Bard's control issue out of control


Bard's control issue out of control

PHILADELPHIA -- It didn't take long for Daniel Bard's outing to head in the wrong direction.

On the sixth pitch of his start Friday night, with a full count to Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Bard, against his own better judgement, elected to throw Rollins a slider.

The pitch missed, Rollins walked and the inning soon unraveled for Bard. He would walk three of the first four hitters he faced, leading to a big 4-0 inning, from which the Sox couldn't rebound in a 6-4 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

Needing 33 pitches just to get out of the first, Bard would be done after five. He walked five, hit two others and finds himself still struggling in the transition from reliever to starter.

But whether in the bullpen or in the rotation, Bard's command is the biggest issue. He's walked 13 in his last three starts, spanning 18 innings, earning a rebuke from his manager.

"He didn't have his control in the first inning tonight...obviously,'' said Valentine. "The walks, they're not acceptable. That amount of can't leave your team out there and you can't be letting those guys get on base.

"He's tough to hit in the strike zone. Might as well throw it in there.''

Bard said the problem in the first was initially a physical one, but was then compounded by a mental mistake.

"When you get out of your delivery a little bit,'' said Bard, 3-5, "the best thing to do is kind of step off, take a breath and kind of hit the re-set button. I never did that. I tried to power through it a little bit. You can't do that, especially early in the game.

"It was probably something that should have listed two or three pitches (with a mechanical issue) and it ended up lasting 12-15 pitches. That's my fault. I didn't handle it well.''

In seven starts to date, Bard has had just three quality starts. And in one of those -- a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Patriots Day -- Bard walked seven Rays, including one to force in the winning run with the bases loaded.

The Sox eventually clawed back on the strength of three solo homers and a sacrifice fly and brought the potential tying run to the plate in both the eighth and ninth innings.

But they could never overcome what Bard had spotted the home team in the very first inning.

"This loss is definitely on me,'' he said. "A 4-0 deficit in the first is pretty tough to overcome.''

Bard said the "kink'' in his delivery happens to the most experienced starters.

"It's going to happen,'' he said. "But it's how you respond and how quickly you can get to pounding the zone is kind of what defines you as a pitcher. Today, it took me too long to get back into it.''

In the future, Bard said, he'll take his time and assess what he needs to do, rather than trying to fight his way through the issue.

"It's just a matter of going back to what works,'' he said. "But my mistake was trying to power through it, thinking that the next (pitch) was going to be better and better.''

Instead, things got worse and worse for Bard and the Sox, and the deficit proved to be too much.

Also troubling: Bard has now walked 15 while striking out nine in his last four outings. For someone with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a overpowering slider, that seems incomprehensible.

Again, the issue is command.

"I'm not getting myself in good counts -- it's as simple as that,'' said Bard. "When I start to establish 'strike one' more consistently, that will all come back.''

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.