Chicago Fire

Giants players thrive in All-Star Game

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Giants players thrive in All-Star Game

From Comcast SportsNet
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Matt Cain helped the National League to a Giant blowout in the All-Star game. After all the talk about AL dominance during an offseason when Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder switched leagues, the NL romped to an 8-0 victory over the American League on Tuesday night. The World Series will start in the city of the NL champion for the third straight year. "It's a nice edge," the NL's Tony La Russa said after his final game as a manager. Flashing their bright orange spikes and booming bats, the San Francisco sluggers keyed a five-run blitz against Justin Verlander in the first inning. Cabrera homered and won the MVP award in the ballpark where he played last season, and Cain got the win in the NL's most-lopsided All-Star victory. "I didn't come to win an MVP. That's just a surprise," the former Royals outfielder said, his mother and grandmother next to him. "The same opportunity that Kansas City gave me last year is the same opportunity that San Francisco is giving me every day to showcase my talent." Chipper Jones singled in his final All-Star at-bat at age 40. Ryan Braun, an All-Star again after his drug suspension was overturned last winter, doubled, tripled and made a fine catch in the outfield to help give the NL its first three-game winning streak in two decades. Teen sensation Bryce Harper had a shaky All-Star debut with a walk, strikeout and missed catch. Fellow rookie Mike Trout, only 20, showed off his dynamic skills. Cain combined with Stephen Strasburg, R.A. Dickey, Aroldis Chapman and the rest of a lights-out staff on a six-hitter. The game was pretty much decided a few moments after it started. Sandoval hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history off Verlander, who couldn't control his 100 mph heat. Cabrera singled and scored the first run, then hit a two-run homer against Matt Harrison in a three-run fourth. "I don't get many triples," said the slow-footed Sandoval, known as Kung Fu Panda. "We had some fun with that in the dugout." San Francisco fans, who made a late voting push to elect Sandoval and Cabrera to starting spots, might really appreciate the victory come October. The Giants are a half-game behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West. Rafael Furcal also hit a three-bagger, making the NL the first league with three in an All-Star game. As the All-Stars returned to Kansas City for the first time since 1973, La Russa bid farewell to the national stage in the city where he played for his first major league team. Having retired after managing St. Louis to last year's World Series title, La Russa became just the fourth inactive manager to skipper an All-Star team and improved to 4-2. "Just lucky, like I've been 30 years," La Russa said. The NL boosted its advantage to 43-38-2 and won for just the third time in the 10 years the All-Star game has been used to determine home-field advantage in the World Series. La Russa's Cardinals benefited from last year's NL All-Star victory, with St. Louis winning Games 6 and 7 at home against Ron Washington's Texas Rangers. "It's very disappointing, because we're competitors and we want to win," said Washington, who lost for the second straight year. "They came out. They swung the bats. Once they got the lead, started bringing those arms in their hand, and they got the job done." Jones, retiring at the end of the season, also had one last All-Star moment, pinch hitting in the sixth and singling just past second baseman Ian Kinsler and into right field. Jones chuckled as the ball rolled through. La Russa asked Jones to address the team before the game and the Atlanta third baseman told players: "Whether you're 19 or 40, we are all equals here." "I am not going out losing my last one. So, you with me?" he added. At 19 the youngest position player in All-Star history, Harper had a shaky start when he entered in the fifth. The heralded rookie, wearing shiny gold shoes, didn't flash a Gold Glove and lost Mike Napoli's routine fly to left in the lights, allowing it to drop behind him for a single. Harper then caught Kinsler's bases-loaded flyball to end the inning, earning applause from the crowd of 40,933 at Kauffman Stadium, spruced up by a 250 million renovation that was completed three years ago. Harper tagged up on a long fly after his walk in the fifth, but got himself hung up in a rundown and tagged out. Trout, among a record five All-Star rookies, had a nice showing against two very different pitchers. The Angels outfielder singled and stole a base against Dickey's knuckleball, then drew a walk against Chapman and his 101 mph heat. "I'm going to remember this the rest of my life," Trout said. Cain pitched the 22nd perfect game in big league history last month. He didn't have to be perfect in this one, allowing one hit in two innings for the win. "For those guys to go out and score five runs in the first inning was definitely a little more relaxing for me," he said. "But I still tried to stay focused." Cain was followed by 10 relievers, with Jonathan Papelbon getting the last out with a runner on third base. Verlander had a puzzling outing. In games that count, he hasn't allowed five runs in an inning since April 2010, according to STATS LLC. He became the first All-Star to give up a five-spot since Houston's Roger Clemens in front of his hometown fans in 2004. "I know this game means something and you don't want to give up runs, but we're here for the fans," Verlander said. "I know the fans don't want to see me throw 90 and try to hit the corners." In a 35-pitch inning, he threw five pitches clocked at 100 mph and another at 101. "Hitting 100 in the first inning? Normally you see the guy throw 93, 94 in the first and then hit 100 in the eighth. We saw him hit 101," Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said. "The funniest part was Fielder said to him, Hit 101' and the next pitch he hit 101. Is it that easy?" La Russa, usually serious and tense after games, was playful after his finale, chanting "Mel-ky! Mel-ky! Mel-ky!" as the MVP walked to the podium. "If you're trying to win one game, there's not a better manager out there," Braun said. "It's only fitting that he went out with a win." NOTES: The NL extended the AL's scoreless streak to 14 innings -- its longest drought since 1995-97. ... The NL won for just the sixth time in a quarter-century. ... The NL had last won three straight in 1994-96. ... It was the first All-Star shutout since the NL's 6-0 win in 1996 at Philadelphia. ... The Giants' Barry Bonds was MVP of the '73 game.

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.”