Maholm struggles as Diamondbacks outslug Cubs

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Maholm struggles as Diamondbacks outslug Cubs

By Jose M. Romero
CSNChicago.com Contributor

PHOENIX Paul Maholm had yet to pitch past seven innings this season, and had yet to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in five previous career starts against them.

He got help from his defense and even helped himself with a two-run home run, but was undone by a big inning as Maholm and the Cubs dropped the second game of their three-game set with the D-backs, 10-5 Saturday night at Chase Field.

It got away from Maholm quickly in the fourth as the Diamondbacks batted around. Arizona scored six runs on four singles, a triple and an error. Jason Kubel, one of the hottest hitters in the majors this month, raised his National League-best June RBI total to 22 with a two-run base hit.

Maholm (4-6) left after getting only one out in the inning. He came into the fourth with a 2-1 lead and left having allowed six earned runs (seven total) on nine hits in 3 13 innings.

Maholms home run, the first homer for a Cubs pitcher since Carlos Zambrano did it against the Cincinnati Reds on Aug. 6 of last year, came in the fourth inning. Up until the bottom of the inning, the Cubs had shined in the field.

In the second inning, second baseman Adrian Cardenas hustled from his position and raced between two teammates to flag down a shallow popup near foul territory in right field. The play was important because the D-backs loaded the bases afterward, and Alfonso Soriano secured the third out by diving to catch a sinking line drive from Aaron Hill.

But an error by third baseman Luis Valbuena in the fourth helped open the floodgates for the Diamondbacks. And as it turned out, they needed a lot of those runs, because the Cubs battled back.

Steve Clevenger doubled into the gap in right-center field to drive in Soriano and Geovany Soto and cut the Arizona lead to 7-4. That was all for Diamondbacks ace Ian Kennedy, who equaled his shortest outing of the season, 4 13 innings, and was charged with five runs after pinch-hitter Jeff Baker singled in Clevenger with two out.

David DeJesus and Starlin Castro both went 4-for-5 to tie career highs in hits in a game for the 10th and eighth time, respectively, and Cardenas added two hits. But the Cubs (24-47) came up short for the third straight game despite collecting 14 hits as a team.

Justin Upton and Paul Goldschmidt hit solo home runs for the Diamondbacks, who climbed above .500 (36-35) for the first time since May 4, when they were 14-13 at the end of that day.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.

Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.

Listen to the latest episode below:

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

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USA TODAY

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.

Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.

But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.

Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?

First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.

Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.

So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.

That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.

Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.

But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.

But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.

There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.

And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.

There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?

If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.

There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.