Samardzija's game continues to mature


Samardzija's game continues to mature

Walking the first three batters is not the way to start a game. Jeff Samardzija knows that. But hes learning that's no time to panic.

Instead Samardzija settled down, pitching his way out of the jam with minimal damage, giving up only one run. That proved pretty important in a 3-2 Cubs victory Saturday.

As a pitcher, Im starting to learn its not over until its over, Samardzija said. You need to claw your way and keep as many runs off the board as you can. You never know whats going to happen on offense.

With the bases loaded, Samardzija got Carlos Beltran out on a grounder to second that scored Skip Schumaker. Lance Berkman then struck out before Yadier Molina grounded out to end the threat.

Im happy I came out of that inning just giving up one, Samardzija said. Theyve got a lot of pop in the middle of that lineup, so you need to get those early outs. It kind of calmed me down, though, to tell you the truth. It gives you a little confidence boost when you get out of that.

Samardzija was coming off his best start of the season when he pitched eight shutout innings allowing only one hit in a 2-0 victory at Pittsburgh on Monday. After a disastrous June in which he was 0-4 with a 10.41 ERA, Samardzija has only one loss in his past five starts (2-1, two no-decisions).

At one point Saturday, Samardzija retired 10 of 11 batters.

The bottom line was he got all the outs when he had to, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. He did a nice job. He kept us right in the game. The first inning and his last inning, he was in a big mess and he got out of both of them with minimal damage.

The Cardinals tied the game in that sixth after Samardzija once again loaded the bases. This time he did it with two walks and a single, but the results were the same. The Cardinals only scored once.

Berkman, who started the rally with a one-out walk, scored on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Descalso. Samardzija struck out Cardinals starter Joe Kelly to end that threat.

That allowed the Cubs to earn the win with a two-out, bunt single by Reed Johnson that scored Tony Campana in the seventh.

Samardzija left after six innings, having allowed two runs on three hits with six walks and seven strikeouts in a 104-pitch performance.

For us to hold them down to two runs, thats saying something about Jeff, first off all, who didnt have his best stuff today, Johnson said.

Its all part of Samardzijas continuing education as a big-league starter.

Back in the day, it probably would have been a different (result) for me, Samardzija said. But Im starting to learn how to pitch in those situations and how to get out of them with minimal damage.

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers


Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.

Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”

The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”

Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.

He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.

“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”

After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

The Bears were getting used to life in the big chair. Chicago was favored in each of their last four games, but it all came crashing down at the hands of Brock Osweiler in overtime last week.

The Miami Dolphins pulled off the upset, and now the Bears return home to take on one of the best teams in the league.

Even if they had won in Miami, Chicago likely still would have been underdogs to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but as it stands, Bill Belichick and company are favored by three on most major sportsbooks, according to Vegas Insider.

The line initially opened at Patriots by 2.5, but it would seem that money placed on New England pushed the spread a little more in the Bears’ favor.

Vegas is expecting another higher-scoring game for both teams, with the over/under sitting at 49. Given that the Patriots have scored at least 38 points in each of their last three games, the Bears’ defense may have some trouble keeping this game low on the scoreboard.

In Week 6, home underdogs went 4-1 against the spread and 3-2 straight up. According to Bet America, home underdogs have covered in 20 of their 30 games this season, which bodes well for a Bears team facing a tough task at Soldier Field.