and staying away from long losing streaks is one of the benefits of having good starting pitching,’’ Quade said.

‘‘Someone’s got to stop that. . . . And normally that’s how these things get stopped.’’

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