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Geovany Soto’s double in 9th wins it for Cubs

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

LOS ANGELES — It took Ryan Dempster just eight pitches to wade into the deep end of the muck again in the first inning Tuesday night.

But then it took him just one 3-2 pitch to the guy chasing DiMaggio for Dempster to turn his season right-side up again, in the Cubs’ 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cubs’ struggling ace didn’t get the win — with the Cubs rallying for three in the ninth, including Geovany Soto’s go-ahead, two-run double with two outs.

But Dempster may have found his way out of the worst slump of his career when he got Andre Ethier to ground into a double play after walking the first two men he faced.

That started a string of nine straight batters retired as Dempster dueled Chad Billingsley in a scoreless game until giving up a run-scoring single to Matt Kemp with two outs in the sixth.

And as if to make a theme night of things, slumping slugger Carlos Pena tied the game a few minutes later with his first home run of the season — his first since Sept. 28 with Tampa Bay. He was just 3-for-his-last-37 before that shot to right.

Dempster, who took a league-worst 9.58 ERA into the game, allowed just the one run in seven innings to earn his first quality start. Punctuating the effort, he struck out the final three batters he faced to strand the potential tying run at second.

Dempster, however, couldn’t prevent Ethier from extending the majors’ longest hitting streak in three seasons to 29 with a looping liner to right, just out of the reach of second baseman Darwin Barney, with one out in the fourth.

NOTES: He started spring training as a guy looking for the last bench spot on the roster. But Darwin Barney finished April as the National League’s Rookie of the Month.

‘‘Being where I am now, could I have seen it coming into this year? Not really,’’ said Barney, the Cubs’ No. 2 hitter, who hit .326 with 14 RBI in April. ‘‘We’ve got such great players on this team with so much talent, I feel very lucky being in the situation I’m in.’’

Maybe Tuesday’s award is a head start on the Cubs’ second rookie of the year award in four seasons?

‘‘It’s special,’’ Barney said. ‘‘But I’ve played baseball long enough to know that one month doesn’t sum up a season. So Rookie of the Year is not on my mind. What’s on my mind is today .  .  . and trying to get a win.’’

† Shortstop Starlin Castro, who graces the latest cover of Sports Illustrated, on the so-called SI cover jinx: ‘‘I never heard of that.’’ Castro is in a 5-for-38 slump, including an 0-for-12 drought he takes into today’s series finale.

† Infielder Jeff Baker got treatment on his achy left biceps and shoulder area, and manager Mike Quade remains hopeful he’ll be ready for a start today against left-hander Ted Lilly (Baker’s 4-for-9
with a homer and two doubles against Lilly).

† Left-hander Jeff Russell, who fell to 0-4 Monday in four spot starts as a rotation injury-replacement, returns to the bullpen until further notice. Quade, who figures to have several other options by the time that rotation slot comes up again on
May 14, said he hasn’t decided whether Russell will be in the mix for that.

† Injured starter Randy Wells (forearm) is scheduled to throw a second bullpen session today and could face hitters in a simulated game by next week.

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