Cubs

Red-hot Clippers match a franchise record

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Red-hot Clippers match a franchise record

From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers' franchise record-tying 11th consecutive victory had owner Donald Sterling leading a "hip, hip hooray" chant in the locker room.Sterling grabbed the hand of coach Vinny Del Negro and held it up, exhorting his team, "Let's hear it for the coach." Then he told Del Negro, "Vinny, give me a hug" and the two men embraced."Eleven in a row. Not bad, is it?" Sterling said.Blake Griffin scored 18 points and Jamal Crawford added 17 in the Clippers' 93-77 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night that tied the franchise mark set by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves."That's pretty special, especially to do it at home," said Chris Paul, who had 10 points and 12 assists, giving him 5,003 in his career."The food tastes better, the music sounds better, you sleep a little better," Paul said. "Everything seems better when you're winning."DeAndre Jordan added 12 points for the Clippers, whose 19-6 record is tied with New York for second-best in the NBA.Robin Lopez scored 14 of his 22 points in the first quarter and rookie Anthony Davis added 16 for the Hornets. They lost their ninth in a row and 11th in 12 games while falling to 2-10 on the road. They were the last team to beat the Clippers on Nov. 26."We knew they were going to come out with a lot of energy. They made shots that they didn't make the last time we played them, and they got a lot of easy buckets," Davis said. "They've got a great team. They're all capable of scoring the ball, from the starters to the bench."Four of the Clippers' five starters took the fourth quarter off, with only Willie Green coming back in after having helped build a 19-point lead to start the final period. But the Hornets couldn't get anything going against the second unit that has played a significant role in the Clippers' current run."We've been getting off to good starts and not putting so much pressure on our bench," Paul said.The Hornets staged a brief rally to open the third. Davis scored five in a row in their 12-9 run that drew them within seven. The Clippers took over from there, outscoring New Orleans 18-6 to end the third leading 75-56. They made 8 of 10 free throws, while Paul's fast-break dunk highlighted the spurt. Griffin grabbed his teammate as Paul swung wildly from the basket."Oh, did I dunk tonight?'" said Paul, the least likely to dunk on a Clippers team nicknamed "Lob City."Blake drew laughs when he said, "You saw I had to help him down.""They really feed off their fast break," Ryan Anderson said. "They're a team that runs, and when they get turnovers they break out and find open guys at the other end. They did that the whole second half and they took advantage of our mistakes."Paul fed Griffin for a layup late in the second quarter to notch his 5,000th assist, triggering a standing ovation. Griffin got fouled on the play and made the free throw. It came during an 11-0 run that provided the Clippers' largest lead to that point, 46-30. Paul's alley-oop pass to Griffin led to a fast-break dunk for the Clippers' final basket of the half, with them leading 48-38."I didn't know what everyone was cheering for," Paul said.Griffin said, "It's cool to be part of that. It's definitely not the last. I'm looking forward to 10,000."The Hornets kept it close in the opening quarter, when they trailed 22-16 after Lopez scored 14 points. He was scoreless in the second quarter when he picked up his third foul.NOTES:Del Negro said Jordan turned his ankle during the game. ... At 27 years, 228 days, Paul is the third-youngest player in NBA history to reach 5,000 assists, trailing Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. He is the fifth-fastest to reach the milestone, needing 510 games. ... New Orleans hasn't won since Dec. 3 against Milwaukee. ... Hornets G Eric Gordon missed the game against his former team because of a sore right knee. He smiled when Clippers fans chanted his name in the final 2 minutes. ... Returning home from a four-game trip, the Clippers had a moment of silence for the victims of last week's school shootings in Connecticut.

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

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USA Today

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

For the second time in 1998, Sosa went back-to-back games with multiple home runs. After going yard twice on June 19 of that season, Slammin' Sammy again sent two balls into the bleachers on June 20.

He singlehandedly beat the Phillies that night, driving in 5 runs in a 9-4 Cubs victory.

But that wasn't the most impressive feat of the day from Sosa. His second homer was actually measured at a whopping 500 feet! It was the longest of the season, but not the longest of his career. On June 24, 2003, Sosa hit a homer at Wrigley measured at 511 feet.

The back-to-back big games raised Sosa's season OPS to 1.083 with a ridiculous .685 slugging percentage. He began June 1998 with a .608 slugging percentage.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings on June 20, 1998 to pick up his 7th big-league victory. As Wood marched to the National League Rookie of the Year that season, he finished with a 13-6 record and 233 strikeouts in only 166.2 innings for a career-high 12.6 K/9 rate.