Bulls

Cubs, Dempster cant stop the bleeding

773106.png

Cubs, Dempster cant stop the bleeding

PITTSBURGH Ryan Dempster has tunnel vision, never looking beyond his next start, five days out.

That helps explain why Dempsters lasted this long, rebounding from Tommy John surgery, becoming a successful closer and transitioning back to the rotation.

For everyone else, its hard to ignore the bigger picture thats forming around the Cubs, whove now lost 10 games in a row, but have an Opening Day starter that will be in demand.

Dempster is now winless in his last 17 starts after Fridays 1-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. He pitched into the eighth inning, and lowered his ERA to 2.14, but couldnt stop the bleeding.

It doesnt make coming to the ballpark fun, Dempster said afterward. We just got to fight through it. It happens to a lot of teams. You go through losing streaks and thats where you find out a lot about yourself. You just got to continue to battle.

The Cubs (15-30) hadnt had a double-digit losing streak since 1997, when they lost their first 14 games that season. This was supposed to be a transition year, but the optimism about making things interesting seems to have evaporated.

At the moment, team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and their baseball operations staff have turned their attention to the amateur draft in June.

Manager Dale Sveum is in his first year on the job, but hes been in the business long enough to know that the next six-to-eight weeks will be pivotal.

You get to that point of the year where decisions (are made), Sveum said. You get to the point where if youre not playing well, things start changing a lot. Obviously, right now, the front office is focused on doing the right things in that draft and getting the right people.

Thats part of the whole plan to build through the system. Its a lot of pressure right now to make those decisions. Its not that easy to get talent, find out the character of the talent. Its a crapshoot sometimes.

Paul Maholm who will try to break the losing streak on Saturday night at PNC Park waited out a few rebuilding plans here. The veteran left-hander had spent his entire career in the Pirates organization before signing with the Cubs last winter.

Its a different animal, just because if youre in Chicago, you have the payroll, Maholm said. Obviously, with Theo and Jed coming in, theres probably going to be a little bit of patience, but its not going to last very long. The guys in the locker room have to go out and win games.

Dempster sat on the bench next to Kerry Wood and his son last week after Kid K struck out one final batter and walked off into retirement.

Dempster, who turned 35 this month, was born 44 days before Wood in 1977, and they became close friends over the years. But it looks like Dempster still has plenty of bullets left. Its just a question of where he will be firing them.

Dempster is in his walk year and has no-trade rights. Changes to the collective bargaining agreement make it far more complicated and much less likely that the Cubs would pick up draft-pick compensation if he signed elsewhere.

Think a contender could use a strong veteran presence like this?

Dempster has accounted for at least six innings in each of his eight starts. Hes allowed two runs or less in six of those games. He still hasnt notched a victory since last August.

Hes pitched so great and we feel bad that we cant help him, outfielder Alfonso Soriano said. He pitched an unbelievable game and we didnt do anything offensively to win.

The Cubs went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and have scored in just four of their last 56 innings. In the ninth, the Pirates (21-24) watched closer Joel Hanrahan put runners on the corners before striking out David DeJesus and Starlin Castro to end the game.

You got to find a way to keep your head up and keep plugging forward, Dempster said, because that team on the other side of the field, the other 28 teams in the league, they dont feel sorry for you. They dont care. You cant feel sorry for yourself. You got to keep fighting through it.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

11-24_gsw_matchup_nba_chi_blank.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

chicago-thankful.jpg
USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.