- Created on 15 May 2013
Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum has his choice for best starter right now in the major leagues: Travis Wood.
Wood pitched impressively into the seventh inning to outduel Lance Lynn, Nate Schierholtz hit a two-run homer and the Cubs snapped the St. Louis Cardinals' six-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory.
Wood (3-2) allowed one run and five hits while striking out eight in 6 2-3 innings for his first win since April 27 at Miami. He has worked at least six innings in each of his seven starts this season.
"He's got it," Sveum said. "He's figured it out."
Wood earned his first win at Wrigley Field since July 1 when he beat Houston. Over his previous 12 starts at Wrigley, he was 0-7 with a 4.58 ERA.
Sveum added: Wood is "the best starter in baseball, pretty much" through the first part of the season.
Responded Wood: "That's a strong statement."
He had to be pretty close to beat Lynn and the Cardinals.
St. Louis' six-game winning streak was its longest since an eight-game run in July 2010, and Lynn was trying to be the National League's first six-game winner.
"That's a really good lineup," Wood said. "I was fortunate enough to be able to locate pitches and have good command tonight and keep them off balance and end up having a good game."
Carlos Marmol relieved Wood with two outs in the seventh and pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings. In the eighth he allowed a single to Yadier Molina and walked Jon Jay before getting out of the inning by picking Molina off between second and third.
Molina stole second earlier in the inning, and Marmol stepped off the mound with the Cardinals catcher on second.
"I'm glad he made that mistake," said Marmol, who's had consecutive scoreless outings since allowing three runs in a loss to Cincinnati on Saturday.
Kevin Gregg pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth save in five opportunities since signing with Chicago on April 15.
The Cubs have won two straight since dropping four in a row.
Lynn, meanwhile, pitched seven innings and gave up two runs and four hits while striking out eight. Last year, Lynn (5-1) went 6-0 to start the season, earning his sixth victory on May 7.
He might have matched that feat if not for Schierholtz's fourth-inning home run.
"You look back at it, you gave up two runs on one swing," Lynn said. "I got behind him and made him hit it and he put a good swing on it so you tip your cap there, but for the most part I threw the ball well. That was only one I wanted back."
The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead with no outs in the second inning when Allen Craig hit a 2-2 fastball into the left field bleachers for his second home run of the year. Craig, who hit 22 last season, has two in the Cardinals' last three games.
That was it for the St. Louis offense, which had scored 29 runs in its last four games.
"(Wood) made good pitches when he had to," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We couldn't capitalize on the mistakes."
There weren't too many mistakes from Wood. He left with the lead May 2 against San Diego, but lost after he and the bullpen couldn't hold a 2-0 lead in a 4-2 defeat.
Nothing like that happened Tuesday against Lynn and the Cardinals
"(Lynn is) a good pitcher. I mean, that whole club over there is outstanding," Wood said. "They've got good players, solid players, good staff and everything. It's a confidence booster for us to come in and take Game 1 from them."
- Created on 07 May 2013
Facing his former team for the first time, Scott Feldman had one of the best starts of his major league career.
Feldman threw seven scoreless innings before leaving with a cramp in his pitching hand, and the Chicago Cubs came within three outs of their first shutout since August in a 9-2 win over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
"I tried to just relax out there and everything, but obviously I know a lot of those guys and I've got a lot of respect for them," Feldman said. "I had a great seven or eight years over there and made some good friends. When we're not playing against them I hope they do good. But on a night like tonight, definitely want to try to get them out."
Feldman (3-3) has won three straight starts after losing his first three with the Cubs. He signed a $6 million, one-year contract with Chicago during the offseason after going 39-44 with a 4.81 ERA in parts of eight seasons with Texas.
He allowed two hits, struck out three and walked one, and also hit an RBI single in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. In Feldman's previous start, he pitched a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 6-2 win over San Diego last Wednesday.
"He was really, really good again," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "And against a really good offense, too."
After he threw a 2-0 pitch in the eighth to David Murphy, Feldman was shaking his right hand and was checked on the mound by Cubs manager Dale Sveum and assistant trainer Ed Halbur, then replaced by James Russell.
Feldman began to feel the cramp during his warmup tosses and tried to get through the inning. Two pitches in, he knew his night was over.
"I think I had a lot of pitches anyway," said Feldman, who had thrown 104, "so I was going to need some first-pitch outs maybe."
Texas scored a pair of unearned runs in the ninth after a throwing error by third baseman Luis Valbuena. The Cubs have gone 68 games without a shutout since beating Colorado 5-0 on Aug. 26, their longest streak since going 75 games in a row without shutouts from May 15 until Aug. 6, 1999, according to STATS.
Anthony Rizzo had three hits, four RBIs and his ninth home run, and Starlin Castro scored three runs for the Cubs, who scored five times with two outs in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead. Chicago, last in the NL Central at 12-20, set season highs for runs and victory margin.
"I think we're a lot better team than what our record shows, and I think a lot of people would agree with us," Rizzo said. "We've lost a lot of heartbreakers so far, but today definitely feels good and everyone should feel happy about it."
The Rangers' Nick Tepesch (2-3) lost his second straight start, allowing six runs — five earned — six hits and four walks in four innings.
"He was good tonight as far as our offense was concerned," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We couldn't do anything with him."
Coming off a three-game sweep of Boston, Texas returned to Wrigley Field to make up an April 17 rainout between Chicago's series against Cincinnati and St. Louis. The Cubs are hosting three teams in three days for the first time since Aug. 21-23, 1960.
Chicago went ahead with an unearned run in the first after David DeJesus singled, stole second and continued to third when the throw by former Cubs catcher Geovany Soto bounced into center field for an error. DeJesus scored when Alfonso Soriano beat shortstop Elvis Andrus' relay throw and avoided what would have been an inning-ending double play.
Feldman singled to spark a five-run fourth after an intentional walk to walked Darwin Barney, who was hitless in his previous 17 at-bats.
"I just didn't make a good pitch right there," Tepesch said. "That was basically it."
Castro and Rizzo followed with consecutive two-run singles.
Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Derek Lowe. The Rangers scored in the ninth when Andrus doubled leading off against Rafael Dolis and Valbuena's throw on Adrian Beltre's grounder was well to the home plate side of first base. Soto, who spent parts of eight seasons with the Cubs and won the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year award with Chicago, hit a two-out RBI single. Playing against the Cubs for the first time, he was 2 for 4.
- Created on 03 May 2013
The Brooklyn Nets wiped out their deficit. Now, they will try and finish off an improbable comeback.
The Nets are one win away from overcoming a 3-1 series hole after beating Chicago 95-92 Thursday night to force a seventh game.
Then again, the way Gerald Wallace sees it, they never should have been in that predicament.
"We feel like we're the better team," he said. "We feel like we shouldn't have gotten down 3-1. We feel like just as they won three games in a row, we can win three games in a row."
Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson each scored 17 points, and the Nets again avoided elimination, beating the short-handed Bulls.
The series goes back to Brooklyn for Game 7 on Saturday, with the winner getting defending champion Miami in the second round.
"We just believed," Johnson said. "We believed in one another. In practice (Wednesday), we went over a lot. More so than anything, it was about who wanted it badder."
The Bulls hung in until the end even though they were missing Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, but Brooklyn came away with its second straight win to avoid elimination.
A layup by Nazr Mohammed cut the Nets' lead to 93-92 with 25.2 seconds remaining.
Nate Robinson then fouled Andray Blatche, who had missed a free throw only moments earlier. This time, he hit both to make it a three-point game with 19.2 seconds left.
The Bulls had opportunities to tie it, but Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer and Joakim Noah stepped out of bounds with about six seconds left.
Chicago still had a chance, though.
Noah tied up Williams after the inbounds, resulting in a jump ball with 3.6 seconds left.
Johnson controlled the ball, and the Nets hung on.
Wallace added 15 points for Brooklyn.
Only eight NBA teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-7 series, but the Nets are in position to do just that.
"Most people would have counted us out being down 3-1," Blatche said. "But we kept fighting. We showed that we have a lot of heart. Now that it's tied up, we have to go out with the same hunger, the same attitude, finish this off."
And the Bulls?
"We're a team of fighters," Noah said. "We keep getting punched in the face, but we fight back. I'm proud of this team."
The Bulls stood their ground even though Hinrich missed his second straight game with a bruised left calf, and Deng got sent home from the arena with flu-like symptoms, forcing coach Tom Thibodeau to shuffle the lineup.
Belinelli started at shooting guard with Jimmy Butler moving to small forward. He scored 22 points and tied a career high with seven assists. Robinson started his second straight game and finished with 18 points, but it's no secret that the offense runs smoother with Hinrich and that he does a better job containing Williams.
"Yes, it was big," Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "It affects the game because he's one of their best players, not just as a defender."
Butler had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Chicago. Noah added 14 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Carlos Boozer scored 14 and grabbed 13 boards.
The Nets were leading 81-73 early in the fourth after 3-pointers by Wallace and C.J. Watson.
Robinson wowed the crowd when he faked picking up his dribble for a jumper and drove past a leaping Kris Humphries for a layup that made it 83-79 with about 7:30 remaining.
Noah scored on a tip-in that made it 87-85 with four minutes left. Then, after Lopez dunked, he rotated over for a huge block of Lopez, delighting the crowd.
The fans were really screaming when Belinelli made a 3 to pull Chicago within 90-88 with 2:19 remaining.
Blatche then banked in a fadeaway with 1:15 remaining, but Robinson quickly answered with just over a minute left.
He also missed a driving layup with 32 seconds to play. Boozer got called for a loose ball foul on the play, and Blatche hit the second free throw to make it 93-90.
"There is not a team in the league that plays harder than them," Carlesimo said. "We could have made it easier on ourselves and given us more of a cushion if we made some layups and free throws late in the game."
- Created on 06 May 2013
MIAMI — If needed, there's plenty of things Miami and Chicago could use as extra motivation before meeting in a playoff series, like how the Heat rolled to a win when they met in the Eastern Conference finals two years ago or how the Bulls snapped the reigning champions' 27-game winning streak down the stretch of this regular season.
Then again, maybe the simple fact these clubs don't particularly like each other is all the fuel they'll need.
Top-seeded Miami plays host to fifth-seeded Chicago in Game 1 of an East semifinal series on Monday night, with the Heat coming off a week of rest after sweeping Milwaukee and the Bulls dealing with aftereffects of a grueling, seven-game first-round series.
Chicago took an injury-and-illness-riddled roster into Brooklyn and ousted the Nets on Saturday night.
"Them being the Bulls is enough," Heat forward Chris Bosh said Sunday. "Heat-Bulls, I think that's enough to really get your minds going and have some passion for the series. I mean, it's the second round. We have some major accomplishments we're trying to get to and they're a good, tough basketball team. I think given our history before, that's enough to lace 'em up and get going."
The teams split four regular-season meetings, each going 1-1 in home games.
For Miami, the biggest injury question is Dwyane Wade, who is officially listed as day-to-day with bone bruises around his right knee, but is expected to play on Monday. For Chicago, the medical report is far tougher to decipher. Luol Deng wrote on Twitter that he would "see you guys in Miami" after missing the end of the Brooklyn series because he needed a spinal tap to rule out meningitis, and Kirk Hinrich missed the last three games of Round 1 with a calf injury.
The status of Deng and Hinrich for Game 1 remained unclear Sunday.
"We know how good Miami is," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We're going to have to be at our best, or playing great basketball. They're a very deep team, extremely well-coached, very well-balanced. So we're going to have to be at our best, right from the start."
The Bulls arrived in Miami early Sunday and took the day off, which was surely a well-needed break.
Meanwhile, a couple hours before LeBron James formally picked up his fourth NBA MVP award, the Heat were in their practice gymnasium at their home arena, mouth guards in place, knee pads in position, going through a physical workout. For the first time since ousting Milwaukee, they took the floor knowing which team would be their next foe.
"We're preparing to make sure that we play our game, in our building," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We haven't played in a week and we understand that. We've been working hard this week. Our guys are looking forward to getting out there and competing. So let's tip this thing up."
The Derrick Rose watch is still on for the Bulls.
The star point guard hasn't played in more than a year after needing reconstructive knee surgery. Rose often works out before games and there's almost daily speculation about whether he will return in these playoffs — so the Heat say they will be ready either way.
"We gameplan with the awareness of everybody," Spoelstra said. "But again, the majority of what we do won't change. We've built up these habits."
Regardless of who's healthy or not, the Bulls got Miami's attention — as if they didn't have it already — by the way they fought through plenty of adversity in the opening round.
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said after Saturday's win in Brooklyn that he didn't think many people expected Chicago to win.
"We've been hearing that noise all year that we don't have enough, that we're missing this and we're missing that," Boozer said.
James insisted the Heat aren't among those who might think that way. In fact, the now four-time MVP said he expected Chicago to pull off the rare trick of winning a Game 7 on the road against Brooklyn.
"It's how it should be in the East right now," James said. "It's the top four teams. That's what I believe. No matter the seedings, it's the top four teams, with us, Chicago and Indiana-New York."
- Created on 02 May 2013
The owner of the Chicago Cubs threatened to move the team out of Wrigley Field for the first time publicly if his plans for a big, new video screen are blocked, saying Wednesday he needs new advertising revenue to help bankroll a $500 million renovation of the storied ballpark.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts until now had said nothing as dire, despite months of contentious negotiations over how to keep everyone happy in sprucing up the 99-year-old stadium in the heart of Wrigleyville on Chicago's North Side.
"The fact is that if we don't have the ability to generate revenue in our own outfield, we'll have to take a look at moving — no question," Ricketts told reporters after outlining renovation plans to Chicago business leaders.
He added that he remains committed to working out a deal and it is difficult to imagine the Cubs playing anywhere else. But the fight over the Friendly Confines boils down to money and, of course, something unusual — it's the Cubs, after all.
By far the thorniest issue is the plan for a 6,000-square-foot video screen over left field, a common feature in many major league ballparks. The difference is that Wrigley Field — the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball behind Fenway Park in Boston — is surrounded by privately owned clubs with rooftop bleachers whose owners object to any changes that could block their bird's-eye views into the stadium.
The rooftop businesses have been left out of discussions on the proposed upgrade, but they feel they should have a seat at the bargaining table because they have a contract in which they share 17 percent of their revenue with the Cubs. Legal action is a possibility.
Ricketts presented an architectural rendering of the video screen during his speech to the City Club of Chicago and insisted that the team's own studies have shown it would have minimal, if any, impact on the views. He described the sign as "midsize" compared with those at other stadiums, though it is nearly three times as large as the scoreboard currently atop the centerfield bleachers. Another smaller sign with the name of a sponsor is planned for right field.
He said without such signage, the team was losing out on $20 million a year in ad revenue — essential for helping fund the extensive renovations without dipping into taxpayer funds.
"All we really need is to be able to run our business like a business and not a museum," Ricketts told the audience.
Ricketts said the team formally filed its full renovation proposal with the city of Chicago on Wednesday. The plan must get approval from city planners and the City Council. There will also be public hearings.
The overall plan calls for more night games, a 175-room boutique hotel across the street, a new clubhouse and upgrades for fans. The proposal also calls for an open-air plaza and an office building with retail space.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the alderman whose ward includes Wrigley Field, Tom Tunney, support the overall plan. The mayor's office has already agreed that the outfield signs can be installed, but there has been no agreement on size or design.
If the deal wins approval, Ricketts said work could begin after this season ends and be completed over the next five years. Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, said Wednesday that he hopes the public approval process moves quickly so renovation work, especially upgrades to the clubhouse, starts soon.
"If it drags on too long, it's going to be unrealistic to get it done this winter," Epstein said before the team's game against the San Diego Padres. "Then we're probably looking at opening day 2015 for the renovated clubhouse."
One of the rooftop owners, Beth Murphy, told reporters after listening to Ricketts' speech that it was the first time she'd seen any drawings of the screen and that she and other owners would have a lot of vetting to do before determining if the proposal works.
"It looked big to me and it looked like it blocked out the neighborhood," Murphy said.
The rooftop owners have previously threatened legal action, and Murphy said she was confident their contract would hold up and protect their businesses.
Commenting on the possibility that Ricketts might really take the team elsewhere, Murphy said doing so would not be "a wise business decision."
"The reason the Cubs are such a tourist destination ... is because it's a ballpark in a neighborhood," Murphy said. "I don't think a new ballpark in a parking lot is interesting and that's why other ballparks don't have the tourism that Wrigley Field does."
If Ricketts is serious about leaving, he already has a suitor. Several weeks ago, the mayor of nearby Rosemont said that the village near O'Hare International Airport has a 25-acre chunk of land that the Cubs could have for free if they wanted to build a replica of Wrigley Field there. While Mayor Bradley Stephens said the idea of the Cubs leaving Wrigley was the longest of long shots, he wanted to make sure that if the Cubs did decide to leave they knew about the offer.
Cubs fans said they doubted Ricketts would move the team and that he most likely raised the prospect out of frustration with the negotiations.
"I'm surprised it's taken him this long to snap," said Rick Kaempfer, who created the fan blog www.justonebadcentury.com .
He said he shared those frustrations and wished the rooftop owners would back off and allow Ricketts to run the club as he sees fit.
"I think we should trust this organization because they have shown over time that they take the history of Wrigley Field seriously and so far nothing they have done has diminished it, in my opinion," he said.