Bears

The latest MLB no-hitter was pitched by...

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The latest MLB no-hitter was pitched by...

From Comcast SportsNetANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The Los Angeles Angels' commitment to Jered Weaver is paying off.Signed to a five-year, 85 million contract extension last August, the 29-year-old left-hander pitched his first no-hitter Wednesday night, dominating lowly Minnesota in a 9-0 cakewalk. All the Twins could muster against the two-time All-Star was one walk -- and one other baserunner when catcher Chris Iannetta allowed a passed ball on a swinging third strike."I've been close once in Seattle and had it broken up in the eighth," said Weaver, who struck out nine and retired 22 of his last 23 batters after Iannetta's miscue. "We were having this conversation about five days ago, and C.J. (Wilson) came up to me and said: Why don't you just go out there and throw a no-hitter?' And I said: There's no way. There's no chance.' So it's funny that it happened."Kendrys Morales and Howie Kendrick homered to back Weaver -- not that he needed much support."He dominated us, there's no question about it," said Denard Span, who is 2 for 19 lifetime against Weaver. "He was doing everything. He kept us off-balance, changed speeds and finished strong. He's definitely a different pitcher at home when the ball is coming out of the rocks," referring to the fake rock pile beyond the center-field fence at Angel Stadium.It was the second no-hitter in the majors in less than two weeks, following Phil Humber's perfect game for the Chicago White Sox at Seattle on April 21."It's tough not to think about it when you see some goose eggs up there, but in a professional ballgame, you never know what's going to happen," said Weaver, a native of Northridge, Calif., who played at Long Beach State and pitched his gem in front of family and friends. "A bloop hit or anything else could happen. A lot of things have got to go your way, and that happened tonight. It still hasn't kicked in. It's pretty awesome."Weaver began the ninth inning by quickly retiring Jamey Carroll on a routine fly and striking out Span looking. He then got Alexi Casilla to lift a long fly that right fielder Torii Hunter easily caught at the warning track. The Angels' ace watched his Gold Glove outfielder make the play, and put his hands on his head as the Angels rushed out to mob him."It's not an easy feat," said manager Mike Scioscia, who caught two no-hitters with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "But I think any pitcher that has the stuff that Weave does and pitches at such a high level, you always have a chance. Early in the game, he established the fact that he could hit spots with his fastball and change speeds. He was just relentless at repeating pitches and was ahead in most counts. His stuff didn't look any different tonight than it does any other day."Weaver finished second in the AL Cy Young voting last year after going 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA. He and winner Justin Verlander were the only pitchers listed on every ballot."I was locked in for the most part," said Weaver, who got a scare in the eighth inning when Trevor Plouffe lined a shot that hooked a few feet foul of the left-field pole. "I wasn't throwing 97 or 98 up there. It was pretty much the same poo-poo I've been throwing up there all year. They've got some guys in that lineup that can hurt you, but balls were hit right at people. It's just so surreal, man. It's awesome. And to have my family here and my wife, and knowing that my brother was watching, this is an awesome moment."Weaver threw 121 pitches, and the cheers from the crowd of 27,288 kept growing louder. After his no-hitter was complete, he hugged his wife, Kristin, and his parents, Dave and Gail, who were overcome with emotion."He got pretty emotional, but I think it was more a case of him not believing he did it than anything else," Dave Weaver said. "I'm so happy for him. It's just fantastic. It couldn't happen to a nicer kid or a kid who's worked as hard as he has to get where he's at."This was the second Angels no-hitter in less than a year -- Ervin Santana pitched one July 27 at Cleveland -- and the 10th for the Angels franchise, including four by Nolan Ryan."Weave's been close several times. And with the stuff that he has, I thought if anybody could do it, he was definitely going to be the one," Hunter said. "Santana got it done for us last year, and now Jered got it done. This is awesome, man."The closest the Twins came to a hit was with one out in the third, when Carroll laid down a bunt that third baseman Mark Trumbo charged before throwing him out."I felt like I was in good position," Trumbo said. "I'm never really surprised when somebody tries to lay one down on me, so I prepared myself. Fortunately, I was out there about 3 o'clock doing some stuff like that. So I just went back to that and treated it like what we worked on earlier and it worked out."Trumbo had never played third base in the majors until this season, but had to shift from first base after the acquisition of free agent slugger Albert Pujols -- who still hasn't hit a home run this season after signing a 10-year, 240 million contract."You're aware of what's going on, no doubt," Trumbo said. "I feel fortunate to have experienced Ervin's no-hitter last year at first base, so that helped to calm me a little bit. But it's nerve-racking. I'd be lying if I said say otherwise. But you have to have the mindset that you do want it hit to you. If you ever get the mindset: Hit it to somebody else,' you're dead in the water."The Twins were held hitless for the first time since 1998, when David Wells of the New York Yankees pitched a perfect game against them. Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Nolan Ryan also threw no-hitters against Minnesota.The Angels built a 6-0 lead against Australian right-hander Liam Hendriks (0-2), who retired only six of the 16 batters he faced."All the little things a baseball team is supposed to do, we didn't do. We looked like a bunch of Little Leaguers out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.The Angels' three-game sweep of the Twins included a complete-game three-hit shutout on Tuesday night by Jerome Williams, who retired 18 of his last 19 batters. It was the first time the Angels had back-to-back complete game wins since 1993 when Chuck Finley and Mark Langston did it.NOTES:The Twins haven't had a hit in the last 15 innings. ... Gardenhire will miss the Twins' three-game series at Seattle to attend his daughter Tara's graduation from Southwest Minnesota State. Bench coach Scott Ullger will run the club until Gardenhire returns Monday for the start of a three-game series with the Angels at Target Field. ... Kendrick was 4 for 4 with his fourth homer of the season, a three-run shot in the fourth against Alex Burnett.

Will Bears see instant improvement under Matt Nagy? Putting his first-year expectations in context

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USA TODAY

Will Bears see instant improvement under Matt Nagy? Putting his first-year expectations in context

Circling back around from the playoffs to the Bears, or at least to the Bears using the current postseason as a bit of a prism, magnifying glass, measuring stick, all of the above:

The ultimate question, obviously meaningfully unanswerable for perhaps another 10 or 11 months, revolves around expectations that were ushered in along with Matt Nagy and the rest of his coaching staff. One early guess is that there’ll be an inevitable positive bump in the record, the only true measuring stick. Depending on changes in practices, strength training, luck, whatever, Nagy might fare better than John Fox simply by virtue of having a presumably healthier roster — pick any three Bears who were injured during the 2017 season: Leonard Floyd, Cameron Meredith, Eric Kush, Kyle Long, Pernell McPhee, Mitch Unrein, Kevin White and Willie Young — and a broken-in Mitch Trubisky from the get-go.

This is far from a given, however. Far, far from a given for the Bears. Of the 10 coaches hired in the 50 years since George Halas stopped, only Fox, Dick Jauron and Dave Wannstedt improved on the winning percentage of their immediate predecessor. All dipped, save for Jack Pardee, who in 1975 equaled the 4-10 finish of Abe Gibron before him. And Pardee was getting Walter Payton in that year’s draft, so things started looking up in a hurry.

And maybe that should be the expectation for Nagy, who projects to get some or all of Fox’s wounded back, plus a draft class beginning with No. 8 overall.

Better Bears record in 2018? Maybe, but ...

The Bears are perhaps something of an anomaly (imagine that) in the near constant of incoming coaches failing to improve matters in their first years. One of the more memorable aspects of this writer’s first year on the Bears beat (1992) — besides the obvious pyrotechnics of Mike Ditka’s epic final season — was the startling turnarounds affected by first-year and first-time NFL coaches helming teams on the Bears’ schedule that year, meaning there were chances to study those in depth.

Consider: Bill Cowher took the Steelers from 7-9 to 11-5, Dennis Green took the Vikings from 8-8 to 11-5, Mike Holmgren took the Packers from 4-12 to 11-5, Bobby Ross took the Chargers from 4-12 to 11-5, and Dave Shula took the Bengals from 3-13 to 5-11.

The Bears played all but the Chargers that year, losing twice to Green, once to Holmgren and defeating the Cowher and Shula teams. Holmgren’s Packers didn’t make the playoffs, but he had to make an in-season quarterback change, which worked out pretty well long-term. It was Brett Favre.

Bears coaching-change history notwithstanding, the Nagy bar should be well above the five wins of Fox’s 2017. Nagy is a first-time head coach, but none of Cowher, Green, Holmgren, Ross or Shula had ever been NFL head coaches previously, either. Green and Ross had been college head coaches, albeit Green with a losing record and Ross barely .500 in those tenures.

And those coaches were taking over in the last year before the advent of free agency, which began in 1993. The Bears “landed” Anthony Blaylock and Craig Heyward. The Vikings secured Jack Del Rio. The Packers, Reggie White.

Odd years coming

Expectations vs. results will be interesting to observe in quite a few places this season. In some spots, the situation wasn’t completely broken but they “fixed” it anyway, in the dubious tradition of the Bears axing Lovie Smith after consecutive seasons of 11-5, 8-8 and 10-6 — two more wins (29) than Fox and Marc Trestman had combined (27) over the next five years.

Sometimes that sort of thing can work out. Phil Jackson did get the Michael Jordan Bulls to the next level that Doug Collins hadn’t. And Joe Maddon got the Cubs over the Rick Renteria hump, though adding Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Jon Lester probably helped, too. Fox got the Broncos into a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning, but Gary Kubiak won one with Manning. Fox’s Broncos went against the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, one of the top 10 defenses of all time, while Kubiak had the good fortune of facing the 2015 Panthers.

But back to current NFL case studies:

— The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after a 9-7 season, his third winning year out of four there, two of those going to the playoffs.

— The Titans concluded their playoff year with the exit of Mike Mularkey, his reward for a second straight 9-7 that reversed four straight losing years under others.

— Chuck Pagano had five .500-or-better seasons with the Colts, didn’t have Andrew Luck all year, and was fired two years after going 5-3 with Matt Hasselbeck filling in for Luck.

What the expectations are in those venues is their business, just as it was when Phil Emery launched Smith in a fashion similar to the Titans with Mularkey. Smith didn’t reach the 2012 playoffs but would have been fired for anything short of a Super Bowl appearance, as Mularkey was for only winning one playoff game with Marcus Mariota as his quarterback.

All of which makes the Nagy/Pace Era more than a little intriguing. Nagy takes over a team with a No. 2-overall quarterback, as Mularkey did with Mariota. Some of Mularkey’s undoing traced to failing to maximize Mariota with an offense suited to how his quarterback plays his best, and force-fitting a player into a scheme is high-risk at best.

That doesn’t really apply in the case of a conservatively wired Fox, who directed that the offense be kept under ball-security control with a rookie quarterback. Fox and Dowell Loggains arguably were as constrained by Trubisky as he was by them.

But Nick Foles flourished with the Eagles under Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson, struggling a bit under Jeff Fisher. Case Keenum, a teammate of Foles when the Rams played in St. Louis, was so-so under the defense-based Fisher with the Rams, yet went supernova this year under the defense-based Mike Zimmer with the Vikings, which speaks to the value of the right coordinator irrespective of the head coach’s offensive or defensive background.

In the end Nagy’s achievements will be player-based. They always are. What he can do with what he’s got and given, via draft, free agency or whatever, vs. the successes and non-successes of others in his situation, is the work in progress now.

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites game coverage

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Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites game coverage

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area basketball fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSPreps) crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. The show also live streams at NBCSportsChicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. the following Saturday. This week, it's all about powerful things coming in smaller packages. We're leaving the 4A schools for another week. It's time for some of the smaller schools to do battle: a West Side duel between Raby and Wells, a 'North vs. South' game with Ellison and Northtown and the Battle of Elmhurst featuring IC Catholic and Timothy Christian. Which game should we cover this week?

Raby at Wells, 5:00 p.m.

Ellison at Northtown, 6:30 p.m.

IC Catholic at Timothy Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Poll opens Tuesday at 12:00 p.m. and closes Thursday at 4 p.m. Here is what fans need to do to vote:

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.