Cubs fall short of sweeping Cards

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Cubs fall short of sweeping Cards

David Freese wanted to make sure the Cardinals weren't swept. So he took matters into his own hands.Freese homered and Lance Lynn threw eight strong innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday afternoon."You lose two emotional games like we did, you never want to get swept, to get that third one heading back home is nice," Freese said. "We came out of the gate so hot, this game will even you out real quick."Lynn (4-0) held Chicago to six hits in becoming the first four-game winner in the majors and helping the Cardinals avoid a three-game sweep."What Lance was able to do set the tone for everything," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Whenever he did get into a little trouble, it was a lot like what we saw with (Adam Wainwright on Tuesday) - just made better pitches."Freese's two-run blast in the sixth capped a three-run, two-out rally against starter Chris Volstad. Freese added an RBI double in the eighth."We put up enough runs - we'd still like to put it on the opponent a little harder, a little more, but we'll take this one," Freese said. "Our pitchers are doing a phenomenal job, we just have to keep scrapping."Volstad (0-3) threw six solid innings, retiring St. Louis in order during four of them. But he's still 0-8 in 15 starts since July 10, 2011.Bryan LaHair homered to lead off the fourth for Chicago's only run. LaHair has four of Chicago's lowest seven home runs this season, the lowest total in the majors."I'm going pretty good when I go the other way," LaHair said after his second straight day with an opposite-field homer. "They're attacking me away right now. They'll probably start coming in, which is a good thing, too."The Cardinals avoided being swept at Wrigley Field for the first time since July 27-30, 2006. The Cubs took the first two games of the series in their final at-bat, winning their first series of the season under new manager Dale Sveum.Lynn threw 110 pitches, only the third time this season a Cardinals pitcher has surpassed 100. He's done it on two of those occasions, not bad for a pitcher who only became a starter because rotation stalwart Chris Carpenter went on the disabled list with a shoulder problem. His eight innings marked the longest outing by a Cardinals pitcher this season, and he lowered his ERA to 1.33."Early on they were putting good swings on ball," Lynn said. "I was able to start making the ball move a little bit more and getting quicker outs later in the game."Freese led the Cardinals offense with two hits and three RBIs. Carlos Beltran doubled, walked, scored two runs and stole two bases.Beltran has five steals this season, already his most since 2009.The sixth-inning double snapped an 0 for 18 slump for Beltran. Matheny planned on giving Beltran the day off Wednesday, but the 35-year-old asked to be in the lineup."You love that from a veteran player, who's just begging to be in there a day game after a night game," Matheny said. "Yesterday was his birthday. The guys were all over him about trying to make something happen.""He was excited to make something happen today."NOTES:
Shane Robinson singled three times and stole a base for St. Louis. His three hits matched a career high. ... The Cardinals are headed back to St. Louis for a six-game homestand beginning Friday against Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. . The Cubs embark on a seven-game trip, with a four-game set beginning at Philadelphia on Friday. They also play three at Cincinnati. . Cubs reliever Kerry Wood threw a bullpen session on Tuesday without incident. He's on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue. While Wood is eligible to come off the DL on April 29, Sveum said no timetable has been established for his return.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

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Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Jamal Mayers discuss the bottom six carrying the Blackhawks to a come-from-behind win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

Later, Mayers weighs in on possible targets with the NHL trade deadline just six weeks away.

Listen to the latest episode of the Hawks Talk Podcast below:

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Bears GM Ryan Pace struck gold with his signing of Jerrell Freeman last offseason.

Freeman, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears last March, was graded as the NFL's No. 1 inside linebacker in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

Freeman's 93.8 overall grade was PFF's third-highest defensive grade behind Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (95.6) and Oakland Raiders standout edge rusher Khalil Mack (93.9). 

Here's what PFF's Mike Renner had to say about Freeman's historic 2016 season:

One of the most impressive pure statistics any player amassed this season came from Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He made 40 tackles in coverage while missing only one tackle attempt. That ratio is insane, and it’s the best we’ve recorded since 2012. That’s about the only exciting stat, though, as the Bears’ front-seven desperately missed a fully-healthy Pernell McPhee for a good portion of the year.

Despite Freeman's outstanding season, he was left off of PFF's All-Pro Team for 2016. Although he was ranked ahead of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (91.6) and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (92.9), PFF likely omitted Freeman due to him missing four games with a PED suspension.

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In his first season with the Bears, the 30-year-old Freeman led the team with 110 tackles (the next highest total was Harold Jones-Quartey's 78). Freeman also finished with a team-high 7 tackles for a loss. 

Check out a snapshot below of Freeman's PFF metrics from last season:

If there's any doubt about Freeman's play falling off after serving a suspension, he put that theory to rest. Freeman's second-best game grade came in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings (3.5). Freeman also had a positive grade (1.4) in his first game coming off the suspension against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.

"People know me," Freeman told the media after returning from suspension. "People know who I am. People know what I'm about. I wouldn't do that on purpose. I made a mistake and that's what it is. It's not like I was going out of my way to do something (illegal). But it happened. It's my fault and I take responsibility for it."