Fire

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.

As Fire near playoffs, Bastian Schweinsteiger's immediate and long-term futures are in question

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USA TODAY

As Fire near playoffs, Bastian Schweinsteiger's immediate and long-term futures are in question

Bastian Schweinsteiger has delivered on the promise of a big name star since joining the Fire in late March. He has produced on the field, drawn lots of attention to the club, the team has won enough to get into its first postseason since 2012 and, until recently, he stayed healthy.

However, the 33-year-old German has played 19 minutes in the previous six matches and told reporters on Wednesday that he will not play in the regular season finale in Houston on Sunday. He missed four straight matches with a calf injury before returning against New York City FC on Sept. 30 for a substitute appearance.

Schweinsteiger left practice early with what appeared to be a reaggravation of the injury on Oct. 4 and now it is known that will cost him at least two games. With the playoff picture still in flux (the Fire can finish anywhere from second to fifth in the Eastern Conference), the Fire could potentially face a three-day turnaround and travel after the Houston game or could have a first-round bye. Keeping Schweinsteiger fresher for that crunch of games could end up being a good thing, but it also runs the risk of his match fitness not being at 100 percent for the postseason.

Beyond the postseason, Schweinsteiger dropped this tease of a nugget to the Daily Herald's Orrin Schwarz just an hour before Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez spoke with reporters for almost an hour at Toyota Park.

Schweinsteiger, who was not at training, was autographing memorabilia in the form of soccer balls, posters and jerseys. Chicago Red Stars fans may get a kick out of the fact that Schweinsteiger was wearing a Red Stars hoodie.

Initially, the club said Schweinsteiger signed a one-year contract with a mutual option. Later in the day, when asked about Schweinsteiger's future, Rodriguez said the mutual option doesn't have a set number attached to it.

"That would require a negotiation," Rodriguez said. "It was mutual in a sense of we didn’t want either party to feel bound without having had the year of experience to draw on. From our perspective, our experience has been extraordinarily positive with Bastian. We think he’s delivered across all of our expectations and we hope that we have delivered against his expectations.”

So in essence, there is no mutual option. Schweinsteiger and the Fire have to come to terms again on a deal for the German to return in 2018. That's not to say Schweinsteiger can't come back, but there's nothing in writing that binds the two together for next season.

Rodriguez said talks have only begun in the very preliminary stages at this point.

“The most that Basti and I have done is, both said, hey this has gone pretty well." Rodriguez said. "You like it. I like it... So I think we want to remain with our original plan. It was to look to have the hard discussions at the end of the season. My view is in-season negotiations always prove to be a distraction, whether to the player or to me. There can be a team element if it becomes public.

"I don’t want to speak for Basti, but from what we’ve gleaned and what he shared with us, he and (wife) Ana (Ivanovic) are very comfortable in the city. They love it. I think he’s really enjoyed the locker room, the guys, the support of the fans. I think he’s really taken to the challenge of Major League Soccer. I think the signs are positive, but again we would prefer to have the season close before finalizing anything.”

Why the Bears' gameplan for Mitchell Trubisky is working well

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USA Today

Why the Bears' gameplan for Mitchell Trubisky is working well

The Bears’ gameplan for Mitchell Trubisky was controlled against the Baltimore Ravens, with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains only calling 20 passing plays on Sunday. And that’s hardly a problem. 

Not only did the Bears win with Trubisky mostly handing the ball off, but the gameplan accomplished a goal just as important for the future of the franchise. It was part of the slow, deliberate development of a rookie quarterback who only started 13 games in college and doesn’t have a big-time receiving target or two (like DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller) on which to lean. 

“I think they’re giving him a chance to develop,” Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “They’re not throwing him to the wolves. You can get out and have him throw 45 passes and get crushed, or you can do what you’re doing right now and be very methodical and very direct.

“…  If you ask a young guy to throw the ball 40 times and you expect to win, that’s going to be very difficult. So I think what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to develop this guy, shoot, believe me, I think the young man’s got a chance.” 

Beyond the playcalling Sunday — 50 runs between Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen — the design of the offense gave Trubisky the best chance to win the game. No quarterback had more time to throw in Week 6 than Trubisky (3.49 seconds, according to NFL Next Gen Stats), which makes sense given the rollouts and boots called for him. But for a rookie in Trubisky who needs improvement with blitz recognition, Loggains found a way to give him more time to scan the field and make a decision than any other quarterback last week. 

And what Trubisky did with all that time was not force anything. Only Green Bay’s Brett Hundley threw a lower percentage of aggressive passes (defined by NFL Next Gen Stats as when a defender is within one yard or less of a receiver at the time of completion or incompletion) than Trubisky, who only threw one of his 16 passes into tight coverage. That was a point of emphasis for the rookie six days after Harrison Smith baited him into a crippling interception. 

“Sometimes the best play is a throwaway,” Trubisky said. “So it’s just coming down to me learning, continue to stay aggressive; wanting to get a completion every time, but being smart and knowing when I need to throw the ball away and live to play another down.”

Loggias, in describing Trubisky, used the “M” word: 

“I thought he did a really good job managing the game and playing like he had to,” Loggains said. “He was still aggressive. He wasn’t, and I hate the term ‘manage’ but he was playing the way he needed to play to win that game.”

The Bears hoped Mike Glennon could be a game manager, of course. But the offensive strategy they’re deploying now isn’t necessarily the same as they one they used with Glennon — Trubisky has the ability to be a playmaker, as he showed when he evaded pressure and found Kendall Wright for a pivotal 18-yard completion in overtime. That was that aforementioned one pass he threw into tight coverage against the Ravens. 

But the Bears’ best skill position players are running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, unless a receiver emerges from the group of Tanner Gentry, Tre McBride, Josh Bellamy, an injured Markus Wheaton and Wright (the latter of whom Loggains said is at his best when he’s taking 25-30 snaps per game). The offensive line has improved with continuity over the last few weeks. This is a team that’s strength is in running the football, not in its quarterback play. 

Eventually, the Bears will open up the offense for Trubisky (getting a big-bodied receiver who can win against tight man coverage would help) as he gains experience, and the strength of the offense can be in its quarterback play. But if the goal is to bring a young quarterback along while giving the team a chance to win, then the offensive gameplan is working. 

“As a quarterback, you want to be throwing the ball, but as a competitor and leader of this team, you're going to do whatever it takes to win,” Trubisky said. “And if it's running the ball, if it's passing the ball, whatever it is, that's what we're going to do. I didn't feel any type of way at all about how many times we ran it, how many times we passed it, just excited to come away with the win and how we stuck together, and came away with that win, so it was awesome to see.”