Astros torch Garza, Cubs' skid hits 7

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Astros torch Garza, Cubs' skid hits 7

HOUSTON (AP) Jason Castro and Chris Johnson each hit three-run homers and Bud Norris threw seven scoreless innings to give the Houston Astros an 8-4 victory over the slumping Chicago Cubs on Monday night.Castro's home run came in the second inning and Johnson added his in the third, to hand the Cubs their season-high seventh loss in a row.Jed Lowrie homered for the second straight game, hitting a solo shot in the seventh inning to give the Astros three homers in a game for the second time in three games.Norris (5-1) allowed five hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings. He has allowed just one earned run in his current four-game winning streak.Cubs starter Matt Garza (2-2) yielded five hits and season-high seven runs in three innings - his shortest start of the season.Johnson hit a two-out single in the second inning before a walk by J.D. Martinez to set up Castro's homer, which broke an 0-for-9 streak. His first home run of the season landed several rows up in the lower deck in right field, where a man wearing a Cubs shirt fell backward trying to catch it, to put Houston up 3-0.
Lowrie singled in the third and later stole second base and advanced to third on an error by catcher Koyie Hill. He scored on a single with two outs by Carlos Lee to make it 4-0. Brian Bogusevic walked before Johnson's 429-foot shot to the deepest part of the park in center field pushed Houston's lead to 7-0.Chicago didn't score until the ninth inning when reliever Enerio Del Rosario allowed three straight hits, capped by an RBI single by pinch hitter Reed Johnson to make it 8-1. He was replaced by Fernando Abad, who gave up a run-scoring single by David DeJesus.Wilton Lopez replaced Abad with one out before Blake Lalli got his first major league hit with a two-out, two RBI single to make it 8-4. Joe Mather's flyball to Travis Buck ended Chicago's threat.DeJesus walked to start the fifth inning before Norris retired the next eight batters, striking out four. He didn't allow another man on base until DeJesus singled with two outs in the seventh inning, but he struck out Tony Campana to end the inning.Campana walked in the first and stole second and third base. But the Cubs came away empty when Bryan LaHair struck out to end the inning. Ian Stewart walked with one out in the fourth and reached third on a single by Hill with two outs. He was left stranded when Norris retired pinch-hitter Jeff Baker.Notes: Cubs manager Dale Sveum said catcher Wellington Castillo, who has a sprained knee ligament, was doing better on Monday, but wasn't healthy enough to return to the lineup. ... Houston optioned RHP Jordan Lyles to Triple-A Oklahoma City and recalled Del Rosario to take his spot on the roster on Monday. ... Astros CF Jordan Schafer missed his second straight game since injuring his lower right leg avoiding a collision Saturday night. But he said before the game that he was OK, and manager Brad Mills expects him back in the lineup Tuesday. ... Chicago left-hander Travis Wood is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday to start against J.A. Happ when these teams play Game 2 of the three-game series.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs reach 100 wins for first time since 1935

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs reach 100 wins for first time since 1935

CSN's David Kaplan hosts a discussion with today's panel: Ravi Baichwal from ABC 7, David Haugh lead columnist from the Chicago Tribune, and Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times. The group discusses the Cubs reaching 100 wins on the season, talk Jay Cutler's future as Bears QB, and Scott Paddock stops by to talk NASCAR.

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below:

Brian Kelly aims to be more fiery, get players to play with more fun and passion

Brian Kelly aims to be more fiery, get players to play with more fun and passion

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Reeling with a 1-3 record and uncertain prospects of reaching a bowl game, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly wants his team to have more fun and play with more passion, and he sees being more fiery on the sidelines during games as part of the solution. 

When asked if he needed to be looser on the sidelines to help inject some “fun” into his team on gamedays, Kelly said said that's not the case. 

“I actually think I should probably — I think I've been a little too, what's the word I'm looking for, maybe not as demonstrative,” Kelly said. “I think I've got to be more fiery on the sidelines, quite frankly. So I'm going to try to turn it up a little bit on the sidelines, because that's who I am, you know? And I've been hands off a little bit. I just need to be who I am, and not be, you know, as hands off and I've got to be more involved. So if I was too fiery, you guys will have even better stories over the next couple of weeks.”

Kelly’s first couple years on campus were marked by easily-sharable purple-faced rants, and last year he got into a physical sideline confrontation with assistant strength coach David Grimes (Kelly later said he regretted the incident happened). Following a blown coverage against Michigan State that effectively ended Sept. 17’s 36-28 loss, Kelly was seen on TV directing an expletive at a defensive coach (both ex-defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght were in the vicinity). 

“I can still be demonstrative, but I just feel like they still have to see that passion from me as well and that's all I was saying,” Kelly said. “I don't have to be a loon particularly on the sideline and throw chairs and do that kinda stuff. But they have to feel that from me as well. I think that's very important in this game of football.”

Kelly sharply criticized his team’s passion — and lack thereof, as he saw it — after Notre Dame’ 38-35 loss to Duke last weekend. When asked Tuesday if he thought the best way to get his players to play with passion was by pointing out their lack of passion, Kelly said it wasn’t, but he and his coaches are working on finding that solution. 

“I have to be able to find out what are the reasons that we're not playing with passion,” Kelly said. “I’ve made some changes, obviously, some significant changes, within my staff, that goes to maybe some of the reasons why we weren't. And there are other things that have to continue to evolve for us to continue to move in the direction that I want.”

Everything is on the table as Notre Dame looks to dig itself out of its brutal September. Plenty more players will get on the field, Kelly promised, in a sort of quality-over-quantity approach to gameday snaps (Kelly pointed to safety Drue Tranquill playing his best game of the season on only 39 snaps, for instance). The seventh-year Irish coach will be more involved in the defense after firing VanGorder and replacing him with Greg Hudson. 

While he’s criticized both groups, Kelly said he’s confident in his players and his coaching staff’s ability to turn around the 2016 season and avoid being ineligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2007. 

“We're 1-3, our players aren't that bad, our coaches are pretty good coaches,” Kelly said. “I’ve been doing it for 27 years. Obviously, we're working through some things. We're working through some things and our guys are working through them. We're working through them, and we think we're going back in the right direction.”