Blackhawks

A-Rod ties Gehrig with 23rd career grand slam

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A-Rod ties Gehrig with 23rd career grand slam

From Comcast SportsNet
ATLANTA (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez took a grand swing into the record books Tuesday night, and now stands shoulder to shoulder with Lou Gehrig. Rodriguez hit his 23rd career grand slam, matching Hall of Famer Gehrig's record, and the New York Yankees scored six runs in the eighth inning to rally for a 6-4 win over the Atlanta. Nick Swisher hit a tiebreaking two-run homer off Cory Gearrin two batters after Rodriguez connected against Jonny Venters. The Yankees had been only 10 for 67 (.149) with the bases loaded this season before Rodriguez hit his tying shot. Minutes later, Rodriguez paused to savor his shared place with Gehrig in baseball history. "It means a lot," Rodriguez said. "It's very special. This game is very, very difficult. If you're not going to enjoy these great moments, then it's not any fun. Lou Gehrig is not only one of the all-time greats, but he's one of ours." The Yankees matched their season high with a fifth straight win and moved into sole possession of first in the AL East when Tampa Bay lost to the Mets. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was "absolutely incredible" for Rodriguez to equal Gehrig's mark. "It's hard to fathom what he's been able to do in his career," Girardi said. "To be mentioned with Lou Gehrig, that's special." CC Sabathia (8-3) left trailing 4-0 after seven innings but was the beneficiary of the rally. The big lefty gave up four runs on a season-high 10 hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Rodriguez was aware of the Yankees' struggles with the bases loaded. "I almost felt like it was a swing for the team," Rodriguez said. "I felt like everybody needed that hit. We've all been waiting for it, but it definitely feels good to pick up our big man CC and to give our team a win." The Yankees have won 10 of 12. "What a game, right?" said a giddy Swisher. "It just goes to show you, you've got to play all 27 outs. We're that type of team. I think we're very resilient. We don't back down from any challenge regardless of what we're up against. "Rod with that grand slam, that will tell people how we hit with the bases loaded," Swisher said. "It was awesome." Rafael Soriano, who pitched in Atlanta from 2007-09, retired the Braves in order in the ninth for his 10th save of the season and the 100th of his career. The Braves, who wasted a strong start by Mike Minor, have lost three straight. Rodriguez had been 1 for 10 this season with the bases loaded before he lined the full-count pitch from Venters over the left field wall. Braves left fielder Martin Prado barely moved as he watched the homer clear the wall. "I made a bad pitch and he crushed it," Venters said. "I have no excuses. I felt great mechanically. I felt great physically. I just fell behind some hitters. ... I threw a pitch right down the middle, 3-2, to one of the best hitters in the game. "I feel bad I let my team down," he added. Rodriguez's homer was his 10th of the season and first grand slam. Minor gave up five hits and one run in 7 1-3 innings. He was pulled after giving up a one-out single to Derek Jeter in the eighth. "You feel comfortable with a four-run lead and five outs to go," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who revealed that another left-hander in his bullpen, Eric O'Flaherty, was not available due to a sore arm. "I think we pushed (Minor) as far as we could push him, really," Gonzalez said. "And he did a hell of a job. It's a shame he didn't get the W." Venters (3-3) loaded the bases, allowing a single to Curtis Granderson before walking Mark Teixeira to set up the tying grand slam by Rodriguez. Venters, who did not record an out, then gave up a single to Robinson Cano and was lifted. Swisher followed with his 10th homer for a 6-4 lead. Matt Diaz hit a three-run double in the first to give the Braves the lead they kept until the eighth. Diaz started ahead of Jason Heyward in right field for the second time in three days when the team faced a left-hander. Diaz had two hits off Toronto's Ricky Romero on Sunday. Michael Bourn led off the first with a single and moved to third on the first of two doubles by Brian McCann. Sabathia walked Dan Uggla to load the bases. Sabathia faced a similar jam in the seventh. With one out, Prado hit a soft single to right field and moved to third on McCann's double. Sabathia issued an intentional walk to Uggla, loading the bases for Heyward, who replaced Diaz in the seventh. Heyward drove in Prado with a groundout to second base. NOTES: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said Tuesday's surgery to repair his torn right ACL "went perfectly." Girardi said "I think we're all expecting to see Mo pitch next year."... Gonzalez said RHP Brandon Beachy will be given extra rest, with his next start pushed back to Saturday, due to soreness in his right elbow. Beachy said "I feel fine" after throwing in the bullpen before the game. RHP Tim Hudson, who had his last start skipped due to bone spurs in his left ankle, is returning to start Wednesday's final game of the series against the Yankees. Following an off day on Thursday, RHP Tommy Hanson will pitch on Friday against Baltimore, followed by Beachy. ... Hiroki Kuroda, who is 1-4 with a 2.10 ERA in five career starts against the Braves, will face Hudson on Wednesday night.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

As we mentioned above, Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game. He was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”