Cubs

Loving leads Hillcrest past TF North

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Loving leads Hillcrest past TF North

By Matthew Bruce
YourSeason.com

T.F. North scored the first bucket of the game. Hillcrest took over from there.Jalen Loving totaled 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the No. 21 Hawks, who never were threatened and cruised to a 74-41 blowout Friday night in the South Suburban Blue crossover in Country Club Hills.Jovan Mooring started the dominance for Hillcrest, which has won eight of its past nine games. The 6-foot-1 junior guard sparked a 15-0 run when he knocked down a three-pointer while falling down from 23 feet out midway through the first quarter. Two possessions later, Mooring brought the ball up the court and swished one from a foot deeper to give the Hawks (17-4, 9-0) a 12-2 lead.Point guard Kyle Oden followed suit, knocking down a pair of treys. By the end of the frame Hillcrest led 23-9. Oden netted another three-pointer at the first-half buzzer to give the Hawks a 36-12 lead at the break. Mooring and Oden both finished with three treys.T.F. North, which had 25 turnovers, could not figure out the Hawks halfcourt trap. T.F. North scored just three points in the second quarter.I keep saying this: Im excited about the way we play defense. We just need to make sure we execute on offense, Hillcrest coach Don Houston said. Overall, Im pretty happy with the effort.Loving was a killer down low for Hillcrest, connecting on 11 of 14 shots from the field. Nicholas Wood was the lone T.F. North player to finish in double figures, scoring 10 points. Loving, Mooring (14 points) and Oden (13) combined for 52 of the Hawks points.Any given night, any of the starting five can give us a whole lot, Houston said. If one person isnt having the greatest game, someone else can come in and give us a good game. So Im not surprised when any one of those guys step up.

Cubs adding top prospect Adbert Alzolay to big-league bullpen

Cubs adding top prospect Adbert Alzolay to big-league bullpen

 

The Cubs won't be handing top prospect Adbert Alzolay the ball as a starter Thursday, but he will be in uniform for the big-league club as they welcome the Mets into town.

Tyler Chatwood will start for the Cubs Thursday, but the organization is also calling up Alzolay, who may be available to piggyback Chatwood out of the bullpen.

The Cubs tried to stretch Chatwood out in the bullpen over the weekend in Los Angeles, but he hasn't thrown as many as 60 pitches since May 22, so length could potentially be an issue Thursday night. The Cubs also are in the midst of 17 straight games without a day off, so it's also a boost to add a fresh arm to the bullpen.

With Kyle Hendricks on the injured list dealing with a shoulder issue, the Cubs opted to insert Chatwood into the rotation for Thursday because they felt the veteran had earned the right to get the spot start. But the team has not made any determination beyond Thursday and with it looking like Hendricks will miss at least one more start, both Chatwood and Alzolay could be options to start Tuesday's game.

Alzolay, 24, is the Cubs' most exciting pitching prospect and probably would've already made his MLB debut last season if not for a shoulder injury that cut his year short. He got a delayed start to 2019 after slipping and tweaking his side right before spring training began, but he's been lights out in Triple-A Iowa this season (3.09 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 46 strikeouts in 32 innings).

Chatwood, meanwhile, has had a resurgent year. He's sporting a 3-1 record to go with a 3.60 ERA and 1.46 WHIP while serving mostly as the long man out of the bullpen. He did make a spot start for the Cubs April 21 at Wrigley Field, tossing six shutout innings to help beat the Diamondbacks.

Left-hander Tim Collins was designated for assignment to make room for Alzolay on the big-league roster.

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Lucas Giolito’s streak comes to an end, and now comes true test of his transformation

Lucas Giolito’s streak comes to an end, and now comes true test of his transformation

Mama said there’d be days like this.

I’m not entirely sure whether Lucas Giolito’s mama told him that or not. But you don’t need a baseball-lovin’ mama to know that even the best pitchers in the game can get lit up sometimes.

If Giolito is truly that now, one of the best pitchers in the game, he’ll prove it with what follows, not with what happened Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

A year after struggling to the tune of seven walks and three wild pitches in a Crosstown game he still won, Giolito entered the second of the two North Side rivalry games as a surefire All Star, a completely transformed pitcher who currently sits as one of the best Cy Young candidates in the American League. But you might not have known that watching him give up three homers worth a combined six runs in his 4.1 innings Wednesday.

This wasn’t exactly shades of the 2018 version of Giolito, who gave up more runs than any pitcher in baseball, had the highest ERA and WHIP of any qualified starting pitcher in baseball and walked more batters than any pitcher in the AL. No, Wednesday he still managed to strike out nine Cubs hitters and walked only three. But the Cubs hit him hard, with three balls leaving the yard, the back-breaker of which was a first-inning grand slam off the bat of White Sox killer Willson Contreras.

"I got hit hard," Giolito said after the game. "That was the hardest I've been hit in a long time. Just hanging some sliders, changeup was probably the worst it's been this year. It is what it is. You're not going to go out there and have a great outing every single time."

It doesn’t compare to some of the worst outings Giolito had last season, but it was shocking to see considering the incredible run he came in on. Entering Wednesday night’s contest, Giolito had won eight straight starts, with a 0.94 ERA during that stretch. He had given up as many runs after facing five batters Wednesday as he had in his previous five starts combined.

That stretch is now over, and it’s up to Giolito to make this a blip rather than a turning point.

"It’s just a blip in the season. It’s a little bump in the road," catcher James McCann said after the game. "You are not going to go eight-inning shutout every time. It’s how do you bounce back from this one and learn from tonight and move forward."

What he’s done so far this season would lead you to believe that’s very possible. One of the biggest talking points for Giolito, as well as McCann, when it comes to describing the difference between the 2018 and 2019 versions has been Giolito’s ability to turn the page. That’s typically been discussed as something that happens within games: A bad first inning hasn’t led to a complete meltdown like it did too often last season.

“The physical stuff has always been there,” McCann said before Wednesday’s game. “There's a few tune-ups he did, shortened his arm, all that stuff. But obviously, it's the mental approach.

“I can point to multiple occasions this season where he's had a rough first inning. In Toronto, he gave up three base hits to the first four hitters, and then the next thing you know he's hasn't given up another base hit and we're in the eighth inning. He gave up a three-run homer to the Royals in the first inning, and all of a sudden it's the eighth inning and those are the only three runs he's given up.

“So that's kind of been the most impressive thing to me. His last outing, he gave up the solo homer in the first and really didn't have his best stuff, and next thing you know it's the sixth, seventh inning and that's the only run he's given up. Last year, some of those outings turn into bad outings where he gets chased in the fourth inning. This year his mental approach, his determination, his grit is a little different.”

Now he’ll have to do something he’s rarely had to in 2019, and that’s flush a bad start. Wednesday night’s outing was Giolito’s shortest of the season, matching the 4.1 innings he threw against the Seattle Mariners on April 6 and not including the 2.2 innings he logged before being removed with an injury against the Kansas City Royals on April 17. Wednesday marked the first time Giolito gave up multiple home runs in a start this season.

The bottom line is that Giolito has been so good in 2019 that he hasn’t had to deal with the fallout of a bad outing. Giolito has credited his turnaround to the improvement in his routine. That will be tested now, and it’s no surprise that he’s confident enough in it to be ready for anything.

“I'd say now I'm just on the same mental routine, the same physical routine day in and day out. Nothing changes,” Giolito said Tuesday. “It's just like my last start or future starts, I'm going to go out there with the same good, positive outlook going into the game. Whereas last year, I think I was searching for things a lot, so it was a little more up and down. Now it's much better.”

One rough start won’t change Giolito’s status as an All Star or put a damper on what’s been a season worth celebrating. But how he responds will be the true test of whether the transformed Giolito is here to stay.

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