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CHC@CIN: Dempster fires eight frames of shutout ball

The Braves have to like what they saw from Randall Delgado in the young starter's last outing. The Cubs like the fact that veteran Ryan Dempster is back with them after missing two starts early this season.

The two right-handers will oppose each other as Atlanta continues its series against Chicago at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

For Delgado, 22, the Tuesday outing figures to represent another step in his progression as a Major League starter. In his last start, which came last Thursday against Philadelphia, he went eight innings and gave up two runs on six hits in eight innings, striking out five, walking none and throwing 110 pitches. It added up to the longest effort of his 12-start career.

It also added up to a loss, because Phillies starter Joe Blanton pitched a three-hit shutout, but the point was that Delgado is getting better ... fast.

"I'm proud of him," catcher David Ross said. "He pounded the strike zone and got ahead of the hitters, which he has had trouble doing at times."

Added Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez: "It's a good steppingstone."

Meanwhile, Delgado's opponent, Dempster, has been there and done that in the Majors. His last start came on his 35th birthday, and it was classic Dempster. The righty was in line for a victory over the Reds after throwing eight scoreless innings in his first start back from the disabled list, but then-Cubs closer Carlos Marmol allowed three runs in the ninth, and Cincinnati won, 4-3, in the 10th on Scott Rolen's walk-off sacrifice fly off rookie Rafael Dolis.

It was another example of hard luck for Dempster, who hasn't recorded a win since last Aug. 11 (he's now winless in his past 13 starts).

"It was domination again from one of our starters," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's too bad he didn't get a 'W' out of that thing, because it was pretty impressive."

Braves: Bourn still streaking
• Outfielder Michael Bourn went 1-for-2 on Monday to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Bourn has hit safely in 22 of his past 24 games (since April 13), including 12 multihit games, while batting .380 (38-for-100) with eight stolen bases.

• Shortstop Taylor Pastornicky has hit safely in 12 of his past 16 starts (19-for-61, .311) since April 17.

Cubs: Starlin on the move
• After seeing his streak of 43 consecutive games having reached base safely come to an end April 9, shortstop Starlin Castro has reached safely in 23 of his past 25 games. He last went consecutive games without reaching safely from June 1-3 of last year, which was 132 games ago.

• First baseman Bryan LaHair has reached base safely in a team-high 25 straight games. He's the first Cubs first baseman to reach safely in 25 straight games since Derrek Lee's 30-game run from May 16-June 23, 2009. LaHair also has 16 RBIs in his last 19 games with an at-bat dating to April 13.

• Color Sveum impressed with the Braves. "Their lineup is so diverse, it's really hard to keep them down," the skipper said. "They have power, they have left-handed hitters coming at you. They have a great bench with [Eric] Hinske and [Matt] Diaz and [Juan] Francisco. Those guys are hitting almost .500 with men in scoring position -- the bench alone. It makes it tough to keep them down. You have to make your pitches, because they'll do a lot of damage if you're leaving balls in the middle of the plate."

Worth noting
• Thirteen of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel's last 18 outs have been recorded via the strikeout. Last year, Kimbrel fanned 127 of his 306 batters faced (42 percent) and led all Major League relievers in strikeouts.

• The Cubs have won three of their past seven home games in walk-off fashion. "The confidence level always climbs when you win ballgames, especially at home, when your last three wins have been walk-off wins," Sveum said. "It gives you a chance to understand you've done it in the last 10 days. You know you can come back, you've done it before, you've done it off good pitchers and closers, and it's a confidence-builder when you get walk-off wins."

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