Samardzija falters as Cubs fall to D-Backs


Samardzija falters as Cubs fall to D-Backs

By Jose M. Romero Contributor

PHOENIX The Cubs couldnt get to an emergency last-minute starting pitcher more than once, and their own starter, Jeff Samardzija, faltered after a strong first few innings in Chicagos 6-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night at Chase Field.

Cubs catcher Geovany Soto showed signs of getting his batting average back to a more respectable number with two hits, including a solo home run in the fourth inning that was crushed high over the yellow home run line in straightaway center field.

But Soto provided Chicagos only offensive highlight. Samardzija surrendered a two-run home run to Jason Kubel in the bottom of the fourth, and the tall right-hander couldnt get the third out of the fifth inning before Aaron Hill laced an opposite-field RBI single to right to drive in Arizonas third run.

Samardzija left the game without getting an out in the sixth, walking the first two hitters of the inning before Miguel Montero tripled into the right field corner to give the D-backs a four-run lead. Samardzija, in his first career start at Chase Field after five career relief appearances, gave up five earned runs on seven hits in five innings, striking out six.

The Cubs didnt get to face left-hander Joe Saunders, the scheduled Diamondbacks starter Friday who was scratched right before first pitch because, according to the Diamondbacks, he was unable to get loose in the bullpen.

Chicago (24-46) had been pretty successful against Saunders, with wins in Saunders only two previous starts against the Cubs. Instead, the Cubs got long reliever Josh Collmenter, a right-hander with an over-the-top delivery whod struggled as a starter earlier in the season but had held right-handed hitters to a .212 average going into Fridays game.

The Cubs had eight such hitters in the starting lineup, figuring theyd face Saunders.

After a 1-2-3 first inning, Collmenter walked Darwin Barney and Joe Mather to load the bases with one out, then struck out Luis Valbuena and Samardzija to escape the jam.

Collmenter struck out six in four innings and allowed only three hits, giving way to reliever Brad Ziegler in the fifth.

The Cubs had an opportunity to score against Ziegler in the fifth but left runners on second and third. They had runners at the corners with two out in the seventh, but the D-backs Bryan Shaw came on to get the last out of the inning, a sinking fly ball from Alfonso Soriano caught on the run in center field.

The Cubs last chance came in the eighth, but they left the bases loaded.

On the flip side, it was such a good night for the Diamondbacks that two relief pitchers recorded their first career major-league hits, Ziegler in the fifth he would come in to score and David Hernandez in the eighth.

Justin Uptons ground rule double in the seventh off Cubs reliever Jairo Asencio drove in Willie Bloomquist for the games final run, as the Cubs fell to 20-32 all-time against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

Bears still have much to prove after disappointing loss to Patriots

Bears still have much to prove after disappointing loss to Patriots

 Beating the, arguably, best coach and quarterback pairing in NFL history is a difficult enough task. Trying to do it while allowing two touchdowns on special teams? Good luck. 
The Bears will leave Soldier Field frustrated with their 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday for a number of reasons, but top of the list will be Cordarrelle Patterson’s 95-yard kickoff return score and a blocked Pat O’Donnell punt that was raced into the end zone by Kyle Van Noy. A special teams unit that had been solid all year — and forced a fumble on a Patterson kickoff return in the first quarter Sunday — suddenly became a disaster, allowing an uncharacteristically undisciplined Patriots side back into the game, and then ahead in it. 
Add in an inaccurate game from Mitch Trubisky — who completed 26 of 50 passes for 333 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions — and an uneventful afternoon for Khalil Mack and the pass rush, and the Bears had to scratch and claw to hang with New England. 
Interestingly, after all week hearing from Bears coaches and players about how they couldn’t let the Patriots take them out of their own game, it felt like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady did exactly that. Mack frequently dropped into coverage — but so did Leonard Floyd, so maybe it wasn’t all about Mack’s injured ankle. While Brady frequently got the ball out quick, when he didn’t he was rarely pressured. 
And on offense, Taylor Gabriel had the same number of targets (one) as offensive lineman Bradley Sowell until midway through the fourth quarter. Trubisky dazzled with his legs, covering over 70 yards on an eight-yard touchdown run and dancing his way to a 39-yard scramble that set up a touchdown in the third quarter. 
But Trubisky’s struggles were clear, with the second-year quarterback throwing two ill-advised passes that should’ve been picked off in the end zone and then underthrowing Anthony Miller in the fourth quarter, allowing Patriots safety Jonathan Jones to make a tremendous interception. New England drove 96 yards after that pick into the end zone, with Brady taking apart a defense that missed two tackles on a 55-yarder to Josh Gordon, extinguishing any hope the Bears had of a comeback.
While Trubisky did lead a scoring drive after Adrian Amos assisted Kyle Fuller for an interception, cutting the deficit to seven. And Trubisky nearly pulled off a miracle with a Hail Mary to Kevin White, which was completed just shy of the end zone. 
The loss dropped the Bears to 3-3 and heaps plenty of pressure on Matt Nagy’s side to win seemingly-winnable games in the next three weeks: At home against the New York Jets, on the road against the Buffalo Bills and at home against the Detroit Lions. But then again: When the Jets come to town next weekend, it’ll have been nearly a month since the Bears’ last win. How the Bears fare over these next three games will be a clear window into if this team is a legitimate contender or one that faded after a strong start. 

WATCH: Mitchell Trubisky runs like Michael Vick for 8-yard touchdown

WATCH: Mitchell Trubisky runs like Michael Vick for 8-yard touchdown

The New England Patriots defense wasn’t giving Mitchell Trubisky many options through the air, so he decided to take matters into his own hands at Soldier Field.

The young quarterback’s legs were the Bears’ most-effective weapon in the first quarter, as Trubisky led the team with 35 rushing yards on four carries in the opening period of play.

He capped it off with an eight-yard touchdown scramble that had him looking like Michael Vick on the field.

The Bears will need to have a more well-rounded offensive attack to keep up with teams like the Patriots, but Trubisky found what was working in the first quarter.

Perhaps most importantly, he’s been smart and safe with his running, opting to slide and go to the ground on his big plays to avoid any big hits.

His legs continue to make this offense more dynamic, to keep up with top-notch opponents like New England.