Cubs

Nix fights through illness to contribute for Irish

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Nix fights through illness to contribute for Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Louis Nix didn't think he was going to play on Saturday, seeing as he was fresh off two days in Notre Dame's infirmary with the flu bug that's been going around the Irish locker room. It caused George Atkinson to stay home for Notre Dame's trip to Norman, and against Pittsburgh, it nearly led Notre Dame's big nose tackle to stay on the sidelines.

Leading up to the Pittsburgh game, Nix was so sick he nearly slept through practice early in the week. When he got to practice, though, it became apparent to Notre Dame's coaching staff that he wasn't even close to 100 percent.

"I was feeling bad, like I didn't want to wake up," Nix said. "I was feeling real fatigued, like I didn't want to go to class but I had to, I just was feeling bad. My teachers got wind of it as well, they knew something was wrong with me -- if you don't see me smiling, laughing or joking around, something's wrong with me."

While Nix, a junior who didn't play as a freshman, is in second year on Notre Dame's defensive line, that experience didn't balance out the effects of missing practice. Nix tried to practice early in the week, but wasn't able to do much and wound up in the infirmary on Wednesday and Thursday.

"It's like going into a gunfight with a pair of scissors," Nix said of going into a game without practicing. "You're not prepared for that. I wasn't prepared, but I did my best and I just did what I usually do in a regular game. I read my keys, I did that to the best of my abilities and I guess I was right on some plays, wrong on some plays. But as long as you're going full speed, it eliminates all that."

Nix only played against Pitt because fellow defensive tackle Kona Schwenke suffered a shoulder injury on Saturday. He said his pregame routine didn't change much -- right down to eating his customary Cinnamon Toast Crunch -- but he wasn't himself thanks to the illness. Still, as Notre Dame's defense locked down Pittsburgh late in the game, Nix made his presence felt.

"When got in there, he played very well," coach Brian Kelly said. "He played really gutsy -- he was not feeling well. He would come over to the sideline, you could tell that he was not feeling very well. But it was just a gutsy performance from a kid that was sick all week."

Earlier in the year, when describing Notre Dame's motivation for stopping an opponent from scoring in the red zone, the always-quotable Nix said just wanting to get some water was behind that. With his illness on Saturday, that desire extended well beyond the 20-yard line.

"Yeah, I really wanted some water, I wanted to get some air," Nix said. "I wasn't feeling well, I just wanted to sit on the heated benches and just get some rest.

"But I'm happy we won, man."

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Say the name Daniel Murphy around Cubs fans (who have been around since before they won the 2016 World Series) and expect a dirty look or shade of some sort.

What Murphy did to the Cubs in the 2015 National League Championship Series still haunts the fanbase, even if they did end the championship drought the following fall.

Now, the Cubs are seeing it again and their PTSD is in overdrive.

St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter has been on an unreal tear of late, setting Cardinals franchise records in the process.

Throughout this five-game series at Wrigley Field, Carpenter is 9-for-16 with 6 homers, 10 RBI, 8 runs scored, 3 walks, a pair of doubles and a bunt single to lead off Sunday's game against the Cubs' shift.

"We're seeing this guy probably at his best moment in his life as a baseball player," Joe Maddon said. "My god. We saw it a couple years ago in the playoffs. We're seeing it all over again.

"Similar kind of a swing, not missing anything. It's pretty impressive."

In that 2015 NLCS, Murphy — then with the New York Mets — homered in all 4 games while hitting .529 with a 1.850 OPS, driving in 6 and scoring 6. 

To put that in perspective: The Cubs scored only 8 runs as a team in the 4 games.

Maddon and the Cubs don't know what to do to get Carpenter out right now, so they've resorted to walking him whenever possible, like in the second inning Sunday when they just dealt out a free pass to the Cardinals infielder with runners on second and third and two outs.

They also tried out a funky shift in the seventh inning Sunday, with Kris Bryant as a fourth outfielder in left-center, Addison Russell as the only defender on the left side of the infield and Javy Baez playing on the grass in shallow right field. It worked, as Carpenter grounded it to Baez for a routine out.

Beyond that, all the Cubs can do is hope time eventually wears Carpenter down. After all, nobody can stay this hot forever.

Even though Carpenter and the Cardinals are leaving town after Sunday's game, these two team square off against each other again next weekend for the final series in St. Louis.

"For them, it's a blast to watch," Maddon said. "Give the guy credit. What he's working right now is unique. The last time I saw it was Daniel Murphy. 

"Before that, I think, was Barry Bonds in the World Series in 2002. Playoffs with Murphy a couple years ago, where the guy — every pitch that is thrown — he's on time, he's on balance with a forceful swing that looks like the ball can go out of the ballpark every time. Bonds, Murphy and now him."

That's some serious company to be in.

So what's led to this insane stretch from Carpenter?

Maybe it's the salsa.

When told about that theory, Maddon laughed and said:

"Listen, that makes total sense to me. Can he send a jar over here, please?"

Training Camp Daily: Defense still “picking” on Bears QB’s in rainy practices

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USA TODAY

Training Camp Daily: Defense still “picking” on Bears QB’s in rainy practices

Training Camp Daily: The Bears put the pads on for Sunday's practice on another wet day in Bourbonnais. Bears insider John 'Moon' Mullin & producer Paul Aspan discuss Mitchell Trubisky's accuracy, which continues to be a work in progress. Plus Anthony Miller & Kevin White turn heads, while Aaron Lynch suffers yet another injury setback when the Bears are already thin at pass rusher. 

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