Blackhawks

Tigers pitcher nearly ties team strikeout record

768568.jpg

Tigers pitcher nearly ties team strikeout record

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Max Scherzer headed off the mound and toward the dugout, where manager Jim Leyland was waiting to offer a congratulatory handshake. After 15 strikeouts in seven innings, Scherzer's day was done, and the only question was whether the Detroit right-hander's fine effort would go to waste. "We're in this business to win," Scherzer said. And win the Tigers did. Alex Avila's tiebreaking, two-run single highlighted a three-run seventh that sent Detroit to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. Scherzer's 15 strikeouts were the most by a Tigers pitcher in 40 years, and his teammates wiped out a 2-1 deficit to get him the victory. Mickey Lolich had 15 strikeouts for the Tigers against Boston on Oct. 2, 1972, and set the club record of 16 in 1969, doing it twice in less than three weeks. Scherzer's 15 strikeouts were the most by a major league pitcher this year. Miami's Anibal Sanchez had 14 against Arizona on April 28. "We've wasted a few good performances this year already," Avila said. "Hopefully, that will kind of get us on a roll a little bit." Detroit trails first-place Cleveland by three games in the AL Central. Scherzer (3-3) threw 115 pitches. He allowed four hits, including two solo homers, and a walk. Avila's hit made it 4-2. Pittsburgh scored a run in the ninth off Joaquin Benoit, but he held on for his first save this season. Detroit closer Jose Valverde has a strained back. Kevin Correia (1-5) allowed three runs and four hits in six-plus innings. Scherzer gave up seven runs in 2 2-3 innings in his first start of the season, and although he's been better since then, he entered Sunday's game with a 6.26 ERA. He was locked in from the start, throwing his first 10 pitches for strikes before finally missing the zone against Pedro Alvarez, the first hitter of the second. Scherzer got Alvarez anyway for his third strikeout of the day. "Even when I've struggled, I've always believed the next time I go out there that I'm going to have a great start, no matter what," Scherzer said. "That's always been my belief ever since I've been in the big leagues, and today was no different." All 15 of Scherzer's strikeouts were swinging. The only other pitcher since 1988 to strike out at least 15 -- all swinging -- in a game was Houston's Mike Scott, who fanned 15 Cincinnati Reds on June 8, 1990, according to STATS LLC. "My changeup was really working well today. I was able to throw it to both lefties and righties, and I was able to generate swing-and-misses out of it," Scherzer said. "I was able to throw it for a strike and throw it just underneath the zone to help generate some swing-and-miss strikeouts." Scherzer had struck out five straight -- and 10 for the game -- when Rod Barajas homered with one out in the fifth to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Jhonny Peralta answered with a solo shot in the bottom half. Neil Walker hit a 407-foot homer in the sixth, and Scherzer's pitch count began creeping up, precluding a run at the big league record of 20 strikeouts for a nine-inning game. Scherzer was actually on the hook for a loss when Leyland offered his handshake after the top of the seventh, the signal that a reliever would be entering in the eighth. But Prince Fielder led off the bottom of the seventh with a blooper to left that dropped between shortstop Clint Barmes and left fielder Nate McLouth. Barmes had a long way to run because the infield was shifted around to the right, and when the ball hit the ground, it bounced weirdly up off him into foul territory, enabling Fielder to reach second with a double. Delmon Young followed with a tying single, and Tony Watson relieved Correia. Peralta drew a walk one out later, and a passed ball by Barajas allowed the runners to move up to second and third. The Pirates brought the infield in, but Avila's base hit up the middle foiled that strategy and made it 4-2. Detroit was without center fielder Austin Jackson (abdominal strain) and Valverde, but the Tigers ended up taking two of three from Pittsburgh. Scherzer and Justin Verlander bookended the series with brilliant pitching performances. Verlander threw a one-hit shutout Friday night, striking out 12 and giving up only a ninth-inning single to Josh Harrison. The Pirates struck out 17 times Sunday and 41 times in the series. NOTES: Detroit's Brennan Boesch had his 12-game hitting streak snapped. ... Pittsburgh dropped to 19-9 when scoring at least two runs. ... The Tigers are off Monday. The Pirates return home and will send LHP Erik Bedard (2-5) to the mound against Johan Santana (1-2) of the New York Mets.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

schmaltz-pod.jpg
USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Tracey Myers and Pat Boyle discuss Nick Schmaltz returning to the Blackhawks line-up on Wednesday night and which player is looking forward most to his return?

They also weigh in on Corey Crawford’s incredible start to the season and why he’s the major reason why the Hawks begin the week in first place in the Central.

They also discuss who is the biggest Hawks rivalry right now, which new defenseman has impressed the most and how is Connor Murphy dealing with being a healthy scratch at times this season?

Plus, they discuss someone other than Nick Schmaltz returning to work on Wednesday night.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs need Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to produce or else their reign as defending World Series champs is over

bryzzo.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs need Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to produce or else their reign as defending World Series champs is over

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are the yin and yang of the Cubs lineup, the right- and left-handed forces that feed off each other, two huge building blocks for a World Series team, the smiling faces of the franchise, an ideal brand for social media and two friends close enough that Rizzo became a groomsman at Bryant’s Las Vegas wedding in January.

With the defending champs now down 0-2 in a best-of-seven National League Championship Series – and the Los Angeles Dodgers looking like an updated version of the 2016 Cubs – winter is coming if Bryzzo Souvenir Co. doesn’t start producing soon.

Like Tuesday night in Game 3 at Wrigley Field. Take away the 9-8 outlier against the Washington Nationals – where an intentional walk, a passed ball on a swinging strike three, a catcher interference and a hit by pitch sparked a big rally – and the Cubs have scored 11 runs in six playoff games this October.

“Everybody in the lineup, they feel the same way: When you don’t produce, it’s like you let the team down,” Bryant said. “But that’s not the right way to feel, because not one person makes or breaks the team.

“I put that in perspective all the time, and realize it’s not what you do in the playoffs, it’s what the team does. And, obviously, we haven’t been getting it done so far in the series. But this is a totally unselfish team. I don’t think anybody here is pouting or down on themselves.”

Bryant (.179 average) has struck out 13 times in 28 postseason at-bats while working only one walk and hitting zero homers. Rizzo – who shouted “RESPECT ME!” at Dusty Baker and the Nationals during the divisional round and went 0-for-6 over the weekend at Dodger Stadium – dismissed the idea that he feels any extra responsibility to jumpstart the offense.

“I think that is selfish if you did,” Rizzo said. “One through nine, all 25 guys, we got to get going. Our pitching is doing a heck of a job. You need help from everyone in the lineup, not just one or two guys.”

But Bryant and Rizzo can certainly make Joe Maddon’s job a lot easier, not forcing the pinch-hitters as early for Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta, creating some breathing room for the middle relievers or just getting the lead and taking the guesswork out of the equation: Give the ball to All-Star closer Wade Davis.     

Even without launching home runs, Bryant and Rizzo also happen to be very good on the bases, with enough speed and instincts to make things happen when the Dodgers keep putting zeros on the scoreboard. The Cubs are already sacrificing offense for defense at second base (Javier Baez) and in right field (Jason Heyward) and don’t have their World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist) in peak condition.    

Bryant is exceptionally available to the media, and usually shrugs almost everything off with an upbeat answer, but even he sounded and looked a little different in terms of tone and body language on Sunday night in Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse.

Whether it was the nature of that walk-off loss – Where’s Wade? – or the reality of a different Dodger team or the jet lag, the Cubs seemed a little shell-shocked.

It was almost exactly a year ago when Bryant stood in the same room in front of the cameras and purposely said, “Nope,” when asked if there was any sense of panic creeping into the clubhouse after seeing Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill in back-to-back shutouts.

[MORE: Wade Davis won't second-guess Joe Maddon]      

But Bryant even admitted that defending a World Series title is more taxing than chasing a championship ring.  

“I wouldn’t say emotionally or mentally,” Bryant said. “Physically, yeah, I think some guys are tired. It’s been a really long year, (but) you only notice that before and after the game.

“During the game, there’s so much adrenaline and the fans cheering that you don’t really notice it. But then you sit down after a game, you feel pretty tired and beat. And then you wake up and do it all over again the next day.”

That has been the story of 2017 for Bryant, who followed up an MVP campaign with a 29-homer/.946 OPS season that drew attention for his lowered RBI total (73). But just like Rizzo, he has a tenacious competitive streak and a unique ability to separate one pitch from the next. The Cubs need all of that now, or else their reign as defending World Series champs is about to end.   

“I’ve put some good swings on some balls, but sometimes you just get beat,” Bryant said. “Sometimes you go through good stretches, bad stretches, stuff like that. I realize it’s all part of the game.

“It just stinks. You want to go out there and perform right now, because if you perform now, you’re winning. But you can’t force it.”