Chicago Fire

Cubs Convention kicks off tonight

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Cubs Convention kicks off tonight

Last year's Cubs Convention had a definite buzz around it, being the first in the tenure of Theo Epstein and the rebuilt front office.
And then, of course, there was the Kerry Wood announcement at the Opening Ceremonies.
While this year certainly isn't a repeat of 2012, there is still plenty to be excited about for the 2013 Convention.
First and foremost, there's the new location -- Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. And with that comes more space for the droves of Cubs fans to flock through.
And there will be more than 75 people affiliated with the Cubs -- from prospects to current and former players to front office staff to broadcasters -- just itching to get things kicked off.
"It's really cool," outfielder Tony Campana, who enjoyed his first Cubs Convention last year, said Thursday on the Cubs Caravan. "I didn't really know what to expect last year, so there's a couple times where I went through the lobby of the hotel, and you're strolling along to the elevator and then you wind up signing autographs for 20 minutes.
"It's cool how much the fans show up and show their support. It makes it a good time. It's almost like the Convention is new again, because we're at a different place, so I don't really know how different it's gonna be."
Several newcomers will join the festivities this weekend, including TV analyst Jim Deshaies, top prospect Javier Baez and big free agent acquisition Edwin Jackson.
Comcast SportsNet and CSNChicago.com will air the Opening Ceremonies tonight, beginning at 5 p.m. You can check the stream out here.
Make CubsTalk your destination for news and notes from the 2013 Cubs Convention, and be sure to check out SportsNet Central every night this weekend, beginning at 6:30 p.m. for one-on-one interviews and updates from the Sheraton. And follow @CubsTalkCSN as well as Insider Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) for more insight.
For a complete listing of the schedule of events, check out Cubs.com.

With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

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USA TODAY

With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

Saturday got off to a good start for the Fire with New York City FC drawing at home, but the Fire were unable to gain ground in the race for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Not only did the Fire fail to gain ground, they lost ground. Philadelphia smashed the Fire 3-1 on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium, leaving the Fire four points behind NYCFC for second and vulnerable to the chasing pack. Atlanta can pass the Fire for third place with a win against Montreal on Sunday, and still would have a game in hand.

Things don’t get any easier for the Fire with a trip at San Jose coming up on Wednesday. The Earthquakes are in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference and have one home loss this season.

While Philadelphia has won a majority of its home matches this season, it was the easiest of the three remaining road games on the Fire’s schedule. In addition to the trip to San Jose, the Fire close the regular season at Houston, another team in the playoff hunt that has just one home loss this year.

So Saturday wasn’t such a good day for the Fire.

The game marked the first start for defender Joao Meira since Aug. 16, but midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho missed once again. This was the third straight game Schweinsteiger missed and two straight for Juninho.

Philadelphia took the lead on a Chris Pontius header in the 10th minute and added goals in the second half by Pontius and C.J. Sapong to secure a three-goal lead. Luis Solignac, who came off the bench to replace David Accam in the 60th minute, provided the Fire with a consolation goal, but there wasn’t another to make things interesting in the final minutes.

With four games left in the regular season, the Fire have a pair of tricky games coming up with that trip to San Jose before a big one at home against NYCFC.

Justin Wilson isn’t running away from big moments with Cubs: ‘I want the ball’

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AP

Justin Wilson isn’t running away from big moments with Cubs: ‘I want the ball’

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs have tried to find lower-pressure spots for Justin Wilson to work on things and rebuild his confidence without publicly burying a lefty reliever they specifically targeted before the July 31 trade deadline.

Both manager Joe Maddon and team president Theo Epstein have given Wilson the vote of confidence, though the real test will be whether or not the Cubs actually trust him in the playoffs.

“It’s an open book of communication here,” Wilson said. “We talk. I’ve talked to them and said: ‘Hey, I’m going to get right. I want the ball. I just want to keep getting back out there.’”

Even after All-Star closer Wade Davis blew his first save in more than a year, the Cubs could find big-picture optimism about their bullpen because Wilson got four outs during Saturday’s 4-3 10-inning loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

“How good was that?” Maddon said. “That’s really something looking forward. He made a nice adjustment out there. It looked really good from the side. If we get that out of him, that could be a huge difference-maker for us.”

That was the idea when the Cubs made Wilson their headliner in the package deal with catcher Alex Avila and reinforced the bullpen for another World Series run. Wilson closed for the Detroit Tigers, notching 13 saves for a bad team, putting up a 2.48 ERA in 42 appearances and shutting down left- and right-handed hitters.

Wilson – who gave up 16 walks in 40.1 innings for Detroit – allowed 16 walks and 17 hits through his first 14.1 innings as a Cub while putting up a 6.28 ERA.

On a smoking 88-degree afternoon and in front of a loud crowd of 44,067, Wilson faced the top four hitters in the Milwaukee lineup and unleashed 17 fastballs in a row, all of them buzzing around 95-97 mph across the seventh and eighth innings. Wilson struck out Eric Sogard and Neil Walker, forced Ryan Braun to fly out to left field and struck out Travis Shaw swinging.

With stuff like that, the magic number to clinch the National League Central title in the low single digits and another week left in the regular season, the Cubs hope Wilson can figure it out and become the late-inning weapon they envisioned.       

“Clearly, it hasn’t been the same for me from before the trade,” Wilson said. “I just want to keep pitching.”