Cubs

Peavy sharp as Sox down Tigers in home opener

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Peavy sharp as Sox down Tigers in home opener

Jake Peavy will tell you his first concern is all about winning. But the righty also admitted he doesn't want to give fans any reason to dislike him.

He certainly didn't do that Friday, throwing 6 23 solid innings to help lead the White Sox past Detroit in a 5-2 home opener victory. Peavy struck out eight, only issuing one walk and allowing two runs on two hits. This coming against a Tigers lineup that entered Friday averaging nearly seven runs per game.

"It just seemed like from the first pitch, he was more intense and more aggressive," A.J. Pierzynski said. "Sometimes in the past he's waited until he got into trouble and then went. But today he went from pitch one and you see the results."

The results were that Peavy never really got in any trouble. He allowed a two-out, two-run home run to Delmon Young in the seventh, but that was it. Peavy cruised through the powerful Detroit lineup, working his fastball and off speed pitches in perfectly.

"I struck probably as many guys out on a fastball today as I did on a breaking ball, and that's an encouraging sign when you can get guys out with your fastball," Peavy explained. "Obviously, you'd like to see the numbers creep up to what they once were, but at the same time if you can throw fastballs by somebody, keep guys off balance, that's what you're trying to do."

Peavy actually generated five swings and misses on his fastball and seven on other offerings -- slider, change up, curveball, cutter. His fastball averaged about 91 miles per hour, although he frequently touched 92 and 93 with it. And with his location and command of his breaking stuff, that was all he needed.

"He's got that extra little jump on his fastball," Paul Konerko said. "He'd be the first to tell you he's not throwing 95, 96 like he was with San Diego, but he's throwing 92, 93 -- that's enough in this league velocity's not everything, but if you can hit spots like he can and have the breaking ball he has, it makes a world of difference when you can rush it up there a couple more miles per hour."

Things easily could've unraveled early for Peavy when the game was paused in the top of the first for about 10 minutes after Miguel Cabrera voiced a complaint about the batter's box. Peavy didn't throw during that break -- although Pierzynski broached the idea -- and ultimately wasn't worse off for it.

"Next time it's like that we're going to stop the game and re-do the boxes for us," laughed Pierzynski.

Peavy's effort was buoyed by an odd offensive combination in the seventh inning. After Konerko delivered a two-out RBI single to put the Sox up 2-0, Pierzynski laced a line drive into the right field corner. Brennan Boesch had a bit of trouble with the ball in the corner, and third base coach Joe McEwing decided to get aggressive, sending Konerko around third. He just barely slid in under Alex Avila's tag to put the Sox up 3-0.

"Usually I'm getting the stop sign for sure -- when Joe McEwing was wheeling me around I was a little bit, uh, curious about that, wondering what the heck was going on," Konerko said dryly. "And the play at the plate, I don't know if I was safe or out, but it seems like most times I slide like that into a play, the guy usually calls me out, so I was kinda surprised he called me safe. As an umpire, I gotta believe it's hard to not to anticipate me being out. I think he made a great call, I just slid underneath it."

That last run was all the Sox needed, although Detroit battled back in the seventh and eighth innings. But stellar defensive plays by Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez stopped both Detroit scoring threats, and a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth put the game out of reach, even for the powerful Tigers offense.

"You're playing against that team, with that lineup and that pitching staff, you have to try to keep pressure on them because when they get to hammer on us, they're going to put pressure and do everything they can to be aggressive and do everything to stomp on us," Pierzynski said. "You have to do that, and that's the right way to go about it every day. It doesn't matter if you're playing Detroit or anybody.

"We've been playing well, and we said all along if we can keep guys healthy and guys have their years, then we should be okay."

Quintana's script against Brewers flipped

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USA TODAY

Quintana's script against Brewers flipped

Before this afternoon's game against the Brewers, Jose Quintana had a 0.95 ERA against them, but thanks to some first-inning longballs, that changed quickly. Milwaukee, on their way to a 7-0 win at Wrigley Field, had sort of stumbled in to this two game series thanks to shaky bullpen performances against the Padres and Braves in their previous two series, and given Quintana's past success against them, it didn't appear likely going into the game that things would change.
 
It took all of two pitches for Lorenzo Cain to homer to left, and then later in the first inning, for Ryan Braun to do the same with a two-run shot that gave the Brewers a quick 3-0 lead. Braun, who before today's game was hitting .143 without even an extra base hit against Quintana, ultimately homered twice.
 
"Everything he’s thrown me, he’s had success with," Braun said of Quintana. "Everything he’s shown me had worked for him."
 
As a team, the Brewers were hitting just .202 against Quintana, so they knew scoring opportunities would be at a premium.
 
"A guy as good as him isn’t going to make many mistakes, so any mistakes he does make you have to take advantage of," Braun said. "He’s had so much success against us, the odds were we were going to find a way to score a couple runs, we were able to do that against him today."
 
In the first inning, Cain homered in the first on a fastball left too far in the zone, and Braun on a curveball that didn't break away from the sweet spot. Braun's second homer came on a 75 mph curveball after Quintana fell behind in the count 2-0.
 
Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin said that going into the game, he was thinking about how much his offense has struggled against Quintana, but seeing them score so early eased the pressure on him and allowed him to work with his slider and fastball a little more aggressively.
 
"A couple of big-time players stepped up in the first inning, and I mean, yea, we've really struggled against this guy," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of the first-inning success against Quintana. "You put up three runs in the first inning with two homers, it flips the script pretty fast."
 
With the onus off of Chacin, he was better able to throw seven scoreless innings on the way to his sixth decision in his last seven starts. Today's was an especially important win for Milwaukee, who entered this week's short series three games behind the Cubs. Brewers players differed on whether or not they'd call it a must-win, however.
 
"We have six more after these against the Cubs, but I feel like any game is must-win right now," Chacin said.
 
Braun, who has seen firsthand how much games in August and September can change the course of what had been a successful season, called it a little differently.
 
"It’s pretty close to a must-win. If we want to stay in the division race, I think we had to win one of two, ideally you gotta win both," Braun said. "These guys are really good, you obviously didn’t want to leave here down five games."
 
Against the packed crowd of 40,441 Tuesday, Braun said that he enjoys the atmosphere at Wrigley as the opponent.
 
"I’ve always enjoyed playing here. As a competitor, there’s no more enjoyable atmosphere to play in than this. The more hostile the environment is, the more enjoyable it is as a competitor. This place is always packed, it’s always loud. It’s a very challenging place to win," Braun said.
 
Even with another win tomorrow, the Brewers will still remain a game behind the Cubs, but Braun said that he is thankful to be playing in meaningful games at this point in the season regardless. After tomorrow, the Cubs and Brewers play two series in the first half at September, one at Miller Park and one at Wrigley Field.
 
 

Ben Zobrist earned his first career ejection thanks to one hell of a zinger

Ben Zobrist earned his first career ejection thanks to one hell of a zinger

Two days after David Bote turned in the best moment of the Cubs' season, Ben Zobrist delivered the best line of the Cubs' season.

As the top of the ninth inning was getting underway, the 37-year-old mild-mannered veteran was seen talking with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.

As Jorge De La Rosa finished his warm-up pitches and the inning was about to start, suddenly Zobrist and Cuzzi got animated and the next thing anybody knew, Zobrist was slapped with his first-ever ejection.

"When you have good, quality at-bats as a hitter and you feel like it's kinda taken away from you, you want some sort of an answer," Zobrist said. "Or you want to be assured that they're gonna go back and make an adjustment and that's what I asked for.

"It was met with, basically, he didn't want to talk about that. He didn't want me to tell him that. I just basically said, 'Well that's why we want an electronic strike zone.'"

MIC. DROP.

This came after a passionate discussion between the two men in the bottom of the sixth inning when Zobrist was called out on strikes on a full count pitch he thought was clearly off the plate. On that play, Joe Maddon came out to intercede and was ejected, but Zobrist walked back to the dugout to collect himself and remained in the game.

So before his next at-bat, Zobrist wanted to say his piece. A calm discussion transformed into something more and while Zobrist didn't apologize for what he said, he was willing to admit his pride played a factor.

"It is what it is," he said. "I'm not gonna lie. When you're dealing with that and you're trying to have good, quality at-bats and you feel like it gets taken away from you, sometimes your pride gets in your way and you say things that are going to upset them. Obviously that upset him and he tossed me."

Zobrist's strikeout wasn't an altogether huge moment in the game, but the pitch — a breaking ball off from Jhoulys Chacin that started off the plate and remained off the plate — should've been Ball 4 and would've given the Cubs runners at first and second with nobody out for Jason Heyward. Sure, it was a 7-0 ballgame, but with the wind blowing out and the Cubs had 12 outs left, crazier things have happened (which Bote just proved).

The Cubs never went on to record another hit, but they didn't blame Cuzzi for that.

"Whenever Zo argues, as a manager, you better get your butt out there," Maddon said. "He's rare to be that way and eventually to get ejected, that's unfortunate. But regardless, there was a couple bad calls, but we gotta do a better job offensively. My god."

Zobrist said he's been more animated and riled up at other points in his career compared to Tuesday afternoon, but obviously that zinger was enough to get the job done to notch his first-ever ejection.

Almost a year ago to the day, Zobrist was very nearly tossed in a game against the Reds, but Maddon once again got in the middle.

This is the latest chapter in what has become a surprising trend of the Cubs vs. umpire debacle. 

For the third straight homestand, the Cubs have had an issue with the umpiring crew — from Javy Baez getting tossed against the Cardinals last month to Anthony Rizzo getting heated with Angel Hernandez two weekends ago to Maddon getting the boot a few days ago against the Nationals.

Only Rizzo's was related to balls and strikes, but between him and Zobrist — two guys who rarely argue — getting heated in the span of 9 days, it begs the question: Does Major League Baseball need an electronic strike zone?

"I'm just gonna leave it at that," Zobrist said. "I think that discussion will happen eventually. But I'm just gonna leave right now at the fact that I said that today. That's it."