Bullpen falters as Cubs fall to Phillies

765222.png

Bullpen falters as Cubs fall to Phillies

Carlos Ruiz hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the eighth inning and the Philadelphia Phillies used Hector Luna's first career grand slam to pull away for a 9-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night.Kyle Kendrick pitched six sparkling innings in his first start in 12 days as Philadelphia returned to .500 for the first time since it beat Atlanta 4-0 on May 3. He also singled and scored the tying run in the fifth.Hunter Pence opened the eighth with a long fly ball off Shawn Camp (2-2) that left fielder Alfonso Soriano caught on the warning track, delighting the Wrigley Field crowd of 38,678. But Ruiz followed with a bit longer drive that reached the bleachers in left for his seventh homer.

Red Stars enter NWSL semifinals with chip on shoulder

raetzman-0929.jpg
Dan Bartel, ISI Photos

Red Stars enter NWSL semifinals with chip on shoulder

Just over a year ago the Chicago Red Stars hosted a National Women’s Soccer League semifinal and had high expectations for a playoff run.

However, it all came crashing down quickly in a 3-0 loss at Toyota Park in which visiting FC Kansas City scored all three goals in the first 25 minutes. Kansas City went on to win the league title and the Red Stars were left to wonder what the heck just happened.

Now, the Red Stars have a chance at redemption in a return to the NWSL semifinals. The Red Stars will visit the Washington Spirit on Friday.

“I’m personally really excited to play on Friday, to be back in the semifinals the year after kind of a hard loss last season against Kansas City,” Red Stars forward Christen Press said. “I think that the girls that were here last year we kind of have a chip on our shoulder about that match and how it went down. I think that’s helped motivate us to get back.”

After finishing third in the NWSL regular season the Red Stars have to go on the road in this year’s semifinal. The Spirit and Red Stars are the only two teams to return from the 2015 playoffs and both lost 3-0 in the semifinals so the redemption factor goes both ways.

The Red Stars are well aware of what happened last year, but coach Rory Dames doesn’t expect a repeat.

“I expect the game to not be over 20 minutes in,” Dames said. “Different team, different year.”

[SHOP: Pick up a national team jersey t-shirt of Red Stars defender Julie Johnston]

This year’s Red Stars racked up plenty of individual accolades in getting back to the playoffs. Press is one of five finalists for league MVP, Julie Johnston and Arin Gilliland are Defender of the Year finalists and Alyssa Naeher is up for Goalkeeper of the Year.

A win would push the Red Stars into the club’s first NWSL final in the NWSL’s fourth season. Last year’s semifinal was the first playoff appearance for the Red Stars.

The Red Stars just beat the Spirit on Saturday 3-1 in the regular season finale at Toyota Park. Back on July 9 the Spirit won 2-0 at the Maryland SoccerPlex, host site of Friday’s semifinal.

“We played them at (their) home earlier in the season and it didn’t end the way we wanted,” said midfielder Courtney Raetzman, who graduated from Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. “But I think we showed that we can play with them and as our game just showed, we beat them and we probably didn’t even perform to our absolute best so I’m really excited going into this next game.”

Dames said playing back-to-back games against a playoff opponent “isn’t ideal” in terms of coaching but it’s also a confidence boost to have a win heading into the playoffs.

“I think it’s a good and a bad thing because we both have extra video on each other, on playing each other specifically,” midfielder Taylor Comeau said. “We have a couple things that we definitely want to clean up and we’ll rewatch the film and clean up just what we think we need to and hopefully have a better performance in the next game.”

The winner of Friday’s semifinal will play in the NWSL final in Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium on Oct. 9.

Cubs fan gets 2016 World Series Champions tattoo for radio contest

Cubs fan gets 2016 World Series Champions tattoo for radio contest

This Cubs fan is pretty confident the curse will be broken in 2016.

A radio station in Des Moines, Iowa called 1460 KXnO held a contest for which brave soul would tattoo their body with something that has not happened ... yet.

A man named Noel got this 2016 World Series Champions inked on his leg:

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Here goes nothin'.