Yesterday’s baseball games for Chicago saw a total of 30 runs scored. That’s a lot. But, before I wander into the quagmire of making an actual point, I thought I’d take a minute to tell you a little about the fun stuff I notice when running this blog. First off, every morning I am greeted by many requests from folks who want to be new members. I deny around 99% of them. Am I a big meany? Not at all. 99% of the folks who want access to this blog are selling porn, gambling site memberships, more porn, GREAT real estate offers, disgusting porn, illegal meds, really sick porn and so on. My basic rule of thumb for admitting members is that there has to be a real possibility that the member will buy me a beer some day. No matter how remote it may be. On line spammers and scammers just do not meet my heady criteria.
Another thing I have noticed is that the Cubs are the only MLB team without a favicon. What is that, you may ask? Well, if you look at the tab on this page you will see our little hot dog hero festooned right before the name of the site. If you go to Google you will see a colorful letter ‘g’. They are neat way to let people know they are on the right page and reinforce your brand. Every web designer I know throws them in for free just because they are so easy to make and place on line. But, when you go to the Cubs web site you will see an empty page and not the, cool, MLB logo. It’s like they are ashamed to be in Major League Baseball.
Insert your own joke here.
Anyway, since we are on the subject of the Cubs, I’m going to let CARRIE MUSKAT of MLB.com kick off the topic off today’s blog; yesterday’s baseball games.
The Cubs not only missed opportunities at the plate on Thursday, but also a chance to finish the month of April at .500.
Adam LaRoche hit two homers, including one into a 27-mph wind, and drove in five runs and Kelly Johnson tied a career high with four hits, including a three-run homer, to power the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 13-5 victory over the Cubs, who lost their third straight.
The wind was not blowing out only during the D-backs’ innings at Wrigley Field, it just seemed that way.
“Usually days like this are high scoring both ways,” Chicago’s Derrek Lee said. “We need to find a way to swing the bats a little better.”
The pitchers would appreciate it. Ted Lilly (1-1) was making his second start since coming off the disabled list. The lefty, whose first start was delayed while he rehabbed from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, threw six shutout innings Saturday in Milwaukee.
But LaRoche connected twice off Lilly, hitting a three-run opposite-field blast in the fourth and a solo shot to right into the wind in the fifth. Lilly said he was a little off, even in the first three innings. It’s the first time he’s given up six or more runs since July 20, 2009, at Philadelphia, when he was charged with nine (seven earned).
“For me, you go out and try to execute pitches whether the wind was blowing in or blowing out,” Lilly said. “Regardless of the conditions or the score, I want to go out there and make good pitches and control what I can. The wind or the score or all those things, to me, are somewhat irrelevant. The No. 1 thing when you’re out there pitching is locating the ball and changing speeds.”
Lilly lasted five innings, giving up seven hits and six runs, the second-highest run total off a Cubs starter this year behind Carlos Zambrano, who served up eight on Opening Day to the Atlanta Braves.
“It’s his second start of the year—he’ll get better,” manager Lou Piniella said of the lefty.
Mike Fontenot was hit by a pitch by Arizona’s Ian Kennedy (1-1) to open the Chicago third, moved up on Lilly’s sacrifice and scored on Ryan Theriot’s two-out single, extending his hitting streak to nine games. That was all the offense for the Cubs until the eighth, when they loaded the bases and Kosuke Fukudome hit his first U.S. grand slam into the left-field bleachers.
“If runners are in scoring position, I try to relax and concentrate on the at-bat,” Fukudome said through interpreter Hiro Aoyama.
Can he help his teammates with that?
“I think everybody has a difficult time,” Fukudome said. “They’re veterans and not rookies. They just need to find their way to get out of it.”
There’s no panic in the Cubs’ clubhouse and players are trying not to get frustrated, but when the No. 3 hitter is batting .193 and the No. 4 hitter is hitting .159, it’s tough to not throw things. The Cubs stranded 11 on Wednesday in a 3-2 loss to the Nationals. On Thursday, they totaled four hits over seven innings against Kennedy.
“In this game, you can’t let yourself get frustated,” said Lee, the Cubs’ No. 3 man. “That’s the worst thing you can do.”
Lee is 1-for-17 in the past four games. How can he not get frustrated?
“You have to keep reminding yourself it’s a long season, and hopefully you can’t keep going this bad for too much longer,” Lee said. “My swing is just off. I’m getting my pitch and rolling over and popping up. I have to figure out a way to get out of it.”
Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs’ cleanup hitter, said the team is wasting a lot of good outings by its starters. Thursday was a rare non-quality start.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Ramirez said. “Everybody’s working hard, everybody’s trying. We just haven’t gotten it done. We just have to hit. We can’t be playing close games all the time—we all have to start hitting, including myself.”
If you read the comments from the hitters you would think they lost yesterday 2-1 and not 13-5. It just seems that the Cubs are having trouble getting all their cylinders firing at the same time. When the pitching is good, the hitting is not. And visa versa. What I don’t get about this team is how they can beat the snot out of the Brewers, who aren’t that bad, and then fold against teams that are patently worse. The Cubs are in the middle of a 29 game stretch against teams with losing records. This should be the point of the season where they are buying themselves breathing room instead of gasping for air and clutching their sides.
Side note here; today is LEE ELIA DAY at Wrigley, so make sure to brush up on your profanities if you are headed to the game.
Before we move on I have to note here that, on ESPN last night, one commentator mentioned that Paul Konerko was “on pace to hit 60 homers this year.” No offense to Paulie, whom I dearly admire, but if that happens there had better be a syringe check in his locker.
Okay, back to reality.
Last night the Sox played the (Walker, Texas) Rangers and eked out a win. SCOTT MERKIN of MLB.com has all the fun details.
The White Sox got off to a slow start this season and in the series against the Rangers that concluded at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Thursday afternoon.
They even started off slowly on the offensive side in Thursday’s game.
But two home runs from the Major Leagues’ new long-ball leader, Paul Konerko, led to a come-from-behind 7-5 win, avoided a three-game sweep, and might have given the inconsistent South Siders a boost as April comes to a close.
Konerko, who drove in four runs, took the big league lead in homers with his ninth, a solo blast leading off the eighth inning, and then retook the lead from Arizona’s Kelly Johnson with another in the ninth. With that late blast, Konerko tied Jim Thome’s White Sox mark for April home runs set in 2006.
“I’m certainly not trying to hit home runs. I have a good plan when I walk up there,” said Konerko, who has a team-best 18 RBIs this season. “Just having an idea what I want to do and sticking to it. And if it doesn’t work out, not panicking and just stay with my stuff and just trusting it.
“Not much else. Taking each at-bat as it comes with the situation in front of me and not trying to do anything. Just competing and that’s it.”
That’s what manager Ozzie Guillen would like to see more of from all of his players, and he’s been vocal about it, saying he doesn’t want to see the team, which improved to 9-13, fall into a slump like the six-game road losing streak it busted out of Thursday.
Guillen isn’t afraid to state the obvious: that if the White Sox fall too far behind in the American League Central, which they’re expected to contend for every year by a demanding front office and fan base, major personnel changes could follow.
Then again, he’s also not afraid to say that his club—in its present state—is quite capable of turning it around like it did Thursday.
“I’m not worried about it,” Guillen said. “I’d be disappointed about the players because I truly believe with what we have out there, they should compete. If you look at this lineup, the pitching staff and relievers, I don’t see why we’re not competing.
“In the meantime, those guys are going to dictate to them what we should do for this year and the future. We don’t play up to our potential. When you don’t play to your potential, there are a lot of doubts in people’s minds.”
For six innings Thursday, those doubts were visible—especially with the bats. The White Sox had two hits off Texas starter Scott Feldman prior to the seventh, with Gordon Beckham’s leadoff double eventually turning into a run in the fourth.
The Sox produced only one hit in the seventh when rallying for three runs and a 4-3 lead. Alex Rios reached on an error when first baseman Justin Smoak couldn’t scoop a low throw from shortstop Andres Blanco. Mark Kotsay walked on four pitches from Feldman, and A.J. Pierzynski greeted sidearm-throwing right-hander Darren O’Day (0-1) with a first-pitch single to right, scoring Rios.
Alexei Ramirez bunted both runners up one base, where they stayed at second and third when Juan Pierre popped out to second base. But a wild pitch from reliever Dustin Nippert with Beckham batting scored Kotsay with the tying run, and catcher Max Ramirez’s throwing error trying to nail Kotsay allowed Pierzynski to score with the go-ahead run.
Gavin Floyd gave up three runs (1-2), including Smoak’s first career home run with one out in the fourth. But two of the runs were unearned because of a Mark Teahen throwing error in the third.
Floyd kept the White Sox close enough to rally and won for the first time on the road since Aug. 15 at Oakland—a span of seven starts.
“Today, our offense showed up a little bit later in the game and scored a lot of runs,” said Floyd, who fanned five and didn’t issue a walk. “That’s your whole goal is to keep pounding the strike zone and try to get outs and eventually we’ll score.”
“Outstanding,” said Guillen of Floyd. “The only reason I took him out is because I had my best lefty out there [in Matt Thornton] and he hadn’t pitched in a few days. I was confident he would throw the ball good. We needed an outing like that from him. Start building his confidence back from the beginning of the season. I think he’s starting to regroup and throw the ball better.”
Texas rallied for two in the ninth off closer Bobby Jenks and had the winning run at the plate, before Joaquin Arias grounded out to Beckham, who made a nice barehand pickup and throw to end the game.
Sadly the 9-13 Sox now have to face the 14-7 Yankees, who have looked very hot their last couple of games. Granted, the Sox do have Freddy “BIG GAME” Garcia taking the mound and tonight is certainly a big game for the Southsiders. Here’s hoping it all works out for a Good Guys’ “W”.
As the Bulls continue to bumble around trying to figure out what to do with Vinny Del Negro (keep him) while trying not to look like a petty dictatorship run amok (too late), and as the Bears continue to look for someone to blame for losing three specific games last year because they got the Lime Gatorade instead of Arctic Blast (they’ve already fired the waterboy due to Urlacher’s rehab so he’s off the hook), the rest of the city trundles merrily on looking for reasons to cheer the hometown teams.
And ... you get the idea.
Sad as it may be this early in the year, the Cubs brief flirtation with a .500 record may be the season’s highlight.
Thank God for bourbon.
KERRY WALLS of MLB.com kicks things off with a look at the Cubs loss yesterday to the resurgent Nationals.
It’s becoming a disturbing trend for the Cubs since returning home from Milwaukee: Great starting pitching, not enough offense.
The pattern held true Wednesday afternoon. Cubs starter Ryan Dempster tossed eight quality innings, but the offense again couldn’t deliver.
The result was a 3-2 loss to the Nationals, who claim the three-game series at Wrigley Field after Chicago took the opener Monday.
Dempster continued the rotation’s brilliant stretch of starting pitching. He gave up three runs on just four hits, including solo home runs to Adam Kennedy and Adam Dunn. But it was still too much for Chicago’s offense to overcome.
“It’s a loss regardless,” Dempster said. “We win and lose as a team, and at the end day, there’s an ‘L’ beside our name.
“I felt like I could’ve done a better job. I gave up a base hit with a pitcher on deck, and I gave up a solo home run to a guy in the lineup you don’t want to let beat you.”
After Dunn gave the Nats a 3-2 lead with his blast in the fourth, the Cubs missed out on numerous scoring chances, particularly in the fifth. Chicago had the bases loaded with one out, but Marlon Byrd and Mike Fontenot couldn’t get the ball out of the infield.
“I had the bases loaded, one out ... I got to be big there,” Byrd said. “All year long, I’ve been getting it done. I have to get the ball to the outfield some way, somehow.”
Byrd did lead off the eighth with a double, but was left stranded. Still, he only wanted to focus on the earlier missed opportunity.
“Bases loaded, less than two outs ... I have to get that run in,” Byrd said. “Bottom line. There’s no excuse not to. We’re big leaguers. There’s no reason not to get that run in.”
It certainly wasn’t all negative for Byrd, who made an unbelievable catch on a ball in center that he appeared to lose in the sun. At the last minute, he stuck his glove out and was able to snare the fly ball behind his back.
“It was one of those see-it-at-the-last-minute-the-sun-was-in-your-eyes [catches],” he said.
“It looked like he just stuck out his glove backward and it went in it,” first baseman Derrek Lee said.
I have said all along that Byrd looks like a keeper for both the tangible and intangible things he brings to the game. But, despite the “baseball wisdom” imparted by one screeching scribe, one player doth not a baseball team make. The Cubs have bent over backwards this year to make sure the players have the best possible coaches and facilities they can until Wrigley is either torn down or rebuilt. No matter what you think of the Ricketts, and I am not a fan, they are doing their best to turn off the excuse faucet. It is time for the team to quit trying to suckle it.
On the Southside they continue to redefine the concept of “ace pitcher” to mean, “throws really good batting practice.” The starting rotation, which was the shining beacon of hope on March 31, has turned into a lighthouse for the blind. SCOTT MERKIN of MLB.com removes all the profanities I uttered during the game and gets the point across better, so I’ll defer to him.
If not for the first inning during Texas’ 6-5 victory Wednesday night at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, then the White Sox would be playing for their second straight series win on Thursday afternoon.
But this near-miss pretty much tells the story of the White Sox disappointing 8-13 start to this 2010 campaign. It’s one hit, one bad inning or possibly one pitch costing this group a chance at sustained success.
On Wednesday, the White Sox couldn’t come through on a great scoring opportunity in the top of the opening inning and the Rangers (10-11) answered with five off of Jake Peavy (0-2) during the bottom half.
“Very, very tough beginning of the game,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of the first frame he would like to forget.
“We fell down, 5-0, but we didn’t quit,” said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who busted loose from his season-long slump with two hits.
That fight-until-the-end attitude for the White Sox was fully on display in the ninth, when they came within inches of erasing a three-run deficit against Texas closer Neftali Feliz (third save). Carlos Quentin, who hit a three-run home run to chop Texas’ five-run advantage in the sixth, started the one-out uprising with a double.
Pierzynski doubled home Quentin, and Alexei Ramirez singled home Pierzynski to make it a 6-5 game. Juan Pierre ended the night with pinch-hitter Andruw Jones on deck when Elvis Andrus threw him out by one-quarter step at first on a high hopper to shortstop, but Mark Kotsay’s at-bat three hitters earlier truly changed the scope of the inning.
Kotsay, mired in a 4-for-34 slump to start the season, hit the ball hard in three of his four at-bats Wednesday. None of the baseballs were hit harder than a line drive he smashed toward the right-field corner with one out and Quentin on second.
Instead of having a run in and a big ninth going, though, first baseman Justin Smoak made an amazing, leaping catch for the inning’s second out and an 0-for-4 hung on Kotsay.
“I told Mark I can’t believe that guy caught the ball,” Pierzynski said. “Great swing, and if that ball falls in and my ball falls in, we are 6-6 and hopefully talking about a win instead of a loss. It’s definitely frustrating.”
“Late in the game, we fight back,” Guillen said. “We throw the ball out of the bullpen. Then, Peavy turns around very quick and gives us a pretty good game. I hope that’s a good sign, for our offense and pitching.”
Part of the reason the White Sox couldn’t quit was because of the hole Peavy helped dig in the first. A main reason for the South Siders’ chance to get back in this game was Peavy’s stellar work for the next five innings.
In innings two through six, Peavy walked two, fanned seven and didn’t allow a hit. Unfortunately, Peavy gave up five runs on four hits in the first.
If, as Peavy said later, innings two through six are indicative of the pitcher he will be, then everything’s going to be okay. However, if that first inning is what Sox fans have to look forward to, then it’s bourbon for breakfast all season long. While it is always good to see a team battle and not give in, I would be perfectly fine if they got their act together and just romped on some folks.
The Cubs and Sox both lost yesterday. Both starting pitchers pitched well enough to win and both teams treated batting like a social disease. Not much more to say there, so let’s move on.
Yesterday the Bears continued their path to world dominance by adding via subtraction. By firing Greg Gabriel they have cleaned out all of their scouts and blamed all of them for all of the Bears draft choices. Clean, simple and, most likely, very wrong. NEIL HAYES at the Sun Times takes a peek behind the curtain at Halas Hall and notes that the emperor is not wearing any clothes. Yes, I am mixing fairy tales, just go with it.
It’s no surprise that what began with the selection of Major Wright on Day 2 of the NFL draft ended with heated arguments, the contract of a longtime employee not being renewed and an everybody-for-themselves mentality permeating the halls of Halas Hall. Not after the coaching staff was purged and senior director of pro personnel Bobby DePaul was fired. Not when Tim Ruskell picked out the new drapes for his office months ago. Not with general manager Jerry Angelo hinting about the changes as recently as last week.
It has resulted in business as unusual at the Bears’ practice facility, where pink slips have become as common as Post-it notes. For all the talk about stability, the Bears have fired or not renewed the contracts of 24 coaches since 2005, and that doesn’t include Lovie Smith, who relieved himself of defensive coordinator duties after last season.
Greg Gabriel became the latest to be bounced when the longtime director of college scouting learned he would not have his contract renewed. That paves the way for ex-Seahawks general manager Ruskell to join the front office of a team that leads the league in empty desks.
At this pace, the coaching staff and front office will finish with more sacks than the defensive line.
The latest ouster was as predictable as the team’s goal-line play-calling last season. Everybody knew this would be the new post-draft reality, which made employees walk around on eggshells wondering who will stay, who will go and why there’s so much whispering around the water cooler. Factor in the long hours and high stakes associated with the NFL draft, and once the initial shock wears off, Gabriel can expect to feel like a canary that escaped the coal mine.
Things got tense enough late Saturday night that scout Jeff Shiver and senior director of administration Cliff Stein got into a heated exchange while processing the contracts of rookie free agents. Whether the dispute was as heated as one source made it sound or as routine as another insisted it was, you might not want to find yourself between the two at the next Christmas party.
Angelo should have fired Gabriel months ago when he fired DePaul, his other longtime lieutenant. But he wanted him around until after the draft, which creates an awkward work environment. In big business, executives sign confidentiality agreements and leave posthaste. In the NFL, they work long hours to help make franchise-shifting decisions knowing they’ll get all the blame and none of the credit.
If Gabriel was largely responsible for the Bears’ poor draft record of late, which not renewing his contract indicates, why would Angelo want to seek his counsel during another draft? Why not just make Gabriel sign an agreement that states he can’t disclose any inside information or begin working for a new team until after the draft?
Angelo is holding DePaul and Gabriel accountable even though he has final say. We don’t know if it was Gabriel or Angelo who was more responsible for Cedric Benson, Michael Haynes and Dan Bazuin. Was Gabriel giving his boss bad recommendations or was Angelo ignoring his good ones?
There’s some real paranoia floating around inside the building. There’s a perception—real or imagined—that Angelo and Smith will do everything they can to keep their jobs. One by one, people get tossed under the bus. They wonder, what happens when the only people who haven’t been replaced are the president, the general manager and the head coach?
Yes, Gabriel and Angelo worked together at Tampa where they compiled a gaudy 91-132 record. Somehow that stunning achievement got them to where they are today. Which is overseeing a .500 team for the last 4 years. The perception Neil mentions above seems more rooted in reality as the body count continues to rise. After all, since January 5th the Bears have dumped 8 coaches or staff and seem poised to clean house even more. Except for Angelo and Smith of course.
That is the kind of stuff that drives fans to watch water ballet on Sundays.
Also, yesterday, it seems the Bulls finally seem to have gotten their final excuse to fire Vinny Del Negro. Which, in my personal opinion, is a really dumb idea. I think the simplest thing to do is bullet point Del Negro’s strength and weaknesses.
- Is great at developing young players All you need to do is look at Rose, Noah and Gibson as example A and that case is made.
- Can work with whatever he is dealt Two mid-season trades, one of which was designed to just pick up warm bodies and shed salary, and he still made the playoffs.
- Has the support and respect of his team See the comments coming below and you will know what I mean.
- Has never, ever, thrown a player or anyone else under the proverbial bus
And now let’s take a look at his minuses;
- Spent a season learning what a play clock was for All last season it seemed like he was burning timeouts like incense in a head shop. He has done better in year two, but there is still room for improvement.
- Sometimes calls plays like he is using a gaming wheel There have been times I could actually believe the following conversation happened;
- Does not play well with Paxson
Coach: Okay, we’re running a defensive post
Team: But we have the ball
Coach: Who cares? The magic wheel said this is the play we’re running.
DAVID HAUGH at the Tribune notes that not everyone is thrilled with Del Negro’s impending demise.
In a cramped Quicken Loans Arena locker room overflowing with reporters and regrets after Tuesday night’s 96-94 season-ending loss to the Cavaliers, it was hard for the Bulls to look forward with so many players hanging their heads.
But that was the appropriate place to focus for a team that had no business taking the Cavaliers down to the final possession of a playoff game on their home floor, for a franchise that had no intention of making the playoffs when this season began.
Yet here the Bulls were, down three with the ball in Derrick Rose’s hands and the clock ticking below 10. Rose’s left-handed runner fell short. Earlier in the quarter, trailing 80-79, Rose had a potential three-point play waved off because of a shot-clock violation that was close enough the officials reviewed it.
“That turned the game around,’’ Rose said.
There were more potential turning points in this game, in this series, than anybody expected.
If this was the best team in the East nearly blowing a nine-point fourth-quarter lead, the Bulls may not be as far away from contending as many think.
If the Bulls are prepared to close that gap without Vinny Del Negro, the head coach likely to lose his job any day, it sounds like the franchise will ignore the franchise player’s endorsement.
“I would vote yes,’’ Rose said late Tuesday night when asked if Del Negro should stay. “That’s a guy where we both came in (in 2008), he let me have my freedom, he still coached me, let me make my mistakes, watched film with him every day, taught me a lot on offense and defense. But the decision isn’t up to me. It’s up to the front office.’’
Given the chance to reflect on his two years on the job or lobby his bosses for another season, Del Negro sounded like a guy who knew the decision had been made even if he outcoached the Cavs’ Mike Brown in this series or scared the No. 1 seed with an inferior roster.
“I don’t even think about that stuff,’’ Del Negro said after the loss. “All those things will take care of themselves. … How anybody wants to judge that, they’ll judge it.’’
LeBron James was asked how he would judge it from the perspective of a team that escaped. Does the opinion of potential future Bulls matter?
“I think they were well coached,’’ James said. “There wasn’t one point where they laid down.’’
So begins the most critical offseason in franchise history, when the core of Rose and Joakim Noah likely will be joined by a new coach and a marquee free agent. If the Bulls were looking for an edge to take into the summer, they didn’t have to look far to find it Tuesday night.
I should note here that Noah also delivered a ringing endorsement for his coach. It should also be noted that the Bulls were very undersized compared to the Cavs, or most other NBA teams, and still competed and nearly pulled off an upset last night. The team size would have a lot to do with the choices made by former GM Paxson and, his sock puppet, Gar Forman. It is almost as though the GM gang went out of their way to field the worst team possible and the coach still made it work.
My voice in the cyber-wilderness will probably not change a thing, but - for what it’s worth - I think Del Negro should stay and the office cleaning should come from above. After all, who the heck wants to work for a sock puppet?
Madhouse and Slim both started threads, which I merged to keep you sane, so CLICK HERE TO TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
I’ve taken my bows
And my curtain calls -
You brought me fame and fortuen and everything that goes with it
I thank you all -
But it’s been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise -
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race -
And I ain’t gonna lose
- We Are The Champions - Queen
Okay, maybe it’s a tad presumptive to declare anyone the champion of anything at this point, but it sure did feel good to be a Chicago sports’ fan yesterday. We only had two games to follow and follow them we did. All of the resulting joy felt in Fandom was tied, irrevocably in this blogger’s mind, to the success of BOOBQUAKE. How the bountiful busts of brainy women, this was - after all - a science experiment, can even be remotely tethered to the success or failure of Chicago sports teams may be a mystery to you. But, it originated in Purdue, Indiana and there isn’t much else, after the boobs, for them to cheer for. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
The Blackhawks had to face those pesky Predators in game 5 in Nashville last night and needed to win to move on to the semi-finals. As DAVID HAUGH at the Tribune reports, even without the Ice Crew there in support of Boobquake, that is exactly what they did.
In the handshake line after the Blackhawks’ 5-3 victory Monday night over the Predators in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena, the winners had a firm grip on what they had just accomplished.
They didn’t win this first-round series as much as they survived it.
And while Marian Hossa made a point after the game to tell Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis he was sorry for pushing him into the boards in Game 5, the Blackhawks had nothing to apologize for after outlasting the West’s No.7 seed.
They combined luck and skill, force and finesse. They discovered their best penalty killer might be the young goalie, Antti Niemi, who notched his first postseason series win. They killed three power plays in the third period, but even more impressive was the power within required to clinch a playoff series on the road.
“Nashville’s a real good team,’’ said Hossa, booed often during the game. “We knew it was going to be hard, and they put up a big fight and didn’t make it easy tonight or any night of theseries.’’
If this Tennessee town knows anything, it is desperation and heartbreak. Together they have helped fuel the local economy for decades. Without both emotions providing so much fodder for the forlorn, this isn’t the country music capital of America. This is Chattanooga.
So for the biggest game of the season in Nashville, the Blackhawks knew better than to expect the Predators to pull the proverbial covers over their heads no matter how crushing a Game 5 loss was. The Hawks fully expected the Preds to live the lyrics heard every day in the Music City, to get back up and fight regardless of the condition of their achy, breaky hearts. And fight they did.
When Duncan Keith stunned Nashville with a laser from the blue line 6 minutes, 38 seconds into the game, two minutes later Shea Weber answered with a rocket of his own past Niemi. When the Hawks went up 3-1 in a first period that saw more action than one of the nearby bars along Broadway Street, the Preds refused to go away, and they tied it.
Obviously, the Preds didn’t get the memo that the Canucks were eagerly awaiting the Blackhawks in the next round to avenge last season’s series loss.
“We had respect for these guys at the beginning of this series and just kept getting more and more,’’ Keith said.
The home team responded better than its fans, whose enthusiasm for this decisive game was so tepid 1,000 tickets remained available Monday afternoon. The white towels handed out at the door screamed “SMASHVILLE,’’ but it’s hard to imagine hockey being a smashing success in Tennessee if the playoffs don’t stir interest.
Briefly, the crowd showed a pulse with a chorus of “HOSSA SUCKS!’’ during Hossa’s first shift, in response to the NHL’s decision not to suspend the Hawks winger after Saturday’s incident. exchange posted on YouTube on Monday night and spreading quickly through the Internet, the guy verbally harassed Keith until finally threatening to pull the fire alarm at the Hawks’ hotel.
Keith’s classic, if not the most classy, response: He squirted the fan in the face with his water bottle. Don’t worry, the shirt will dry. And so will a city’s tears after the Hawks made it concert season again in Nashville.
Despite the numerous, country music, clichés that the game invoked, it felt good watching the Hawks know they had the game in hand and then keep it there. No drama, no heart attacks, just get the lead, keep the lead and win the game. Now, onto the Canucks to see if they can do it again.
Here’s one pseudo-pundit saying they will.
On to baseball. Yesterday the Cubs played the suddenly, not sucking, Washington Nationals and found themselves facing a team that wasn’t giving up in the 4th inning, as has been their wont. KERRY WALLS of MLB.com has all the details.
Patience certainly paid off for the Cubs on Monday.
Two bases-loaded walks provided half of the Cubs’ offense, including Aramis Ramirez’s walk-off free pass in the 10th, as the Cubs defeated the Washington Nationals, 4-3, at Wrigley Field.
On a cold, blustery night where the wind kept potential long balls in the yard, the Cubs would gladly take a win any way they could.
“That’s how you win games early in April,” Ramirez said. “It’s going to be tough to hit, the wind is going to blow in, and it’s going to be cold.”
The Cubs led 3-0 at one point, before the Nationals rallied to tie the game with two runs in the fourth and one in the sixth.
In the bottom of the 10th, Ryan Theriot got the inning started with a hit off Washington reliever Brian Bruney. With one out, Derrek Lee walked, then Marlon Byrd blooped a single to right to load the bases for Ramirez. Bruney didn’t find the strike zone once, as the Cubs walked away with their fourth straight win.
Moving into the cleanup spot, the red-hot Byrd contributed three more hits in the victory. It’s the fifth straight multi-hit game for Chicago’s center fielder.
“It’s just one of those things where you just try to see the ball well and put good wood on it,” Byrd said. “You try not to get too high, too low—just try to stay consistent.”
“Marlon is a good player,” manager Lou Piniella said. “He gets after it. He enjoys playing and he’s been very productive for us.”
The winds were blowing in at nearly 20 mph during the game, and almost became a factor in the second inning when Theriot got a workout chasing a Josh Willingham popup.
Theriot immediately broke to medium left field when the ball went in the air, only to reverse direction before catching the ball on the infield grass.
Theriot said of his adventure: “When it was hit—me and [bench coach Alan] Trammell have been talking about it—drop, step and run, get out there. That’s what I did, and I looked up there and it’s by the pitcher’s mound. I’ve never seen a popup do that before.”
“[Theriot] was way out in left field,” Ramirez said, “so I was going for it. He made a nice running catch.”
On any other night, Ramirez might have provided the winner two innings earlier, but the wind kept a drive to center field out of the seats.
“We hit some balls hard today that would’ve gone out,” Piniella said, “and they hit some themselves.”
Starter-turned-reliever Carlos Zambrano made his first home relief appearance, allowing only a hit in 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
“That’s what they pay me for—to do the job,” he said.
Zambrano entered the game to a standing ovation and showed his customary emotions after striking out Nats catcher Wil Nieves to end a scoring threat in the eighth.
“It was pretty exciting,” Zambrano said. “I had to calm myself down, and I did it.”
With all three Carlos’ doing what needs to be done to help the team win, the Cubs no longer look like impending doormats. While Zambrano fluctuates between petulant and supportive, often in the same sentence, his performance on the field can’t be questioned thus far. Like it or not, he is giving it his all when he is called in to relieve.
Quick side note here; To the idiots who contrived the B. P. Cup, please make it go away. The fans need nothing to enhance the rivalry, the players could probably care less and B.P. has the same corporate colors as the Green Bay Packers. It is a really dumb idea all the way around. Simply put, you make us all look like boobs.
err, I meant MEMORY. Really I did.
This past weekend Simple Jack, one of our regular posters, PM’ed me with a very good idea. While we have all noted that posts increase when we talk about Jay Mariotti, we have also noted that in the days following people seem to disappear. It is as though they have unleashed all their bile and need to go and recharge before coming back. So, his idea allows us to have the best of both worlds. Post the occasional poll question related to the Miscreant Moralizer and keep the rest of the front page on point with relevant topics for Chicago sports’ fans. We won’t do this every day, that would be boring, but from time to time, when you least expect it, we will pop something up for you to to enjoy. Simply put, at the bottom of today’s post you will find a link with a poll question that will take you to a series of answers that you can choose or embellish.
But, before I let you have fun, I am going to force you through the drudgery of another front page post.
Saturday night, after a bizarre series of events, I ended up in a Latin bar. The customers were a mix of Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican. The, too loud, music of choice was Salsa. All of that was normal. What was not normal was the fact that they had 3 TVs all turned to the Hawks’ game. The crowd was cheering loudly, mispronouncing names and rooting for the Hawks more fervently than I would have thought possible. It was such an unexpected culture shock that I went back Sunday just to see if it was some sort of aberration or if hockey was really catching on with a Latin audience.
My answer came quickly. I sat down at the bar, dropped my newspaper next to my drink and the man immediately to my left asked “Do the Hawks play again today?” I told them that they would play again Monday night and he thanked me. After a few minutes I finally couldn’t contain myself and I asked the guy why he liked hockey. Before he could finish his first sentence 3 other men joined the conversation and were closely followed by two female bartenders. Whittled down and translated into English, I finally got this much; because it is like soccer and boxing all at once.
I am over simplifying, but that was the gist of it. They liked the speed of the game, the continuing defensive style of play and so on. And, if they made Toews a three syllable word, there’s no real harm. Memo to the Hawks, Hockey en Español is a really good idea.
Also, yesterday, the Cubs and the Sox went out and tried and do something they have not done all year. They attempted to sweep a series. The Cubs faced off against the Brewers and the Sox took the field against the Seattle Bradleys. CARRIE MUSKAT of MLB.com takes a look at the defensive battle that ensued on the Northside.
Even Randy Wells joined in the Cubs’ hit parade Sunday.
Wells hit a double, Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome were both a triple shy of the cycle, and Geovany Soto and Derrek Lee each added home runs to power the Cubs to a 12-2 romp over the Milwaukee Brewers and complete their first series sweep of the season.
“Everybody chipped in,” Lou Piniella said.
Wells (2-0) benefited from the power surge, the first time the Cubs have hit four homers in a game this year and first since July 24, 2009, against the Cincinnati Reds.
“One through nine, or one through eight, we have guys who are banging,” said Ryan Theriot, who matched a career high with five hits and also drove in three runs. “It makes it tough to pitch to when you’re tough from one through eight.”
It was refreshing to see the offense after the Cubs were stifled in New York earlier this week, getting outscored in three losses, 15-3.
“When you’re cold, you’re cold, and when you’re hot, you’re hot,” Piniella said. “In the New York series, we showed signs of coming around, we just didn’t get hits at opportune times. We had enough hits to score more runs [in New York]. We didn’t get them in there, but we got them in here, so let’s hope we continue to get ‘em on and get ‘em in.”
Colvin, inserted into the lineup as part of Piniella’s plan to keep the outfielders fresh, hit a two-run double in the first, a solo homer in the third and a single in the fourth. He lined a ball to a leaping Prince Fielder at first in the eighth. If Fielder doesn’t make that play, did Colvin have a chance at a triple?
“I wouldn’t have made it—I hit it off the end of the bat,” Colvin said. “It would’ve been a hustle double probably. It did cross my mind when I hit it.”
Fukudome hit a two-run homer in the second, a double in the fourth and a single in the fifth. Was he thinking cycle?
“Not really,” Fukudome said. “In this park, it’s hard to hit a triple.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates probably enjoyed the game. On Thursday, the Brewers capped a sweep in Pittsburgh with a 20-0 win. The Pirates called that game “embarrassing.”
“This is embarrassing in a way,” Milwaukee’s Jim Edmonds said of Sunday’s game. “We’re just not playing well.”
Wells (2-0) certainly feels right at home at Miller Park. He now has a 1.50 ERA (three earned runs in 18 innings) at what’s become Wrigleyville north. The right-hander lost his bid for a shutout in the fourth, when Fielder singled and scored two batters later on Gregg Zaun’s groundout. The right-hander said he was inspired by Ted Lilly’s six shutout innings Saturday night in his first start of the season. Wells called Lilly’s delay a “little vacation,” which, in reality, was the lefty’s need to rehab his shoulder.
“We have a nice little rivalry going, between me, [Lilly], [Ryan Dempster] and [Carlos] Silva,” Wells said. “We’re all throwing the ball well, so when the team swings the bats, I like our chances.”
Milwaukee is not nearly as bad a team as fans saw this weekend. Sweeping them was a very good sign for Cubs’ fans the world over. It also meant that Lou could enjoy three days at the park without having to wash away the memories with bourbon and Vicodin.
On the Southside, fans were treated to another fireworks inducing performance by Capt. Klutch, a/k/a Paul KONGerko. SCOTT MERKIN at MLB.com managed not to spill his beer in all the excitement and brings us up to date.
The White Sox 3-2 victory over Seattle on Sunday, completing a three-game sweep of the Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field, points up the kind of tight contest in which Ozzie Guillen truly earns his money.
Or as the White Sox manager readily admits, it’s the sort of game in which the players make him look good. Nonetheless, Guillen had the guts to make two crucial, late-inning calls that ultimately led to victory.
In the top of the eighth inning, with the game tied at 2, Guillen slowly walked to the mound to talk to John Danks after softly hit singles from Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins put runners on first and third with two outs. Franklin Gutierrez stood as the next hitter, the same Gutierrez who took Danks deep with one out in the fourth.
As the fans anxiously awaited Guillen’s decision on whether to leave the left-hander to finish the tremendous effort he had started, Guillen made a brief statement to Danks. It was his game to win or lose.
“If somebody deserved to win or lose that game, it was going to be John Danks,” Guillen said.
“You definitely appreciate that,” said Danks of Guillen’s decision. “Fortunately, we were able to get out of that inning.”
Gutierrez lofted a routine fly ball to center fielder Alex Rios, ending Danks’ afternoon at 107 pitches. He gave up just two runs on seven hits, striking out five and not issuing a walk, in his second straight start of eight innings,
Over his last three starts, Danks has yielded just 11 hits and four runs in 23 innings, fanning 20 and walking five.
“This is only four starts in, but you know what, I feel good,” said Danks of taking that next step up to elite hurler status with this first month’s perfect showing. “I’m just being more aggressive than I was the last couple of years and so far so good.”
“Impressive,” said White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, who opens the club’s six-game road trip Tuesday in Texas. “He’s out there attacking the strike zone and throwing all of his pitches for strikes, keeping guys off balance. It’s the best I’ve seen his cutter in a while.”
Danks wasn’t able to raise his record to 3-0 until Bobby Jenks finished off his fourth save in the ninth. Jenks cruised through the first two hitters but gave up Casey Kotchman’s double and walked Eric Byrnes.
With left-hander Matt Thornton warming up in the bullpen and left-handed-hitting pinch-hitter Ken Griffey Jr. coming to the plate, Guillen took that second seemingly long walk to the mound. Once again, he elected to stay with the pitcher in the game.
Jenks rewarded Guillen with a three-pitch strikeout of Griffey, blowing a 96-mph high fastball past a late swing for the third strike. Guillen said Jenks’ right calf had some minor irritation, and he was just checking to make sure Jenks was OK.
“Bobby’s my closer until we think he can’t do it anymore,” Guillen said. “I showed him my vote of confidence there. If I don’t make those decisions, I lose confidence from my players.
“They won’t think I’m going to believe in them. Danks was easy. I wanted him to lose this game, not anybody else. I want him to take care of his business and I think he grew up a little bit more.”
There might have been no reason to call on Jenks if not for a third straight game-winning rally in the South Siders’ last at-bat. Following closely in the footsteps of Andruw Jones on Friday and Alex Rios on Saturday, Paul Konerko launched his Major League-leading eighth home run, coming off Brandon League with one out in the eighth, giving the first baseman a home run in each game of the series.
The Sox could have blown this game wide open in the 6th and the 7th but came away with only one run when they had three in scoring position. Even so, a win is a win and the Sox needed this one badly if they are going to have any confidence heading into Texas and New York this week.
Okay, now to the question of the day. Today, the Fabulous Flip Flopper proclaims that the Oklahoma Thunder will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals, and then later picks the Lakers to eventually beat the Thunder, which would seem to hamper the Okies bid for playing in the finals. There’s also a bunch of fun quotes that were told to other reporters and then copied by the Princess of Plagiarism. So, our question today is; Is the only reason Jay watches Basketball is for the men in shorts?. Just click the link to let us know your thoughts.
Once you get done with all of that, CLICK HERE TO TALK ABOUT BASEBALL