Cubs

Hawks, Jazz play longest NBA game in 15 years

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Hawks, Jazz play longest NBA game in 15 years

From Comcast SportsNet
ATLANTA (AP) -- Joe Johnson was exhausted by the time the Hawks and Utah Jazz had dragged each other into a fourth overtime -- in Atlanta's third game in three nights, no less. "It was unbelievable," he said. "I just had to laugh it off. I've never played in a game like that." Johnson scored 37 points, Josh Smith added 22 and the Hawks ended Utah's six-game winning streak with a 139-133 victory Sunday night in the NBA's first quadruple-overtime game since 1997. The four overtimes tied for the third-longest game in NBA history. It was the ninth NBA game to go four OTs and the first since Phoenix beat Portland 140-139 on Nov. 14, 1997. Al Jefferson finished with 28 points and 17 rebounds, and Paul Millsap had 25 points and 13 boards for the Jazz before both players fouled out in the final overtime. "We'll take a moral victory out of this one," Millsap said. "This was a good ball team we played tonight. They played excellent defense. We just didn't get it done." Atlanta has won four straight and six of seven. The Hawks improved to 30-20 and moved one-half game ahead of Indiana for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. "It would happen on the third (straight night), but it shows the toughness of this ballclub to be able to push through that many overtimes and come out victorious," said Smith, who fouled out with 1:57 left in the first overtime. "It was a special win, and I think we'll probably appreciate this win more so than any other win during the season thus far." Johnson ended the first quarter with 18 points after going 8 of 8 in the period. He missed eight of his next nine shots, including a potential game-winning runner with 3 seconds left in regulation, before hitting a 3-pointer that forced the third overtime. With 16.9 seconds remaining in the fourth OT, Johnson's 20-foot jumper over C.J. Miles gave the Hawks a 135-131 lead. "I got some great looks in that first quarter," Johnson said. "I got into a rhythm early and for whatever reason it took me a little while to get that rhythm back, but other guys stepped up and made plays." Jeff Teague, who had 18 points and nine assists, added a pair of free throws with 13 seconds to go to make it 137-133. Johnson's two free throws sealed the victory with 5.5 seconds remaining. Zaza Pachulia, who pulled down 20 rebounds, hit a short jumper in the final seconds of the second quarter that gave the Hawks a 17-point lead, their biggest of the game. Utah rallied with a 27-9 run, giving the Jazz their first lead since early in the opening period. Millsap's 16-footer made it 65-64 with 3:23 left in the third. Jefferson gave the Jazz their biggest lead of the game when his turnaround 12-footer made it 109-104 in the third OT, but Utah never went ahead in the final two periods. "It's over with," Jefferson said. "We've just got to get ready for tomorrow. That's why you get in shape. We can't make any excuses. It was their third game in three nights. They found a way to pull it out in the end." The Jazz, who have won only one road game when they trailed after three quarters, fell to 7-17 away from home. They began the day as one of six teams separated by only 1 12 games for the final five playoff spots in the Western Conference. "We showed a lot of character and fight," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "That's what we need on the road in the second half to win. We've got to make sure we understand that's what's going to make us have a chance." Utah's biggest lead in regulation came when Gordon Hayward's two free throws made it 93-89 with 5:31 left in the fourth. Hayward scored 19 points and Devin Harris handed out 10 assists for the Jazz. Not surprisingly, Johnson was delighted when Jefferson and Millsap both picked up their sixth foul in the last OT. "I was so happy when they fouled out, man, you wouldn't even believe it," Johnson said with a smile. Notes: The teams were a combined 2 of 16 from the field in the first OT, and their combined four points tied for 2nd-fewest in NBA history in an overtime period. ... Utah dropped to 1-16 when trailing on the road after three periods. ... The lead changed hands 14 times. ... The score was tied 19 times. ... Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said that G Raja Bell is still waiting for results of a second opinion on a strained left adductor that's sidelined him for the last six games.

Cubs feel Yu Darvish is 'on a mission' to return and provide boost in pennant race

Cubs feel Yu Darvish is 'on a mission' to return and provide boost in pennant race

Yu Darvish cursed and snapped his head in frustration.

He had just spiked a fastball in the dirt to Cubs backup catcher Victor Caratini as Tuesday morning's sim game was winding down.

A couple moments later, Darvish fluttered one of his patented eephus pitches way up and out to Caratini and again let an expletive slip out.

Darvish threw about 55 pitches in three "innings" worth of a simulated game (meaning he sat down and rested for a few moments in between each "inning") while facing Caratini and David Bote with a host of onlookers including a gaggle of Chicago media, Joe Maddon and his maroon Levi's and Van's kicks, Theo Epstein and a group of Cubs coaches.

"It was good," Epstein said minutes after Darvish wrapped it up. "He was competing well out there, spinning the ball really well. Maybe his best spin of the year. That was good to see.

"We'll see how he feels tomorrow, but seems like he's just about ready for the next step, which should be rehab games."

Nobody knows how many rehab outings Darvish may need at this point and there's still no timetable for when the Cubs will get him back in the rotation. 

Epstein acknowledged that at this point in the season — with less than seven weeks left until playoffs begin — the Cubs have just one shot to make this work with Darvish. Any setback now is essentially the dagger in any hopes of a comeback.

You can get giddy about the spin rate all you want, but the real telling sign to the Cubs was Darvish's attitude. Instead of worrying about his arm or any lingering pain out there, he was getting pissed at himself for missing spots as he started to tire in the sim game.

It was a sign to both Epstein and Maddon that Darvish is getting back in the right head space to return to a big-league field in the middle of a tight pennant race.

"I think he wants it," Epstein said. "The guys that are around him every day feel like he's really eager to get out there and compete. Even in the sim game today, when Vic had a good swing on the fastball, he came back on the next one a little bit harder and was mixing all his pitches.

"He's going about his business like someone who's on a mission to come back and help this team."

Maddon concurred.

"Totally engaged, looked really good, was not holding back," the Cubs skipper said. "...We were all very impressed."

All that being said, the Cubs still aren't in a place where they feel confident enough to just plug Darvish back into the rotation for the final few weeks of September and into October (assuming they make it there). 

Darvish has said himself he feels like he turned a corner a couple weeks ago and is back in a good place physically.

Still, his journey back has already experienced several hiccups and there's no telling everything will be perfect from here.

At the end of the day, Maddon and his staff have no choice but to try to win ballgames with the guys who are on their active roster and can't worry about what "might be" with Darvish, Kris Bryant, Brandon Morrow or even Drew Smyly.

Of course, getting those guys back healthy would be a heck of a boon to this Cubs team, but it's not something they can count on.

"I don't think you ever get to that point," Epstein said. "... Anytime a player's injured, there's a certain probability that he returns and on a certain timetable and there's a spectrum of outcomes when he comes back. From being significantly better than he was before he went down to performing the same to not being effective.

"None of us can predict exactly what the outcome is gonna be, so you have to be prepared for all the possible outcomes. You never want the performance of any one player to be the linchpin of the success of the club. Because if you are, you're being irresponsible and setting yourself up to fail.

"At the same time, you're never gonna be as good as you might be if one of your most talented players returns and returns in really good form. We're hopeful and we're trying to do everything we can to put him in a position to succeed and right now, there've been a lot of good signs, which is certainly better than where we were six weeks ago."

Brewers' faltering bullpen not doing them favors in NL Central race

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USA TODAY

Brewers' faltering bullpen not doing them favors in NL Central race

At a time when the Cubs are missing their closer and continuing to hold their lead on the division anyway, the Brewers are in a very different place. 

Coming in to a short but weighty series at Wrigley Field, Milwaukee has dropped two games via bullpen meltdown in their last four. Corey Knebel, who saved 39 games for the Brewers in 2017 with a 1.93 ERA, has seen much more limited time in the closer's role this year. But getting him right will probably make the difference for Milwaukee down the stretch.

"It’s important that we get him going," Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters before Tuesday's game. "Getting Corey on track is probably the bigger equation in this that kind of normalizes the bullpen."

Last Thursday, Knebel loaded the bases in the 9th when Milwaukee was leading, 4-2, and eventually left for Joakim Soria after allowing a run on a single. This set the stage for Hunter Renfroe's grand slam that cost the Brewers the game. In his next appearance, Knebel pitched in the 5th inning against the Braves and gave up a run in Milwaukee's eventual 8-7 loss.

Without a reliable Knebel, the Brewers have had to play mix and match with their bullpen, a recipe that doesn't usually work. It's been successful so far for the Cubs in the absence of Morrow, but that hasn't been the case for Milwaukee lately. 

The Brewers acquired Joakim Soria from the White Sox on July 26 in hopes of shoring up their bullpen, but after giving up the grand slam to Renfroe last week, Soria hit the DL with a right quadriceps strain. Counsell said that it isn't likely for Soria to return very soon, however.

"We’re not going to be at 10 days, I’ll tell you that," Counsell said, adding that Soria is still only doing stationary bike work at this point.

But help might be on the way. Taylor Williams, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list on August 3, is eligible to return. For now, the Brewers opted to keep outfielder Keon Broxton on the roster, but Williams could prove to be a boon for the Milwaukee reliever corps. Before being shelved, he was averaging more than a strikeout per inning. 

Otherwise, the Brewers have Matt Albers rehabbing in Biloxi, Mississippi, where they plan to let him appear in at least a couple games before activating him.

Milwaukee has a chance to cut the division lead to a single game these next two days, but without a reliable bullpen, that could prove especially difficult.