Bears

On The Farm: Iowa Stages Monstrous Rally To Retain First Place

On The Farm: Iowa Stages Monstrous Rally To Retain First Place

Thursday, Sept. 2
Posted: 9:15 a.m.
By Kevin Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com
CUBS
Iowa AAA
The I-Cubs, knowing that a loss would drop them into a first-place tie with Memphis, did what any team would do in that situation. They staged a monstrous, miraculous rally Wednesday night, scoring nine ninth-inning runs to stun Albuquerque, 15-13, at Isotopes Park.

The victory keeps Iowa a game ahead of the Redbirds with five left to play. The I-Cubs close out their series in New Mexico on Thursday before heading home for a weekend set with Memphis, essentially a four-game playoff series to decide first place in the PCL American North Division.

The rally was Iowas biggest scoring inning of the season and marked its second comeback when trailing after eight innings this week. Prior to turning the trick against Omaha on Sunday, the I-Cubs had been 0-42 when trailing heading into the ninth inning.

Marquez Smith got the ninth started with a leadoff walk and went to third on a Brad Snyder double. Jason Dubois then cut the lead to 13-9 with a three-run homer. After Bryan LaHair singled, Jon Link came on to pitch for the Topes. Bobby Scales then reached on an error and LaHair went to third on a wild pitch before Chris Robinsons double scored LaHair and put runners on second and third.

Jon Mota then whiffed but James Adduci then reached on the second Albuquerque error of the inning, bringing home Scales and putting runners on the corners. Sam Fuld then followed with an RBI single and after a double steal Smith ended the inning with a three-run homer.

The victory was Iowas franchise-record 43rd on the road this season. Justin Berg earned that win with 23 of a scoreless inning. Jay Jackson had started and got trounced, allowing nine runs on 10 hits in four innings. Austin Bibens-Dirkx 5-3, 4.14 will start the series finale. Snyder and Darwin Barney were named to the PCL post-season All-Star team.

Tennessee AA
The Smokies rallied from an early three-run deficit Wednesday night and cruised by Jacksonville, 9-4, at The Baseball Grounds.

Brett Jacksons three-run homer capped a four-run fourth inning that put the Smokies in the lead. Brandon Guyer and Russ Canzler each had three hits for Tennessee while Mark Reed had two hits and two RBIs. Aaron Shafer pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Jeremy Papelbon to earn his second victory.

Guyer, Tony Campana and Robinson Chirinos, since promoted to Iowa, were all named to the Southern Leagues post-season All-Star team.

In other action, Boise bested Spokane, 11-2. Arismendy Alcantara had three hits and three RBIs while Dustin Harrington went 5-for-5 with an RBI. Hes got 10 hits in 22 at-bats over his last four games. Great Falls squeaked by at Helena, 2-0, in White Sox farm-team action. Paul Burnside allowed three hits over six innings to earn his sixth victory and fiorst since Aug. 5.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

hicks_pff.jpg
USA TODAY

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

Akiem Hicks finally earned the recognition he deserved in 2018 with his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and playing on the NFL’s No. 1 defense provided the national attention he should have received in his first two years with the Bears.

He’s a solid interior pass rusher, but where he dominates is in run defense, leading the NFL in run stops last season according to Pro Football Focus.

When Hicks beats an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage to make a big tackle in the backfield, it’s a work of art, and he revealed the secret to those flashy plays on NFL Game Pass.

He broke down the film of a play against the Green Bay Packers where he beats center Corey Linsley because he knew right guard Jordan McCray was going to pull to the left.

“I read it before the snap happens. I know that McCray is going to pull just based off his stance,” Hicks said. “I know his stance for every play that he’s going to do. I’m going to be at least 75 percent right.”

Hicks looks at how much weight an offensive lineman is putting on his hand, how far apart his legs are and how much bend is in his hips.

“If you do your due-diligence as a defensive lineman and prepare like a professional during the week, you’re going to know,” Hicks said.

Any little deviation from a normal stance is an indicator to Hicks of what the play is going to be, and that pre-snap knowledge keeps him a step ahead of the blocker in front of him.

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Bulls finally getting with the times, putting together versatile roster

Bulls finally getting with the times, putting together versatile roster

Position-less basketball is the hot new buzzword in NBA circles, but it's also an important one.

Consider what the 2016-17 Bulls rolled out the same year the Golden State Warriors Death Lineup'd their way to an NBA title. Led by the Three Alphas of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, here's how the minutes shook out, per Basketball Reference.

Rondo played 100% of his minutes at point guard despite having played 42% of his minutes at shooting guard the year earlier for the Kings (a year in which he shot 36.5% from deep). Wade played 84% of his minutes at shooting guard. The following seasons, the last two of his career, he played 31% at point guard, 54% at shooting guard and 15% at small forward.

Butler played 93% of his minutes at small forward. The next two seasons, in Minnesota and Philadelphia, his minutes were split up at 45% shooting guard, 48% small forward and 7% power forward.

Taj Gibson played 96% of his minutes at power forward and Robin Lopez played 100% of his minutes at center. Nikola Mirotic played 88% of his minutes at power forward. Over the last two seasons, he's played 74% of his minutes at power forward and 23% at center (and 3% at small forward).

Sensing a theme here?

While the NBA zigged toward position-less basketball, the Bulls...didn't do anything. They had traditional roles, had little depth that allowed them to tinker with lineups despite that being the best way to utilize Fred Hoiberg's philosophies, and they failed. Yes, they led 2-0 on the Celtics in the first round of the postseason. No, that didn't make that entire season any less of a mess.

Fast forward two years and one rebuild later, and the Bulls enter Year 3 of the post-Jimmy Buckets era with some serious versatility.

The latest signal that this franchise is ready to move forward came on Thursday when the Bulls drafted North Carolina guard Coby White. He's not a traditional point guard, and the Bulls don't want him to be. In fact, the Bulls' entire offseason feels like it could be more about finding the right players instead of the right positional needs.

"John (Paxson) and I have had great conversations about our team during the year, at the end of the season, about what we thought we needed, where we thought we needed to go, and today is a product of that, of those meetings, those discussions, and his view," Jim Boylen said Monday. "We talked about positional size a lot, we talked about speed, quickness, athleticism. Those are the things we thought we needed with the group of guys we had, to add to them. Whether it’s vertical spacing, speed, making defenses chase people over, all those kinds of things, we discussed. And as we went into the draft process we were hoping to find players to help us with that. Thankfully we have."

Of White specifically, Boylen said the Bulls won't "put him in this box where he just has to play this way," Boylen added. For the first time arguably since Nate Robinson in 2013, the Bulls have a legitimate shooting threat at point guard. What's more, the 6-foot-5 White can play off the ball and spot up for perimeter jumpers, something that makes Zach LaVine more valuable and the offense more versatile.

The Bulls are finally looking to look like a versatile group. Otto Porter's defensive ability will give the Bulls the option of playing small, something that prior to his arrival just meant Chandler Hutchison getting abused in the post. Lauri Markkanen is a work-in-progress as a center, though his limited minutes and skill set give optimism that it's something he can do in spurts going forward. LaVine was never going to take on a full-time point guard role, but he was more than comfortable with the ball in his hands acting as an offensive initiator last season. maybe Kris Dunn, LaVine and White all share the floor together.

We could even see second round pick Daniel Gafford and Wendell Carter Jr. together in massive frontline spurts if the opposition calls for it. That's more fantasy than reality, but having the option is something they didn't have in the past.

The next step is free agency. With the Bulls, in theory, having starters at all five positions - White could move to the bench if Paxson goes after a veteran free agent - the Bulls can again get versatile and hone in on particular skill sets instead of simply trying to round out the depth chart. It doesn't feel like the Bulls will make a major splash - either giving Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon a gigantic offer sheet or finding room to sign Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell - but they'll be aggressive with their more than $22 million in cap space. They need point guard depth, more shooters on the wing and a locker room presence (Cris Felicio is a month younger than Otto Porter, the oldest player on the Bulls).

"We have a very good idea of what we want. But we’re going to have to wait until the 30th to go at it. But we know we need to add some veterans," Paxson said. "Definitely, we’re looking for a couple veteran guys that fit well with this young group – be pros, show these guys every day what it means to be a professional. Most guys that last a long time in this league, they last because they’ve been pros. They take care of themselves, they’ve played well, they’ve done all the right things. And that’s always best example for young players.”

The roster is far from a finished product. Injuries aside, the Bulls still won just 22 games a year ago, don't have max cap space, and White isn't Zion Williamson.

There's work to do. But for the first time during the rebuild, the Bulls are going to have options. The roster is beginning to look like what an group of NBA players in 2019 should look like. The Bulls are getting versatile, and it's an important step forward.