Blackhawks

Error sends White Sox to walk-off loss

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Error sends White Sox to walk-off loss

MINNEAPOLIS --- Welcome back, guys.

Alejandro De Aza and A.J. Pierzynski returned to the White Sox lineup on Monday night and did plenty of heavy lifting with a homer and five combined RBIs. But it wasnt enough as Pierzynskis throwing error in the ninth inning helped the Minnesota Twins top the White Sox 7-6 in front of 35,018 at Target Field.

Brett Myers took the loss and the White Sox failed to gain ground on Detroit, a 7-3 loser in Boston.

Danny Valencia started the Twins ninth inning with a solid single off Myers. Pinch-runner Alexi Casilla then raced to third as Brian Dozier laid down a sacrifice bunt and Pierzynskis throw to first was wild. Jamey Carroll followed with a game-winning sacrifice fly to right.

The White Sox received an instant surge when De Aza started the game with a single after an eight-pitch at-bat against Minnesota starter Cole De Vries. Two outs later, Paul Konerko singled in De Aza, who had stolen second base. Alex Rios then singled and Pierzynski, who missed five days with a sore right oblique, launched a 413-foot, three-run homer to right to give the White Sox a 4-0 lead.

The White Sox and starter Jose Quintana couldnt hold the lead and fell behind 6-4 in the third inning.

But De Aza, who missed two days with a sore left wrist, singled in a run in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to one run. He also drove in the tying run with a two-out single in the eighth inning. De Aza finished 4-for-5 with two RBIs.

Quintana struggled early, but settled in to deliver seven innings when it looked like he might not last two.

Spotted a four-run lead in the first inning, the rookie gave it all back immediately. Minneostas first three hitters, all lefties, went the opposite way with success against Quintana. Joe Mauer was the last of the trio and his RBI single cut the Sox lead to 4-1. After Josh Willingham followed with an RBI single, pitching coach Don Cooper visited Quintana. Ryan Doumit later had an RBI groundout before Danny Valencia tied it with an RBI single in the first.

Quintana struggled some more in the third inning as the first three runners reached base. Doumit had an RBI single and Valencia had a sacrifice fly to give the Twins a 6-4 lead.

But Quintana shut down the Twins from there and allowed his team to rally. The left-hander was efficient and retired 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced.

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Probably not the way the Blackhawks wanted to start their second half of the season.

After a five-day break, the Blackhawks suffered a brutal 7-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the United Center. This coming after a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on home ice last Sunday.

"It was a game we had to win," Quenneville said after Saturday's loss. "Disappointing in a lot of ways."

The Blackhawks needed both goaltenders to get through 60 minutes. Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass combined for 39 saves on 46 shots.

On the offensive side of things, Patrick Kane hit a milestone.

The 29-year-old had two goals and an assist and recorded his 800th career point, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to reach 800 points.

The Blackhawks are now 22-18-6 on the season with 50 points and rank last in the Central Division, five points behind the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.

The Blackhawks' schedule doesn't get any easier when the Tampa Bay Lightning — the league-leader in points — come to town on Monday.

See what Quenneville and Kane had to say about Saturday's loss in the video above.

One MLB executive thinks Kyle Schwarber can emerge as Cubs' best hitter in 2018

One MLB executive thinks Kyle Schwarber can emerge as Cubs' best hitter in 2018

When the 2017 season ended, Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber looked in the mirror and didn't like what he saw.

He was stocky, slower than he wanted to be and he had just finished a very difficult season that saw him spend time back in the minor leagues at Triple-A after he struggled mightily through the first three months of the season.

Schwarber still put up solid power numbers despite his overall struggles. He slammed 30 home runs, putting him among the Top 15 hitters in the National League and among the Top 35 in all of baseball. But, Schwarber was honest with himself. He knew he could achieve so much more if he was in better shape and improved his mobility, his overall approach at the plate and his defense.

Schwarber was drafted by the Cubs out of Indiana University as a catcher. However, many scouts around baseball had serious doubts about his ability to catch at the big league level. The Cubs were in love with Schwarber the person and Schwarber the overall hitter and felt they would give him a chance to prove he could catch for them. If he couldn't, then they believed he could play left field adequately enough to keep his powerful bat in the lineup.

However, a serious knee injury early in the 2016 season knocked Schwarber out of action for six months and his return to the Cubs in time to assist in their World Series run raised expectations for a tremendous 2017 season. In fact, the expectations for Schwarber were wildly unrealistic when the team broke camp last spring. Manager Joe Maddon had Schwarber in the everyday lineup batting leadoff and playing left field.

But Schwarber's offseason after the World Series consisted of more rehab on his still-healing injured left knee. That kept him from working on his outfield play, his approach at the plate and his overall baseball training. 

Add in all of the opportunities and commitments that come with winning a World Series and it doesn't take much detective work to understand why Schwarber struggled so much when the 2017 season began. This offseason, though, has been radically different. A season-ending meeting with Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer led to a decision to take weight off of Schwarber's frame. It also included a decision to change his training program so that he improved his quickness, lateral movement and his overall baseball skills.

"I took two weeks off after the season ended and then I went to work," Schwarber said. "We put a plan together to take weight off and to improve my quickness. I have my meals delivered and I feel great. My baseball work combined with a lot of strength and conditioning has me in the best shape that I have ever been in."

Schwarber disagrees with the pundits who felt manager Maddon's decision to put him in the leadoff spot in the Cubs' loaded lineup contributed to his struggles.

"I have no problem hitting wherever Joe wants to put me," Schwarber said. "I didn't feel any more pressure because I was batting leadoff. I just needed to get back to training for a baseball season as opposed to rehabbing from my knee injury. I'm probably 20-25 pounds lighter and I'm ready to get back to Arizona with the boys and to get ready for the season."

Many around the game were shocked when the Cubs drafted Schwarber with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, but a rival executive who was not surprised by the pick believes that Schwarber can indeed return to the form that made him such a feared hitter during his rookie season as well as his excellent postseason resume.

"Everyone who doubted this kid may end up way off on their evaluation because he is a great hitter and now that he is almost two years removed from his knee injury," the executive said. "He knows what playing at the major-league level is all about I expect him to be a real force in the Cubs lineup.

"Theo and Jed do not want to trade this kid and they are going to give him every opportunity to succeed. I think he has a chance to be as good a hitter as they have in their order."

Watch the full 1-on-1 interview with Kyle Schwarber Sunday night on NBC Sports Chicago.