Dempster struck out a career-high 12 and hit a go-ahead single against Maddux during a four-run fifth inning, leading the Chicago Cubs over the punchless San Diego Padres 4-0 on Thursday."He's probably the greatest teammate I ever had," said Dempster, teammates with Maddux during 2½ seasons in Chicago. "Just his ability to truly go out to the mound and take it one pitch at a time, no matter what the situation, what inning it is, how many people are on base, what the score is. Just keep trying to execute pitches. That's what I've been trying to do. He really took that to its fullest."Dempster (5-1) allowed six hits in 8 1/3 innings and walked one, leaving after 115 pitches. He retired 15 straight batters after a first-inning single by Brian Giles, who had three hits."He's been huge," teammate Derrek Lee said. "He's kept us in every single game he's pitched."Dempster wasn't sure what to expect when he moved back to the rotation after spending four years in the bullpen."Did I think it would go this smoothly? I didn't know," he said.He appeared set for his first complete game since a six-hitter for Cincinnati against the Cubs on Sept. 25, 2002, until he ran into trouble in the ninth.Giles led off with a double, prompting a visit from manager Lou Piniella. Dempster struck out Adrian Gonzalez but was lifted after Kevin Kouzmanoff singled to put runners on first and third.Kerry Wood struck out Khalil Greene and pinch-hitter Josh Bard for his eighth save in 11 chances.Maddux, who entered the major leagues with the Cubs in 1986, made what might have been his final start at Wrigley Field. The 42-year-old might retire after this season, and the Padres are not scheduled to return to Wrigley Field this year.Coming off his 350th win last weekend, Maddux allowed four runs and 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He allowed three hits in a scoreless second inning but wasn't as fortunate in the fifth.Ronny Cedeno, Henry Blanco and Dempster singled to put the Cubs ahead. Alfonso Soriano's single loaded the bases, Ryan Theriot hit a sacrifice fly and Lee had a two-run double that chased Maddux, who left to a standing ovation."It was nice," Maddux said. "I appreciate it. ... It was cool. The people here are special. The fans are certainly a huge part of Wrigley Field and why this is such a great place to play. I'm sure I'll never forget it."Jim Edmonds, released by San Diego last week, started in center for the Cubs and went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. Edmonds, who signed on Wednesday, heard cheers as he stepped to the plate in the second and again after he delivered a single to right -- something he never heard at Wrigley during his eight years with rival St. Louis. The familiar boos came during his next three at-bats, when he grounded into a double play, flied to center and struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh."It's definitely exciting," he said. "Being in first place, a lot is on the line every day."Chicago won three of four from the team with the worst record in the major leagues (15-27). NL Central-leading Chicago has won six of seven overall.San Diego batters struck out 14 times in all, a day after whiffing 15 times against Ted Lilly and the Cubs' bullpen. It was the most strikeouts in a span of two nine-inning games since Texas batters had 30 last Aug. 19 and 21, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.The Padres, blanked for the fourth time this season, have the lowest batting average (.233) and fewest runs (140) in the major leagues.
Although Daryle Ward was available to pinch-hit, Piniella said Ward might be placed on the disabled list this weekend because of a bulging disc in his lower back. ... Padres catcher Michael Barrett, on the 15-day DL with a sprained ligament in his right elbow, will probably start a rehab assignment at Triple-A Portland next week, manager Bud Black said. ... Tony Clark will likely be a designated hitter when the Padres visit Seattle this weekend.