Cubs back Samardzija with 3 HRs in win over Braves

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Cubs back Samardzija with 3 HRs in win over Braves

Jeff Samardzija allowed five hits and a run over seven strong innings, and Bryan LaHair, Ian Stewart and Geovany Soto each homered Monday night to lead the Chicago Cubs over the Atlanta Braves 5-1.Samardzija (4-1) gave up a solo homer to Jason Heyward in the second inning, walked two and struck out seven in a 105-pitch outing to help the Cubs win for the third time in four games.LaHair drove Tommy Hanson's first pitch of the bottom of the fourth high over the right field wall for his eighth homer of the season. One pitch later, Stewart connected on his third - also to right - to make it 2-1.Soto hit a two-run homer off Chad Durbin in the eighth.Atlanta threatened with one out in the seventh when Samardzija hit Heyward with a pitch and Tyler Pastornicky singled before pinch-hitter Eric Hinske lined to LaHair at first and he threw to second to double off Heyward and squash the rally.Hanson (3-3) gave up five hits and two runs in six innings. The loss was just the eighth in the last 26 games for the Braves.When Braves reliever Eric O'Flaherty hit David DeJesus with a two-out pitch in the bottom of the seventh, home plate umpire Chris Conroy warned both benches, prompting Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to come out of the dugout. Moments later he was ejected by Conroy.Tony Campana then beat out a bunt and Starlin Castro hit an RBI single to make it 3-1.Demoted Chicago closer Carlos Marmol came in to pitch the eighth and walked the first two batters, eliciting a chorus of boos from the Wrigley Field faithful.

Freddie Freeman lined out before a stolen base and Marmol wild pitch put runners at second and third. Brian McCann took a third strike for the second out and Marmol turned the boos into cheers by striking out Dan Uggla swinging. Marmol then came off the mound screaming, pounding himself on the chest.Notes
Cubs RHP Matt Garza, slowed by a flu bug that has hit several players, is scheduled to return to the rotation Friday in Milwaukee. He was scratched from his start Sunday. ... Heyward entered the game with a career .342 average against the Cubs and now has five homers against them. ... Braves CF Michael Bourn made two nice running catches, going over his shoulder to grab LaHair's drive in the second and racing to left center to rob Soto of extra bases in the third. He also extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an infield hit to short in the third. ... The Cubs hit back-to-back homers for the first time since last August when Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena - neither of whom is still with the team - connected against Washington. ... LaHair has now reached base in 25 straight games. ... Game-time temperature was 56 and a light fog began rolling in during the late innings.
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How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

MESA, Ariz. — As Major League Baseball officials responded to an unbelievably timed rain delay, Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti huddled in a suite beneath Progressive Field and recognized what he saw in Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer after nine innings in a World Series Game 7.

"(We're) trying to figure out: Hey, what's going to happen here? How long are we going to have to wait? Are we going to have to pick up this game tomorrow?" Antonetti said. "I remember the look on both Jed and Theo's faces — it was the same as mine — just like exhaustion and fatigue and angst."

Soon enough, Epstein would be standing in the visiting dugout, his black suit completely drenched, winging it through a CSN Chicago postgame show interview: "Jed's in charge. I'm going on a bender."

However Cleveland fans processed the 10th inning — at least LeBron James had already delivered the city's first major sports title since 1964 — the Indians regrouped and reloaded as one of the favorites to win the 2017 World Series.

Danny Salazar — who hadn't built himself back up to full strength by the Fall Classic — threw two scoreless innings during Sunday afternoon's 1-1 tie in front of a sellout crowd at Sloan Park in Mesa. The Indians also survived and advanced into early November without frontline starter Carlos Carrasco (broken right pinkie finger) throwing a single playoff pitch or All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley (right shoulder complications) playing beyond May.

But the Indians didn't just sit back in their comfort zone this winter and simply hope for good medical reports and assume their young core players would improve. Sensing an opportunity, Cleveland swooped in around Christmastime and made a three-year, $60 million commitment to Edwin Encarnacion, who put up 42 homers and 127 RBIs last season for the Blue Jays, weakening the team that lost the American League Championship Series.

"It certainly has a positive impact on the momentum that we established and revenue heading into the following season," Antonetti said. "But I still think beyond that, it's been a big leap of faith by our ownership to really step out beyond what may make sense, just looking at where our projections might be.

"It's really a belief in our fan base that they'll continue to support our team and build on the momentum from last year."

Cleveland already paid the price for Andrew Miller — the Yankees wanted Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez from the Cubs as a starting point last summer — and now control the game-changing reliever for two more pennant races. The Indians also invested $6.5 million in Boone Logan — a reliever the Cubs had monitored closely — when the lefty specialist lingered on the open market until early February.

Between the future Hall of Fame manager (Terry Francona), a Cy Young Award winner (Corey Kluber), the young All-Star shortstop (Francisco Lindor) and the dude from Glenbrook North (Jason Kipnis), Cleveland has way too much talent to be consumed with what could have been in Game 7.

"Hopefully, our guys learned from all of their experiences," Antonetti said. "They went through a lot last year. But I think at the same time, we have an appreciation and realize how hard it is to win, and how hard it was to get to the postseason.

"Continuing that mindset — and remembering what helped us get there — will benefit our guys the most. They'll reflect back and realize we didn't just show up and end up in the postseason and in the World Series. We started that work on Day 1 of the offseason and Day 1 in spring training."

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.