Red Wings close in on record home winning streak

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Red Wings close in on record home winning streak

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Back on home ice -- where they have been unbeatable for three months -- the Detroit Red Wings closed in on an NHL record. Drew Miller and Henrik Zetterberg scored in the third period, and the Red Wings extended their home winning streak to 18 games with a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night. The Red Wings overcame two more goals by Edmonton's Sam Gagner to move within two wins of the NHL record of 20 straight home victories, set by the Boston Bruins during the 1929-30 season and matched by Philadelphia in 1976. The Bruins also won 19 in a row in Boston during the 1970-71 season. "The home win streak is really unique," Miller said. "I don't think we go into it really trying to say, Hey, let's do it to get this streak.' I think we're just trying to establish our game at home and play night in and night out the way that we should play." Detroit will either break the record or have its streak snapped on this homestand. Wednesday's game was the first of six in a row at home for the Red Wings -- following a five-game trip. "People that don't travel with us and just watch home games have no idea how hard it is to come back and what a grind it is," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "This game is always a tough one to win. We knew that coming in. We're going to give our team a day off (Thursday). Ideally, we'll be freshened up and ready to go by the next one." The Red Wings host Anaheim on Friday night. Detroit hasn't lost at home since Nov. 3 against Calgary. Johan Franzen and Cory Emmerton also scored for Detroit, but Gagner answered with a pair of goals to tie the game. He has eight goals and six assists in four games. After Gagner's power-play goal made it 2-2 with 11:37 remaining, Miller scored his 11th of the season amid a scramble in front. After Justin Abdelkader's shot from the slot was stopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, the Edmonton goalie appeared to think he had the puck frozen. But it was behind him, sitting tantalizingly in the crease, and Miller was able to poke it in the net. "It was one of those right place at the right time. We'll definitely take it," Miller said. "I score some unnatural goals, I guess. That's how I've always scored throughout my whole career, so it's nothing new to me." Zetterberg added an insurance goal with 5:16 to play, beating Khabibulin from a tough angle to the goalie's right. Franzen opened the scoring on a power play, positioning himself in front of Khabibulin and redirecting Ian White's shot from the point with 6:42 remaining in the first period. It was Franzen's 21st goal of the season. Emmerton made it 2-0 early in the second, scoring on a backhander from in front after Abdelkader tried to jam the puck past Khabibulin. Detroit outshot the Oilers 20-9 through two periods but led only 2-1 thanks to Gagner's breakaway goal. It appeared Edmonton's Ben Eager might fight Jonathan Ericsson in front of the benches, but when Gagner took a lead pass and cruised alone into the Detroit zone, Eager spun away to join his teammate on the rush. Gagner has had at least one point in five straight games, including his four-goal, four-assist effort against Chicago on Thursday. He scored again in the third period to tie the game and give himself 13 goals this season. "Obviously, it feels good to produce," Gagner said. "It feels better to win." Joey MacDonald made 15 saves for Detroit, earning his first win of the season in only his third appearance. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said regular starter Jimmy Howard (broken finger) is unlikely to be back this weekend. NOTES: Edmonton coach Tom Renney was back behind the bench after missing Monday's game at Toronto because he was struck in the head by a puck during a morning skate. The cut required stitches and left Renney with headaches. ... Detroit is 21-2-1 at home this season. ... Red Wings F Danny Cleary, who assisted on Emmerton's goal, left the game in the second period because of an undisclosed lower body injury and didn't return. ... The Red Wings have two shootout wins during their home streak.

Cubs ninth inning rally stifled by Jeurys Familia in loss to Mets

Cubs ninth inning rally stifled by Jeurys Familia in loss to Mets

NEW YORK – The Cubs didn’t overreact to getting swept in last year’s National League Championship Series, but the New York Mets did expose some underlying issues while a deep playoff run created a sense of urgency in Wrigleyville.

The Cubs spent like crazy on the free-agent market (almost $290 million) and wore T-shirts around spring training that literally put targets on their chests, knowing the look would go viral on social media and spark love/hate responses.

Making a statement? Sending a message? That’s so last year, when the Cubs were a team still trying to find an identity and learn how to win. The Mets are now the ones feeling the season-on-the-brink anxiety, desperate for offense and hoping to avoid worst-case scenarios with all those talented young pitchers.

So maybe this becomes a turning point for the defending NL champs, beating the Cubs 4-3 on Thursday night at Citi Field to kick off this marquee four-game series in front of 40,122 and a national TV audience.

Steven Matz, who set off alarm bells this week with the disclosure he’s been pitching with a bone spur in his left elbow, managed to work into the sixth inning and throw 104 pitches, giving up homers to Kris Bryant and Javier Baez but limiting the damage to only three runs.

Yoenis Cespedes, who revived a lifeless lineup after last summer’s trade-deadline blockbuster, energized the Mets again with a big swing in the sixth inning, drilling a John Lackey pitch 441 feet out to left field and onto the third deck, creating a 110-mph exit velocity with his 19th home run.

Lackey, the big-game starter the Cubs needed to lengthen their rotation for October, got pulled with one out in the seventh and the Mets took advantage of Joel Peralta’s shaky audition out of the bullpen and a Javier Baez throwing error in what became a three-run inning.

The Cubs couldn’t come up with an answer for Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who finished off all four NLCS wins last October. The Cubs wasted Miguel Montero’s pinch-hit, leadoff walk in the ninth inning and Ben Zobrist’s line-drive double to right field. Familia responded by striking out Bryant swinging, intentionally walking Anthony Rizzo to load the bases, striking out Willson Contreras swinging and getting Javier Baez to pop out to end the game.

Could Cubs ace Jake Arrieta be in line to start All-Star Game?

Could Cubs ace Jake Arrieta be in line to start All-Star Game?

NEW YORK – After his long, winding journey to the Cubs – and stunning transformation into a Cy Young Award winner – Jake Arrieta won’t attach any special meaning to starting the All-Star Game: “I’m kind of over that.”

But the back injury that forced Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw onto the disabled list could create an opportunity for Arrieta. Beyond Kershaw and Arrieta, New York Mets manager Terry Collins listed three more “legitimate names” for the National League starting assignment on July 12 at Petco Park in San Diego. San Francisco Giants teammates Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto are in the mix along with Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard.

“Clayton was one of those names,” Collins told reporters before Thursday’s Cubs-Mets game at Citi Field. “And I can tell you Jake was right near the top of the list. I kind of like my guy a little bit, too.

“I kind of feel like I know who’s going to start the game.”

That’s how Collins ended his media session, without taking any more follow-up questions, but he will get an up-close look at Arrieta (12-2, 2.10 ERA) on Saturday night, which also marks the three-year anniversary of that franchise-altering trade with the Baltimore Orioles for a pitcher who spent parts of the 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 seasons on the Triple-A level.    

“I’ve kind of addressed (how) I’ve come to this point,” Arrieta said. “It’s a long way from where I used to be. I do understand that. But at the same time, I’ve kind of put most of it behind me.

“(Starting the All-Star Game) would be great. It would be an honor, obviously. If it happens, it’s something special.

“But most important for me is my start Saturday.” 

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

NEW YORK – Let’s start with this boilerplate Theo Epstein quote and file it away for the next time Kyle Schwarber’s name appears on MLBTradeRumors.com or a fantasy-baseball proposal for the New York Yankees.

“I’m looking forward to Kyle Schwarber — who got hurt in a Cubs uniform and is working his ass off in a Cubs uniform — coming back and hitting a very big home run in a Cubs uniform sometime very early next season,” Epstein said.

The president of baseball operations clearly has a special bond with Schwarber, selecting the Indiana University catcher/outfielder with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, back when the industry consensus made it sound like a reach. Schwarber helped ignite those champagne celebrations last year by setting a franchise record with five postseason home runs. Epstein felt sick watching Schwarber wreck his knee in an outfield collision during the first week of this season, allowing him to rehab in Chicago and hang out in the draft room, essentially viewing him as an untouchable player because of his left-handed power and leadership qualities.

The Mets are the defending National League champs — with all due respect, as Joe Maddon might say, quoting Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby character in “Talladega Nights.” But the Yankees might be the New York team the Cubs should focus on now.

While the Mets returned home to Citi Field on Thursday as a third-place team — six games behind Washington after getting swept at Nationals Park — the Yankees will be in no man’s land on July 1 at 39-39.

The Bronx Bombers now have another month to decide whether or not they will become trade-deadline sellers for the first time in a generation, how breaking up the Andrew Miller/Aroldis Chapman/Dellin Betances bullpen could set them up for the future. And what surrender would mean for a YES Network/Yankee Stadium/27 World Series titles business plan. 

Epstein viewed Thursday’s action – the San Diego Padres flipped closer Fernando Rodney to the Miami Marlins while the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired right-hander Bud Norris from the Atlanta Braves – as more of a reaction to the July 2 international signing period (and Clayton Kershaw’s back injury) than a sign that the market would start to move quickly.

“We’re talking to clubs, just trying to see who might be available and where we might have matches,” Epstein said. “But there’s nothing real imminent. There’s usually a flurry of activity around (this time). Despite the trades today, I think it might end up being more of a slow-developing market. We’ll see. We’re not close to anything.”

Remember, the Cubs rebuilt their bullpen on the fly last summer with Clayton Richard (acquired for a dollar from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate), Trevor Cahill (released by the Braves and Dodgers before signing a minor-league deal) and Rodney (a two-time All-Star the Seattle Mariners had designated for assignment).

While Schwarber-for-Miller buzz is great on talk radio and Twitter, for now the Cubs will go with the grab-bag approach, looking at internal options like Carl Edwards Jr. and Joel Peralta, hoping for good news on their Tommy John cases (Joe Nathan, Jack Leathersich) and waiting for Justin Grimm to get locked in again.

“It’s pretty rare that you rebuild a bullpen midseason through big-ticket items,” Epstein said. “Last year was actually more typical. They don’t all work out — that’s not what I’m saying. But if you have a plan and a process — and you’re willing to kind of cycle through guys (and) ride things out — you often get rewarded in the end.

“For a postseason bullpen, if you’re thinking that far in advance, you’re not talking about eight guys. You’re talking about three or four guys that you can lean on heavily. It’s being open-minded, being willing to let guys ride through their downturns and make adjustments, so that they can find it.”