Fire

On The Farm: Tennessee Advances; Great Falls Ousted

On The Farm: Tennessee Advances; Great Falls Ousted

Sunday Sept. 12, 2010
Posted: 9:05 p.m.
By Kevin Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com
CUBS Tennessee AA
Tennessee used a home-run barrage to stagger West Tenn in the previous two games of its Southern League playoff series so it was no surprise that the long ball was the difference Sunday night at Smokies Park.

Steve Clevengers two-run blast in the fifth inning proved to be the difference as the Smokies bested the Diamond Jaxx, 5-2, to capture the best-of-five series and advance to the Southern League championship.

Clevenger followed Matthew Spencers one-out single with a blast to tight after West Tenn had tied the score in the top of the fifth with a home run of their own, a Guillermo Quiroz shot to left. Marwin Gonzalez tacked on an RBI single in the eighth for good measure.

Craig Muschko started and picked up the victory after allowing two runs through six innings. A nine-game winner during the regular-season, Muschko went 7-0 in July, August and September. He provided a steady influence in the Smokies biggest game of the year, striking out four and not walking a batter.

The bullpen tandem of Kyle Smit and Luke Sommer proved to be too much for West Tenn to handle as they combined for three innings of one-hit, shutout ball. Sommer was perfect over his 1 23 innings, earning the save.
WHITE SOXGreat Falls Rookie
The Voyagers were the dominant team in the Pioneer League during the regular season, particularly over the last three weeks. The post-season proved to be an entirely different situation for Great Falls, though, which was handcuffed by Helena once again Sunday
evening.

The Brewers bested the Voyagers at Centene Stadium, earning a 9-5 victory to capture their opening-round playoff series in three games. Helena moves into the Pioneer League final while Great Falls heads home.

Helena scored five third-inning runs to take a 6-0 lead and it was never close thereafter. Steven Upchurch took the loss, allowing all six of those runs in 2 13 innings. The bullpen didnt fare much better.

Ross Wilson had two hits, including a homer and two RBIs while Mike Earley added a solo homer. Ryan Hamme had three hits and picked up an RBI.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

joao-1118.jpg
USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16