Cubs

Maholm roughed up in Cubs debut

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Maholm roughed up in Cubs debut

Paul Maholm needed 41 pitches to get through his first inning at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform. When it was over, he walked off the mound to sarcastic applause.

The Cubs know a lot of things will have to break right if theyre going to contend this season. But they feel confident that theyll put a credible starting pitcher on the mound 162 times this season.

Yes, this is only about three percent of the season. But this business is all about taking snapshots. The Cubs are 1-4 after their first run through the rotation.

It was a raw, cold Tuesday night at Clark and Addison 40 degrees at first pitch and still the Milwaukee Brewers blasted Maholm in front of 37,265 fans. A 7-4 loss showed the margins for this Cubs team.

To put it blunt, I sucked, Maholm said.

One through five, manager Dale Sveum feels like his rotation can stack up with anyone. The bullpen will cause anxiety, and the lineup wont outslug the opposition on most nights. But the Cubs should probably be better than 1-4 right now.

Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Chris Volstad combined to throw 27.1 innings and allowed only seven earned runs. They notched 29 strikeouts against six walks and limited hitters to a .170 average.

Maholm simply didnt have it against the Brewers (3-2), walking two batters and hitting two more in a first inning so off that ex-Cub Aramis Ramirez even stole a base during this sequence.

Alex Gonzalez drilled what Maholm called a bad cutter (that) pretty much turns into a BP fastball through a strong wind and into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer.

The Brewers took a 5-0 lead. In the end, it didnt really matter that Maholm who gave up six runs in four innings steadied himself.

He just couldnt put anybody away, Sveum said. I didnt think he had a good feel for his curveball at all (or) keeping his changeup down. He couldnt get the ball inside for strikes. It just snowballed a little bit in that first inning. He settled down and did OK after that, but the damage was done already.

Maholm had spent his entire career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization until signing a 4.25 million deal here (with a 6.5 million club option for 2013 or a 500,000 buyout). The 29-year-old left-hander broke the news on his Twitter account over the winter.

It wasnt a huge story, but it showed the front offices top priority. Pitching depth was exactly what this team needed. Maholm has accounted for at least 160 innings in each of his last six seasons. If the Cubs are going to make it interesting, it will be on the rotation.

I dont know if it was trying to do too much, but its one of 30-something starts, Maholm said. Obviously, (we) want to get off to a better start than we have. But weve been in almost every game. (Its) a long season. Well battle back and well get after it tomorrow.

Grandpa Rossy and the 5 biggest things from Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4

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USA TODAY

Grandpa Rossy and the 5 biggest things from Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4

The Cubs aren't dead yet.

Once again, this team has proved they play their best when they're forced to with backs against the wall.

The Cubs finally showed some urgency for the first time in the NLCS, continuing to pile on and smashing the narrative that scoring first on an early home run is not a good move. 

The door won't shut on this 2017 season for at least another day, thanks in large part to this guy:

Farewell, Jake

Making what is almost assuredly his last start in a Cubs uniform and at Wrigley Field, Jake Arrieta was masterful, navigating a relentless Dodgers lineup and giving the Cubs a much-needed deep outing, tossing 6.2 innings.

He struck out 9, working around 5 walks and 3 hits while throwing 111 pitches, his most since May 21 against Milwaukee.

And how's this for justice? Arrieta tied the Cubs all-time postseason record with his fifth playoff victory Wednesday night.

Arrieta had his ups and downs Wednesday night, but he did plenty to remind Cubs fans of all he's done in blue pinstripes the last five seasons.

I mean, just look at the movement on some of these pitches:

A hat-tip to Arrieta for a brilliant Cubs career:

Grandpa Rossy = Bill Murray?

David Ross went full Bill Murray Wednesday night, hyping up the crowd just by his mere presence. In the first few innings of NLCS Game 4, these were the biggest cheers from the 42,195 in attendance at Wrigley Field:

1. Willson Contreras HR off the video board
2. Javy Baez HR to the left of video board
3. David Ross shown on video board

Ross was hanging around the Cubs before the game, visiting with old teammates and chatting for a few mins with "son" Anthony Rizzo during batting practice.

The Cubs finally looked like the team that displayed legendary resiliency from last fall with Grandpa Rossy in attendance. Don't even try to act like there's no concidence there.

Javy Time

Baez was 0-for-20 this postseason entering Wednesday night and that number bumps up to 0-for-23 when taking into account last fall, too.

So naturally, he hits two bombs and shows everybody why Joe Maddon keeps writing his name in the lineup.

Let's tell the story of Javy's night in GIFs:

Ball don't lie

Joe Maddon wasn't f-in around. He brought in Wade Davis in the eighth inning against the heart of the Dodgers order and of course, this game couldn't end without controversy and some edge-of-your-seat thrills.

A few batters after yet another Justin Turner homer, Davis appeared to have struck out Curtis Granderson on a pitch in the dirt. But after a conference by the umpires, they ruled it a foul ball, despite what seemed like pretty clear evidence on replay that Granderson did not make contact with the ball.

Joe Maddon erupted, leading to a lengthy argument that resulted in his removal from the game.

After nearly 10 minutes without throwing a pitch, Davis roared back and struck out Granderson anyway.

After throwing 34 pitches in the eighth, Davis came back out firing in the ninth to shut the door for a six-out save.

Power plays

Willson Contreras hit a ball 491 feet, nearly taking his own face out on the left field video board.

It was the first Cubs run of the game, giving them the lead for the fourth time in the series off a longball. The other three times in the NLCS all resulted in Cubs losses, but this time, however, they crushed the narrative with one blast after another into the wind blowing out to dead left field. 

The Dodgers responded with their own homers - first by Cody Bellinger in the second inning and then by Turner (also off the scoreboard) in the eighth.

The first five runs in the game were all scored on solo homers.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night:
 
1. Nick Schmaltz returns but sizzle doesn’t.

You didn’t expect the fireworks of the season opener but you figured Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane would connect pretty quickly again. The speed was certainly there. The connections on passes were not. It wasn’t just that second line, though: it was another night on which the Blackhawks’ offense was sluggish. 
 
2. Tripping along.

I joked that tripping is the new slashing. Maybe that’s not the case league-wide but it was for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks took five tripping penalties overall, including three in the first period. It was a clear sign that the Blackhawks were trying to play catch-up all night, and they didn’t fare well at it.
 
3. Power play gets something but…

It took until late in the third period (when the Blackhawks’ offense seems to get going lately). The Blackhawks got two late power-play goals, a reminder of what they can do when they battle for the puck and show some spark.

“Our sense of urgency in the puck area, be it 5-on-5 or on the power play, that’s the differential of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and making plays off it is one of our strengths,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t do that very often and we haven’t won many battles.”
 
4. Starting slow.

Why these are happening is a mystery, and they’ve been most evident in the Blackhawks’ last three games, which have all come against division opponents. Too much relying on Corey Crawford again and not much in terms of shots, be it quality or quantity through the first two periods. The Blackhawks were outshot 17-8 through the first 40 minutes on Wednesday. While they created little they gave up way too much.
 
5. Patrick Sharp OK?

Sharp was injured late on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks-Blues game got chippy in the final five-plus minutes. Quenneville thought Sharp was fine but he wasn’t positive at the time of his postgame press conference.