Cubs

Bears-Panthers preview Bears ball

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Bears-Panthers preview Bears ball

The 2012 Bears are scoring 27 points per game, offense and defense combined. Three of their six games have been against defenses ranked in the top 10 (Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis).
But for all that the offense has done well keeping the Bears defense off the field on average more than 33 minutes per game, one lost fumble all year and a total of three turnovers over the last four games something is still missing.
Wanted: next-step offense
The offense ranks 22nd in yards per game, 25th in passing despite the playing teams with a combined 14-17 record in games other than against the Bears to this point.
The offense has scored just one touchdown in three of the Bears six games.
Weve got to do our part on offense, said quarterback Jay Cutler. Defense has been carrying us for a while. Weve got to make some strides offensively this week. We missed a lot of things in the second half against Detroit. Weve got to clean it up.
The Panthers should provide a forum for that cleanup.
Carolina ranks 20th in points allowed (24.0 per game) and doesnt stop anything especially well. The Panthers are 19th against both the run (120.3 yards per game) and pass (245.8), and are a lowly 26th in turnover ratio with a minus-4 (vs. the Bears at plus-13, No. 1 in the NFL).
Panther problems
Of more immediate significance, however, Carolina allowed 16 points to Seattle and 19 to Dallas in their last two defeats. Their problems have not been on defense.
And the Bears have problems of their own coming, in the form of road trips to Tennessee and San Francisco and home against Houston over the next four games.
We need to be 6-1, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. Have you looked at our schedule coming up? We need to be 6-1, and we need to take care of our business. Thats the key in this business -- dont get ahead of yourselves like we did once, and take each game, you know the clich, one at a time.
The Bears have adhered generally to the balance formula that has served them well in particular over the last two years. With Jay Cutler coming in with bruised ribs from his hit by Ndamukong Suh, his already moderate 2012 accuracy may be in more question, possibly putting a larger load on a Bears run game that has begun to reach its levels of the past couple of seasons at this point.
Thinking on the run
Running backs have averaged 135 yards per game over the last three games and Matt Forte has averaged 4 or more yards per carry in all five games hes played. Expectations are that the Bears will eschew the exotic and simply force Carolina to prove it can deal with the run, which creates big-strike opportunities via play-action.
I think Jayll be fine, Forte said. Regular offense.
Carolina is trying to replace middle linebacker Jon Beason, lost for the season with a knee injury. Rookie and No, 9-overall draft pick Luke Kuechly started the first four games at weakside linebacker, moved to the middle and had 34 total tackles and an interception over the last two games.
But teams are converting 45.1 percent of third downs on the Panthers. The Bears are a very respectable 41.4 percent, up from 32.5 percent for 2011, and if the Bears can keep their offense on the field and their defense resting, the Panthers will be in trouble.
Weve improved in most categories, with the exception of third down 27th, said coach Ron Rivera. Weve been below average as far as third down is concerned. If we have one issue weve got to get shored up, it has been our third-down play. Weve gotten after teams.

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

The last time Jake Arrieta pitched at Wrigley Field, his night ended with Cubs fans giving him a rousing standing ovation. The former Cubs right hander tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, leading the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS—their only win against the Los Angeles Dodgers that series.

Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a visitor on Monday night, making his first start against the Cubs since joining the Philadelphia Phillies last season. Ironically, Arrieta’s counterpart for the night was Yu Darvish, who ultimately replaced Arrieta in the Cubs starting rotation.

Despite now donning Phillies red, Cubs fans once again showed their love for Arrieta, giving him a lengthy standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance. Darvish even stepped off the mound in respect for the moment.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters postgame. “[I’m] very happy that our fans would acknowledge him like that. Yu stepped away from the mound nicely. Jake deserved it.”

Arrieta tipped his helmet in appreciation for the crowd, taking in the moment for more than 30 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box. After the game, he told reporters that moment brought back memories of his time with the Cubs.

“That was something that really brought back great memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” Arrieta said. “[I’m] very appreciative of that. I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago, I really can’t.”

Arrieta took fans back to his Cubs tenure on Monday, throwing six innings of one run ball in the Phillies’ 5-4 10-inning win. Although the 33-year-old didn’t pick up the victory, he matched Darvish—who threw six innings of three-run ball—pitch by-pitch.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noted how well Arrieta handled his emotions throughout the night.

“I thought he handled the emotions really well. I thought he was in control of the game even when we were down,” Kapler said to reporters. “He always maintained his poise and he just got stronger as the outing went on and that’s why we were able to have him take down the sixth inning for us.”

It’s well-documented how Arrieta’s career improved for the better after the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. When the Cubs acquired him, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts). He finished his Cubs career with a 2.73 ERA in 128 regular season starts. He also won five postseason games with the Cubs, including Games 2 and 6 of the 2016 World Series.

Despite moving on in free agency, Arrieta spoke highly of his time with the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago.

“Cubs fans all across the country, all across the world, they really respect and appreciate what guys are able to do here for them,” he said. “It means a lot, it really does.

"I’ll never forget this city, the fan base, the organization, everything that they did for me. It was 4 1/2 incredible years of my career.”

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Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish was one pitch away.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning, Darvish threw Phillies catcher JT Realmuto a 2-2 cutter. It made sense - Darvish had been spotting that pitch well all night, and the Phillies were averaging a paltry 79.8 mph exit velocity against it.

With one strike standing between Darvish and a 6-inning shutout, Realmuto took Darvish’s cutter and sent it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. A 2-RBI triple from César Hernández followed. In the blink of an eye, what was shaping up to be one of Darvish’s finest moments in Chicago was instead reduced to yet another start spent searching for silver linings.

“Really good. He was outstanding tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He pitched really well.

“He had really good stuff. He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding - even better than what he looked like in Cincinnati. I thought that was probably his best game for us to date.”

Darvish has continued to lean heavily on his cutter this season, more so than any year prior. After throwing it 13 percent of the time last season, he’s going to that pitch almost 25 percent of the time now. If that holds, it’d beat his previous career-high, set in 2013, by six percentage points.

All things considered, that pitch has actually been good for him this season. It’s his go-to offering when he needs to induce weak contact, and batters are hitting .125 against it so far. He gets batters to chase cutters 29.5 percent of the time, the most of any pitch he throws. While he has admitted in games past that he relies too heavily on his fastball, Maddon sees no issues with the new trend.

“I have no concerns with that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s different ways for pitchers to attack hitters, and if it's successful, I really would not change a whole lot.”

Though the night was dedicated to celebrating one of the franchises most beloved pitchers, it was one of their most maligned that continued to show signs of figuring it out. He’s put together back-to-back starts with three or less walks for the first time this season, and has allowed two or less runs in three of the last five.

The pitcher even stepped off the mound during Arrieta’s first at-bat, in order to let the standing ovation continue on.

“He’s is a legend in Chicago,” Darvish said after the game. “And I pitched against him and pitched pretty good, so it makes me confident.”

The bullpen again struggled on Monday night, as the trio of Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, and Kyle Ryan allowed two runs on five hits, including the game-winning solo home run from Realmuto in the 10th. For a moment it looked like the Cubs had a win wrapped up when Brach got outfielder Andrew McCutchen to bite on a two-strike slider, but was (probably incorrectly) called a checked swing.  He would eventually draw a walk, leading to Jean Segura’s game-tying single.

“On the field, I thought for sure [that McCutchen swung],” Brach said. “Looking at the first base umpire, I was a little taken aback. That’s why I went off the mound - just to regather myself, because I didn’t want to let the emotion get to me there.

“It’s a 50-50 call, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”

 

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