Cubs

Cubs fall flat, get swept by Giants

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Cubs fall flat, get swept by Giants

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Ryan Vogelsong kept thinking how steady all the other San Francisco starters have been over the past week. It weighed on his mind Monday morning before his outing.His turn, time to keep up and do his part. He delivered, all right.Vogelsong won his fourth straight decision, Buster Posey scored the go-ahead run on a double-play groundball by Joaquin Arias in the seventh inning and the Giants beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2 on Monday for a four-game sweep.San Francisco's starters have gone seven straight games pitching seven or more innings while allowing two or fewer runs, just the second time it has been done since the franchise came West in 1958. Giants pitchers accomplished the feat in nine consecutive games from July 1-10, 1988, according to STATS LLC.In this series, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Barry Zito had won before Vogelsong's impressive performance on a rare wraparound getaway game on a Monday."You don't want to be the weak link," Vogelsong said. "Three games like that, I don't want to be the guy who doesn't come through. It's a tough act to follow those three guys, those three outings."Brandon Crawford hit an RBI double and drove in another run on a fielder's choice to back Vogelsong (4-2), helping the Giants to their season-best fourth straight victory.San Francisco (31-24) moved a season-high seven games over .500. The Giants began the day trailing NL West-leading Los Angeles by three games. The Dodgers had a night game at Philadelphia.Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol (0-2) was hit with a line drive on Angel Pagan's infield single in the seventh but stayed in the game after being checked out, then walked Brandon Belt on four pitches to load the bases for Arias.Pagan singled in the fifth for a 28-game home hitting streak, the longest in franchise history since 1900. He tipped his batting helmet and clapped his hands at first base in appreciation following a warm ovation from the sellout crowd of 41,524 on a day that began with sporadic rain in the early innings after the tarp came off late morning.The Giants completed the club's first sweep of the season in its fifth try - the games decided by five total runs. San Francisco pulled off its first four-game sweep of Chicago since June 17-20, 1999, at Candlestick Park."Pitching was just outstanding," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We scratched and clawed for the runs we got. These games could have gone either way."Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija matched his season high with five walks while striking out six in five innings. The right-hander allowed seven hits and two runs but has only one win in his last five outings.Pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas hit a one-out double for Chicago in the seventh for his fifth major league hit - all of them doubles - but the Cubs couldn't avoid an 11th straight loss away from Wrigley Field. It's their longest road skid since the 1954 team lost 11 in a row from June 18-29.Chicago also lost a one-run game for the 10th straight time.Pagan's single in the fifth followed a leadoff walk by Posey, and the Giants loaded the bases with no outs against Samardzija. The Cubs allowed the tying run on a fielder's choice by Brandon Crawford in which second baseman Darwin Barney flipped the ball to shortstop Starlin Castro at second. Castro didn't throw to first to try for the double play even though he might have had time to save a run."It's something that's obviously unacceptable at any time," manager Dale Sveum said. "Whether we could have turned the double play or not is irrelevant to not knowing how many outs there are in the most important part of the game. These things have got to stop happening or he's going to stop playing. These kind of things are things that my son does in high school maybe."Vogelsong allowed four straight singles and five total in the second, including consecutive run-scoring hits by Steve Clevenger and Samardzija. After leadoff man Tony Campana's single, Vogelsong received a mound visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti before fielding Castro's grounder and throwing him out on a close play at first.Vogelsong pitched seven innings and didn't walk a batter for the first time this season. Jeremy Affeldt recorded the final six outs for his first save in his first chance, getting a leaping catch from second baseman Ryan Theriot on Clevenger's high liner to end it."That was definitely the best all-around stuff I've had," Vogelsong said.Notes:
Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval, rehabbing from surgery to remove a broken hamate bone in his left hand, might not return to the Giants until next Tuesday against Houston following this weekend's home series with the two-time reigning AL champion Texas Rangers. "We need to get him in shape to play third," Bochy said. "Hopefully we're not forced to make a change. That's in Pablo's hands."... Sveum is a former hitting coach, so the offensive woes have been tough. "You take things like this personally," he said. "I've lost sleep over it. You take pride in a lot of things, and that's one of them."... Injured Giants 2B Freddy Sanchez (right shoulder) is scheduled to take some light swings Tuesday. ... San Francisco RHP reliever Brad Penny, with Triple-A Fresno, is experiencing shoulder discomfort and not quite ready. ... Oakland and San Diego are the only other clubs without a sweep so far. ... After an 0-4 May, two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum (2-6) tries Tuesday at San Diego to snap a six-start winless stretch since the right-hander beat the Padres on April 28.

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

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USA TODAY

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

MESA, Ariz. — Tom Ricketts sure doesn’t sound like the guy who met his wife in the bleachers during the century-long tenure of the Lovable Losers.

“Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don’t live up to that capability.”

Yeah, the Cubs have been among baseball’s best teams for three seasons now. That curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 was the high point of a three-year stretch of winning that’s seen three straight trips to the National League Championship Series and a combined 310 wins between the regular season and postseason.

But it’s still got to come as a strange sound to those who remember the Cubs as the longtime butt of so many baseball jokes. This team has one expectation, to win the World Series. The players have said it for a week leading up to Monday’s first full-squad workout. The front office said it when it introduced big-time free-agent signing Yu Darvish a week ago. And the chairman said it Monday.

“We very much expect to win,” Ricketts said. “We have the ability to win. Our division got a lot tougher, and the playoff opponents that we faced last year are likely to be there waiting for us again.

“I think at this point with this team, obviously that’s our goal. I won’t say a season’s a failure because you don’t win the World Series, but it is our goal.”

The confidence is not lacking. But more importantly, success drives expectations. And if the Cubs are going to be one of the best teams in baseball, they better keep winning, or they’ll fail to meet those expectations, expectations that can sometimes spin a little bit out of control.

During last year’s follow-up campaign to 2016’s championship run, a rocky start to the season that had the Cubs out of first place at the All-Star break was enough to make some fans feel like the sky was falling — as if one year without a World Series win would be unacceptable to a fan base that had just gone 108 without one.

After a grueling NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the Cubs looked well overmatched in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that sparked plenty of outside criticism, as well as plenty of offseason activity to upgrade the club in the midst of baseball’s never-ending arms race.

“I think people forget we’ve won more games over the last three years than any other team. We’ve won more playoff games than any other team the last three years. And we’ve been to the NLCS three years in a row,” Ricketts said. “I think fans understand that this is a team that if we stay healthy and play up to our capability can be in that position, be in the World Series. I don’t blame them. We should have high expectations, we have a great team.”

On paper, there are plenty of reasons for high expectations. Certainly the team’s stated goals don’t seem outlandish or anything but expected. The addition of Darvish to a rotation that already boasted Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana makes the Cubs’ starting staff the best in the NL, maybe the best in the game. There were additions to the bullpen, and the team’s fleet of young star position players went untouched despite fears it might be broken up to acquire pitching.

“I think this is, on paper, the strongest rotation that we’ve ever had,” Ricketts said. “I think that being able to bring in a player of (Darvish’s) caliber reminds everyone that we’re intending to win our division and go all the way.

“We’ve kept a good core of players together for several years, and this year I think our offseason moves have really set us up to be one of the best teams in baseball.

“Just coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago. Everybody’s in a really good place. I think everyone’s really hungry and really wants to get this season off to a great start and make this a memorable year.”

There should be no surprise that the team and its players and its executives and its owners feel the way they do. The Cubs are now expected winners, even if that’s still yet to sink in for the longtime fans and observers of the team they once called the Lovable Losers.

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

The Blackhawks dealt defenseman Michael Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick. Kempny had seven points in 31 games this season.

Kempny, 27, recorded 15 points in 81 career games for the Blackhawks. He tallied an assist in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Capitals.

Kempny signed a one-year extension through the end of this season back in May.