Cubs

Fire to Battle Earthquakes in Home Opener

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Fire to Battle Earthquakes in Home Opener

Saturday, April 10, 201010:54 AM

By ALAN FERGUSON, STATS Writer

After earning one point in their first two games, the Chicago Fire hope that playing in front of their home fans for the first time will spark them to a victory.

They couldnt pick a much better opponent to face in their Toyota Park debut than the San Jose Earthquakes.

The Fire will try to add to their home success over the Earthquakes and give coach Carlos de los Cobos his first MLS win Saturday night.

Chicago (0-1-1) dropped its season opener 1-0 in New York on March 27 and needed Brian McBrides penalty kick to salvage a 2-2 draw in Colorado last Saturday.

Patrick Nyarko drew the key infraction in the 51st minute on Rapids defender Marvell Wynne, and McBride scored on the ensuing kick. Collins John, McBrides former teammate in the English Premier League, also scored in his second MLS match.

The Rapids are a very good team, and it is very difficult to win here, de los Cobos told the leagues official Web site. Im satisfied with the work of the players. Im only happy when we win, but Im satisfied.

If history is an indication, the Chicago coach could be happy following Saturdays game. The Fire are 7-1-4 all-time at home against San Jose, with the only loss coming in a shootout July 23, 1999, when the Earthquakes were known as the Clash.

Chicago has also never lost its opener at Toyota Park, going 3-0-1.

The Fire earned a 2-0 win there last season over San Jose and a 3-3 draw on the road as part of their 5-0-6 start. The Earthquakes are 0-2-2 against Chicago since the franchises resurrection in 2008, but that doesnt mean the Fire will take them lightly.

I always think San Jose is a dangerous team, defender C.J. Brown told the leagues Web site. If you sleep on them, theyll crush you. So for us, weve got to stay compact, and when we get our chances, weve got to bury them.

After finishing last in the Western Conference in each of the last two seasons, the Earthquakes didnt get 2010 off to a strong start with a 3-0 home loss to Real Salt Lake on March 27.

Three days later, they signed former Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch. In a stunning move, Chicago waived the 33-year-old Busch on March 22 so it could start 24-year-old Andrew Dykstra, who had never played an MLS game.

Busch, the leagues 2008 goalkeeper of the year, had 21 shutouts in 63 games and played every minute the previous two seasons. As the backup to Joe Cannon, hes expected to watch Saturdays match.

The addition of Jon gives us one of the best goalkeeping corps in the league, general manager John Doyle told the leagues Web site.

The Fire could see their latest acquisition on the field after signing Salvadoran defender Deris Umanzor on Thursday.

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: