Blackhawks

Sox Drawer: Suzuki strikes again

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Sox Drawer: Suzuki strikes again

Kurt Suzuki is not the most clutch hitter in the history of Major League Baseball, but give him a bat, a helmet, and a late-game situation where he can beat the White Sox, and the Oakland As catcher will deliver.

Every. Single. Time.

Tuesday night, the notorious White Sox killer struck again, hitting a go-ahead, pinch-hit RBI double in the bottom of the 8th inning off Matt Thornton. It was the first run given up by Thornton in his first nine appearances this season. It was the As first run in the previous 16 innings combined. The As beat the White Sox 2-0.

If this sounds like a broken record, well it should. Suzuki has made a career out of breaking the White Sox hearts. If doctors did a DNA test on him, they would likely find a gene called Beating the White Sox to Smithereens.

Its what Suzuki does. All the time. Every time.

Lets take a look back:

On June 12, 2007, Suzuki made his major league debut for the As. Two months later, he played his first series against the White Sox, and it didnt take long for the carnage to begin.

On August 15, with the As up 1-0, Suzuki belted a two-run homer off Mark Buehrle in the bottom of the 7th inning. That was the difference in the ballgame. The As won 3-2.

But that was nothing. Were just getting started.

The next day, Suzuki came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning in a 5-5 game. What did he do? He blasted a game-winning, three-run homer. Who did he hit it off? Thornton.

The As swept the three-game series.

But wait. Theres more. Plenty more.

On April 15, 2008, Suzuki had his first career four-hit game. Of course, it came against the White Sox. His RBI single off Buehrle snapped a string of 22 scoreless innings pitched by the White Sox. And yes, it was the difference in the game. The As won 2-1.

Later that season on August 15, 2008, the White Sox and As were tied at 4 in the bottom of the 9th inning with a man on base. Rob Bowen, who had been catching that game for the As, had gone 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts. Who strolls to the plate as a pinch-hitter? You know. On a 3-2 count, Suzuki nailed a two-run homer to left off D.J. Carrasco to beat the White Sox 6-4.

"I knew at the worst it was a sac fly, Suzuki said after the game. I was happy. We have a day game tomorrow, we didn't need to play extra innings."

No, that would happen on April 11, 2011. This time, Buehrle was a victimized again, but not by his own doing.

Buehrle had a no-hitter until the 6th when it was broken up by -- Suzuki. After pitching eight scoreless innings, allowing only three baserunners -- and none past first base -- Buehrle was replaced by Thornton to start the top of the 9th inning with the White Sox up 1-0. Thornton gave up a leadoff double to Andy LaRoche. One out later, Daric Barton hit a deep fly to left. It should have been the second out except for one problem -- Juan Pierre dropped the ball. Cliff Pennington scored easily to tie the game at 1.

In the 10th inning, Jesse Crain struck out Mark Ellis. Then he struck out Hideki Matsui. Life was good.

But then...

Suzuki.

The White Sox killer came to the plate. Reporters were already starting to write the obituary.

Crain had him on a 1-2 count. In his career on 1-2 counts, Suzuki is a .201 hitter with 100 strikeouts in 319 career at-bats.

Didnt matter. Why?

This was Suzuki. This was the White Sox. This was the 10th inning in a tie ballgame. And you know what happened.

Suzuki launched a solo homer deep into the Chicago night. The As beat the White Sox 2-1. Of his five career homers against the White Sox, four have come in the 7th inning or later.

Ozzie Guillen had been the manager for all those Suzuki beatdowns. Youd like to think that someone would have warned Robin Ventura when the As catcher popped out of the dugout to pinch hit in the bottom of the 8th Tuesday night with Barton on first base and Thornton on the mound.

You normally dont pitch around a guy who hasnt hit above .250 the last two seasons, but when it comes to playing the White Sox late in the game, they should know better. Suzuki transforms into a three-headed monster of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams. They should have walked him. Or hit him somewhere where it hurts. Why not? The man has inflicted so much pain towards the White Sox over the years, its the least they could have done.

But Thornton was given the green light to pitch to him, and Suzuki smacked the Sox again, right between the eyes.

Over the years, weve seen a number of opponents save their best games for the White Sox; Jason Kubel, Billy Butler, Wilson Betemit are the clubhouse leaders. But when its late in the game, and the opponent is in its final at-bat, whos the last person you want to see with a bat in his hand?

Not Josh Hamilton. Not Miguel Cabrera. Not Derek Jeter.

Its Kurt Suzuki. I said it. I mean it.

Because he kills the White Sox.

Every. Single. Time.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.