Cubs fall short of sweeping Cards

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Cubs fall short of sweeping Cards

David Freese wanted to make sure the Cardinals weren't swept. So he took matters into his own hands.Freese homered and Lance Lynn threw eight strong innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday afternoon."You lose two emotional games like we did, you never want to get swept, to get that third one heading back home is nice," Freese said. "We came out of the gate so hot, this game will even you out real quick."Lynn (4-0) held Chicago to six hits in becoming the first four-game winner in the majors and helping the Cardinals avoid a three-game sweep."What Lance was able to do set the tone for everything," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Whenever he did get into a little trouble, it was a lot like what we saw with (Adam Wainwright on Tuesday) - just made better pitches."Freese's two-run blast in the sixth capped a three-run, two-out rally against starter Chris Volstad. Freese added an RBI double in the eighth."We put up enough runs - we'd still like to put it on the opponent a little harder, a little more, but we'll take this one," Freese said. "Our pitchers are doing a phenomenal job, we just have to keep scrapping."Volstad (0-3) threw six solid innings, retiring St. Louis in order during four of them. But he's still 0-8 in 15 starts since July 10, 2011.Bryan LaHair homered to lead off the fourth for Chicago's only run. LaHair has four of Chicago's lowest seven home runs this season, the lowest total in the majors."I'm going pretty good when I go the other way," LaHair said after his second straight day with an opposite-field homer. "They're attacking me away right now. They'll probably start coming in, which is a good thing, too."The Cardinals avoided being swept at Wrigley Field for the first time since July 27-30, 2006. The Cubs took the first two games of the series in their final at-bat, winning their first series of the season under new manager Dale Sveum.Lynn threw 110 pitches, only the third time this season a Cardinals pitcher has surpassed 100. He's done it on two of those occasions, not bad for a pitcher who only became a starter because rotation stalwart Chris Carpenter went on the disabled list with a shoulder problem. His eight innings marked the longest outing by a Cardinals pitcher this season, and he lowered his ERA to 1.33."Early on they were putting good swings on ball," Lynn said. "I was able to start making the ball move a little bit more and getting quicker outs later in the game."Freese led the Cardinals offense with two hits and three RBIs. Carlos Beltran doubled, walked, scored two runs and stole two bases.Beltran has five steals this season, already his most since 2009.The sixth-inning double snapped an 0 for 18 slump for Beltran. Matheny planned on giving Beltran the day off Wednesday, but the 35-year-old asked to be in the lineup."You love that from a veteran player, who's just begging to be in there a day game after a night game," Matheny said. "Yesterday was his birthday. The guys were all over him about trying to make something happen.""He was excited to make something happen today."NOTES:
Shane Robinson singled three times and stole a base for St. Louis. His three hits matched a career high. ... The Cardinals are headed back to St. Louis for a six-game homestand beginning Friday against Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. . The Cubs embark on a seven-game trip, with a four-game set beginning at Philadelphia on Friday. They also play three at Cincinnati. . Cubs reliever Kerry Wood threw a bullpen session on Tuesday without incident. He's on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue. While Wood is eligible to come off the DL on April 29, Sveum said no timetable has been established for his return.

Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis may not light up the radar gun like Aroldis Chapman, but the veteran closer has still had a similar impact shortening games for the Cubs.

Davis is 10-for-10 in save opportunities in his first year in Chicago, providing Joe Maddon and the Cubs with peace of mind as an anchor in a bullpen that has thrown the eighth-most innings in baseball (and ranks No. 8 in ERA with a 3.45 mark).

Davis just surrendered his first runs of the season Wednesday night on a Mac Williamson homer that snuck into the right-field basket.

Yet Davis still wound up preserving the victory by buckling down and turning away the Giants in the ninth. It was the first homer he's allowed since Sept. 24, 2015 and only the fourth longball he's given up since the start of the 2014 campaign, a span of 201 innings.

Even with Wednesday's outing, Davis boasts a microscopic 0.98 ERA and has allowed just 14 baserunners in 18.1 innings.

With 24 whiffs on the season, Davis is striking out 34.8 percent of the batters he's faced in a Cubs uniform, which would be the second-highest mark of his career (he struck out 39.1 percent of batters in 2014 as the Kansas City Royals setup man).

The 31-year-old nine-year MLB veteran is showing no ill effects from the forearm issue that limited him to only 43.1 innings last season.

[RELATED: How Wade Davis transformed into an elite pitcher by simply not caring]

But his impact isn't restricted to just on-the-field dominance. In spring training, Justin Grimm said he spent as much time as he could around Davis in an attempt to soak up all the knowledge he could.

"It's the stuff that you see — obviously he's really good," Maddon said. "He knows how to pitch, he's a very good closer, he's very successful. But he's a really good mentor to the other guys.

"Oftentimes, I'll walk through the video room and he'll be sitting there with a young relief pitcher or a catcher. There's a lot of respect. A lot of guys come to me and say, 'Listen, Wade's really great to be around.'"

Maddon was the manager with the Tampa Bay Rays when Davis first made his big-league debut in 2009 and the now-Cubs skipper credits the Rays organization with teaching Davis the right habits.

Davis also began his career as a starter before moving to the bullpen full-time in 2014 and reinventing himself as one of the best pitchers on the planet.

"He's grown into this," Maddon said. "He was raised properly. He comes from the organization with the Rays — really good pitching, really good pitching health regarding coaching. And then some of the veteran players that were around him to begin with.

"He's passing it along. The obvious is that he's got a great cutter, slider, fastball, curveball, whatever. He's very good with everybody else around him."

Davis needed 34 pitches to work around a couple jams and get the save Wednesday night. That's his highest pitch count in an outing since June 2, 2015.

Wednesday was also Davis' first time working in a week as the Cubs have not had a save situation in that span.

Maddon said he sees no link between the week off and Davis' struggles in Wednesday's outing and the Cubs manager also has no hesitance going to his closer for more than three outs.

However, Maddon doesn't see a need to extend Davis at this point in the season and would prefer to keep the Cubs' best reliever fresh for the stretch run and what the organization hopes is another shot at a World Series title.

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

The 2017 veteran makeover of the Bears’ wide-receiver position group continued on Thursday with the signing of former New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz to a one-year deal, a fourth move this offseason fitting an intriguing pattern in Bears roster construction.

Cruz “announced” the move on his Instagram account, declaring, “The Giants will forever be family,” Cruz wrote. “But for now, Bear down!!!” He becomes the fourth free-agent wide receiver signed by Bears and coming in with no fewer than four seasons of NFL experience.

The Bears have been about the business of shoring up their receiver group virtually since the 2016 season ended, adding depth in addition to filling in the vacancies created by Alshon Jeffery leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency, and the subsequent release of veteran Eddie Royal.

In their places, the Bears have added Cruz, Rueben Randle (Jan. 10), Markus Wheaton (Mar. 10) and Kendall Wright (Mar. 11), in addition to having Joshua Bellamy, Daniel Braverman, Cameron Meredith, Deonte Thompson and Kevin White in place.

Cruz, whose trademark Salsa dance to celebrate touchdowns has been an NFL staple over his six seasons with the Giants, for whom he started 53 of 70 career games after signing with the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts in 2010. Cruz has caught 303 career passes for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Giants and earning selection to the 2012 Pro Bowl.

Cruz has not played a full 16-game season since 2012, when he caught a career-best 86 passes for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed all of 2015 after rehabbing from a torn patellar tendon in the 2014 season and then suffering a calf injury that eventually required surgery. The Giants released Cruz in early February this year.