Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

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Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

SAN DIEGO Jeff Samardzija snapped the bat over his knee after striking out in the seventh inning and tossed the two pieces to the ground in disgust.

Samardzija channeled his inner Big Z for a moment, but you saw a Cubs team that wasnt just going through the motions in a 2-0 loss to the San Diego Padres at sleepy Petco Park.

There was Darwin Barney ready to chuck his bat after lining into a double play in the eighth inning, and James Russell screaming and flexing by the dugout minutes later after giving up an unearned run.

As much as Theo Epsteins front office and Dale Sveums coaching staff talk about patience and development, the losing is getting old and the frustration is beginning to show.

Samardzija had a message for Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters and all the kids heading back to Wrigley Field on an eight-game losing streak that started a few hours after the trade deadline.

They better be ready to play, Samardzija said. Dont expect any freebies from any of the fans or from anybody. You got to show up and play the game, regardless of your record, regardless of how you feel. Youre still representing your team. Youre still wearing the jersey. You got to show up and play all-out every day.

I dont think thats going to be a problem here. I dont think quote-unquote veteran guys are going to let that happen. Were going to play hard. Were going to try and win every game we can.

Samardzija is one of only six remaining players from the 2011 Opening Day roster. The Cubs (43-66) have already used 15 rookies and 46 different players this season.

It was hard for Andrew Cashner the 2008 first-round pick flipped to the Padres in the Anthony Rizzo deal to imagine this team without Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, his idol growing up in Texas.

Those were the two guys that I really looked up to while I was over there, Cashner said. Its definitely going to be different with a lot more young guys. Theres going to be a lot more feeling out on their own, versus guys pointing them in the direction.

Cashner didnt ask to be part of the Three Cs marketing campaign leading into the 2011 season, and only Starlin Castro remains after Tyler Colvin was traded to the Colorado Rockies last winter. So it will be interesting to see how long the shelf life will be for Jackson and Vitters.

Thats just kind of the way things work, Cashner said. I wasnt one of their guys. I was one of Jim (Hendrys) guys. Its just kind of the way they do things as far as wanting their (own) guys.

Cashner, whos on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, spoke with Rizzo during this series and they agreed this was probably a good trade for both sides. Cashner gets to pitch at Petco Park, while Rizzo gets to hit at Wrigley Field.

Rizzo was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on June 26, which seems like old news given everything thats happened to this team since then. Now Jackson and Vitters have to get ready for their close-up.

The fans are probably curious to look at all the guys that all the hype is about, Sveum said. Theres no mystery now going on with the team.

In terms of direction, yes, but eight games in 12 days against Dusty Baker and the first-place Cincinnati Reds will be revealing. Jackson will try to avoid chasing bad pitches, Vitters will be working on his defense and there are jobs that could be won in the rotation and the bullpen. See how they handle the big moments.

Were going to learn a lot here in this next month-and-a-half, Samardzija said. Were really going to see what were made of as a team. A lot of guys are going to be cutting their teeth against some good teams.

Samardzija (7-10, 4.21 ERA) again looked like a frontline starter, allowing only one run across seven strong innings. He rolls with everything, ignoring the people who thought he was a bust and not buying into the hype that hes one of the untouchables on this team.

The kids could learn from someone whos almost seen it all in Chicago and remains the same guy. He was certainly paying attention when Carlos Zambrano was breaking bats.

Just felt good to snap it like a toothpick, Samardzija said. I lost the bunting tournament in Round Sweet 16 and I snapped that thing like a twig, too. What are you gonna do? It happens.

David Accam is back and that's good for the Fire

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David Accam is back and that's good for the Fire

David Accam is the Chicago Fire's best player and when he plays the team is better.

While that statement should be obvious to anyone who has watched the Fire on a regular basis this year, it is worth mentioning because of how much time Accam has missed this season.

Accam played a starring role in the team's 4-3 loss in the season opener. He had a goal and an assist. The next match he scored early in Orlando before the Fire were forced to defend while playing down a man due to a red card.

Then he got injured. Accam missed six games and the Fire scored four goals in those matches without him. After making two abbreviated appearances during the team's recent road trip, he was unable to play last week at home due to a suspension.

“It’s difficult for me because I’ve been through a lot in the last two months," Accam said. "For me I’m just happy to be on the pitch now and playing. It will take some time for me to get into match fitness and start going, but I’m happy with my performance today.”

Accam scored in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Portland. It was his first start at home since his barnstorming season debut back on March 6. It was also his first 90-minute outing since March 11.

Kennedy Igboananike assisted on the goal. The partnership in the attack between Igboananike and Accam is one the Fire needs to become a fine-tuned weapon for the team to have a successful season.

“I think what we are looking for is to have associations in the team and the two of them work very good together," coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We could see that in the first game when David was fit, also in the second game until we had the (red card). Since then David was injured, but David is very important. Not only because of his individual qualities, but he improves our team in how our team feels better on the field and offensively with more potential."

Accam had five shots, two on goal, and Igboananike had four shots, three on goal. Accam thinks the team is starting to improve its on-field chemistry.

“I think so, especially in the front three," the Ghanaian said. "We are creating chances. Last week we created a lot of chances and today, too.

“In the last two games we started to feel the way we wanted to play and for me it’s been much better. We conceded one goal in the last three games and we created I think more than five clear chances so for me it’s getting better.”

Fire unable to find winner in tie with Portland

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Fire unable to find winner in tie with Portland

Getting a second goal is becoming a thing for the Chicago Fire.

A thing they aren't getting.

The Fire pushed for a go-ahead second goal against Portland on Saturday, but it never came. The team's inability to find a second goal, something the team hasn't scored since the season opener, meant they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against the Timbers.

In a lot of ways, the Fire played better. They outshot Portland 17-8, 6-2 in shots on target, and in the second half had rare extended stretches of possession. But they were still not able to break a halftime deadlock.

"It was just that we didn’t score that second goal, which was very important for us," coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We are building the momentum. We were close to winning this game today and we are happy with the performance.”

The Fire (2-5-5, 11 points) are now 2-2-3 in seven home matches.

Portland (4-6-4, 16 points) took the lead in the 18th minute when Diego Valeri took advantage of a poor Rodrigo Ramos clearance. Ramos' ball got caught up in the wind and stayed near the box. Valeri won the ball back and beat Sean Johnson from a tight angle, sliding a shot just inside the far post.

Almost immediately the Fire leveled the match through David Accam. Accam, making his first home start since the season opener, redirected a Kennedy Igboananike centering pass to tie things back up.

“I know when he goes wide I need to be in the box," Accam said. "I know he has a good left foot also to put that ball in the box so I was in the right position when the ball came in.”

It was Accam's third goal of the season and his first since March 11. Accam and Igboananike created most of the dangerous chances for the Fire, linking up regularly other than the goal.

Another forward who could have joined the attack, Gilberto, was out for personal reasons. The Brazilian had played his best of the year last week.

The Fire had a strong wind at their backs in the second half and used it to keep the ball in Portland's half and extend the lead in shots they took into halftime. Despite being unable to get the win at home, multiple players claimed they are seeing progress in the team's performances.

"I think we’re finally putting full 90s together as a team," midfielder Matt Polster said. "I think during the beginning of the season we were getting used to each other. I think we put in good 65, 70 minutes of a game. As we’re growing as a team now I think we’re putting a full 90 together.”

Now the Fire go on break for the Copa America. The team will not train next week other than a fitness plan given to the players. The next match will be in the US Open Cup on June 15 with both location and opponent to be determined on June 1.

The next MLS match is June 18 at Philadelphia and the next MLS home match will be July 1 against San Jose.

Sale looks to stop the slide as White Sox face Royals on CSN

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Sale looks to stop the slide as White Sox face Royals on CSN

The White Sox take on the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale vs. Edison Volquez

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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