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Cubs can't solve Blanton, Phillies

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Cubs can't solve Blanton, Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Carlos Ruiz homered and drove in three runs, Joe Blanton threw 7 1-3 sharp innings and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs 5-2 on Saturday night.Jimmy Rollins, back in the leadoff spot for the first time this season, added a two-run double for the Phillies, the five-time defending NL East champions who are off to a 10-11 start.Blanton (2-3) allowed two runs and eight hits, striking out eight. Chad Qualls got the last two outs in the eighth. Jonathan Papelbon finished for his seventh save in as many tries.Bryan LaHair hit an RBI double and Randy Wells (0-1) couldn't make it out of the fourth inning for Chicago. Wells gave up four runs and three hits in 3 2-3 innings. He was hurt by wildness, walking four batters.Wells didn't allow a hit until Hunter Pence led off the fourth with a single. Walks to Jim Thome and Laynce Nix loaded the bases. Ruiz then ripped a one-out, two-run single to left-center to drive in two for a 2-1 lead.With two outs, Wells walked Blanton to reload the bases. Rollins followed with a two-run double just inside the right-field line to snap an 0-for-13 slump and put the Phillies up 4-1.Rollins was in his customary spot atop the lineup after hitting third in place of the injured Chase Utley the first 20 games. Rollins had just three RBIs coming in.Rollins, the 2007 NL MVP, also spent the first month last season in the No. 3 spot while Utley was sidelined. Over the past two Aprils, Rollins has a .254 (45 for 177) average with one homer and eight RBIs as the three-hole hitter.Ruiz connected off Michael Bowden in the sixth to make it 5-1.The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Starlin Castro hit a two-out single, stole second and scored on LaHair's drive to right.Thome, who started at first base and hit cleanup, left the game with tightness in his lower back. He's day to day.Meanwhile, the Phillies got some good news before the game. Ryan Howard will be heading to Clearwater on Sunday and Utley could join him within a week as the two injured stars inch closer toward joining the team for the first time this season.

Notes
The Cubs placed C Steve Clevenger on the 15-day DL (retroactive to April 26) with a right oblique strain, and recalled C Welington Castillo from Triple-A Iowa. ... Philadelphia's Ty Wigginton extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a seventh-inning single.
Box score Complete recapCopyright2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”