Cubs

Randy Wells accepts all the blame for loss to Phillies

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Randy Wells accepts all the blame for loss to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA Randy Wells snapped his head back in frustration as he watched the ball bounce off the chalk into the right-field corner.

This is a guy who has lived almost his entire professional career on the margins, a 38th-round pick, converted from catcher, the sixth starter in a five-man rotation.

Wells wanted to make a good impression on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, to give the Cubs something to think about while they make their decisions.

Beneath a steady rain, it all unraveled in the fourth inning of a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies that didnt help change the perception of Wells.

Wells had a no-hitter going until Hunter Pence led off with a double down the left-field line. He walked two batters to load the bases for Carlos Ruiz, who lined a two-run single past diving shortstop Starlin Castro.

Wells got too fine, lost control of his changeup and kept the inning alive by walking the pitcher, Joe Blanton. Moments later, Jimmy Rollins sliced that two-out, two-run double that nicked the right-field line.

Obviously, the walk to the pitcher is just unacceptable, Wells said, and it makes me want to throw up.

If that ball goes foul, well, who knows what might have happened.

But Wells has to get by on command and he hasnt looked especially sharp in these two spot starts since being called up from Triple-A Iowa. Hes been out of character, walking nine in 8 23 innings.

Its mind-boggling, Wells said. You can watch the game or watch the tape and see its obviously a mechanical thing. Runners get on and the tension gets high and you kind of rush and speed up and just start burying them. Theyre not even close. You got to make pitches when your back is against the wall and I just didnt do it.

Its atrocious and unacceptable and I feel like I let myself and the team down. Its just really piss-poor.

That ended the night for Wells (0-1, 6.23 ERA), who gave up four runs in 3 23 innings and has no clue what the Cubs are going to do next.

Im not going to talk about that, dude, he said. Its out of my control.

Manager Dale Sveum said it looks like everythings on track for Ryan Dempster (strained right quad) to come off the disabled list and start on Thursday in Cincinnati.

Thats when the Cubs hope Kerry Wood (right shoulder fatigue) will be activated and rejoin the bullpen, though it depends on how he responds in Mondays simulated game.

That again leaves Wells up in the air, perhaps looking at a spot as the long man in the bullpen.

Well cross that bridge when we get to it on Thursday and see where were at, Sveum said. Hes definitely in the mix for that spot.

At this point, the Cubs (7-14) arent giving their pitchers any real margin for error. They couldnt generate much offense against Blanton, who allowed two runs in 7 13 innings.

The Phillies (10-11) have struggled to score runs and welcomed the help with franchise players Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the disabled list.

It had to be deeply disappointing for Wells, who wants to prove the doubters wrong and get his career back on track.

I dont know if we sent him down to work on his command, Sveum said. It was more of just a numbers thing as much as anything. But we got to pitch in the strike zone or youre not going to have much success at this level.

Why Cubs' serious, effective approach in COVID-19 pandemic might not be enough

Why Cubs' serious, effective approach in COVID-19 pandemic might not be enough

Giants catcher Buster Posey is a three-time champion, six-time All-Star and former National League MVP.

Is he a Hall of Famer? That’s the big question, right?

Not anymore. Not after Friday, when he officially opted out of playing baseball during a pandemic.

That changed the big Buster Posey question to whether he’s baseball’s smartest guy in the room.

On a day the Cubs delayed their workouts for the second time in a week over COVID-19 testing issues, Johns Hopkins University reported a single-day record of new coronavirus cases (more than 63,900) for the United States for the second consecutive day.

It’s two weeks until major league openers.

Posey, who expressed concern for the past week, was open about his decision, citing the risk when it came to the premature newborn twins he and his wife have adopted and who remain in a neonatal intensive care unit.

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He’s one of 11 players who have chosen not to play this season. Others such as superstar Mike Trout of the Angels — whose wife is due with their first child next month — continue to straddle the fence on whether to play.

And players such as Cubs star Kris Bryant expressed concern and anxiety over MLB’s first-week testing problems and at one point considered opting out before deciding to commit to trying to play.

MORE: Why Kris Bryant doesn't feel 'safe' and why his voice should matter most to MLB

“We’re taking every safeguard that we possibly can, and I’m proud of the way the players have been responding,” said Cubs president Theo Epstein, whose team is the only one, at least in the National League, without a positive test among players or coaches since intake testing began.

“But we can’t let our guard down, and we can’t fool ourselves into thinking we can control all the variables here.”

The variables, and certainly the risk, are constantly changing.

In Florida, one of the hardest hit states for coronavirus surges, Miami-Dade County reported an astounding 28-percent positive rate for its Friday test results — down from 33.5 percent Thursday.

That, of course, is the home of the Miami Marlins.

Two more of the hardest hit states across the sun belt, Texas (105) and California (149) reported one-day records for coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday.

They are home to seven more big-league teams, including Posey’s and Trout’s.

Again, it’s two weeks until major league openers — when teams leave their individual safe zones and start to travel.

Will Trout still want to play by then? Will Nationals closer Sean Doolittle? The Brewers’ Ryan Braun? Or anybody else who has dipped one toe into this experiment as they’ve talked publicly about their concerns and reservations?

And just how tight will MLB’s testing ship — and shipping of results — be by then?

The Cubs by all appearances are doing it right, from masks in the clubhouse and dugouts to social distancing and meetings among players to discuss being accountable to each other and staying out of bars and restaurants when they’re away from the field.

But what about the cluster of positives among the Phillies, or the startling virus rates in Arizona — or that one player in Cleveland who decided to party without a mask during the holiday weekend?

“That’s the reality of living in this country in 2020, is you’re never divorced from concern, no matter what you’re doing,” Epstein said. “Whether you’re home with your family or running errands or working from home or trying to pull off a baseball season in the middle of a pandemic, the subtext of everything that you do is concern.

“Not just concern for yourself, not just concern for your families, but concern for your teammates, your colleagues, your brothers and sisters, your community, the country as a whole and the world as a whole — although certainly the rest of the world has seemingly managed their way into a better place at the moment than we have.”

As countries through much of Europe and parts of Asia have effectively mobilized at a federal level to stem the spread of the virus, the United States has experienced a summer surge within what experts consider the first of possibly multiple waves of the pandemic, the death toll climbing past 135,000 — close to twice the total of Brazil, which has the second-highest number of virus-related deaths.

“We don’t have a huge margin for error,” Epstein said of the league’s safety and health protocols designed by the only major professional league trying to play games at all of its home sites. “As we move forward, as we continue to try to pull this off, we have to continue to find a way to keep our players safe and healthy.”

Against a moving target. Without any way to know what direction it might take tomorrow, much less August.

“The virus is the only thing in control right now,” Epstein said.

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Where Blackhawks stand after NHL rules play-in series will count as playoff stats

Where Blackhawks stand after NHL rules play-in series will count as playoff stats

The Blackhawks are officially back in the playoffs.

In a joint statement by the NHL and NHL Players' Association announcing the ratification of the Return to Play plan and Collective Bargaining Agreement extension, it was revealed that all player and team stats from the round-robin tournament and qualifying round will be counted towards the 2020 postseason, and that teams participating in a best-of-five series during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers are considered to have made the postseason.

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It's the first postseason berth in three years for the Blackhawks, who made the playoffs nine consecutive seasons from 2009-17 before missing out the past two. That's good news for Chicago, but a shortened regular season comes at a price for some individuals on the roster, although they probably won't lose too much sleep over it.

  • Jonathan Toews is one of three active players and only 17 in NHL history to score at least 20 goals in each of his first 12 seasons, and he was on pace to make it 13 but finished the pause with 18. Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin are now the only two active players whose streak have reached 13 seasons.
     
  • Patrick Kane was on pace to finish with 98 points but won't get a crack at hitting the 100-point mark for the third time in his career.
     
  • Dominik Kubalik scored his 30th goal in the final game before the season was put on pause to become the sixth rookie in Blackhawks history to reach that number, but he was on pace for 35 and was robbed of an opportunity to tie Jeremy Roenick for third-most on the team's rookie list; only Steve Larmer (43) and Darryl Sutter (40) have scored more than 35.
     
  • After scoring 28 goals his rookie season and 41 his second year, Alex DeBrincat finished the 2019-20 campaign with 18 tallies, falling short of a third straight 20-goal season.


Now for the good news:

  • Corey Crawford ranks No. 1 in franchise history with 48 playoff wins. He needs two more to become just the 20th goaltender in NHL history to hit the 50-win mark. Only three other active netminders rank ahead of Crawford: Marc-Andre Fleury (78), Henrik Lundqvist (61) and Tuukka Rask (50).
     
  • Kane ranks fourth in franchise history with 123 postseason points; he needs six more to tie Bobby Hull (129) for third.
     
  • Toews ranks sixth in franchise history with 110 postseason points; he needs one more to tie Steve Larmer (111) for fifth.
     
  • Toews is also three games away from tying Denis Savard (131) for second on the Blackhawks' all-time postseason games played list; only Stan Mikita (155) has appeared in more. Kane ranks fifth at 127, Keith is sixth at 126 and Seabrook is seventh at 123.
     
  • Connor Murphy is FINALLY set to appear in his first postseason contest after going six straight years without one. Only four active players and 10 in NHL history have had a longer drought than Murphy, who's played in 444 regular-season games.