Dempster suffered his first loss as Adam Dunn hit a towering two-run home run and rookie Johnny Cueto struck out eight to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-3 victory over the Cubs. It was Chicago's eighth loss in the last 11 games, and a mess. All the Reds' runs were unearned because of two crucial errors, and then there was an aggressive mistake by Fontenot in the ninth.
"Like I told my guys after the ballgame, make the other team beat you, don't just give it to them," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "You play like that and you're going to lose quite a few of them, or most of them. Anyway, it's over with. Done."
The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Francisco Cordero, and Fontenot was at third. The ball got away from Reds catcher Paul Bako during Ryan Theriot's at-bat, and Fontenot tried to score. But Bako was able to retrieve the ball and flip to Cordero in time to make the tag at the plate.
"I was reacting to the ball and thought it went further than it did, and got thrown out at home," Fontenot said. "I was trying to be too aggressive. Bases loaded, one out -- if I'm going to go next time, I have to make sure the ball goes to the backstop. I wanted to get home so much, but it was a bad decision."
Lee was on deck, watching, and at the time, thought Fontenot made the right call.
"When the ball got away, I thought [Fontenot] was going to score standing up," Lee said. "It almost stopped. It was almost weird being on-deck. In hindsight, you say, 'Don't go,' but when the ball kicked away, it looked like he was going to score standing up."
"That play in the last inning is aggressive, but not in a two-run game," Piniella said. "You almost have to be assured that you can fall down and still score. If it's a one-run game, different story. It happened, what can you do?"
Theriot walked to load the bases again, and Lee came up, but grounded out to first to end the game. It was a long walk back to the Cubs dugout.
"It's not that hard to get a hit," Lee said. "I've got to do better."
If anyone knew what Lee could potentially do, it was Reds manager Dusty Baker.
"You start counting -- you've got the bottom of the order up and you say you have to get five guys before Derrek Lee comes up," Baker said. "That's exactly what happened. I was saying, 'Derrek Lee did it for me. I've seen him do it for a long time.' I said, 'Just keep him in the hole.' Then he was on deck. I said, 'Keep him on deck.' Next thing you know, big [6-foot 6-inch] Derrek Lee was at the plate in a situation where you just hate to see him."
With Aramis Ramirez sidelined, someone has to pick up the offense. Lee is now 3-for-17 in the last four games.
"I had two chances to give us wins, and I didn't get it done," Lee said. "Put these last two on me -- it's been a bad road trip for me. With 'Ramy' out, I've got to swing the bat better."
Dempster (4-1) served up five runs -- none earned -- on four hits over six innings. The right-hander is the first Cubs pitcher to give up at least five unearned runs and no earned runs since Greg Hibbard was charged with six runs, all unearned, on July 11, 1993, against Houston.
Dempster struck out a season-high seven, but the Reds took advantage of the miscues and snapped a five-game losing streak with the win.
Cincinnati loaded the bases with one out in the first without getting a ball out of the infield. Ken Griffey Jr. was safe on an infield hit that Theriot knocked down, Brandon Phillips reached on a single that stayed on the grass toward third, and Joey Votto took advantage of a fielding error by Fontenot. Dempster then walked Edwin Encarnacion to force in a run. One out later, Jeff Keppinger blooped a two-run single to go ahead, 3-0.
Geovany Soto had three hits, including his sixth home run with one out in the Chicago second. Dunn made it 5-1 with his home run with two outs in the third. Encarnacion reached on a fielding error by Mark DeRosa to set up Dunn's homer, which sailed 463 feet to right.
"Mentally, I felt as good as I have all year," Dempster said. "It really came down to one pitch that cost the game to Dunn. I'd been going in to lefties all day and getting it there, and I didn't get it there. I [didn't] execute pitches against a guy like that who can hit the ball way, way out of the ballpark like he did. You better get it there.
"As well as I was throwing, to give up that home run in that situation, put us really down," Dempster said. "When it was 3-1, it was early and not that big a deal. When it's five runs, it's a long way to come back from."
Alfonso Soriano was robbed of an extra-base hit in the third by Griffey, who made a leaping catch at the wall in right. Soriano did single in his next at-bat with two outs in the fifth, and scored on Theriot's double to make it 5-2. Lee followed with an RBI single.
Add Felix Pie's catch in the fifth to the Cubs' highlight reel. He robbed Griffey of career home run No. 598 when the Cubs center fielder made a perfectly timed leap at the center-field wall to catch the ball.
Dempster got the loss, but his ERA dropped to 2.72.
"It's still a loss," he said. "That's the biggest thing. I had a chance to pick some of my teammates up and make a big pitch or something and get out of some situations, and I didn't do it. It's frustrating. We had chances to get back in it and unfortunately it didn't happen. You don't want to lose ballgames that way."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.