Cubs

The latest MLB no-hitter was pitched by...

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The latest MLB no-hitter was pitched by...

From Comcast SportsNetANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The Los Angeles Angels' commitment to Jered Weaver is paying off.Signed to a five-year, 85 million contract extension last August, the 29-year-old left-hander pitched his first no-hitter Wednesday night, dominating lowly Minnesota in a 9-0 cakewalk. All the Twins could muster against the two-time All-Star was one walk -- and one other baserunner when catcher Chris Iannetta allowed a passed ball on a swinging third strike."I've been close once in Seattle and had it broken up in the eighth," said Weaver, who struck out nine and retired 22 of his last 23 batters after Iannetta's miscue. "We were having this conversation about five days ago, and C.J. (Wilson) came up to me and said: Why don't you just go out there and throw a no-hitter?' And I said: There's no way. There's no chance.' So it's funny that it happened."Kendrys Morales and Howie Kendrick homered to back Weaver -- not that he needed much support."He dominated us, there's no question about it," said Denard Span, who is 2 for 19 lifetime against Weaver. "He was doing everything. He kept us off-balance, changed speeds and finished strong. He's definitely a different pitcher at home when the ball is coming out of the rocks," referring to the fake rock pile beyond the center-field fence at Angel Stadium.It was the second no-hitter in the majors in less than two weeks, following Phil Humber's perfect game for the Chicago White Sox at Seattle on April 21."It's tough not to think about it when you see some goose eggs up there, but in a professional ballgame, you never know what's going to happen," said Weaver, a native of Northridge, Calif., who played at Long Beach State and pitched his gem in front of family and friends. "A bloop hit or anything else could happen. A lot of things have got to go your way, and that happened tonight. It still hasn't kicked in. It's pretty awesome."Weaver began the ninth inning by quickly retiring Jamey Carroll on a routine fly and striking out Span looking. He then got Alexi Casilla to lift a long fly that right fielder Torii Hunter easily caught at the warning track. The Angels' ace watched his Gold Glove outfielder make the play, and put his hands on his head as the Angels rushed out to mob him."It's not an easy feat," said manager Mike Scioscia, who caught two no-hitters with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "But I think any pitcher that has the stuff that Weave does and pitches at such a high level, you always have a chance. Early in the game, he established the fact that he could hit spots with his fastball and change speeds. He was just relentless at repeating pitches and was ahead in most counts. His stuff didn't look any different tonight than it does any other day."Weaver finished second in the AL Cy Young voting last year after going 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA. He and winner Justin Verlander were the only pitchers listed on every ballot."I was locked in for the most part," said Weaver, who got a scare in the eighth inning when Trevor Plouffe lined a shot that hooked a few feet foul of the left-field pole. "I wasn't throwing 97 or 98 up there. It was pretty much the same poo-poo I've been throwing up there all year. They've got some guys in that lineup that can hurt you, but balls were hit right at people. It's just so surreal, man. It's awesome. And to have my family here and my wife, and knowing that my brother was watching, this is an awesome moment."Weaver threw 121 pitches, and the cheers from the crowd of 27,288 kept growing louder. After his no-hitter was complete, he hugged his wife, Kristin, and his parents, Dave and Gail, who were overcome with emotion."He got pretty emotional, but I think it was more a case of him not believing he did it than anything else," Dave Weaver said. "I'm so happy for him. It's just fantastic. It couldn't happen to a nicer kid or a kid who's worked as hard as he has to get where he's at."This was the second Angels no-hitter in less than a year -- Ervin Santana pitched one July 27 at Cleveland -- and the 10th for the Angels franchise, including four by Nolan Ryan."Weave's been close several times. And with the stuff that he has, I thought if anybody could do it, he was definitely going to be the one," Hunter said. "Santana got it done for us last year, and now Jered got it done. This is awesome, man."The closest the Twins came to a hit was with one out in the third, when Carroll laid down a bunt that third baseman Mark Trumbo charged before throwing him out."I felt like I was in good position," Trumbo said. "I'm never really surprised when somebody tries to lay one down on me, so I prepared myself. Fortunately, I was out there about 3 o'clock doing some stuff like that. So I just went back to that and treated it like what we worked on earlier and it worked out."Trumbo had never played third base in the majors until this season, but had to shift from first base after the acquisition of free agent slugger Albert Pujols -- who still hasn't hit a home run this season after signing a 10-year, 240 million contract."You're aware of what's going on, no doubt," Trumbo said. "I feel fortunate to have experienced Ervin's no-hitter last year at first base, so that helped to calm me a little bit. But it's nerve-racking. I'd be lying if I said say otherwise. But you have to have the mindset that you do want it hit to you. If you ever get the mindset: Hit it to somebody else,' you're dead in the water."The Twins were held hitless for the first time since 1998, when David Wells of the New York Yankees pitched a perfect game against them. Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Nolan Ryan also threw no-hitters against Minnesota.The Angels built a 6-0 lead against Australian right-hander Liam Hendriks (0-2), who retired only six of the 16 batters he faced."All the little things a baseball team is supposed to do, we didn't do. We looked like a bunch of Little Leaguers out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.The Angels' three-game sweep of the Twins included a complete-game three-hit shutout on Tuesday night by Jerome Williams, who retired 18 of his last 19 batters. It was the first time the Angels had back-to-back complete game wins since 1993 when Chuck Finley and Mark Langston did it.NOTES:The Twins haven't had a hit in the last 15 innings. ... Gardenhire will miss the Twins' three-game series at Seattle to attend his daughter Tara's graduation from Southwest Minnesota State. Bench coach Scott Ullger will run the club until Gardenhire returns Monday for the start of a three-game series with the Angels at Target Field. ... Kendrick was 4 for 4 with his fourth homer of the season, a three-run shot in the fourth against Alex Burnett.

Cubs ride unconventional pitching performances to 8-6 win over the Reds

Cubs ride unconventional pitching performances to 8-6 win over the Reds

Before Thursday’s game against the Phillies, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon was asked if, given the current state of their bullpen, Tyler Chatwood could see some innings as the closer. 

“I think he’s amenable to it...” Maddon responded. “... the big thing with him is throwing strikes. If he does that -- his stuff is that electric -- we’ll use him any time. As he gets well from [throwing 4 innings on Wednesday night] it’ll probably a solid two days, maybe three, before he’s ready to go again. We’ll see - we’ll see that night needs. I’m not afraid of it by any means.

“I would say that the first time he got a chance with us, it would be because the other guys aren’t available that night.”

48 hours later, with the Cubs white knuckling a two-run lead, it was Chatwood coming out of the ‘pen in the top of the 9th. Two singles, a double-play, and a Yasiel Puig flyout later, Chatwood had closed out one of the Cubs’ more unconventional wins of the season, a 8-6 nail-biter that featured a little bit of everything.  

“It was a little bit [surprising],” Chatwood said. “But I kept myself ready. I was able to get loose in the pen and luckily I got that double play right there, and we won. So it’s good.” 

On a day when the Cubs’ cobbled together their pitching performance, it was Yu Darvish’s 7 innings -- the first time he’s gotten that deep into a game since 2017 -- that kept Chicago in punching distance. The line itself isn’t particularly flattering; six runs on 12 hits is an eyesore. His performance may not have played well on Cubs Twitter, but those inside the clubhouse could not stop talking about it. 

“That was huge. I thought he was really good today,” Albert Almora, who already surpassed his 2018 home run total (5) with a solo homer in the 2nd inning, said. “I didn’t think he was going to come back out, so I said ‘good job’ to him in the 7th. I saw him back out in the 8th and was like ‘all right, he wanted it.’” 

“It looked like he emptied the tank against Puig in the 7th with a big strikeout,” Chatwood added. “But he still went back out there and battled and pitched into the 8th. That’s huge. We didn’t have many people available today, and I think he knew that. I thought that was one of the best games he’s thrown the ball.”

Darvish managed to strand eight base runners, though, and only walked two. He’s now gone three straight games while walking three batters or less, something he’d failed to do at any point prior. 

“I knew that the bullpen was going through a little struggle, and didn’t have much rest,” Darvish said. “So my main goal was to go more than 7 innings today.” 

On a warm day, with the wind blowing straight out at 16 miles per hour, Wrigley played as small as it has all year. The Cubs (and the Reds, for that matter) went deep three times, which brings their homestand total to 11. 

“The wind was a friend to both sides today,” Maddon said. “But really, you’ve got to give Yu a ton of credit for getting deeply into the game today. He still had his good stuff in the end. The stuff was still there, but it’s 107 pitches, and it’s just deflating when all that happens.” 

Not to be outdone by the guy who started the game or the guy who finished it, recently-called up pitcher Dylan Maples was the winning pitcher of record. He and Tim Collins came in from Triple-A Iowa that morning, and Maddon wasted no time throwing Maples into the fire. After walking his first batter, Maples got Reds’ rookie Nick Senzel to strikeout on a 91mph fastball to end the 8th. 

If it hasn't seemed easy of late, that's because it hasn't been. Of the Cubs’ first 50 games, 16 have been decided by one run (9-7). Over their last 12 games, eight have been decided by two or less runs. 

“They seem to all be like that,” Maddon said with a laugh. “Especially recently. We’re seeing a lot of good pitching. 

“That’s entertainment, guys. Woah.” 

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Cubs manager Joe Maddon usually isn’t one for conspiracy theories, but even he’s wondering what’s going on. MLB teams are hitting home runs at an absurd rate, including the Cubs, who are hitting them at a historic rate for the franchise’s standards.

Entering Saturday, here’s where MLB teams stand in average home run rate and total home runs in 2019 compared to recent seasons:

2017: 1.26/game, 6,105 total
2018: 1.15/game, 5,585 total
2019: 1.33/game, 2,009 total

While the MLB season is just over 30 percent finished, teams are on pace to hit a combined 6,483 long balls in 2019. This would absolutely obliterate the 2017 total, which, like the 1.33 home runs per game figure, would be an MLB record.

The Cubs are no exception to this home run wave. Including Saturday (game No. 50 of the season), the team has hit 80 home runs (and counting) in 2019. Only the 2000 Cubs (83) hit more home runs in their first 50 games in franchise history.

“We’re having home runs hit here into some firm breezes, which has not happened before,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters before Saturday’s game against the Reds. “That’s the thing that stands out to me. It’s been crazy.

“Even [Kyle] Schwarber’s home run, I know that was hit well, but dang, that wind was blowing pretty firmly across at that point.”

Schwarber absolutely crushed his home run yesterday, a 449-foot blast that needed little help getting into the bleachers. However, Maddon has a valid point regarding home runs being hit despite the wind. Entering Saturday, 54 total home runs have been hit at Wrigley Field this season, 29 of which have come with the wind blowing in.

By the eighth inning of Saturday’s game, the Cubs and Reds had hit a combined six home runs, one of which appeared to be a routine fly ball hit by Jason Heyward that wound up in the left field basket thanks to the wind. At the same time, Yasiel Puig hit one 416 feet onto Waveland Ave. that had a 109 mph exit velocity. The wind blowing out at Wrigley Field helps, but it isn’t everything.

MLB players have questioned time and time again if baseballs are “juiced,” including Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester. And while Maddon didn’t flat out say that he thinks the baseballs are juiced, he notices a difference in how they're flying off the bat.

“I don’t know, I’m normally not into the subplot component of all of this and the conspiracy theorists, but I’m telling you right now, it’s jumping,” he said. “It’s absolutely jumping.

“Nobody is ever going to admit to it. The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird.”

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