"It's tough when the team is losing and you're the closer to get regular work," Dempster said. "We've been winning a little more, we've been playing closer games, and the more you do that, the more consistency you'll have, no matter who it is, whether it's the closer, setup guy, mop-up guy. If you go six, seven days without pitching, you won't be as crisp -- and that's not an excuse."
Dempster feels his delivery is more sound now that his appearances have been more regular. He's one of four Cubs relievers who have appeared in at least 50 games, joining Scott Eyre (56), Bob Howry (59) and Will Ohman (52). Entering Tuesday's contest, the Cubs relievers had stranded 131 of 175 inherited runners, a rate of 74.9 percent, which leads the Major Leagues.
"We've all chipped in," Dempster said of the bullpen, which is second to Atlanta in the National League in appearances. "We understand that at times it was tough for the starters. That's part of it -- sometimes the bullpen is going to struggle. It was a little bit of a grind for awhile. That happens to most teams. That's also because we have young starters. Lately, guys have been going deeper in games and that's nice for us."
Against the Nationals, the Cubs relief corps was busy because the starters failed to go past the fourth inning in three consecutive games.
"We just take turns," Dempster said. "The nice part is that guys down there are strong enough to go two, three days in a row."
Plus, Dempster said he doesn't mind pitching even if it's not a save situation. He's converted 22 of 27 save opportunities this year.
"If I haven't pitched in a couple days, I'd much rather throw a couple innings," he said. "We all have respect for each other down there and have the attitude that we want to help each other."
Step by step: Sean Marshall and Wade Miller will both make Minor League rehab starts this weekend. The Cubs have yet to decide where, athletic trainer Mark O'Neal said.
Marshall, sidelined with a strained right oblique, threw three innings in the bullpen on Tuesday. He said the session went well and that he threw full speed. Marshall has been on the disabled list since July 23.
Miller has been in rehab from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder and has pitched in five games for the Class A Peoria Chiefs.
Extra bases: Juan Mateo is expected to start on Saturday, the next time the Cubs need a fifth starter. "It's hard not to give him another shot after he won his first game," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the rookie, who won his Major League debut on Aug. 3 against Arizona. "You can't say, 'OK, kid, thank you and we'll see you later.'" ... Angel Pagan and Matt Murton will continue to share left field. Baker said he'll go with the best matchups, and doesn't want either player sitting for too long and losing their stroke. ... The Cubs began this nine-game, three-city road trip having won 13 games since the All-Star break. That's tied for the second-most victories in the National League with four other teams. What's the reason? "Some guys got hot," Baker said, pointing out Aramis Ramirez, Juan Pierre and Michael Barrett. "You get guys hot and you're going to win." ... Rich Hill's nine strikeouts tied Glendon Rusch for most by a Cubs lefty in 2006. The last Cubs southpaw to reach double digits in strikeouts was Steve Wilson, who fanned 10 on Sept. 10, 1989, against the Cardinals, and 10 on July 15, 1990, against the Dodgers. ... Baker doesn't mind seeing fans do the wave at Wrigley Field, but he'd like them to time it a little better. "It's distracting to the fielders," he said. "I'd rather have them do it when [the opponent] is in the field."
Workout at Wrigley: Cubs Care and Equinox Fitness Clubs will host a workout at Wrigley Field on Sept. 9. Tickets are $50 per person and space is limited. The hour-long session will include a warm-up and stretch, then some extreme cardio exercises, and an opportunity to run the bases. Four sessions will be held, beginning at 9 a.m. CT. Call 1-800-404-CUBS for information.
Schedule change: The Cubs' Aug. 27 game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium will have a 7:05 p.m. CT start, and will be broadcast on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
Minor matters: Jae Kuk Ryu gave up two runs, one earned, on five hits over eight innings in Triple-A Iowa's 4-2 win over Portland. Ryu struck out seven and now is 6-6 with a 3.54 ERA. Geovany Soto hit a two-run homer, and Micah Hoffpauir and Casey McGehee each had two hits. ... Federico Baez gave up one run on six hits over seven innings and struck out five in Double-A West Tenn's 1-0 loss to Carolina. ... Mark Holliman gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits over seven innings in Class A Daytona's 4-3 loss to Tampa. ... Scott Taylor gave up three runs on six hits over five innings in Class A Peoria's 4-1 loss to Kane County. Jesus Valdez hit a solo home run. ... Kitt Kopach gave up three runs on one hit and three walks over 4 1/3 innings in Class A Boise's 3-1 loss to Eugene.
On deck: Carlos Zambrano will try to stay unbeaten on the road when the Cubs play the second game of the three-game series at Milwaukee on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. CT. Zambrano is 7-0 with a 2.67 ERA away from Wrigley Field. The game will be broadcast on WGN Radio and WGN TV.