Brewers sweep Cubs who are again 21 games below .500

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MILWAUKEE—Ryan Braun feels he’s at full strength at just the right time for the Milwaukee Brewers.One day after losing All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks to a severe ankle sprain, Braun had three hits, including a home run, to lead the Brewers to a series sweep with a 4-2 win over the Cubs on Thursday.Braun had a nagging calf injury in the days before the All-Star Game and missed playing in the game in Phoenix, but since he came back he’s heated up with five homers in 12 games.Braun said the entire team needs to step up with Weeks out for between two and six weeks. The Brewers put Weeks on the 15-day disabled list before the game. The Brewers’ pitching was also strong in the three-game series, holding the Cubs to just four runs.Shaun Marcum (10-3) pitched six innings to win his third straight for the Brewers, giving up two runs on seven hits. LaTroy Hawkins and Franciso Rodriguez each pitched a scoreless inning and John Axford closed out the game to record his 30th save in 32 chances. Axford, who has now converted a team-record 27 straight save opportunities, saved all three wins against the Cubs.Marcum struggled in the first inning, giving up one run, in part because of his throwing error on a pickoff attempt. He settled down and only gave up one more run.Randy Wells (2-4) took the loss for the Cubs, giving up all four runs on eight hits.Cubs manager Mike Quade said Braun was the main reason for Wells’ troubles.The last time the Brewers swept the Cubs in Milwaukee was May 3-5, 2005.Troy Campana, who started in right field for the Cubs after Kosuke Fukudome was traded to Cleveland Thursday morning, led off the game by beating out an infield grounder and went to second on a throwing error by Marcum. He then stole third base and scored on Aramis Ramirez’s sacrifice fly to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.The Brewers came back to grab a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning on Casey McGehee’s sacrifice fly and Yuniesky Betancourt’s RBI double.Braun’s 21st home run of the season in the third inning gave the Brewers a 3-1 lead. Milwaukee extended its lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning. After a single by Nyjer Morgan, Braun crushed a pitch from Wells off the center field wall to score Morgan.Alfonso Soriano’s sixth inning RBI double cut the lead to 4-2.

NOTES—To replace Weeks on the roster, the Brewers recalled INF Eric Farris from Triple-A Nashville. Farris made his major league debut in a pinch-hit appearance in the seventh inning and grounded out…..The Cubs recalled OF Tyler Colvin from Triple-A Iowa to replace Fukudome on the roster….Brewers IF Craig Counsell went 0 for 3 to extend his hitless streak to 41 at-bats, setting a new Brewers record for consecutive at-bats without a hit by a position player. The record had been 38, which was set by Greg Vaughn in 1990.

Brewers,Grienke blank Zambrano Cubs 2-0. Weeks hurts ankle

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MILWAUKEE—Corey Hart calls Rickie Weeks the toughest player he’s ever met. Now, he and the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers must continue their playoff chase without their All-Star second baseman.Weeks will head to the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle after being injured running out a throw to first in the Brewers’ 2-0 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday night. There’s no timetable yet on when he can return.Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said the ankle wasn’t broken, but Weeks went to the hospital for further tests to check for ligament damage.Prince Fielder hit his 23rd home run and Zack Greinke (8-4) worked effectively into the seventh inning as Milwaukee kept pace in the crowded NL Central, but losing Weeks will be a huge blow to the Brewers’ postseason chances.Fielder gave Milwaukee a 1-0 lead in the second and Weeks followed with a grounder to Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. Castro hesitated and Weeks stretched out to beat the throw when his left foot slipped off the side of the bag and turned inward. Weeks was helped off the field by Roenicke and assistant trainer Dan Wright and did not put weight on the leg.General manager Doug Melvin had already been looking for middle infielders to help shore up depth, but this injury may hasten Milwaukee’s need to make a deal before Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline.Weeks was hitting .272 with 19 homers and 43 RBI in 104 games in the first season of a $38.5 million, four-year deal.Weeks’ injury overshadowed the pitching duel that developed between Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano and Greinke as well as John Axford converting his franchise record 26th consecutive save. Zambrano, the subject of trade rumors himself, had been 7-0 with a 2.40 ERA in his previous eight starts at Miller Park, which included his no-hitter against the Astros when Houston was forced to relocate two games in 2008 due to Hurricane Ike. But Zambrano (7-6) left one pitch hanging to Fielder, who hit his first homer since his three-run shot for the National League in the All-Star game. Fielder had been slumping with only three extra-base hits in his previous 57 at-bats before the homer.After Craig Counsell replaced Weeks, Casey McGehee doubled and Yuniesky Betancourt hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0. After the game, Zambrano was mum about his future. “Everybody has to make change to win,” he said before walking away from reporters.Greinke struck out nine and left with two outs in the seventh after walking Blake DeWitt. Reliever Takashi Saito got Darwin Barney to ground out to end the inning. Francisco Rodriguez pitched the eighth, allowing a warning-track fly ball from Aramis Ramirez that would have tied the game if it had been hit about 3 feet farther. Axford worked a perfect ninth to end it and surpass Doug Jones’ 1997 mark of 25 consecutive saves for the Brewers.

NOTES—Axford has converted 29 of 31 save chances this year….Fielder is the only player in the majors to start every game this season after Florida’s Gaby Sanchez didn’t play against Washington on Tuesday night. Fielder has missed only one game over the last three seasons when he was ill….The Brewers sent C Wil Nieves to Atlanta for cash. The Braves will pick up the rest of what’s owed on Nieves’ $775,000, one-year contract.



Unlikely hero as DeAza homer helps Sox to 2-1 win over Tigers. Jackson,Teahan traded

Alejandro De Aza returned to the majors Wednesday and it sure looks as if he plans on staying for a while.De Aza hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat of the season and the White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 2-1 on Wednesday.De Aza, who was called up earlier in the day to fill a roster spot opened by a trade, connected against Max Scherzer (11-6) in the second, hitting an 0-2 pitch over the wall in right for his first major league homer. Austin Jackson hit a leadoff homer in the seventh but that was it for Detroit against John Danks (4-8) and two relievers.Danks (4-8), who left after Jackson’s fifth homer, matched a career high with 10 strikeouts while improving to 4-0 with a sparkling 0.98 ERA in his last six starts. The left-hander allowed six hits and walked three.Chris Sale replaced Danks and worked 2 2/3 perfect innings before Sergio Santos got the last out for his 21st save in 24 chances.Scherzer (11-6) struck out eight in six innings, yielding six hits and four walks. The 6-foot-3 right-hander is 1-2 in three starts against the White Sox this season despite a 1.64 ERA.The White Sox closed within 3 1/2 games of Detroit in the AL Central, a threshold the Sox have reached, but not surpassed, since mid-April. The Tigers fell to 23-13 against AL Central opponents, still the best intradivision record in the league.Alexei Ramirez had a one-out walk ahead of De Aza’s homer in his 195th at-bat in the majors. The speedy outfielder had previous stints with the White Sox and Florida Marlins.De Aza was called up from Triple-A Charlotte after the White Sox traded starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and utilityman Mark Teahen to the Toronto Blue Jays for reliever Jason Frasor and pitching prospect Zach Stewart(The Blue Jays in turn sent Jackson as well as former Cub Corey Pastterson,among others,to the Cardinals). DeAza received a hearty welcome back in the dugout after his homer.White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said De Aza will get regular playing time in place of Alex Rios, who is hitting .208. Williams said “Rios is going to have to take a back seat now.” Rios hasn’t homered since June 19.Danks used all those strikeouts to work out of several jams.The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the third, but Danks struck out Ryan Raburn and got Magglio Ordonez to bounce into a force play.Danks walked Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez with none out in the fourth, then struck out Jhonny Peralta, Carlos Guillen and Wilson Betemit in order to end the inning, all swinging.Danks struck out Ordonez with two runners on in the fifth. Ordonez entered the game hitting .577 (15 for 26) career against Danks.The White Sox just missed adding to their lead in the seventh.Adam Dunn drew a one-out walk to load the bases for Carlos Quentin, who missed a grand slam by a few feet, his drive hooking outside the foul pole in left. He drove the next pitch down the right-field line, but it curled into the seats.Quentin finally flied out to shallow left and Juan Pierre was cut down at the plate by left fielder Raburn.The Sox are off Thursday before facing a critical seven-game stretch against the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field.Danks said the White Sox (51-52) are well positioned despite struggling for much of the season.

NOTES—Danks also struck out 10 against Texas on May 9, 2009….Dunn reached base four times in a game for the first time since May 31. He remained 2 for 68 against left-handers after walking against Phil Coke in the seventh….The Tigers concluded a seven-game road trip and now return home to begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday against the Angels. Detroit went 4-3 on the trip….The Sox improved to 3-7 in its last 10 games against Detroit at home….Paul Konerko struck out three times for second time this season and first time since April 23…..Despite the loss, the Tigers have won 15 of their last 21 games against the White Sox

Verlander evens the score, Tigers beat Sox 5-4

Justin Verlander got his 14th win and Wilson Betemit had a two-out, go-ahead single in the eighth inning Tuesday night as the Detroit Tigers beat the White Sox 5-4 and increased their lead in the AL Central.Verlander (14-5), beaten by the White Sox 11 days ago in Detroit, allowed four runs and seven hits in eight innings, including two-run homers to Adam Dunn in the first and Paul Konerko in the sixth. Verlander, who threw 125 pitches, came back to strike out Konerko and Dunn with a runner on in the eighth.Jose Valverde pitched the ninth for his 27th save in as many chances.Detroit leads the division by two games over Cleveland and the third-place White Sox are 4 1-2 games out.Will Ohman (0-2) issued a leadoff walk to Victor Martinez in the eighth and pinch-runner Andy Dirks stole second with Jesse Crain pitching. With two outs, Matt Thornton replaced Crain and Betemit – recently acquired from Kansas City – fouled off four pitches before hitting an RBI single to center.Konerko’s two-run homer, his 24th of the season and second in as many games, tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth and came right after the Tigers had scored three in the top of the inning. Brennan Boesch’s bunt single got the Tigers started in the sixth. Magglio Ordonez followed with his second single of the game and Miguel Cabrera delivered with a bloop single to right to tie the game 2-2. Martinez then lined a single to right – Detroit’s fourth straight hit – to put the Tigers ahead. Jhonny Peralta followed with a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 4-2. After a double by Betemit, Jake Peavy intentionally walked Alex Avila to load the bases before striking out Austin Jackson.Cabrera singled in a run in the fourth inning before Peavy pitched out of a bases-loaded jam. Peavy allowed 10 hits and four runs in six innings and is still winless in five starts since he pitched four innings of relief against the Nationals on June 25.Dunn, who was 9 for 90 in his previous 25 games, fouled off three pitches before connecting on a 3-2 pitch from Verlander, sending the ball 436 feet into the bleachers in right-center field to give the White Sox a 2-0 lead. He struck out in his next three at-bats.

NOTES—Verlander had given up seven hits and five runs – four earned – in six innings while losing to the White Sox in first start after the All-Star break on July 15. … The Sox are 14-20 against the AL Central. … The Tigers outrighted the contract of veteran 3B Brandon Inge to Triple-A Toledo. Inge was designated for assignment last week after the Tigers acquired Betemit. Inge was batting just .177 with one home run in 70 games this season.

All runs in first inning as Brewers edge Cubs 3-2.

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MILWAUKEE—No four game winning streak for the Northsiders. Ryan Braun doubled in a run, former Cubs prospect Casey McGehee added a two-run triple and the Brewers bullpen tossed four scoreless innings to lift Milwaukee to a 3-2 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night.Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer for the Cubs, who saw their season-best three-game winning streak snapped.Milwaukee came into play a half-game back of St. Louis and Pittsburgh for first place in the NL Central and have thrived at home — where they’ll play their next nine games during a stretch of 18 straight against division opponents.Chris Narveson (7-6) went five innings but needed reliever Kameron Loe to bail him out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth. John Axford tied a franchise mark with his 25th consecutive save.The Brewers bullpen of Loe, LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Rodriguez and Axford each pitched an inning and allowed just two baserunners as a group in the Brewers first game back at Miller Park, where they’re 34-14 this year following a 5-6 road trip against NL West foes.Rodriguez struck out two in his home debut in the eighth inning after being acquired the night of the All-Star game from the Mets for two players to be named.Axford matched Doug Jones’ 1997 franchise record of 25 consecutive saves after working around a two-out error by second baseman Rickie Weeks in the ninth. Pinch runner Tony Campana stole second before the second-year closer struck out Blake DeWitt to end it. Axford has converted 52 of 57 opportunities since taking the closer’s role from Trevor Hoffman last year.Cubs starter Ryan Dempster (7-8) continued his string of sharp outings against Milwaukee with seven strikeouts over six innings, but took a rare loss to the Brewers. Since joining the rotation in 2008, Dempster is 11-2 with a 2.80 ERA against the Brewers.His only problem came in the first after being staked a 2-0 lead from Ramirez’s shot. Corey Hart led off with a double and scored on Braun’s double with an out. Prince Fielder followed with a single to put runners on the corners. With two outs, McGehee hit a sharp liner to the right-field wall to give Milwaukee a 3-2 lead. That would be all that Narveson and the Brewers bullpen would need, even though the Cubs had several chances.They put runners in scoring position in the second, fifth, sixth and ninth innings, but finished 0 for 6 in those situations at the plate.In the sixth, Narveson left without getting an out when Geovany Soto singled, Marlon Byrd doubled and Carlos Pena walked, but Loe helped Narveson escape the jam thanks to two plays by McGehee at third.First, McGehee threw out Soto at home off Alfonso Soriano’s sharp grounder, and then started a rally-killing double play when Darwin Barney bounced another ball to the third baseman that the Cubs put on waivers in 2008.McGehee never had a chance to get serious playing time in Chicago behind Ramirez, who continued his torrid pace. Ramirez has hit 14 homers and driven in 29 runs over his last 29 games, but no one else chipped in for the Cubs again.

NOTES—Dempster caught a sharp liner from Braun to end the fifth that would’ve hit him in the head if it wasn’t for the pitcher’s quick reaction. … Brewers CF Carlos Gomez (broken collarbone) was in the locker room following his surgery on Monday and showing off X-rays of the injury he sustained Wednesday in a win at Arizona. Gomez had a plate inserted to help the injury heal. The club hopes he can return sometime in September. …Kerry Wood (sick) did not make the trip to Milwaukee for the first of this 10-game, three-city road trip.

Sox take advantage of Rookie Pitchers, grab opener from Detroit.

Mark Buehrle pitched six innings and Carlos Quentin hit a bases-loaded double Monday night as the White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 6-3 to pull within 3 ½ games of first in the AL Central.Buehrle (8-5) allowed 10 hits and Detroit had a runner on in each of his six innings, but the Tigers managed just two unearned runs off the left-hander.Detroit rookie Duane Below (0-1) surrendered six hits and four runs in 4 2/3 innings.Tigers manager Jim Leyland was ejected before the start of the sixth. There was no immediate word on why he was thrown out.Paul Konerko hit his 23rd homer and A.J. Pierzynski his fourth for the White Sox.Miguel Cabrera connected on his 21st homer for Detroit, a solo shot off reliever Jesse Crain in the seventh.

Sox luck one out as dropped fly by Carrera leads to 4-2 win over Tribe

CLEVELAND—With Edwin Jackson pitching well and breaks going their way, manager Ozzie Guillen believes the White Sox are poised for a pennant race.Jackson beat Cleveland for the ninth straight time after Indians rookie Ezequiel Carrera dropped an easy fly ball in center field to give the White Sox two runs in a 4-2 victory Sunday.

“The ball is bouncing our way now,” Guillen said. “Everytime somebody makes a mistake, we take advantage of it.”

Jackson (7-7) allowed one run and four hits over six innings to go to 9-1 in his career against Cleveland. He is 9-0 with a 2.61 ERA against the Indians since losing to them on Aug. 17, 2007, when he was with Tampa Bay.Adam Dunn lofted a pitch from Justin Masterson (8-7) to straightaway center with two outs in the sixth and runners on first and second. Carrera, in center for Cleveland with former Gold Glove winner Grady Sizemore on the disabled list, got under the towering fly. He looked up, stumbled to his right, then ducked as the ball glanced off his glove and fell to the ground.

“I stumbled a little bit when I reached the warning track,” Carrera said through an interpreter. “I was right underneath it, but when I stumbled, my head moved a little bit and I lost sight of it. I thought I was in the right spot. I just missed it. ”

It put the Sox ahead for good, 3-1, scoring Omar Vizquel, who had singled, and Paul Konerko, who was intentionally walked to face Dunn, hitting .161.Guillen said he immediately flashed back to the 2005 AL Central race, when the White Sox held off Cleveland and went on to win the World Series. Sizemore dropped a fly ball in the sun in a game in Kansas City to help the cause in the final week.Sergio Santos got the final two outs for his 20th save in 23 chances.Jesse Crain, Chris Sale and Santos pitched three hitless innings of relief. Crain worked the seventh, Sale struck out the side on 12 pitches in the eighth and got the first out in the ninth. Santos issued a walk before closing it out.The Sox, 38-29 since May 7, moved within two games of .500 and will host AL Central leading Detroit in a three-game series starting Monday. Cleveland has lost four straight and nine of 13. The Indians now lead the third-place White Sox by only 2 1/2 games.The Indians got one run back in their sixth. Asdrubal Cabrera walked and took off for second before Travis Hafner lined a ball to right-center. Cabrera never stopped, scoring all the way from first on the hard-hit single to make it 3-2.Two more Cleveland errors restored a two-run lead in the seventh. Alex Rios reached when Cabrera backed up on his soft liner, which bounced on the infield dirt and then off the shortstop’s glove. Rios stole second and continued to third when catcher Carlos Santana threw wildly. Mark Teahen broke an 0 for 12 skid with an RBI single to make it 4-2.The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first on a groundout by Konerko, but Cleveland tied it in the fifth on Carrera’s two-out line single to right.Masterson allowed one earned run and four hits over seven innings. The right-hander walked only one and struck out six. He is 1-2 with a 1.23 ERA against the White Sox this season.

NOTES—Fans gave Carrera a loud cheer when he caught a simple fly ball hit by Pierre in the eighth. … The Indians have scored two runs or fewer in 10 of Masterson’s 21 starts. He is 1-5 in those starts. … Masterson has allowed six earned runs in his last 44 1-3 innings, a 1.22 ERA. …Guillen said that RHP Philip Humber will work out of the bullpen until an extra starter is needed. Guillen wants to keeps LHPs Mark Buehrle and John Danks and RHP Jake Peavy sharp and will start those three in order against Detroit. … Santos has not allowed an unearned run in 21 road relief outings this year. … Pierre has hit .367 (33 for 90) in his last 22 games.

Cubs at last win three straight with ten inning win over awful Astros

Pinch-hitter Jeff Baker’s game-winning single in the 10th inning helped the Cubs complete its first three-game sweep at Wrigley Field in nearly two years as they beat the pathetic Houston Astros 5-4 on Sunday afternoon.It’s their first three-game winning streak this season.Marlon Byrd led off the 10th inning with a deep fly ball to right-center. Astros right fielder Hunter Pence was in the area to catch it but apparently lost it in the sun. Byrd ended up on third with a triple.Astros reliever David Carpenter (0-1) then struck out Geovany Soto, after intentional walks to Tony Campana and Darwin Barney, Baker ended the game with a liner down the left-field line.Cubs reliever John Grabow (2-0) pitched a scoreless 10th inning to earn the win.They had to come back after the Cubs bullpen blew another impressive start by Matt Garza. In his third straight start, Garza left after seven innings with the lead only to have it blown by the bullpen.On Sunday, Garza was done in by reliever Jeff Samardzija. With a 2-1 lead, Samardzija allowed a leadoff walk to Pence in the eighth, then gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Lee to give the Astros a 4-3 lead. Before Lee’s home run, Samardzija went 12 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run.Lee has hit 36 home runs in his career against the Cubs with 101 RBI.The Cubs rallied in the bottom of the eighth. Byrd led off with a single off Astros reliever Wilton Lopez and he advanced to third on Soto’s single. Alfonso Soriano tied the game with a broken-bat single to left. Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol pitched out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the ninth. He struck out Pence then ended the inning by getting Lee to pop out to center.Soto and Barney had a pair of RBI doubles for the Cubs, who swept an opponent at home for the first time since taking three straight from Cincinnati on July 24-26, 2009.The last time the Cubs won three straight overall was at San Diego and Houston on Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2010.Garza allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings, while striking out nine. He hasn’t won since July 27.Clint Barmes also hit a solo home run for the major-league worst Astros, who have lost seven straight on the road.Astros starter Jordan Lyles rebounded after a three-run second inning to pitch six innings. He allowed three runs and nine hits while strking out five. The 20-year-old rookie is still in search of his first major league win.Trailing 1-0 in the second inning, Byrd led off with a double and scored on Soto’s double to center field. After Soriano struck out, Barney doubled down the right-field line to score Soto. Garza followed with a single to right to score Barney to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. It was Garza’s first RBI in the majors.Barmes’ first inning home run ended Houston’s streak of 27 consecutive hits without an extra base hit. Barmes connected on Garza’s 1-1 pitch in the first inning for his sixth of the season.

Rush flat in Regular Season finale loss to Milwaukee. Playoffs next

Chicago Sky

ROSEMONT—If the Rush come out against Dallas in this Friday’s Playoff opener,it will be a short Post Season.This was a train wreck from the very start.Despite hoping to gain momentum before their playoff showdown with the Vigilantes, the Rush lost their final regular season game against the Milwaukee Mustangs 54-34 in front of 10,269 fans at the Allstate Arena.

“We just beat ourselves tonight,” said Rush head coach Bob McMillen. “We didn’t give our team the opportunity to win.”

First the good news, WR Reggie Gray led the Rush with five touchdown receptions for 123 yards as he also broke the Rush franchise record for most receptions in a single season. He now has 130 receptions this season. Gray also tied the team record for most touchdowns in a season with 53. Now the bad news, the Rush had numerous opportunities to overtake the Mustangs but committed five turnovers and were unable to overcome the hot offense of the Mustangs, who finished off their regular season 7-11.Milwaukee took advantage of some early turnovers by the Rush to jump out to a 9-6 lead in the opening period. Rush QB J.J. Raternik committed two turnovers as the defensive line of the Mustangs overpowered the the Rush offense early on.Things got even more difficult for the Rush in the second quarter; Milwaukee went on a 21-0 run and extended their lead to 30-6 with 7:26 in the second period after Mustangs DL Broderick Stewart scored a touchdown off a fumble by Rush FB Johnie Kirton. However, Gray scored back-to-back touchdowns to provide life to the Rush offense and helped the Rush to get within 10 points of the Mustangs at the half.The Mustangs, however, went on a 14-0 run as QB Gino Guidugli threw two touchdown passes to WRs Dwayne Eley Jr. and Victor Williams to give Milwaukee a 44-20 lead with 9:43 in the third period. Guidugli finshed the game with three touchdown passes going 18 of 28 for 193 yards and Eley Jr. led the Mustangs receiving corps with two touchdown receptions for 58 yards.The Rush put forth a valiant final effort in the fourth quarter as the offense, led by backup QB Dominic Randolph, was able to muster 14 more points. Randolph played the majority of the game after entering early in the second quarter. He finished the night going 11 for 16 for 167 yards and three touchdowns. But the Mustangs answered every Rush score and seized complete control of the game after Guidugli’s third and final touchdown pass with 4:42 remaining on the clock.

“This isn’t how you would like to enter the playoffs,” said McMillen. “But we will work hard this week to come back dominant against the Vigilantes.”

The regular season is complete and the Rush will now turn their attention to the AFL playoffs as they meet Dallas at home on Friday, July 29th at 7:30 pm CST. With DB Vick Hall expectedback,it should give the Rush a big boost.

Record crowd sees Manchester United run past Fire in second half

The Chicago Fire ran out to a 1-0 lead through veteran defender Cory Gibbs’ 13th minute header but Premiership champions Manchester United used three second half goals to best the hosts 3-1 in front of a club record crowd of 61,308 Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field.It wasn’t all roses early as United nearly took a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute when Danny Welbeck slipped Dimitar Berbatov into the Fire penalty area before firing a low blast which second-year ‘keeper Sean Johnson was equal to.Eight minutes later the Fire took a dream lead when Cory Gibbs, a veteran defender who spent the 2006-07 season with English side Charlton Athletic, put the Fire on top in the 13th minute. Following a foul 40 yards from goal, midfielder Marco Pappa sent in a well-struck free kick from the right touchline, finding Gibbs who out-jumped United center back Phil Jones and headed past David de Gea, giving the Fire a 1-0 lead.Playing at Soldier Field for the first time since October 2005, the Fire nearly doubled their lead over the reining Premier League champions twice before the half.First in the 32nd minute when a whipping cross from right back Jalil Anibaba was headed back into the box by his opposite number Fabio. Fire striker Dominic Oduro looked to settle it but his strike partner Cristian Nazarit took control and fired a quick effort just wide left of de Gea’s goal.Just before halftime it was defender Gonzalo Segares who beat Gabriel Obertan down the left before centering a low ball for Patrick Nyarko. The Ghanaian winger cradled the pass before firing a belting rocket which de Gea did well to hang on to, sending the Fire into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead.Coming out of the interval, both teams made multiple changes, but it was United that showed their intent to change the result as they brought on Wayne Rooney, Ji-Sung Park and Ryan Giggs.Despite the additions to the United attack, the Fire nearly found the second goal twice again on the other side of the half. The first came in the 52nd minute as Nyarko chased a long ball down the left. The Ghanaian centered a ball for Orr Barouch but his incidental contact with Jonny Evans caused the pass to fall to the feet of an open Baggio Husidic. The Bosnian-born midfielder put his one-time effort just wide right of de Gea’s goal to keep the Fire’s lead to one.It was Nyarko on the left again in the 63rd minute. The crafty winger send an angled ball to second half substitute Orr Barouch inside the 18-yard box. The 19-year-old forward collected the pass at the top of the box before firing a low blast off the woodwork.The Fire would go on to rue the missed opportunities three minutes later when substitute defender Rio Ferdinand played a pinpoint ball over the top for Wayne Rooney who took one touch before chipping over onrushing Fire ‘keeper Jon Conway to level the score at 1-1 in the 66thminute.United would increase their lead when a great combination between Rafael and Nani on the right flank saw the Brazilian right back enter the Fire box before shooting from a very acute angle, beating Conway to the near post and giving the Red Devils a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.Spurred by the go-ahead goal, United would grab one more in the 82nd minute. Italian striker Federico Macheda ran down a long ball on the right and cut back before finding Nani running into space. The Portuguese winger touched the ball off of Gibbs before going in alone and slotting a low ball past Conway to give United a 3-1 victory.

NOTES—The game set a Soldier Field attendance record for an international club match at 61,308 and was also the highest attended Fire game of all-time, besting the previous record of 54,532 set on July 16, 2005…..The match was the first game played by the Fire at its first home since a 0-0 draw with DC United during the 2005 MLS Cup playoffs on October 21, 2005.