[Dempster, left, is officially named the Cubs’ 2009 Bob Howry, right.]

The Cubs drop 2 of 3 in the desert, getting beat thrashed 10-0 in today’s matinee.  Two things bother you about today’s outing, mainly the streaky nature of the Cub bats (like last year) and fearing that Ryan Dempster’s 2008 was a fluke career best. Of the $52 million the Cubs pay him thru 2012, they look to get about $10 mill back, tops.  Gordon Wittenmyer talked to Dempster about his 5.40 ERA and single-win April here, with Dempster telling it this way:

”Crooked numbers,” he said. ”Bad inning management.

”I’ll just keep plugging away and keep trying to execute pitches. It seems like other than that one crooked number I’m putting up right now, I’m actually throwing the ball all right and giving us a chance. But if I can just stop doing that, it’ll give us a better chance to win the game.”

Yeah, stop doing that.  Surely, Paul Sullivan will find a way to blame Milton Bradley for all this.  Check out Sully’s recounting of Bradley’s woes here, when 2 hits and a walk in Tuesday’s win were cause for him to rehash (yet again) MB’s debut as a Cub.

Understandably, Piniella is getting grilled about his .500 April.  And while Piniella can talk all he wants about injuries and slumping millionaires, he himself appears less decisive than last year.  Whose closing?  Marmol or Gregg?  Soriano finally bats lower in the order after last week’s series of injuries, then bounces back up to lead-off.  I’m not criticizing Piniella, he’s had a lot to adapt to, not to mention rejiggering a 40% new team.  His crew has the talent “ Zambrano homered and was a triple short of hitting for the cycle Tuesday.  But the Cubs right now look like guys hoping for Inspiration instead of grinders who show up to work.  The Herald’s Bruce Miles delivers this dirty laundry list of today’s rout:

It was an all-around failure for the Cubs:

¢ Cubs batters managed just 2 hits off Davis, who pitched 7 innings and stymied the Cubs with his deliberate approach on the mound.

¢ Ryan Dempster, the Cubs’ starting pitcher, gave up 6 hits and 5 runs.

¢ Dempster walked three batters, and it got only worse from there. Carlos Marmol, returning from a knee injury, set alarm bells ringing by walking four in one-third of an inning. Closer Kevin Gregg, in the game to get some work, walked three and couldn’t finish a mop-up inning.

When it was all over, the Cubs limped home with a 2-4 road trip, and their overall record stands at 10-10.

There have been rumblings that the Cubs were overconfident coming out of spring training after having won the National League Central two straight years.

With April almost over manager Lou Piniella may have seen Wednesday as a time to launch a strike – perhaps too late to be pre-emptive – against complacency.

“We’re not going to be able to just go out there and play without intensity and go through the motions and think we can win baseball games, I can tell you that,” Piniella told reporters. “And the quicker that sinks in, I think, the better.”