Garza says Cubs aren't 'quitters,' cant worry about the backlash

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Garza says Cubs aren't 'quitters,' cant worry about the backlash

PITTSBURGH Matt Garza prides himself on being a big-game pitcher, someone with enough guts to want the ball in October.

Garzas supposed to be the guy the Cubs count on to shut it down. But he wilted in the 88-degree heat on Sunday at PNC Park, serving up three homers in a 10-4 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Cubs have now lost 12 straight games. They return home on Memorial Day, a traditional mile marker for a six-month season, buried in last place with the worst record (15-32) in the National League.

Even if Cubs fans didnt expect to see team president Theo Epstein riding on a float down Michigan Avenue this October, they also probably didnt expect it to bottom out this quickly.

We just got to play, Garza said afterward. Yeah, we have great fans. They know the game, but we cant play for the fans right now. We have to play for every guy in here. Every guy has to pull on the same side of the rope.

Its going to kind of test our character as a club right now. Were just going to keep grinding it out. No matter what anybody says, we got to keep whats in here tight, not let it break (us) up.

The last time the Cubs lost this many games in a row a franchise-record 14 to start the 1997 season manager Dale Sveum was playing for the Pirates, Alfonso Soriano was playing in Japan and Starlin Castro was seven years old.

The last time the Cubs won a game, The New York Times hadnt yet brought to light Joe Ricketts political activities, which forced the Cubs board of directors into damage-control mode as they try to secure financing for the Wrigley Field renovation.

Kerry Wood hadnt yet held two retirement press conferences, or eloquently explained away Irrelevant, dude by talking about his baseball mortality, replacing the video of him throwing his hat and glove into the stands with the shot of him hugging his son.

Theres a different psychology to it now. Garza made another wild throw after fielding a sacrifice bunt in the first inning. He now has 10 errors in 40 starts for the Cubs. He had committed six errors in 121 games with the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays.

Moments later, Pedro Alvarez put one in the right-field seats, and the Pirates (23-24) got their first three-run homer this season in Game 47. That felt like game over for a Cubs team that has labored to score runs.

My first job is to keep runs off the board, Garza said. Giving up a three-spot in the first doesnt really help anybody. All it does is just build pressure and make guys have to do stuff and then we get uncomfortable.

Garza also surrendered home runs to Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones, and his manager wasnt sure why he was throwing changeups.

He just got beat by pitches he shouldnt be throwing people. He got beat by his fourth-best pitch, Sveum said. Ill have to talk to him again. He had a great fastball today and got in those situations against a couple guys (where) velocity gets em. He decided to throw changeups. Its not exactly protocol, or what the game plan was.

Garza (2-3, 4.22 ERA) is looking for a big contract extension, and you thought this was a lineup he could dominate. Figuring it out will be a central theme for the 2012 Cubs, even if you cant put that on a billboard.

Patience is something that a lot of fans dont have, no matter what you go through, Sveum said. Im a huge football fan, and I dont understand the Oakland Raiders losing every game. Thats just kind of the way it is. They want to win, just like we want to win.

Thats just part of every city, especially any city thats as passionate as (Chicago).

Just win, baby is a little catchier than Progress as an organization isnt linear.

But Epstein isnt Al Davis, and this isnt the NFL. It will take years to rebuild the team at Clark and Addison, which is why the front office is so focused on the upcoming amateur draft.

Until then, there will be long, hot days in Pittsburgh, and maybe a sea of empty green seats at Wrigley Field.

Guys in here dont stop, Garza said. Were not quitters. Its gonna turn. Were gonna keep fighting and were gonna catch a little roll soon.

White Sox draft pick Zack Collins wins Johnny Bench Award

White Sox draft pick Zack Collins wins Johnny Bench Award

This June just keeps getting better and better for Zack Collins.

Collins was selected by the White Sox with the No. 10 pick in the MLB Draft, made it to the College World Series with the University of Miami, signed his first professional contract and now he is the Johnny Bench Award winner.

The Johnny Bench Award was created in 2000 and is given to the top college catcher in Division 1. Previous winners include Buster Posey and Kurt Suzuki.

Collins already had a haul of first-team All-America honors from Baseball America, D1Baseball, the NCBWA, Perfect Game and Rawlings.

Collins hit .363 with 16 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .668 slugging percentage. He also led the nation with 78 walks this season for the Hurricanes, which went 0-2 at the College World Series. Collins started 62 of 64 Miami games and made 59 of those starts at catcher.

How Bulls could land a max free agent and re-sign E’Twaun Moore

How Bulls could land a max free agent and re-sign E’Twaun Moore

Quick note here because we are all eager to get back to our twitter feeds and wild speculation. Even though the Bulls will only have approximately $24 million in cap space, there is one situation in which they can sign a Tier 1 max player AND re-sign E’twaun Moore.

This all hinges on the deal (and discount) that Moore would give the Bulls. The Bulls have Early-Bird rights with Moore; that means they can potentially sign him to a deal and not eat into their cap space. There are a lot of rules into how this works and I won’t bore you with details, but the bottom line is that the Bulls can offer a 3-year deal for approx. $21 million or a 4-year deal for appox $28 million. If Moore accepts this contract, the Bulls just to have account for his ‘cap hold’ of $980,431 in free agency until the actual deal is signed. 

This potential deal would leave the Bulls approximately $23 million to spend, well above the $22.2 million it would take to land a Tier 1 (0-6 year NBA player) in free agency. This includes restricted free agent Harrison Barnes. Again, this only works if Moore doesn’t want to test free agency, or doesn’t receive a better offer in free agency. If Moore wants more money, the Bulls have to use their cap space to sign him to a larger deal.

One important key to any restricted free agent like Barnes, the Warriors will have 3 days to match any offer sheet that Barnes signs. Barnes can’t sign an offer sheet until July 7th, so the Warriors effectively will have until at least July 10th to make that decision. This prevents any team like the Bulls ‘swooping’ in and landing Barnes while Kevin Durant conducts his meetings in the Hamptons.

Cubs aren’t sweating loss to Mets or NLCS flashbacks: ‘Big-boy games are totally different'

Cubs aren’t sweating loss to Mets or NLCS flashbacks: ‘Big-boy games are totally different'

NEW YORK – The Cubs didn’t overreact to getting swept in last year’s National League Championship Series, but the New York Mets did expose some underlying issues while a deep playoff run created a sense of urgency in Wrigleyville.

The Cubs spent like crazy on the free-agent market (almost $290 million) and wore T-shirts around spring training that literally put targets on their chests, knowing the look would go viral on social media and spark love/hate responses.

Making a statement? Sending a message? That’s so last year, when the Cubs were a team still trying to find an identity and learn how to win. The Mets are now the ones feeling the season-on-the-brink anxiety, desperate for offense and crossing their fingers that all those talented young pitchers stay healthy.

Maybe this becomes a turning point for the defending NL champs, beating the Cubs 4-3 on Thursday night at Citi Field to kick off a marquee four-game series in front of 40,122 and a national TV audience. Not that John Lackey – the playoff-tested veteran the Cubs signed to lengthen their rotation for October – felt any added significance in facing the Mets.

“None,” Lackey said. “It’s June, who cares? Big-boy games are totally different.”

Yes, Lackey was “pretty surprised” and a little miffed that manager Joe Maddon pulled him with a runner on and one out in the seventh inning and the Cubs holding a 3-1 lead. Joel Peralta failed this bullpen audition, walking Alejandro De Aza (.158 average) and giving up an RBI single to just-promoted-from-Triple-A Las Vegas rookie Brandon Nimmo.

Neil Walker put the pressure on highlight-reel defender Javier Baez, who fielded a chopper at second base, didn’t have a play at home plate and made the split-second decision to throw toward backpedaling third baseman Kris Bryant. The Mets showed last October that little things matter in big-boy games, and the throwing error from a Gold Glove-caliber player suddenly gave them a 4-3 lead.  

“Getting beat’s one thing,” Lackey said. “But when you feel like you kind of gave one away – or let one go – that’s a different kind of loss.”

The Mets (41-37) might not have must-win games in July, but they needed some good news in “Panic City.” Steven Matz, who set off alarm bells this week with the disclosure he’s been pitching with a bone spur in his left elbow, managed to work into the sixth inning and throw 104 pitches, giving up homers to Bryant and Baez but limiting the damage to only three runs.

Yoenis Cespedes, who revived a lifeless lineup after last summer’s trade-deadline blockbuster, energized the Mets again with a big swing in the sixth inning, drilling a Lackey pitch 441 feet out to left field and onto the third deck, creating a 110-mph exit velocity with his 19th home run.

“New year, different team, different circumstances,” said Jake Arrieta, who lost Game 2 here last October, watching Daniel Murphy reach so far down for a curveball that his left knee almost scraped the dirt, driving it out for a momentum-shifting, first-inning, two-run homer. “We’ll probably relive some memories that weren’t very exciting.

“You never want to lose one step from a World Series. But, again, we had a team that was very young with a lot of rookies contributing. We gained a lot of valuable experience from those games, regardless of the outcome. And we’re obviously better for it this season with some new pieces. We look forward to ending in a little different fashion this year.”

The Cubs (51-27) still don’t have the answer for Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who finished off all four NLCS wins last October and is now 27-for-27 in save chances this season. Miguel Montero led off the ninth inning with a pinch-hit walk and Ben Zobrist followed with a double into right field before those all-or-nothing contact issues resurfaced.

Familia responded by striking out Bryant swinging – all six pitches were marked as sinkers clocked between 97 and 98 mph – and intentionally walking Anthony Rizzo to load the bases. Maybe this exposure will pay off in the playoffs, but Familia struck out Willson Contreras swinging and got Javier Baez to pop out to end the game. The Citi Field sound system started playing Ace Frehley’s “(I’m Back, Back in the) New York Groove.” Not that the Cubs were having flashbacks.

“We know the feeling of getting eliminated, getting swept, but I think we’re onto bigger and better things,” Bryant said. “We’re ready for it. Different year, different players here, different attitude.”