Ninth-inning rally comes up short for Cubs


Ninth-inning rally comes up short for Cubs

Aramis Ramirez drove in two runs in his return to Wrigley Field, Ryan Braun got booed relentlessly and the Milwaukee Brewers hung on to beat the Chicago Cubs 7-5 on Monday night.The Brewers were sailing along with a four-run lead going into the ninth when things got real interesting. The Cubs scored two runs and had the bases loaded when John Axford struck out Starlin Castro looking on three pitches to end the game.Axford came in with runners on first and third with one out, and Ramirez immediately booted Marlon Byrd's grounder to third, allowing one run to score. A pinch-hitting Steve Clevenger drove a run-scoring single to center that Carlos Gomez misplayed, putting runners on second and third and making it a two-run game.After David DeJesus struck out, Darwin Barney walked to load the bases, but Axford struck out Castro for his first save.Shawn Marcum (1-0) settled down after a shaky start and gave up three runs in six solid innings. Rickie Weeks homered to help the Brewers start the four-game series on a winning note after getting pounded twice while dropping two of three at home to St. Louis.Ramirez got a mixed reaction from fans in a successful homecoming, driving in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly and adding an RBI double in the seventh that made it 6-3. That came after Matt Gamel hit a run-scoring triple off Shawn Camp (0-1) and scored in the sixth, breaking a 3-3 tie.That was enough for Marcum, who gave up solo homers to Barney and Bryan LaHair in the first two innings but not much after that.The reaction for Ramirez was hardly a surprise, considering fans often questioned his effort during his eight-plus seasons in Chicago. Nor was the reception for Braun, who had two hits and scored a run. The reigning NL MVP's potential 50-game suspension for a positive drug test was overturned, but the scar to his reputation figures to linger.One fan in the left-field bleachers brought a large "Cheater" sign. Another held up one that read "Bonds: 762" on one line with "Braun: MVP" on the second and an asterisk with the word "Cheaters" on the third. And just about everyone let him hear it in his first road game.Marcum, meanwhile, looked as if he might not last long in this one, with Barney driving a ball to the left-field basket in the first and LaHair clearing the right-field bleachers to make it 2-1 in the second - Chicago's first homers this season.Weeks tied it at 2 with a laser off Chris Volstad just inside the left-field foul pole leading off the third, and Alex Gonzalez gave the Brewers a 3-2 lead in the fourth when he doubled and scored from third on Marcum's squeeze.The Cubs tied it in the fifth, but the Brewers quickly regained the lead, sending old friend Dale Sveum and the Cubs to their third loss in four games.Volstad, acquired from Miami in the Carlos Zambrano trade, allowed three runs and five hits after the Cubs got dominant starts from Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija against Washington.Notes
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Wednesday would be a "logical" day to give OF Corey Hart a day of rest since it's a day game after a night game. Hart had surgery on his right knee in March and left this game in the seventh. ... Chris Narveson starts Tuesday's game for Milwaukee, with Paul Maholm pitching for Chicago.Box scoreCopyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.