Blackhawks

Maholm, Clevenger shut down Astros

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Maholm, Clevenger shut down Astros

Dale Sveum calls Steve Clevenger's swing "slump-proof."

The young catcher showed why Friday, crushing a 1-2 pitch from Astros starter Bud Norris to the Budweiser Party Deck in right field for his first career home run. It gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead and they never looked back en route to a 4-0 victory over Houston.

The game was delayed 55 minutes due to rain, but that didn't do a thing to slow down Clevenger's battery mate, Paul Maholm. The veteran pitcher picked up his fifth win of the season in dominant fashion, hurling 8 13 shutout innings, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out six.

Maholm was removed from the game after giving up two hits in the ninth and Carlos Marmol closed out the game to seal the victory.

Luis Valbuena homered in the second inning, his third as a Cub. Alfonso Soriano also went yard for the Cubs, a monster slam onto Waveland Ave. in the sixth inning.

Anthony Rizzo was 0-for-3 in his third game with a walk his first trip up.

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

The breakout star of Blackhawks development camp in July was undoubtedly Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018. It was evident how much his game has grown over the past year.

Former Blackhawks defenseman — and now player development coach — Brian Campbell worked closely with Boqvist this past season and raved about the steps he took with the London Knights in the OHL. But Campbell is also preaching patience in Boqvist's development. Boqvist just turned 19 on Thursday, and it's important to let him develop at his own pace.

“Yeah, I was impressed," Campbell said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Obviously, he’s come a long way in a year from last development camp. There’s no pressure being put on him. He’ll develop at his time. If he pushes for a spot, great, but I just don’t want people to get away. There’s a lot to keep learning and he wants to learn, which is the greatest thing. His teammates love him: great thing. He wants to do extra and learn the game: great thing. He is preparing himself days before, even in development camp, he’s preparing himself days before. So all great things and he’s on the right path.

"Hopefully that happens and maybe it does happen but if it doesn’t then that’s not the case and he keeps getting better and wants to keep getting better. Definitely, we know his skill level is there and I think he’s taken a huge step in the last year in preparing himself and knowing how to prepare as a pro player now. There’s a lot of great things there, and hopefully he does do that, but for me, I just don’t want to put too much on him right now. He’s turning 19 soon so he’s still a really young kid and it’s a tough position to play at a pro level. Believe me, I’m smiling, but I just don’t want to force the issue too much. Hopefully he can do some great things, but if he doesn’t, then that’s OK too.” 

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

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USA TODAY

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

The last three games have been more than forgettable for the Cubs.

From Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies to back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday, the Cubs’ current road trip has looked much like those that preceded it. At various times, the offense has scuffled, the rotation has pitched a clunker and the bullpen has cracked.

The solution to the latest road trip woes? Give the ball to Jon Lester and get the hell out of the way.

Lester —  who pitched a clunker himself Aug. 6 against the A’s — did what the Cubs have become so accustomed to see him do over the past four seasons. The 35-year-old tossed 6+ shutout innings, allowing just four hits, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 win.

Lester had no room for error on Saturday, as the Cubs offense went hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings. While the Cubs bats were asleep, the Pirates threatened to break the game on open multiple times, loading the bases with one out (first inning), no outs (fifth) and getting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth.

The latter two of those instances were assisted by errors by third baseman Kris Bryant, but that’s neither here nor there. Point being, with how the Cubs looked offensively, any Pirates runs could have proved critical on Saturday. Instead, Lester worked out of every jam, stymying the Pirates bats to an 0-for-12 line with RISP.

Winning Saturday’s game was obviously important for the Cubs, as it puts them a game ahead of the Cardinals in the win column (pending the outcome of St. Louis's game against the Reds later Saturday). But it was equally important for Lester, who called himself the “weakest link” in the Cubs starting rotation after that tough outing against the A’s.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games long. Each day presents teams with a new slate, a chance to forget about what happened in the previous game and move forward.  If Saturday’s start shows anything, it’s that Lester and the Cubs are more than capable of putting a tough game in the rearview mirror and keep moving forward.

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