Bulls

Tennessee Remains Smokin' Hot At Jacksonville

Tennessee Remains Smokin' Hot At Jacksonville

Saturday April 23, 2011
Posted: 9:40 p.m.

CUBS Tennessee AA
The Smokies have spent the better part of the seasons first month tearing up the Southern League with an impressive offensive performance. Heading into Saturdays game at Jacksonville, Tennessee was leading the league in hitting and was the only team on the circuit batting higher than .300.

Tennessee put on another show against Suns, banging out 13 hits and charging to a 6-2 lead before holding on for a 7-3 victory at The Baseball Grounds. The middle infield provided the spark this time with shortstop Marwin Gonzalez collecting three hits and second baseman Nate Samson going 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs.

First baseman Josh Vitters rounded out the infield assault, adding a homer and two RBIs. Brooks Raley started and struggled again, getting chased after 4 13 innings. The Smokies bullpen was brilliant, though, throwing 4 23 shutout innings Hung-Wen Chen earning his first win of the season.
Peoria A
The Chiefs rallied for a pair of seventh-inning runs Saturday afternoon at OBrien Field to earn a surprising 3-2 victory over Beloit and gain a doubleheader split. The Snappers grabbed the opener, 5-2.

Greg Rohans two-run single not only pushed his team-leading RBI total to 14 it capped the big late comeback. Arismendy Alcantara led off the seventh with a single and went to second on Matt Szczurs bunt single. Rohan followed a Pierre LaPage bunt with a single to center to win it. Rohans RBI double in the sixth had cut Beloits lead to 2-1.

Eduardo Figueroa 1-1 pitched 2 13 perfect innings of relief to earn the victory. Starter Graham Hicks tied a career high with eight strikeouts.

Peoria recorded a season-high four errors in the opener, including an opening-inning miscue that led to a pair of Beloit runs. Cam Greathouse 0-1 started and went 4 13 innings, allowing all five runs though only two were earned. Micah Gibbs went 2-for-3 while Greg Rohan drove in his team-leading 11th run with a sacrifice fly.
Daytona A
The Cubs stretched their winning streak to five games Saturday evening, topping Dunedin, 6-2, at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium to remain in first place in the Florida State Leagues North Division.

Junior Lake and Jake Optiz paced Daytona, combining for seven hits. Optiz had three doubles while Lake had a homer, two stolen bases and three RBIs. Jae-Hoon Ha added a pair of hits and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, pushing his average to .375.

Nick Struck 2-1 scattered four hits and fanned seven over 5 13 innings. He retired 10 in a row after Scott Podsednik picked up a leadoff single. Ryan Searle pitched 2 13 scoreless innings and has not allowed a run in his 9 13 innings pitched this season.
Iowa AAA
Brad Snyder and Matt Camp combined for five of Iowas seven hits Saturday night and it proved to be not enough as Memphis picked up a 3-2 victory at AutoZone Park.

Camp had three hits and Snyder drove in a run. Ramon Ortiz took the loss after allowing three runs and striking out five over seven innings. In other news, the Cubs called up Justin Berg and optioned Jeff Stevens to Iowa. Berg was 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five appearances for Iowa this year.
WHITE SOXCharlotte AAA
Brandon Hynick made one mistake Saturday night and it cost him. The big right-hander severed up a home run ball to Diory Hernandez in the fourth inning and that was the difference as Gwinnett County squeezed by Charlotte, 3-1, at Knights Stadium.

Hynick 0-2 allowed six hits over seven innings and got into trouble in the fourth by allowing back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before Hernandez deposited the ball over the left-field wall. Jordan Danks had an RBI single in the seventh for the Knights, who lost their second straight game and for the eighth time in 10 games. Gwinnetts Mike Minor took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Lastings Milledge connected for a two-out double.
Winston-Salem A
Jared Mitchell led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a homer Saturday night to give Winston-Salem a 3-2 victory and a doubleheader split with Wilmington at BB&T Park. It was Mitchells second homer of the season and completed a comeback that saw the Dash rally from a 2-0 deficit.

Ian Gacs two-run homer in the sixth knotted the score at 2-2, setting the stage for Mitchells heroics. It was Gacs sixth homer of the season. Ryan Kussmaul 3-0 earned the win with two perfect innings while Addison Reed also pitched two perfect innings in relief of Joe Serafin.

Wilmington scored nine runs over the final three innings of the opener to earn a 10-2 victory. Cameron Bayne, who hadnt given up a run in 14 innings this season prior to Saturday, allowed a first-inning run and then surrendered six more late before leaving following his five innings. His ERA jumped from 0.00 to 3.32. Dan Wagner had a pair of hits and an RBI.
Birmingham AA
Huntsville exploded for three eighth-inning runs Saturday night and stunned Birmingham, 4-3, at Regions Park. Chuck Caufields two-out, two-run double punctuated the inning.

Nate Jones was charged with all three runs in 23 of an inning to suffer the loss. Dylan Axelrod allowed a run on five hits while striking out seven over seven innings before turning it over to Jones.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

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.”

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

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.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and 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 David 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, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

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."