Bulls

Cubs complete series sweep of Diamondbacks

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Cubs complete series sweep of Diamondbacks

At 5-feet-10 inches and weighing about 190 pounds, Darwin Barney doesnt exactly have the physical stature of a power hitter, even if he wanted to become one.

But thanks to an ongoing workout plan that began in the offseason, Barney has turned body fat into muscle, and hes taking advantage of the extra energy his new physique has provided.

When youre small and skinny, its not going to help anybody, Barney said. Its just one of those things in this game. You look around, these are the best players in the world. You gotta keep up. Having some strength is definitely part of that.

Barney displayed that strength while energizing Wrigley Field with a two-run home run Sunday, giving Matt Garza more than enough runs as the Cubs completed a three-game sweep over Arizona with a 3-1 victory.

Garza (5-7) threw seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts to help the Cubs to their 12th victory in 16 games, and fourth in a row. Chicago also has won a season-high six straight at Wrigley.

Barneys home run, his fourth of the season, came in the second inning and staked Garza to a 3-0 lead. It was Barneys second key extra-base hit in as many days following Saturdays two-out double in Chicagos 4-1 victory.

A lot of his hits have been big this year, whether theyve kept the line moving at just the right time or popping a home run, manager Dale Sveum said. Hes done a great job. Obviously we know what hes done defensively. Like I said before, there is nobody whos been better at second base than he has been.

With one out and Bryan LaHair at second, Barney drove a 1-2 offering from Trevor Cahill into the left-field bleachers. His three RBI in the past two games are Barneys first of July.

Barney said he dropped nearly 20 pounds down to 170 in the first half of last season when his body fat registered at around 14 percent. Now he said hes at 190 with only eight percent body fat.

Losing 20 pounds last year, that was hard on the body, he said. Ive done a decent job of maintaining what I gained this year. I wouldnt say it has anything to do with hitting the ball, hitting home runs, stuff like that. Its just coming to the park feeling energized every day.

As much as Barneys home run helped, it was Garza who made the early lead stick. In his best outing since late April, Garza only allowed two runners past second base and none beyond that.

That allowed him to earn the victory despite the Cubs offense stalling after that early display. It was the 12th time in Garzas 17 starts this season the Cubs scored three or fewer runs for him.

But it didnt matter.

Garza found a groove as the game progressed. After allowing at least one runner in the first five innings, he retired the final seven batters he faced before being pulled to begin the eighth inning.

I felt good today, Garza said. I was able to stay with my mechanics real well. And when I didnt I was able to catch myself and adjust quick. Ive been searching to get back to where I was, and I kind of used the (All-Star) break to reflect and get back to having fun and attacking hitters.

Garza only walked one batter and allowed five hits. He extended his home success by giving up three or fewer runs for the 18th consecutive start at Wrigley. He also extended the stretch of success the Cubs pitching staff is seeing.

In the past five games, the starters have a 1.13 ERA, while the bullpen recorded a 1.50 ERA. Garza said the pitchers are feeding off each others success.

You dont want to be that guy, Garza said. So you just keep going, keep pumping strikes. A lot of things we got beat on was walks. A big part of my game is keeping guys off bases. A lot of my runs are by home run -- and not solo shots. If I want to limit walks that is putting a lot of pressure on myself to make a big pitch.

While the Cubs are on a good run, the reality is it could change any day now as the non-waiver trading deadline approaches. Garza is one of several Cubs players whose name is being attached to trade rumors.

Garza said hes tuning that talk out. Hes got something bigger on his mind.

All we can control is what we do between the lines and how we prepare, he said. Ive got a wife who is due in about 23 days, so the rumor mill can wait.

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson only played one season together with the Bulls. But oh, what a memorable campaign it was.

And it produced a friendship that still lasts to this day. Cupcakes and snacks will do just that.

Boozer retold a story to NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday of Robinson and his daughter, Navyi, baking cupcakes for Bulls players on road trips.

"We had so much fun. Me and Nate hit it off right away," Boozer said. "We're both very animated, we're both very loud, we talk a lot, we're great teammates. We love playing passionately, we compete.

"Nate is one of the best teammates I ever had. I played my whole life, I've been playing a long time and he's the only teammate that would bring snacks to every flight. And we'd travel on the road, he would bake us cupcakes for every road game. I never had that before.

"Him and his daughter, Navyi, would bake the cupcakes before every road game. So every road game we'd get to the plane and Nate would hook us up with cupcakes.

"Just a great teammate. He'd go through a brick wall for you, never complained, practice every day, play every day, ready to come and give it his best."

Boozer and Robinson will face off against each other during the Big3 Tournament, which begins this weekend in Houston. The league will travel to Chicago and the United Center on June 29.

"I'm looking forward to being in Chicago," Boozer said. "We've got a lot of great fans out there. I miss the (United Center), miss that Chicagotime summer weather and looking forward to getting back out there in a couple weeks."

Boozer's Ghost Ballers and Robinson's Tri-State team won't square off against one another until Week 5 in Miami. But it's sure to be a fun matchup for the two friends and snack buddies.

"He's one of my brothers, one of my closest friends," Boozer said. "Nate has been training like an animal and he's gonna use this platform to show everybody how much skills he has, also to get back into the NBA. Nate's a great talent and I'm looking forward to seeing him get down."

Boozer's team includes co-captains Mike Bibby and Ricky Davis, which gives them a pretty solid trio heading into the event. But no teammate, NBA or Big3, can match Nate Rob and his cupcakes.

Check out more on the Big3 right here.

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

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.”