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29 games left to make statement


Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster heads back mound as Brewers’ Corey Hart celebrates his second-inning triple. | AP

Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster heads back to the mound as the Brewers’ Corey Hart celebrates his second-inning triple. | AP

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Updated: November 4, 2011 12:23PM



MILWAUKEE — With the Cubs getting whacked again Saturday by the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers, the late-season mojo they seemed to be building a week ago has been knocked senseless.

With 29 games left, how they finish might be the last word they have to say about this team — and about the series of changes afoot in the wake of the firing of general manager Jim Hendry on Aug. 19.

‘‘The circumstances don’t change anything,’’ said right-hander Ryan Dempster (10-10), whose string of six consecutive quality starts ended when he lasted only four innings in the Cubs’ 6-4 loss Saturday. ‘‘You go out there and play hard, no matter what the situation is.’’

It’s a far cry from last season, when the Cubs were a week into a 24-13 finish that had veterans lobbying for interim manager Mike Quade to get the full-time job and boosted optimism about possibilities for this season.

Fast-forward to this weekend, and the Cubs head into the final game of a series against the Brewers trying to avoid a sweep and trying to turn around a 1-6 skid.

‘‘It’s not a lot of fun when you’re not winning games,’’ Dempster said. ‘‘Sometimes it looks like you make a couple of steps forward and start playing better, and then you take some steps back. You’ve just got to keep plugging away and continue to try to learn.

‘‘We’ve got some young guys here getting a great opportunity to play and pitch, and we need to go out there and do the best job we can and just try to keep getting better each day.’’

And looking at the Brewers across the field, might there be some hope to find in how they’ve gone from a 75-victory team to a World Series threat in one season?

‘‘I’m just worried about tomorrow,’’ Dempster said.

Angel-in-waiting

Reliever Angel Guzman, who continued his remarkable comeback from major shoulder surgery with another scoreless inning for Class A Daytona, isn’t in the Cubs’ plans for a call-up when rosters expand next week, team officials said.

Guzman, who has a 3.44 ERA in 19 appearances between Class A Peoria and Daytona, is being handled with extreme care as he closes out the season in the minors and prepares for what he and the Cubs hope will be a healthy start to spring training.

Guzman, the Cubs’ best reliever in 2009, underwent what was thought to be potentially career-threatening surgery 17 months ago.

Cashner update

Right-hander Andrew Cashner will make his third injury-rehab appearance for Class AA Tennessee on Monday, then is scheduled for two more outings for Class AAA Iowa before rejoining the Cubs’ active roster for the first time since April during the next homestand.

Quade said the reports he got from Cashner’s outing Friday were good.

‘‘I heard he threw the ball well, and I heard he wants to be in my bullpen tonight,’’ Quade said. ‘‘That’s beautiful. .  .  . But I think we’re going to stay with the program.’’



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