MLB pitcher nearly throws 2nd career no-hitter

784044.jpg

MLB pitcher nearly throws 2nd career no-hitter

From Comcast SportsNet
CHICAGO (AP) -- One thought kept crossing A.J. Burnett's mind as he made his dramatic push for a no-hitter. He wanted it -- badly. Instead, he will have to settle for a close call and maybe the best performance of his career. Burnett pitched a one-hitter, Neil Walker drove in five runs and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat Chicago 5-0 on Tuesday night, hours after the Cubs traded ace Ryan Dempster. Burnett started thinking about a no-hitter in the third or fourth inning. "I'm not going to lie," he said. "So, it's one of those things that you want to do, you want to take pride in, but at the same time a lot of luck's got to go into it. I had a lot of great plays behind me. ... Bottom line is it's a W' for us." Burnett just about stole the spotlight after the Cubs traded their best pitcher to Texas just before the non-waiver deadline. His bid for a second career no-hitter and the sixth in the majors this season ended with two outs in the eighth. He had already hit Darwin Barney in the helmet with one out before striking out Luis Valbuena, but his no-hit bid ended at the hands of a rookie when pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas lined a 3-2 pitch to right for a single after two close pitches were called balls. Burnett said he was angry about a 2-2 curve that just missed outside, and he appeared to be yelling at the umpire after the hit. But he struck out David DeJesus with runners on first and third to end the inning. That's probably not much consolation for the veteran, who pitched a wild no-hitter for the Marlins against San Diego on May 12, 2001. He walked nine in that game, two in this one while striking out eight. "I always think about it," he said. "I want to clean that one up. That was a wild one." That a Miami-area native, who was 13-years-old back then, broke it up was a bit of an ironic twist. Not since Sandy Koufax did it to them in September 1965 have the Cubs been no-hit, and the last no-hitter at Wrigley Field came when Milt Pappas pitched one for Chicago against San Diego in September 1972. Burnett sure made it interesting, though. His curve was as sharp as it's ever been, and he just missed the eighth no-hitter in franchise history. "I thought he had a shot," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was just so efficient, pinpoint command. He pitched the left-handers so extremely well tonight. Fastball gloveside, his curveball was sharp for strikes, for chase. Great tempo -- 25 out of 31 first-pitch strikes. The pitch count was in a great place. That's one of the best games I've seen pitched ever." Cubs manager Dale Sveum was impressed, too. "He probably threw 60, 65 curveballs," he said. "Even his fastball, he kept it out of the middle of the plate. We hit a few balls hard. A couple balls without the wind might have been home runs, but he pitched a heck of a game." He retired the first 11 batters before walking Anthony Rizzo, and as the game wore on, the sense that something special was happening filled the old ballpark. There was a loud gasp when Alfonso Soriano sent a drive to deep left-center in the seventh that Andrew McCutchen caught, and first baseman Garrett Jones then made a sliding stop on Bryan LaHair's grounder to end the inning. The Cubs got some relief when Cardenas finally broke through, but even that was tempered by the reality that they got shut down. Cardenas faced Burnett in late May and didn't do so well, going 0-for-3 with two errors in a 1-0 loss. "I remember him and seeing how he was working throughout that game," he said. "When I was able to get that hit, it was great but it was very short-lived because we lost 5-0. ... It's definitely sweet to break up the no-hitter here at our place. That's something you don't want to be a part of." While Burnett cruised along, Casey Coleman had a rough night after being recalled from the minors. Pitching in Dempster's place, he lasted just 4 2-3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits. Walker quickly put the Cubs ahead in the first when he drove a 2-1 pitch to right for a grand slam -- the second of his career and second at Wrigley Field. He also had a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Burnett's performance overshadowed the big news before the game, with Dempster going to the Rangers for two prospects. The Pirates were a busy bunch, too. They acquired former All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez from Florida and sent third baseman Casey McGehee to the Yankees for reliever Chad Qualls. Notes: Along with Coleman, the Cubs also recalled Cardenas and C Welington Castillo from Triple-A Iowa before the game. ... GM Jed Hoyer said it might not be long before Josh Vitters is called up from Triple-A. He was batting .298 with 15 homers. ... In the Sanchez deal, Pittsburgh also got minor league pitcher Kyle Kaminska for minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and the extra draft pick for 2013 that the Pirates won in the competitive balance lottery for financially weaker teams. ... The Pirates recalled RHP Daniel McCutchen from Triple-A Indianapolis to take Brad Lincoln's spot in the bullpen. Lincoln was dealt to Toronto for Travis Snider on Monday.

James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

James Shields offered a taxed bullpen a significant boost on Tuesday night.

The right-hander pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the White Sox offense provided him with enough support for a 3-0 victory over the Cubs in front of 39,553 at U.S. Cellular Field. Shields lowered his ERA over his last seven starts to 2.11 as he worked around four hits and four walks with five strikeouts. Shields threw strikes on 70 of 117 pitches as the White Sox won their fourth in a row, including their second straight over the Cubs. David Robertson recorded his 24th save in 28 tries.

A turnaround that began June 23rd in Boston reached its high point Tuesday.

Since an atrocious three-start introduction, Shields has rediscovered the form that made him one of the top starters in the American League for the better part of a decade.

With the bullpen in need of a huge lift after throwing 19 1/3 innings in the previous four games, Shields delivered. The Cubs made him work early as he needed 56 pitches for the first three innings. But Shields got a pair of quick innings in the middle and pushed deep into the second of four straight meetings with the Cubs.

[SHOP: Get your White Sox gear right here]

Only twice did Shields find himself in any trouble and he skillfully dodged it in both instances. After a catcher’s interference call on Dioner Navarro loaded the bases with two outs in the second, Shields induced a foul out to the screen on a 3-2 pitch against Dexter Fowler. Starting there, he retired 12 of 13 batters into the sixth. Shields put the next two men on base but got Javy Baez to foul out down the line with the aid of a nice catch by Tim Anderson.

Anderson also began nice inning-ending double play in the seventh inning, which allowed Shields to return in the eighth. He retired two before issuing a walk and exiting to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd.

Shields has a 2.11 ERA in 47 innings over his last seven starts.

The White Sox took some pressure off Shields with a run in the first inning. Shields, who entered ranked 130th among 138 qualified starting pitchers with 3.2 runs per game, found himself ahead 1-0 when Jose Abreu took advantage of a leadoff walk by Adam Eaton and a Tim Anderson single with an RBI base hit of his own. The White Sox left the bases loaded but made Hendricks work.

Hendricks rebounded and retired 10 of 12 into the fifth inning. He struck out seven through four innings and mostly held the White Sox in check.

But Adam Eaton gave Shields some extra cushion in the fifth when he blasted a solo homer to right to make it a 2-0 game. Eaton’s seventh homer traveled an estimated 395 feet.

The White Sox added another run in the sixth inning after Todd Frazier’s two-out single (a pop up to medium right that bounced off the glove of Anthony Rizzo) got things started. Frazier stole second against reliever Travis Wood, who then walked three straight batters, including Tyler Saladino, to force in a third run.

No late magic as Cubs shut out by White Sox on South Side

No late magic as Cubs shut out by White Sox on South Side

Aroldis Chapman was in uniform for the Cubs Tuesday night, but Joe Maddon never got a chance to employ his shiny new toy.

After posting late rallies the last two games, the Cubs offense was noticeably absent on Chicago's South Side, dropping a second straight game in this Crosstown matchup 3-0 in front of 39,553 fans at U.S. Cellular Field.

White Sox starter James Shields scattered four singles and four walks in 7.2 innings, using 117 pitches to shut down the Cubs lineup.

The first White Sox hitter of the game scored as Adam Eaton drew a walk and was eventually plated on Jose Abreu's RBI single three batters later.

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks settled down from there, allowing only a solo homer to Eaton in the fifth.

But the wheels came off for the Cubs in the sixth inning as Hendricks departed following two quick outs and a bloop hit from Todd Frazier that glanced off the glove of Anthony Rizzo in shallow right field.

Travis Wood came on to relieve Hendricks, but walked the first three hitters he faced to force in Frazier with the third run of the game.

The Cubs' best opportunity to score came in the second when they loaded the bases with two outs, but Dexter Fowler fouled out behind home plate. After that, only one baserunner reached second base all game for the Cubs.

Kris Bryant said before the game he was itching at another chance to face Shields after the veteran pitcher welcomed Bryant to the big leagues with a couple of strikeouts in the latter's debut last April at Wrigley Field.

But Shields once again got the best of Bryant Tuesday night, striking out the MVP candidate three times in four trips to the plate.

Bryant is now just 1-for-10 against Shields with seven strikeouts.

The Crosstown series moves to the North Side Wednesday night for the final two games.

Watch: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini head coach Lovie Smith

Watch: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini head coach Lovie Smith

It's the start of a new era at Illinois.

Lovie Smith has returned to the Land of Lincoln, the one-time head coach of the Bears taking over the reins of the Illini football program.

After several years of losing — and just four bowl appearances in the past 14 years — Illinois gave fans plenty of reason to be excited with this high-profile hire, giving the program instant credibility and a new feeling of optimism by bringing in an experienced NFL winner.

Smith met the media and ceremoniously joined the brotherhood of Big Ten coaches Tuesday during the second day of Big Ten Media Days and talked about his vision, recruiting in his old stomping grounds and his work to turn the Illini around.

CSNChicago.com sat down with Smith for a 1-on-1 interview Tuesday, and you can check out the interview in the video above.