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CHC@PHI: LaHair doubles in Castro for an early lead

PHILADELPHIA -- The news has been nothing but good concerning Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster and his impending return from the 15-day disabled list with a strained right quad, which could be as soon as Thursday.

That left Saturday night's starter, Randy Wells, in a precarious position. The veteran made his second start in Dempster's place, and a solid outing could mean a spot in the Cubs' bullpen and not a trip to Triple-A Iowa.

"I don't even want to talk about that," Wells said. "It's beyond my control. I don't even want to talk about it."

"I don't know if we sent him down [earlier this year] to work on his command," manager Dale Sveum said. "It was more numbers than anything else. We have to pitch in the strike zone to have success at this level, but we'll cross that bridge [and what we do with Wells] when we get to Thursday."

Against the Phillies on Saturday, Wells started well, and then the fourth inning derailed all the positives as the Cubs lost, 5-2, at Citizens Bank Park. Wells allowed four runs on three hits and four walks over 3 2/3 innings, while the Cubs (7-14) struggled offensively against the Phillies' No. 5 starter, Joe Blanton.

"Yeah, it's too bad; he was pitching pretty well," Sveum said. "Then he just couldn't find the strike zone. He couldn't even find it against [Blanton]. It was too bad, because things were looking pretty good going into that inning and the lineup was setup pretty good to just run right through it."

The Cubs held a 1-0 lead courtesy of a two-out RBI double from Bryan LaHair in the first inning, and Wells cruised into the fourth having not allowed a hit. With a light rain falling, the Phillies (10-11) looked to three-hole hitter Hunter Pence, who opened the inning with a double inside the third-base bag. A walk and a fielder's choice put runners at first and third with one out.

Wells walked Laynce Nix to load the bases, and Carlos Ruiz followed with a two-run single up the middle to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.

After getting Peter Orr to fly out following Ruiz's hit, Wells faced Blanton with two outs and proceeded to walk the opposing pitcher on four pitches. Wells was beside himself for failing to go after Blanton, a career .116 hitter with six walks over nine seasons entering Saturday.

"That fourth inning, I just tried to get too fine," a visibly annoyed Wells said. "Walks will kill you. It's just inexcusable, really. All walks in general, but to walk the pitcher to keep the inning going, that's pretty brutal.

"Leadoff doubles aren't going to kill you. You have to pitch around that and get outs when you can. I had a pretty good changeup going and the game plan was working. I got away from it, lost the changeup because I threw too many, and then brought the hitters back in counts. And, of course, the walk to the pitcher was unacceptable."

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins followed with a double into the right-field corner that scored a pair of runs and ended Wells' night.

"We were very patient that inning and got four walks," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Blanton (2-3), meanwhile, kept the Cubs on their heels as he worked 7 1/3 solid innings in which he allowed eight hits and struck out eight.

"He had his offspeed stuff," Sveum said. "He was using it for strikes, he was locating it and getting ahead, and just going from there, really. With that offspeed stuff, he's always capable of doing that, and when he's locating and getting ahead, you know, working his fastball in, he is really tough."

"I felt like I had a good curveball and my slider was pretty good out of the gate, but what made those decent was that I was able to locate my fastball a little better than I was able to in the last couple games," said Blanton, who also benefited from the comfort of his home ballpark. "You throw here more than any other place, so there's definitely a comfort level when you're out there. You're in your home clubhouse. You're in your own weight room. You know where everything is. You're in front of your home fans, and that's always good."

All of that worked against Wells in the fourth, and that's all that really mattered on this night. Comments