Bears

MLB player hits a home run on his 40th birthday

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MLB player hits a home run on his 40th birthday

From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- Chipper Jones received a few modest gifts from teammates before taking the field on his 40th birthday and celebrated it the best way possible -- with a home run. Martin Prado wouldn't let it be wasted.Prado had two RBIs including a run-scoring triple in the ninth inning, and the Atlanta Braves beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 on Tuesday night."Martin Prado gave me my birthday present. That was the best one of the day," Jones said. "It's been a fun ride, and it's great to have my last birthday in the big leagues turn out the right way. I consider myself pretty lucky to be 40 years old and still playing -- in a lot more limited role, but playing nonetheless. I doubt if anybody really expects to be playing on their 40th birthday. I mean, as a kid, you'd like to think you're going to play forever."Unfortunately, as many miles and as many innings and as many games as I've got on these legs, it's coming down to the end. So it's bittersweet," Jones added. "I'm glad this is it, because my body's starting to let me know on a nightly basis that I'm 40. I'd love to see how it felt to be 31 again."Jones has homered on his birthday on four different occasions since coming up to the big leagues in 1993, including his 24th, 29th (twice) and 36th. He has played on his birthday 13 times, going 21 for 49, and the Braves are 11-2 in those games.Jones found about 30 messages on his cell phone when he awoke Tuesday morning, then grabbed a couple more hours sleep and saw another 30 messages waiting for him."I've got a lot a ton of friends out there, both inside and outside the game that thought enough to say happy birthday," he said. "I can't wait to get back home. I got a real cool message from my four boys this morning, and I miss them. Hopefully we won't get rained out tomorrow, because my wife has a rather elaborate birthday party planned for Thursday. And if we have to play Thursday, I'm not going to make it. So I'm crossing my fingers."Jones, playing in his 19th and final big league season, was 1 for 3 with a walk in what could have been his last game at Dodger Stadium if the predictions of rain for Wednesday's series prove accurate. After the third inning, the left field video board flashed the message: "Happy birthday Chipper. The Dodgers salute your remarkable career," while organist Nancy Bea Hefley played "Think Of Me" from the musical "Phantom of the Opera."The seven-time All-Star, whose 457 career homers are the third-most among switch-hitters behind Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray, hit a towering drive into the Atlanta bullpen in right field on Aaron Harang's first pitch of the fifth to put the Braves on the board. Jones is the fifth player to homer on his 40th birthday, along with Bob Thurman (1957), Joe Morgan (1983), Wade Boggs (1998) and Tony Phillips (1999)."He threw me a couple of off-speed pitches my first at-bat, and I thought he might challenge me in at some point that second at-bat," said Jones, who has 13 homers at Dodger Stadium. "I got one up and got out in front of it. You've really got to put a charge into one to hit it out of here at night."All three of my homers that I've hit this year have been really cool," Jones added. "I hit my first one in my first start in Houston with my parents in the stands, and the second one came in my home opener. And now this one. You always want to do something special on your birthday, and it doesn't get more special than that."Doing it at Dodger Stadium made the experience that much more significant for him."This place has always been special to me because I grew up a huge Dodger fan, so this was my Yankee Stadium," Jones said. "My father was from Vero Beach, where they used to train, so I can remember waking up in the mornings before elementary school, and the first thing I would do is turn on the news to see how the Dodgers did. I feel a little different about the Dodgers now than I did back then, obviously, but this is still a special place for me to play and it's still one of the most beautiful ballparks -- to this day."Tyler Pastornicky greeted Dodgers closer Javy Guerra (1-2) with a leadoff single in the ninth and advanced on a sacrifice by pinch-hitter Jack Wilson. Michael Bourn struck out, but Prado drove a 1-2 pitch to center field and over the head of two-time Gold Glove winner Matt Kemp, who caught up to it in the warning track but couldn't hold onto the ball."He's got pop and he drove the ball. I should have caught it," Kemp said. "I was very close. If it hits the glove, it's got to be caught. There are no excuses. You just have to turn the page and get em tomorrow."Eric O'Flaherty (1-0) pitched 1 1-3 hitless innings for the victory and Craig Kimbrel worked a scoreless ninth for his sixth save in as many attempts.The Braves tied it 2-all five batters after Jones' homer on a bases-loaded groundout by Prado, who has 11 RBIs.Juan Rivera gave Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in the first with a two-out homer against lefty Mike Minor that hooked around the left field pole. It made him the 20th player to homer into the Loge deck at Chavez Ravine and the eighth to do it with the Dodgers. The first was Frank Howard in Game 4 of the 1963 World Series against the Yankees' Whitey Ford.Notes: Rivera left the game with a strained left hamstring after getting an infield single off Minor's leg in the sixth. ... Los Angeles placed RHP Matt Guerrier on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 19, because of tendinitis in his elbow and recalled LHP Michael Antonini from Triple-A Albuquerque. ... The Braves recalled RHP Cory Gearrin from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill the roster spot left vacant when RHP Jair Jurrjens was demoted to Gwinnett following his loss on Monday night.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

Mark Carman, Scott Merkin and Chris Bleck join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester looks to get back on track against the Pirates? Should he still be the Cubs Game 1 starter in the playoffs?  Len Kasper joins Kap to discuss.

 

How much will Mitch Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game? And will Carlos Rodon end up being the White Sox’ best starter?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season.