Cubs

Paea, Roach receive Piccolo award

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Paea, Roach receive Piccolo award

When I got to Halas Hall on Tuesday, the first person I saw was Chuck Davidson, veteran cameraman for CBS and a long-time buddy from Platteville days. Chuck was wearing a top from a Brian Piccolo golf outing, and it was from 1994.

That was a quick reminder how long the Piccolo awards have been around and how much theyve meant, created by the Bears in the wake of Brians death from embryonal cell carcinoma in 1970 at age 26.

When Brian died, the cancer was 100 percent fatal. Because of the research and work funded by proceeds from the Piccolo-related endeavors -- 8.1 million since 1971 the cure rate now is more than 70 percent. Now the target of the proceeds and research is breast cancer at Rush Medical Center and the Clearbrook Center in Arlington Heights for the developmentally disabled.

Bears players have voted for one of their own rookies to receive the Piccolo Award since 1971. It was expanded in 1992 to include one veteran winner each year.

So Tuesday celebrated (choice of word intentional) the presentation of the awards for this year: linebacker Nick Roach as the veteran winner, defensive tackle Stephen Paea as the rookie winner.

Hard work, dedication, loyalty and commitment to teammates are the guidelines and the fact that the awards are the result of players voting probably is the best statement about Roach and Paea.

Piccolo was an undrafted free agent coming out of Wake Forest.. So it was maybe even a little more fitting that Roach was this years winner, because Roach was undrafted coming out of Northwestern.

Im just hoping we can be as lucky to have one of those undrafted free agents have the kind of impact on our football team that Brian Piccolo had, coach Lovie Smith said.

For defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the thing Paea plays it with, and that we look for, is the toughness of mind. Marinelli pointed out that Paea was a second-round draft choice but never complained or pouted while waiting five games before earning a chance on game day.

Paea has seen the movie Brians Song and the thing that he has taken away from it was the caring between roomates Piccolo and Gale Sayers. Paeas selection by his teammates gave him the same feeling, "and thats why were going to win the Super Bowl this year.

The award had a particular poignancy for Roach personally.

The story hit me hard because of a lot of the similarities, Roach said. Piccolo was an undrafted free agent; I was a free agent. Piccolo was 26 when he died; Im 26, Roach said.

And Piccolo died on June 16, which is my birthday.

Roach thanked Smith and the coaches but deadpanned. "The sad thing is that this is my first football trophy so I want to work on that second one for you."

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

The Wrigley Field basket has played a huge role in this week's Cubs-Reds series.

In Monday night's game, Cincinnati catcher Curt Casali hit a game-tying homer into the basket in the seventh inning of a game the Cubs went on to lose.

But the basket giveth and the basket also taketh away.

Tuesday night, it was Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs who were singing the praises of one of the strangest ballpark quirks in baseball.

Schwarber connected on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, hitting a fly ball through the impossibly-humid air and into the basket in left-centerfield for a 4-3 Cubs win.

"Whoever thought about that basket — whenever that occurred — tell them, 'thank you,'" Joe Maddon said. "Although it did work against us [Monday]. When it works for you, it's awesome."

Schwarber has stood under the left-field basket many times with his back against the wall, thinking he might be able to make a play on a high fly ball only to see it settle into the wickets and turn into a chance for a Bleacher Bum to show off their arm. 

But is he a huge fan of the basket now that it worked in his favor?

"I guess so," Schwarber laughed. "Yesterday, it cost us, but today, it helped us out. It's just the factor of Wrigley Field. Happy it worked out today."

It was Schwarber's first career walk off RBI of any kind.

It was the Cubs' fourth walk-off homer of the season, but their first since May 11 when Willson Contreras called "game" on the Milwaukee Brewers. 

The Cubs are now 4-1 since the All-Star Break and hold a 2.5-game lead in the division.

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease picked up a win in his first start, but his second did not go as well.

Cease pitched six innings Tuesday at the Royals and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven, but took the loss in an ugly game for the White Sox.

The game got off to an ominous start with Eloy Jimenez getting injured on the first batter Cease faced. The White Sox defense didn’t help Cease much either with three errors (Cease had one of those on an errant pickoff throw).

After giving up six runs in the first four innings, Cease settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk and threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Cease struck out six in his first start and is the first pitcher in White Sox history to strike out six or more in each of his first two career appearances.

A deeper look at Cease’s numbers show his swing and miss stuff hasn’t quite caught on as expected so far. Cease got 13 swinging strikes in 101 pitches in his major league debut. He got 12 whiffs on 108 pitches on Tuesday. His slider did get five swinging strikes on 25 pitches against the Royals.

Fastball command remains a key part to Cease’s success. He only threw 26 out of 54 fastballs for strikes in his debut. Cease improved upon that with 31 strikes on 50 fastballs against the Royals.

Most of the Royals’ damage came against Cease’s fastball as well. Six of the Royals’ eight hits off Cease, including all three extra base hits, were off heaters. Cease also gave up four hits with two strikes.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Cease since he joined the White Sox, but he hasn’t hit the ground running in the majors just yet. Having 13 days between the first two starts of his career due to the all-star break and the White Sox giving him some extra rest also isn’t the ideal scenario for a young pitcher.

Cease’s ERA is now at 5.73, which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Still, there have been enough positives in his first two starts to see where reasonable improvement could lead to Cease becoming the pitcher the White Sox expect him to be.

 

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