Cubs

Cubs bats disappear as Sale, White Sox halt winning streak

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Cubs bats disappear as Sale, White Sox halt winning streak

All good things come to an end.

It's not like the Cubs were going to keep winning for the rest of the season, and there are worse ways to lose a winning streak than being dominated by one of the game's top pitchers.

The Cubs (67-49) struck out 18 times against Chris Sale and two White Sox relievers as they lost for the first time in 10 games, 3-1, in front of 39,475 in the season's Crosstown Cup finale.

Sale struck out 15 in seven innings, but Cubs hitters forced him to throw 116 pitches, knocking him out of the game after the seventh inning.

"He was outstanding," Maddon said. "The best thing we did was we got his pitch count up enough to get him out of there before the ninth inning. His changeup was spectacular, his fastball was good. He had command of all of his pitches. He's a tough guy for us right now. He's a tough guy for a lot of teams, but he's really tough for us."

[MORE CUBS: Kyle Schwarber finds out what Cubs-White Sox is all about]

The Cubs had just five baserunners and one hit (a Dexter Fowler single in the sixth inning) before Jorge Soler took Sox closer David Robertson into the right-field bleachers with two outs in the ninth and then Addison Russell followed with an infield single.

The young Cubs admitted it was actually kind of fun to face Sale today, despite the result. Both Russell and Anthony Rizzo made it a point to say how much they enjoy the challenge of facing one of the best pitchers on the planet.

"He just kept batters off balance with such a fast pace," Russell said. "It's good to face him. It's good to see what it's like to see that A+ pitching."

Dan Haren gave up solo homers in three straight innings — to Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Melky Cabrera — to account for the White Sox offense on the afternoon. Haren now leads the National League with 27 homers allowed.

"I knew coming into it I'd have to be close to perfect, but obviously I wasn't," Haren said. "I made a few mistakes."

[MORE CUBS: Addison Russell arrives ahead of schedule for red-hot Cubs]

This is only the Cubs' second loss since July 28. The offense averaged 5.13 runs per game during that 16-game span.

Maddon and the Cubs said they aren't worried about losing the streak right before an off-day and instead are just looking forward to recharging the batteries before playing 16 straight days starting Tuesday.

"Oh yeah. Listen, you're not gonna win them all, man," Maddon said. "That doesn't happen. We've been playing really well. We'll continue to play really well. Today we just ran into a good pitcher, and that was the difference in today's game. I could not be happier with our guys."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”