Chicago Bears

Meet the only 6-0 pitcher in baseball

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Meet the only 6-0 pitcher in baseball

From Comcast SportsNetPHOENIX (AP) -- Lance Lynn wasn't at his best Monday night -- just good enough for five scoreless innings and another victory.The big, young St. Louis right-hander gave up three hits to become the majors' first six-game winner and the Cardinals held on for a 9-6 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.Rafael Furcal hit the 30th leadoff home run of his career for St. Louis, the first of five homers for the Cardinals on the night. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday hit consecutive homers to open the third off Joe Saunders (2-2). Allen Craig and David Freese homered to start the seventh after Arizona had scored six times in the sixth to cut the lead to 7-6."It was nice for them to come out swinging the bats right from the top, a pretty good display of some power," manager Mike Matheney said. "Then obviously the ones we got later were a lot more valuable than what we thought they would be."Lynn (6-0), the first St. Louis pitcher to start the season with six wins since Bob Tewksbury in 1994, left with a 7-0 lead. Cody Ransom hit a two-run homer in the Diamondbacks' rally."We're winning games while I'm on the mound," Lynn said. "That's all that matters."Jason Motte gave up a pair of singles in the ninth but no runs for his fifth save in six tries.Lynn struck out seven and walked four. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound 24-year-old has allowed six earned runs in six starts. It was his shortest outing of the season, and he acknowledged he had problems with his command."Tonight was a struggle," Lynn said. "You know you're not going to have your best stuff every time out. Tonight I was able to battle through it."Saunders, who entered the game with a 1.24 ERA, allowed seven runs, six earned, on nine hits in 3 1-3 innings."I just didn't have it," he said, "plain and simple."The Diamondbacks, back from a 5-5 road trip, have lost three in a row and five of six. They have dropped eight of their last 10 at home."We haven't played the way we're capable of recently," manager Kirk Gibson said. "If we're going to beat this team we're going to have to play a lot better."Furcal put St. Louis ahead to stay with a leadoff shot an estimated 441 feet onto the porch in left-center, just above the 413-foot sign. After two outs, Allen Craig singled, then scored on Freese's double into the left field corner. The Cardinals made it 3-0 when Yadier Molina singled to right field. Justin Upton's throw to the plate was high and Freese slid under catcher Miguel Montero's tag.Beltran's eighth home run, leading off the third, followed by Holliday's sixth homer of the season, put the Cardinals up 5-0.They made it 7-0, with help of an unearned run, in the fourth. Tyler Green singled, then Montero threw the ball away on Lynn's sacrifice bunt try. Furcal followed with an RBI single, then Holliday walked to load the bases. Reliever Brad Ziegler walked home the seventh run on four pitches.Arizona broke through against reliever J.C. Romero, who faced five batters without an out in the sixth inning. Montero led off with a single, then Ransom hit his fourth home run of the season, a 452-foot shot into the left field seats. Lyle Overbay walked and Aaron Hill singled, then both scored on Ryan Roberts' double. A.J. Pollack reached on an infield single, then Gerardo Parra's bunt brought Roberts home to make it 7-5 with no outs.Fernando Salas relieved Romero and retired the next two batters, but Montero's RBI singled up the middle cut the lead to 7-6.Reliever Bryan Shaw gave up home runs to Craig and Freese to start the seventh as St. Louis stretched it to a three-run game.NOTES:St. Louis batters have hit consecutive home runs four times this season. ... The Cardinals' Lance Berkman, on the DL with a left calf strain, says he expects to be activated on Friday. ... The Diamondbacks were without first base coach Eric Young because of the death of his father. Bullpen coach Glen Sherlock filled in at first base. ... Upton batted second in the lineup for the first time since Sept. 14, 2010. He was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before being lifted in a double switch after the fifth. ... The Cardinals have scored in the first inning in each of their last seven games. ... The Diamondbacks send ace Ian Kennedy (3-1, 3.23) to the mound Tuesday night against the Cardinals' Jake Westbrook (3-2, 2.12). ... Arizona's franchise record for coming from behind to win is six runs, accomplished six times. ... The final seconds of the Phoenix Coyotes' series-clinching NHL playoff victory over Nashville were shown on the Chase Field big screen.

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

If Mitchell Trubisky takes over as the Bears’ starting quarterback this year and has some success, keep Ben Roethlisberger’s perspective in mind: It’ll take a couple of years before he’s solidly established in the NFL. 

Roethlisberger said even after his rookie year — in which he won all 13 regular season games he started — he still was facing defensive looks he hadn’t seen before in Year 2 and 3 as a pro. So saying someone is and will be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL after a productive first season is, for Roethlisberger, too early. 

“I think it takes a couple years,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why I’m always slow to send too much praise or anoint the next great quarterback after Year 1. I think people in the media and the 'professionals' in some of these big sports networks are so quick to anoint the next great one or say that they’re going to be great; this, that and the other. Let’s wait and see what happens after two to three years; after defenses understand what you’re bringing; you’re not a surprise anymore. 

“I think it takes a few years until you can really get that title of understanding being great or even good, because you see so many looks. In Year 2 and 3, you’re still seeing looks and can act like a rookie.”

The flip side to this would be not panicking if Trubisky struggles when he eventually becomes the Bears’ starting quarterback. For all the success he had during preseason play, most of it came against backup and third string defenses that hadn’t done much gameplanning for him. Defensive coordinators inevitably will scheme to make things more difficult for a rookie quarterback with normal week of planning, and it may take Trubisky a little while to adjust to seeing things he hasn't before. 

“They’re not going to line up in a 4-3 or a 3-4 base defense, they’re going to throw different looks at you, different blitzes to try and confuse you,” Roethlisberger said. “The confusion between the ears part is really one of the biggest keys to it.”

The “it” Roethlisberger referred to there is success as a rookie. The former 11th overall pick was lucky enough to begin his NFL career with a strong ground game headlined by Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a balanced receiving corps featuring Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randel El and a defense that led the NFL in points allowed (15.7/game). Trubisky, as the Bears’ roster currently stands, won’t be afforded that same level of support. 

Roethlisberger, though, had a chance to meet and work out with Trubisky before the draft (the two quarterbacks share the same agent) and, for what it's worth, came away impressed with 

“I thought he was a tremendous athlete,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought he could throw the ball. I thought when he got out of the pocket and made throws on the run, his improvising. I got to watch some of his college tape. Just really impressed with the athleticism. The ease of throwing the ball; it just looked easy to him when he was on the run, when it wasn’t supposed to be super easy. So I thought that those were the most impressive things that I got to see; obviously not sitting in a meeting room and knowing his smarts or things like that, but just the athleticism.”
 

Cubs vs. Rays: Joe Maddon imagines what Chris Archer could do in a big market

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USA TODAY

Cubs vs. Rays: Joe Maddon imagines what Chris Archer could do in a big market

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Picture Chris Archer performing with Wrigley Field as the backdrop – the one Joe Maddon compared to a computer-generated scene from “Gladiator” – instead of a dumpy building off Interstate 275.      

Archer could see, feel and hear the Cubs fans who took over Tropicana Field on Tuesday night, a crowd of 25,046 saluting Maddon and watching the defending World Series champs play a sharp all-around game in a 2-1 win over a Tampa Bay Rays team that has a less than 1 percent chance of making the playoffs now.  

“It’s weird,” Archer said after the tough-luck loss, comparing the scene to last week’s games relocated to New York in the wake of Hurricane Irma. “I didn’t know we had that many people from Chicago, Illinois, Midwest area, in Tampa, but I guess we do. It was just weird for their players to come out and get announced and get so much love. It was strange.

“It felt like we were in Citi Field playing the Yankees, honestly. I’m not being critical. It was just crazy how much royal blue there was out there. When Willson Contreras went out there to warm up the pitcher, he had a standing O.

“I’ve been here for however long – and seen some really good players come – and I’ve never seen anybody get as much love (as they did when) they ran out of the dugout to warm up.

“It was just kind of crazy.”  

Archer pitched in the Before Theo farm system, at a time when the Cubs were scrambling to try to pry their window to contend back open after winning back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008. Maddon became the beneficiary when the Cubs packaged Archer – who had 13 Double-A starts on his resume at that point – in the blockbuster Matt Garza trade in January 2011.

Archer, who worked last year’s World Series as an ESPN analyst, has pitched in only two playoff games, making two relief appearances out of Maddon’s bullpen when the Boston Red Sox handled the Rays during a 2013 first-round series.   

Archer lost 19 games last season while putting up a 4.02 ERA and 200-plus innings. He earned his second All-Star selection this year and will turn 29 later this month. Wonder what the good-but-not-great numbers in 2017 – 9-11, 4.02 ERA, 32 starts, 241 strikeouts – would look like on a contender.       

“He is among the elite pitchers, there’s no question about that,” Maddon said. “I don’t watch him enough to know when he goes into these bad moments what exactly is going on. (And) I don’t even know how much certain years luck plays into it or not.

“But the thing about him in a big-city market that would intrigue me is him. He’s really bright. And he’s very socially engaged. For him to be in more of an urban kind of a setting with a greater audience, he could make quite an impact.”

Archer is locked into a team-friendly contract that will pay him roughly $14 million in 2018 and 2019 combined, plus the Rays hold bargain club options for 2020 ($9 million) and 2021 ($11 million). Meaning it would take an unbelievable offer just to get Tampa Bay’s attention.

Archer is also a face of the franchise, a two-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee who visits young men and women in the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center and stays involved with Major League Baseball’s RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities).

“Beyond being a pitcher who is very, very good, I would be curious if he was in a larger situation,” said Maddon, who has an offseason home and a restaurant in Tampa and sat with Archer during a Buccaneers game last season. “Just because socially, in a community, he’s already done it here. But you put him in a large city with more of an urban situation – he could really be impactful in that city. He’s really engaging when he speaks. He’s very bright. He’s really well-thought-out.”

Archer has come a long way from the Mark DeRosa salary-dump trade with the Cleveland Indians on New Year’s Eve 2008. Stan Zielinski, the beloved scout who died in January, lobbied then-general manager Jim Hendry, insisting the Cubs shouldn’t do the deal without Archer, a Class-A pitcher who went 4-8 with a 4.29 ERA that season.

While closing the Garza deal, the Rays actually pushed for another pitching prospect, but the Cubs wanted to hold onto Trey McNutt. Other players bundled in that trade became useful major-league pieces (Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld), but the headliner was supposed to be Hak-Ju Lee, a South Korean shortstop already blocked by Starlin Castro who never made it to the big leagues.    

“There was a lot of good players that came the Rays’ way at that time,” Maddon said. “I didn’t know what to expect (from Archer). I saw him in camp. Great arm. Didn’t really have a good feel for command at that time.

“But when you talked to the kid, you couldn’t help but really like him a lot. He and I connected on more of an intellectual level regarding books and stuff, because he’s really well-read. He’s a lot smarter than I’ll ever be. I’ve always enjoyed my conversations with him. And then all of a sudden, he started finding the plate. And that slider’s electric.”

Maddon has already seen what the Cubs brand and Chicago platform can do for his baseball legacy, bank account and off-the-field interests.

Do you want Archer back?

“I didn’t say that,” Maddon said. “That’s something I cannot (say).”