Cubs

Rees guides Notre Dame to victory, but Golson still the starter

893695.png

Rees guides Notre Dame to victory, but Golson still the starter

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame is off to its best start in a decade, and Everett Golson is still its starting quarterback.

In the second quarter of Notre Dame's 13-6 win over No. 18 Michigan, Golson was pulled in favor of Tommy Rees, just as he was two weeks ago late in the Irish's 20-17 win over Purdue. Rees' insertion into that game was explained in baseball terms by coach Brian Kelly, who said it was similar to a manager pulling his starter for a closer at the end of a contest.

But since closers generally aren't used in the fourth inning of baseball games, this instance was different. Golson had thrown two interceptions, and both were potentially costly. The first came backed up in Notre Dame territory, the second came in its own end zone.

"I don't really believe it's a matter of confidence as much as he just has to settle down," Kelly said. "He was not as comfortable as I could have liked after playing the Michigan State game, where he was in an incredible environment. He just needs to settle down a little bit, and he's going to be fine."

But Golson wasn't appearing to be fine on Saturday, and Notre Dame's coaches turned to Rees, who completed eight of 11 passes for 115 yards. More importantly, Rees didn't turn the ball over, allowing Notre Dame's stout defense to hold Michigan to just a pair of field goals.

"He's just a great asset to have if you need him," Kelly said. "To close out a game, we'll continue to go that route. We'd like to continue to develop Everett so we don't have to do that, but we're still going to try to win football games any way possible."

Rees has done plenty of 180s in the last few months, going from Notre Dame's turnover-plagued starter in 2011 to off the depth chart completely to sliding in as Golson's safety net. Rees threw his share of back-breaking interceptions last year, but in 2012 he's gained the trust of his coaching staff to hold on to the football.

Golson hasn't got there yet.

"Having dealt with poor performances and coming back, I'm going to give him my two cents," Rees said of what he'll say to Golson. "He'll listen and we'll continue to work hard and get ready."

The Golson-Rees relationship has grown ever since the pair roomed together during fall camp. Back then, Rees wasn't under consideration for the No. 1 quarterback job, as he was relegated to the sidelines thanks to a one-game suspension. Golson lauded Rees' attitude during August, and a month later it was Rees lauding Golson's attitude toward being temporarily benched.

"He was real supportive, and he talked to me about some things he was seeing," Rees said. "He couldn't have been more positive.

"I didn't know him all that well before spring ball and camp, but he's a great kid. He's got high character. I've really enjoyed getting to know him and being close, and I think our relationship is going to continue to grow and continue to get better."

Saturday's contest may be a microcosm for Notre Dame's season: a defense-oriented, grind-it-out victory in which the offense doesn't do anything special. The Irish forced five Denard Robinson turnovers, four of which were interceptions, the product of a swarming defense that put pressure of the star Michigan quarterback all night long. And with a seven-point lead and time winding down, Notre Dame bled the clock out.

Rees' 38-yard strike to Tyler Eifert sealed the deal, and stood in stark contrast to the myriad of woes that faced Notre Dame late in games during the 2011 season.

"That's what different about this team. Last year, we couldn't do that," said running back Theo Riddick, who also played an important role in the fourth quarter Saturday. "It was so many games that we lost just because we couldn't pull it out. This year, we have gained that mental capacity and determination overall to just do our job and settle down when we know what we have to do."

Notre Dame didn't execute with Golson under center in the fourth quarter. Instead, it was Rees, although Kelly insisted Golson is the team's starting quarterback going forward, even if there's the potential for him to be pulled in favor of Rees.

"Regardless of what you say, Everett's our guy," Riddick said. "Tommy did a great job today and we commend him for rallying us up and getting this W."

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

The last time Jake Arrieta pitched at Wrigley Field, his night ended with Cubs fans giving him a rousing standing ovation. The former Cubs right hander tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, leading the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS—their only win against the Los Angeles Dodgers that series.

Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a visitor on Monday night, making his first start against the Cubs since joining the Philadelphia Phillies last season. Ironically, Arrieta’s counterpart for the night was Yu Darvish, who ultimately replaced Arrieta in the Cubs starting rotation.

Despite now donning Phillies red, Cubs fans once again showed their love for Arrieta, giving him a lengthy standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance. Darvish even stepped off the mound in respect for the moment.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters postgame. “[I’m] very happy that our fans would acknowledge him like that. Yu stepped away from the mound nicely. Jake deserved it.”

Arrieta tipped his helmet in appreciation for the crowd, taking in the moment for more than 30 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box. After the game, he told reporters that moment brought back memories of his time with the Cubs.

“That was something that really brought back great memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” Arrieta said. “[I’m] very appreciative of that. I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago, I really can’t.”

Arrieta took fans back to his Cubs tenure on Monday, throwing six innings of one run ball in the Phillies’ 5-4 10-inning win. Although the 33-year-old didn’t pick up the victory, he matched Darvish—who threw six innings of three-run ball—pitch by-pitch.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noted how well Arrieta handled his emotions throughout the night.

“I thought he handled the emotions really well. I thought he was in control of the game even when we were down,” Kapler said to reporters. “He always maintained his poise and he just got stronger as the outing went on and that’s why we were able to have him take down the sixth inning for us.”

It’s well-documented how Arrieta’s career improved for the better after the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. When the Cubs acquired him, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts). He finished his Cubs career with a 2.73 ERA in 128 regular season starts. He also won five postseason games with the Cubs, including Games 2 and 6 of the 2016 World Series.

Despite moving on in free agency, Arrieta spoke highly of his time with the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago.

“Cubs fans all across the country, all across the world, they really respect and appreciate what guys are able to do here for them,” he said. “It means a lot, it really does.

"I’ll never forget this city, the fan base, the organization, everything that they did for me. It was 4 1/2 incredible years of my career.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish was one pitch away.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning, Darvish threw Phillies catcher JT Realmuto a 2-2 cutter. It made sense - Darvish had been spotting that pitch well all night, and the Phillies were averaging a paltry 79.8 mph exit velocity against it.

With one strike standing between Darvish and a 6-inning shutout, Realmuto took Darvish’s cutter and sent it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. A 2-RBI triple from César Hernández followed. In the blink of an eye, what was shaping up to be one of Darvish’s finest moments in Chicago was instead reduced to yet another start spent searching for silver linings.

“Really good. He was outstanding tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He pitched really well.

“He had really good stuff. He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding - even better than what he looked like in Cincinnati. I thought that was probably his best game for us to date.”

Darvish has continued to lean heavily on his cutter this season, more so than any year prior. After throwing it 13 percent of the time last season, he’s going to that pitch almost 25 percent of the time now. If that holds, it’d beat his previous career-high, set in 2013, by six percentage points.

All things considered, that pitch has actually been good for him this season. It’s his go-to offering when he needs to induce weak contact, and batters are hitting .125 against it so far. He gets batters to chase cutters 29.5 percent of the time, the most of any pitch he throws. While he has admitted in games past that he relies too heavily on his fastball, Maddon sees no issues with the new trend.

“I have no concerns with that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s different ways for pitchers to attack hitters, and if it's successful, I really would not change a whole lot.”

Though the night was dedicated to celebrating one of the franchises most beloved pitchers, it was one of their most maligned that continued to show signs of figuring it out. He’s put together back-to-back starts with three or less walks for the first time this season, and has allowed two or less runs in three of the last five.

The pitcher even stepped off the mound during Arrieta’s first at-bat, in order to let the standing ovation continue on.

“He’s is a legend in Chicago,” Darvish said after the game. “And I pitched against him and pitched pretty good, so it makes me confident.”

The bullpen again struggled on Monday night, as the trio of Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, and Kyle Ryan allowed two runs on five hits, including the game-winning solo home run from Realmuto in the 10th. For a moment it looked like the Cubs had a win wrapped up when Brach got outfielder Andrew McCutchen to bite on a two-strike slider, but was (probably incorrectly) called a checked swing.  He would eventually draw a walk, leading to Jean Segura’s game-tying single.

“On the field, I thought for sure [that McCutchen swung],” Brach said. “Looking at the first base umpire, I was a little taken aback. That’s why I went off the mound - just to regather myself, because I didn’t want to let the emotion get to me there.

“It’s a 50-50 call, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream