Cubs

American Pharoah’s Triple Crown date with destiny

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American Pharoah’s Triple Crown date with destiny

This Saturday looks to be historic as American Pharoah looks to be the first horse to capture the Triple Crown since Affirmed did so in 1978. The $1.5 million Belmont Stakes goes as Race 11 on Saturday at Belmont Park with a 5:50 PM Central post time and will be carried live by NBC.

The entire weekend at Belmont is full of stakes action with strong cards leading up to the Saturday feature, but the Belmont itself didn’t come up overly strong as a field of eight is set to head to the gate. The weather forecast is for a slight chance of morning rain both Friday and Saturday in Elmont, New York.

Last year the world watched as California Chrome looked to capture the elusive Triple Crown. Following his fourth-place effort while never contending, the focus turned to the post-race comments of one of his owners, Steve Coburn as he wasn’t quite so eloquent in that moment of defeat. Will this year be another upset, or will we see a Triple Crown winner?  My prediction is that history will be made. I expect American Pharoah will add his name to the history books on Saturday.

Looking at the field for Saturday’s Belmont, a couple of things jumped off the page at me. Initially was the size, or lack thereof, of the field with only eight entered in the Belmont. More importantly though is that the Belmont Stakes is completely lacking of pace. Both of these should only benefit American Pharoah in his Triple Crown bid.

American Pharoah has been very solid throughout his entire stakes career, never losing in stakes-company. His Kentucky Derby victory was the closest margin of victory he has had, winning by a length, while every other win has been by three of more lengths. 

Experience can only help American Pharoah’s chances in the Belmont as Victor Espinoza is back in the saddle.  Espinoza has been in this situation twice, with War Emblem and California Chrome.  Each time he came of short, but the third time could be the charm. Espinoza clearly is not afraid of the big stage and his decision making ability aboard American Pharoah has been perfect.

With no pace in the Belmont, I am fully expecting that Espinoza and American Pharoah head straight for the lead and look to slow the pace down early. Materiality appears to be the only horse that may sit close while the remainder of the field likely settles back off the pace. While the mile and a half distance of the Belmont is the most taxing of the Triple Crown races, in this case it may not matter as the opening three quarters could be a walk in the park.

My expectations are that Materiality tosses in the towel in the turn while Espinoza opens the lead into the stretch under a hand ride. With the likes of Mubtaahij, Frosted and Madefromlucky to likely be running on late, they may be in a race for place as 90,000 fans onsite at Belmont cheer home a Triple Crown champ.

American Pharoah will meet his destiny on Saturday at Belmont.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

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AP

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.

Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis

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USA TODAY

Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis

Yu Darvish now has more trips to the disabled list in a Cubs uniform than wins.

The Cubs place their 31-year-old right-handed pitcher on the DL Saturday evening with right triceps tendinitis. The move is retroactive to May 23, so he may only have to miss one turn through the rotation.

In a corresponding move, Randy Rosario was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to provide Joe Maddon with another arm in the bullpen. Tyler Chatwood will start Sunday in Darvish's place.

Thanks to two off-days on the schedule last week, the Cubs should be fine with their rotation for a little while. Jon Lester could go on regular rest Monday, but the Cubs would need to make a decision for Tuesday given Kyle Hendricks just threw Friday afternoon.

That decision could mean Mike Montgomery moving from the bullpen to the rotation for a spot start, or it could be the promotion of top prospect Adbert Alzolay from Triple-A Iowa.

Either way, this is more bad news for Darvish, who has had a rough go of it since he signed a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs in February.

Between issues with the weather, the concern of arm cramps in his debut in Miami, leg cramps in Atlanta, a trip to the disabled list for the flu, trouble making it out of the fifth inning and now triceps tendinitis, it's been a forgettable two months for Darvish.

He is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 40 innings with the Cubs.

Over the course of 139 career starts, Darvish is 57-45 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings.