Dempster trying to keep Cubs from the breaking point


Dempster trying to keep Cubs from the breaking point

MINNEAPOLIS Ryan Dempsters time horizon is five days out, not looking beyond his next start. But this Cubs season is slowly coming into a historical focus: Worst. Team. Ever.

Thats not exactly fair, because the expectations are low, theres still 63 percent of the schedule left and Theo Epsteins front office is looking at a bigger picture of the next five or 10 years.

But manager Dale Sveum chuckled and didnt dismiss the idea when it was suggested on Sunday morning before Dempster went out and threw eight shutout innings in an 8-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

That still left the 20-40 Cubs on pace to lose 108 games, which would break the record for a franchise that began play in 1876. The magic number is 103, which was put up by Cubs teams in 1962 and 1966.

Hopefully, you have to change the pace, Sveum said. You laugh about it, but its definitely there. Its a reality. You dont want any kind of label like that. You better back it up pretty quick, anyway, if you get that label. But, hey, sometimes you bite the bullet on things. Thats just the way it is, unfortunately.

On an everyday basis, yeah, everybody wants you to snap and yell and scream. (But) Ive already done that once, so what are you going to do? Are you going to keep doing it? That doesnt make any sense when the guys are busting their (butts) and preparing every single day. Its not like were throwing balls all over the place.

Sveum wouldnt go into details about his breaking point, but this 10-game road trip wore everyone out. Within the past three weeks, the Cubs have played 16 of 19 games on the road and traveled 6,770 miles through the air.

We just have to be like more relaxed and do the job, Alfonso Soriano said, not try to put too much pressure on ourselves and just let it happen.

Im very surprised where we are, the way we play. Its not the talent. Its the confidence that we lost, and now we got to work to get (it) back.

Soriano got things started with a two-out RBI double in the first inning, and went 6-for-13 with three homers as the designated hitter during this three-game interleague series against the Twins (24-35).

Dempster, who has thrown 15 consecutive shutout innings, also showcased himself, winning both games on this 2-8 road trip.

Were doing good, Dempster said. I mean, as good as can be expected.

Dempster has a 2.31 ERA through 11 starts and would be a positive addition to any clubhouse. The Cubs anticipate this being a sellers market.

We all know what Dempster is, Sveum said. The professionalism and the hard work and obviously the stuff he has on the mound to be one of the top tier guys all the time. (Given) his makeup and his work ethic and his veteran leadership, theres not too many guys like him around that have that whole package.

What will this look like once the Cubs start selling off parts? Well, their hard luck figures to even out a little bit in close games. Anthony Rizzo should eventually give this lineup a jolt, though theyll have to deal with more growing pains once the promotions are made from Triple-A Iowa. The people in the dugout cant think that way.

We just got to get better in certain areas, Sveum said. Thats the way it is. We know that, but unfortunately, that mark is there after 60 games to (bleep) break a lot of records. (Bleep), we got to start winning some baseball games.

Why to watch: Naperville North vs. Lyons Township Tale of the Tape

Why to watch: Naperville North vs. Lyons Township Tale of the Tape

Matchup: No. 19 Lyons Township (7-2) at No. 14 Naperville North (8-1)

Where to watch: Live broadcast on CSN at 7 p.m., plus a live stream available on and the NBC Sports app.

Overview: This Class 8A showdown features teams from two of the top largest public school conferences in Illinois. Lyons Township and head coach Kurt Weinberg fired off six straight wins to start the 2016 season (including an impressive, 28-14, road win over Glenbard West) before dropping two straight games in Weeks 7 and 8 to Hinsdale Central (28-21) and Oak Park-River Forest (27-3). Naperville North and head coach Sean Drendel posted a 2-7 record last season. However, the Huskies welcomed back 18 returning starters this fall. The Huskies only loss this season was to Neuqua Valley (35-20) back in Week 6.

When Lyons Township has the football: The Lions will look to expand the field with both the pass and run, via its no-huddle shotgun spread offense. Junior quarterback Ben Bryant is already drawing FBS scholarship offers and has several weapons including senior wide receiver Hasahn Austin, junior wide receiver Nate Rusk and junior running back Reggie Terrell Jr. Lyons Township also features a big offensive line. 

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When Naperville North has the football: The Huskies will look to establish thunder and lightning in the backfield with senior running backs Cross Robinson and Eric Wright. Then, mix in Naperville North's play-action passing game, led by senior quarterback Luke Cegles, junior wide receiver Nick Calcagno and senior wide receiver Mitch Lewis (6-foot-6, 220 pounds). North also has a good size and experience on the offensive line.

Key matchups to watch: The Naperville North offensive line vs. the Lyons Township defensive line. Naperville North wants to run the ball and also control the clock. The Lions defensive line is very good. Keep an eye on senior Andrew Ezell and junior Mickey Brown. Also, how well can the Naperville North secondary handle the spread passing attack from Lyons? Naperville North has an experienced secondary, led by seniors Cam Hardy and Grant Ericksen. This group will be tested by a speedy group of Lyons receivers and backs..

Impact player for Lyons Township: Bryant. He is an experienced signal-caller who can take over a game when he's on.

Impact players for Naperville North: Robinson and Wright. The Huskies backfield has been special. according to those in and around the Huskies program.

Prediction: Naperville North 28, Lyons Township 21. The keys here will be (1) time of possession for Naperville North and (2) which team wins the turnover battle. I fully expect this to be a close game from start to finish, but I'll give the nod to the home team here. 

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

CLEVELAND – While the Cubs came into this World Series as the heavy favorites, the team with the global following and baseball’s best roster on paper, Jon Lester understood the challenge ahead. The Cleveland Indians would counter with their own Game 1 ace, a dynamic reliever changing the way we think about bullpens and a future Hall of Fame manager.

That’s how it played out in a 6-0 game that felt a lot closer, Corey Kluber pitching like a Cy Young Award winner, Andrew Miller handling the seventh and eighth innings and Terry Francona improving his record to 9-0 in World Series games.     

Welcome to “Believeland,” where the Fourth Street bars on Tuesday were buzzing more than seven hours before first pitch. That night, LeBron James and the Cavaliers would get their championship rings and watch the banner-raising ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena, just up the street from Progressive Field.

By the first inning – when pitching coach Chris Bosio had to walk out to the mound to talk to Lester – the red video ribbons lining the stadium said: “CLEVELAND AGAINST THE WORLD.” With the bases loaded, Lester had just drilled Brandon Guyer with a pitch, forcing in a second run, a sequence set in motion by walks to Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez’s soft infield single up the third-base line.

It didn’t matter that Lester would eventually settle down and pretty much control this Cleveland lineup. (Except for that rocket Roberto Perez launched off the left-field railing for a solo homer and a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.) Or that the Indians didn’t run all over the bases, with Francisco Lindor going 1-for-2 in stolen bases. (“Whatever, it’s happened all year," Lester said.)

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This is Cleveland’s blueprint for October, maybe its only chance to win its first World Series since 1948.

“It’s always important (to get a lead), no matter what time of year it is,” Lester said. “It makes a manager’s job a lot easier. It makes your job a lot easier. When you give a guy like Kluber – who’s locked in from pitch one – two runs in the first, it makes his job a lot easier. I know the feeling on the other side. You’re just able to attack differently.

“With the bullpens and all that stuff that they’re setting up nowadays, all you got to do is get through six.”

Lester kept it a 3-0 game, but didn’t finish the sixth inning, a rare October night where he didn’t seem to be automatic. Until Tuesday night, he had gone 3-0 in three World Series starts, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings.

Lester won his two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox, overlapping with Francona and Miller at different points. This is why the Cubs gave Lester a $155 million contract, to set the tone on the mound and within the clubhouse.

Near the end of a 103-win regular season – and even after winning the franchise’s first pennant in 71 years – Lester has offered colorful versions of: We haven’t done anything yet.

But Lester – the National League Championship Series co-MVP after putting up a 1.38 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers and watching the Cubs win both of those starts – also doesn’t do overreactions to losses.

“We got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “If we win tomorrow, we’re right back in it. Just like LA – everybody counted us out after Game 3. They said we were the worst best team in baseball. We’re here. We’re not giving up.

“I know my guys. I know my team. And I know that nobody in this clubhouse is giving anything up.”