Cubs

Australia defeats All Blacks for Rugby Championship

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Australia defeats All Blacks for Rugby Championship

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia won its first Rugby Championship in four years after a 27-19 victory over New Zealand at Sydney's Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

Nic White made a stunning contribution from the bench, scoring a late try and kicking a 47-meter penalty goal to lift the Wallabies to a morale-boosting victory against the world's top-ranked team less than six weeks before the start of the Rugby World Cup.

"The reality is that we've only won one game against New Zealand in a long time," Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said. "Consistency is key and we have to go out there and prepare each day to be competitive again with the No. 1 team in the world on their own patch. That's our target."

[Rugby is coming to Chicago: Australia faces the U.S. at Soldier Field on Sept. 5]

The teams meet again in Auckland next weekend — outside the Rugby Championship but for the Bledisloe Cup —in their last major match ahead of the World Cup.

Adam Ashley-Cooper and Sekope Kepu also scored for the Wallabies while Nehe Milner-Skudder scored two tries on debut.

Veteran All Black flyhalf Dan Carter kicked nine points to become the first player to pass 1,500 test points.

After New Zealand led 6-3 in a first-half punctuated with errors and a yellow card to Wallabies prop Kepu, the match burst to life in the second half with five tries and a further two yellow cards.

Kepu received a yellow card in only the 8th minute for being offside after scrumhalf Aaron Smith took a quick tap from a penalty close to the goal-line.

Carter kicked the resulting penalty for an early 3-0 lead to the All Blacks.

The Wallabies struggled for momentum during much of the first half, but found themselves in a good attacking position as it repeatedly dominated the scrum and led to Matt Giteau leveling the scores in the 27th minute.

"We've been working hard (at the scrum), it's just another step along the way," captain Stephen Moore said. "We've just got to keep practising more because, if we are not improving next week, it could go against us because that's how slim the margins are."

[Click Here: Get tickets now for U.S.A. Eagles vs. Quantas Wallabies at Soldier Field]

The All Blacks responded immediately with Carter scoring a long-range penalty after a Wallabies infringement from the restart to regain the lead, 6-3, which it held to halftime.

At the start of the second half, Smith caught Ashley-Cooper high on the neck to receive the second yellow card of the night.

The Wallabies took immediate advantage with Kepu shrugging off Kieran Read's poor attempted tackle to score under the posts. Giteau converted for a 10-6 lead.

Carter, playing his 105th test, became the first player to pass 1,500 test points when he successfully kicked a 51st-minute penalty to narrow the deficit to 10-9.

Nick Phipps gave the trailing All Blacks a boost when he blatantly pulled back Conrad Smith whilst in an offside position to earn the Wallabies' second yellow card of the game in the 54th.

The world champions wasted little time making the extra-man advantage count when Carter played Ben Smith into space and the fullback passed wide to Milner-Skudder for the winger to score on debut.

Replacement flyhalf Matt Toomua produced the best moment of the match when his perfectly weighted kick found Ashley-Cooper, who held off a strong tackle by fullback Ben Smith to score in the corner.

Giteau converted from the sideline as the Wallabies again led 17-14.

Milner-Skudder scored his second try after the television referee ruled that the winger had managed to ground the ball on the goal-line despite the attention of four Wallabies defenders, to give the visitors a 19-17 lead.

"He brought what he's brought to the Super (Rugby) competition to the test arena," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. "He's exciting, he's confident and he's impressed us with how quickly he's taken things on board."

White entered the match in the 65th minute and four minutes later kicked a penalty from 47 metres to regain the lead for the Wallabies at 20-19.

White's match-winning impact came three minutes later when he darted over from close range to the delight of the 73,824 crowd. The scrumhalf converted the try to give the Wallabies a 27-19 lead, which they closed out for its first tournament success since 2011.

"We've spoke about our finishers and Nic White was given more time tonight based on his performances in training and he wanted to take that opportunity," Cheika said. "He put his hand up to take a long-range penalty, he had good distribution, good service and also scored a try.

"And that's what I want, I want guys to put their hands up and say 'I want to be part of this.'"

The result spoiled New Zealand captain Richie McCaw's 141st test, tying the world record of Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll. 

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

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USA Today

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th 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.

For the second time in 1998, Sosa went back-to-back games with multiple home runs. After going yard twice on June 19 of that season, Slammin' Sammy again sent two balls into the bleachers on June 20.

He singlehandedly beat the Phillies that night, driving in 5 runs in a 9-4 Cubs victory.

But that wasn't the most impressive feat of the day from Sosa. His second homer was actually measured at a whopping 500 feet! It was the longest of the season, but not the longest of his career. On June 24, 2003, Sosa hit a homer at Wrigley measured at 511 feet.

The back-to-back big games raised Sosa's season OPS to 1.083 with a ridiculous .685 slugging percentage. He began June 1998 with a .608 slugging percentage.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings on June 20, 1998 to pick up his 7th big-league victory. As Wood marched to the National League Rookie of the Year that season, he finished with a 13-6 record and 233 strikeouts in only 166.2 innings for a career-high 12.6 K/9 rate.