White Sox

MLB star hits a triple - and three homers - in win

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MLB star hits a triple - and three homers - in win

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- With an impressive display of power, Ryan Braun made Petco Park look downright cozy. Braun had his first three-homer game and added a two-run triple to tie his career high with six RBIs, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to an 8-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Monday night. The reigning NL MVP became the first player to hit three home runs in a game at spacious Petco Park since it opened in 2004. It came several days after the Padres said they are studying bringing in the fences at the downtown ballpark to make it more fair. "It was just one night," Braun said. "There's no doubt this is one of the more challenging if not the most challenging place to hit home runs in the league. I think for fans, you want to see offense. Offense is exciting when teams are scoring runs. It's a lot of fun for the fans to watch. So I think if they did do that, it would make it more of a neutral ballpark. As of right now it certainly favors pitchers pretty substantially." Petco Park's deep outfield, particularly in right and right-center, swallows fly balls that would be homers in other yards, particularly on cool nights like Monday. Not on this night, though. Braun hit a solo homer deep into the sandy play area beyond the right-center fence -- one of the deepest parts of the park -- with one out in the fourth. That homer was in the area where the Padres are considering bringing in the fences. He drove a two-run shot onto the balcony on the fourth level of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner with one out in the fifth. Both were off rookie Joe Wieland (0-4). Rickie Weeks was aboard on a walk before Braun's second homer. "He put some good swings on pitches. He's strong. You're talking about the MVP of the league," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's got big power and he showed it. After the first, he really locked in after that." Braun's third shot, to left, came on the first pitch he saw from Ernesto Frieri with two outs in the seventh. Braun came up again with two on and two outs in the ninth and nearly equaled the major league record of four home runs in a game when he hit a triple that short-hopped the right-center fence. The slugger has seven homers and 17 RBIs. "It's definitely special," Braun said. "It's an extremely challenging game we play. You're going to deal with a lot of failure, a lot of adversity, and when you have a special night like that you try to enjoy it and it's that much more fun and enjoyable when your team wins the game. It was definitely a pretty cool night." Shortly after he won the MVP award last year, ESPN reported that Braun failed a drug test in October with a high testosterone level. But he won his appeal and avoided a 50-game suspension. Then he made his case to fans upon his arrival in spring training, saying that chain of custody issues with his urine sample cast doubt on the validity of the test. That didn't end the controversy; baseball officials were unhappy with the arbitrator's decision, and a urine sample collector issued a statement saying he followed proper protocols and that there was no evidence of tampering. Braun also has hinted that there's more to the story than he's letting on, refusing to share those details. Braun began the night batting .263. "You know these nights are few and far between," he said. "It's a moment you try to embrace, you try to enjoy. It's been a challenge for me and for us this year, and I think we got a couple breaks, a few things really went our way and you hope something like this turns our luck around, turns our momentum around." Randy Wolf (2-2) got the win after allowing three runs and nine hits in five innings. Wieland became the third Padres pitcher to start a season 0-4 in his first four starts. He allowed five runs -- three earned -- and five hits in five innings, struck out eight and walked two. San Diego took a 1-0 lead on Yonder Alonso's RBI single with two outs in the second and was poised to add on when it got runners to second and third with no outs in the third. Wieland singled for his first big league hit and advanced on Chris Denorfia's double to center. But Wolf struck out Jesus Guzman and retired Chase Headley and Nick Hundley to end the threat. After Braun's solo shot in the fourth, Aramis Ramirez reached on second baseman Orlando Hudson's error, Mat Gamel singled with two outs and Alex Gonzalez doubled them both in for a 3-1 lead. Braun's second homer made it 5-2. San Diego added a run on Jason Bartlett's double-play ball in the sixth before Braun homered again. NOTES: Black said LF Carlos Quentin is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tucson on Tuesday. The plan is to use him as DH on Tuesday and then have him play left field on Wednesday. Quentin began the season on the disabled list after having knee surgery during spring training. ... The three-game series continues Tuesday night with Milwaukee RHP Shaun Marcum (1-1, 4.13 ERA) scheduled to pitch against San Diego RHP Edinson Volquez (0-2, 3.60). ... The Padres said Braun is the first player to hit three homers and a triple in a game since Fred Lynn did it for Boston at Detroit on June 18, 1975, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

The 2017-18 baseball offseason continues to be, well, the 2017-18 baseball offseason, even with spring training games being played in Arizona and Florida.

A bunch of names remain on the free-agent market, including All-Star players who thought they would be in for big multi-year contracts. But as teams continue to deny the wishes of guys who expected to get big deals, the suggestion that those players might end up needing to take one-year offers if they want to play during the 2018 season is becoming a more common talking point.

So with potential bargains to be had for some pretty big-name players, do the White Sox jump into the waters and try to lock up a potential future piece on the cheap? Though they aren’t expected to contend this season, the White Sox have been mentioned in a pair of recent reports surrounding a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi wrote last week that the White Sox are a potential fit for Moustakas, who has sat and watched as former Kansas City Royals teammate Eric Hosmer received a huge contract from the San Diego Padres. Moustakas set a new Royals record last season with 38 home runs but has yet to find a team.

The White Sox, connected to Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado earlier this offseason, seem to have a current big leaguer or highly ranked prospect locked into almost every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future, but third base isn't necessarily one of them. Jake Burger was last year’s top draft pick, though there’s speculation he could slide over to first base. The team still envisions him as a big league third baseman, for what it’s worth.

Moustakas is 29 and already has seven big league seasons under his belt, including a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of trips to the World Series, including the Crowns’ championship back in 2015. His 38 homers and 85 RBIs in 2017 were both career highs. He slashed .272/.314/.521, the final of those three numbers the best mark of his career.

Moustakas has rarely hit for average or reached base at too high a clip, though those recent power numbers would be intriguing at a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field, where he has 10 career dingers, 26 career RBIs and a .249/.308/.456 career slash line as a visitor.

Certainly Moustakas would be a buzz-worthy addition, and if the White Sox could get him for a good value thanks to this slow-moving market, that adds incentive to bring him aboard. A short contract would have even more incentive for the rebuilding White Sox, who would have the option to either sign him to a long-term deal or deal him away in a deadline deal depending on his immediate production levels.

But for fans hoping the White Sox will spend big on a third baseman in one of the next two offseasons — Machado is a free agent next winter, and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado is set to hit the market the winter after next — slotting in an outside addition at the hot corner now could impact those plans.

Gonzalez is a completely different story, a three-time All Star during his 10-year big league career who is just three seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign in 2015. The 32-year-old Gonzalez also has a trio of Gold Gloves to go along with his 215 career home runs. FanRag’s Jon Heyman listed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for CarGo this weekend.

But his walk year in Colorado was not a very good one by his standards. In 136 games for a Rockies team that ended up in the playoffs, he slashed .262/.339/.423, all those averages way down from his usual level of production. And his power numbers plummeted to 14 homers and 57 RBIs after he combined for 65 homers and 197 RBIs in 2015 and 2016.

The good news for the White Sox is that down year makes Gonzalez far more affordable. Should he command only a one-year contract, the White Sox could take a flier, stick him in the outfield — which still has an unresolved spot with few strong offensive options for center field — and trade him should he bounce back in a big way. Or, at 32, perhaps he’s a guy the White Sox could opt to keep around should he prove valuable and the rebuild continues to move along ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez seems the less risky move at this point, as Moustakas could still be looking for a multi-year contract. But the White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility and flexibility in their decision-making should they add either guy and he proves worthy of a midseason deal or a long-term look.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”