Maholm roughed up in Cubs debut


Maholm roughed up in Cubs debut

Paul Maholm needed 41 pitches to get through his first inning at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform. When it was over, he walked off the mound to sarcastic applause.

The Cubs know a lot of things will have to break right if theyre going to contend this season. But they feel confident that theyll put a credible starting pitcher on the mound 162 times this season.

Yes, this is only about three percent of the season. But this business is all about taking snapshots. The Cubs are 1-4 after their first run through the rotation.

It was a raw, cold Tuesday night at Clark and Addison 40 degrees at first pitch and still the Milwaukee Brewers blasted Maholm in front of 37,265 fans. A 7-4 loss showed the margins for this Cubs team.

To put it blunt, I sucked, Maholm said.

One through five, manager Dale Sveum feels like his rotation can stack up with anyone. The bullpen will cause anxiety, and the lineup wont outslug the opposition on most nights. But the Cubs should probably be better than 1-4 right now.

Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Chris Volstad combined to throw 27.1 innings and allowed only seven earned runs. They notched 29 strikeouts against six walks and limited hitters to a .170 average.

Maholm simply didnt have it against the Brewers (3-2), walking two batters and hitting two more in a first inning so off that ex-Cub Aramis Ramirez even stole a base during this sequence.

Alex Gonzalez drilled what Maholm called a bad cutter (that) pretty much turns into a BP fastball through a strong wind and into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer.

The Brewers took a 5-0 lead. In the end, it didnt really matter that Maholm who gave up six runs in four innings steadied himself.

He just couldnt put anybody away, Sveum said. I didnt think he had a good feel for his curveball at all (or) keeping his changeup down. He couldnt get the ball inside for strikes. It just snowballed a little bit in that first inning. He settled down and did OK after that, but the damage was done already.

Maholm had spent his entire career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization until signing a 4.25 million deal here (with a 6.5 million club option for 2013 or a 500,000 buyout). The 29-year-old left-hander broke the news on his Twitter account over the winter.

It wasnt a huge story, but it showed the front offices top priority. Pitching depth was exactly what this team needed. Maholm has accounted for at least 160 innings in each of his last six seasons. If the Cubs are going to make it interesting, it will be on the rotation.

I dont know if it was trying to do too much, but its one of 30-something starts, Maholm said. Obviously, (we) want to get off to a better start than we have. But weve been in almost every game. (Its) a long season. Well battle back and well get after it tomorrow.

Report: Jeff George Jr. starting at QB for Illini vs. Michigan


Report: Jeff George Jr. starting at QB for Illini vs. Michigan

Jeff George Jr. will reportedly get the start at quarterback when the Illini take on Michigan this afternoon in Ann Arbor.

According to a report from the News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen, neither Wes Lunt nor Chayce Crouch will be able to play in Saturday's game, forcing George into starting duty.

Lunt was knocked out of Illinois' loss to Purdue two weeks ago and did not play last weekend against Rutgers. Crouch, who took over for Lunt against Purdue and rushed for 137 yards in that game, started in the win over Rutgers, but he apparently suffered a shoulder injury in that game.

George got a very small bit of action in this season's Week 1 win over Murray State, but this will be his first career start.

George is the son of Jeff George, the former Illinois quarterback who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft.

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.