Cubs

Grades: 4 TDs propel a near-perfect afternoon

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Grades: 4 TDs propel a near-perfect afternoon

The offense scored four touchdowns and amassed 358 total yards, a workmanlike effort punctuated by three scoring throws to Brandon Marshall. The Bears did have three possessions stall inside the Tennessee 25 for Robbie Gould field goals.

With an average starting position of their own 47 because of the turnovers, the offense might have scored more. But the key to success is not turning the ball over and the Bears did that just once on a lost fumble.

QUARTERBACK A

Jay Cutler overcame some early inconsistencies and inaccuracy to settle in for a game with 19-of-26 passing through his three-plus quarters for 229 yards and three touchdowns, all to Brandon Marshall, and a passer rating of 138.1. He had three incompletions in the first quarter, two in the second and one in the third a fourth as the defense loosened in apparent expectation that the Bears would run with their huge lead.

The biggest key was no interceptions, although the Titans missed a couple of excellent pick opportunities. Cutler also managed to maintain calm under surprising pressure from a Tennessee front that clearly did not quit despite the huge deficit.

RUNNING BACK A

Backs accounted for 32 rushes, three caught passes and 213 total yards from scrimmage. Matt Forte was utilized in both run and pass games, finishing with 103 rushing yards and 45 net yards on two pass receptions. He turned a screen pass into a 47-yard gain in addition to 48 yards on seven carries in the first half, and his eight-yard TD run for a first-quarter TD with his offensive line push.

Michael Bush was stymied on 10 carries for 16 yards but added 17 yards on his one catch. Armando Allen got some work in the fourth quarter and managed to break a 10-yard run among his 10 carries for 32 yards.

RECEIVERS A-

Brandon Marshall continues to raise his bar, with nine catches for 122 yards and three touchdowns. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the year and fourth with at least nine receptions and, more important, he has scored in five of the Bears eight games. Marshall helped seal the Titans fate in the first half with four catches, one for 13 yards and a TD.

Other receivers played only minor roles. Earl Bennett caught four passes but for just 22 total yards and Devin Hester had 19 for his two. No tight end caught a pass.

OFFENSIVE LINE A-

The overall was very solid with 160 rushing yards and 4.9 per carries other than Jason Campbells three kneel-downs at the end. Blockers repeatedly sealed off and created seams on the edges, with guards Lance Louis and Chilo Rachal effective pulling to clean up plays for Forte in particular.

JMarcus Webb caused a safety with hand-to-the-face in the end zone and added a holding penalty in the first half. But Webb and Gabe Carimi recovered after bad plays to deal with good edge rushers in Derek Morgan (zero sacks, two QB hits) and Kamerion Wimbley (one sack, one QB hit).

COACHING B

Play calling that had empty backfields and Cutler getting sacked late in a first half with Bears leading 31-2 was befuddling. The Bears led by 22 with 22 minutes to play and Cutler was still dropping and getting pressure. The balance of run-pass was present in the first half with 12 called runs and 16 pass plays against a defense that clearly was stacking to deal with a Bears game plan to run.

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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