White Sox

Alfonso Soriano wont go down without a fight

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Alfonso Soriano wont go down without a fight

In the minds of Cubs fans, Kerry Wood will be forever young.

When they look at Alfonso Soriano, they picture the meter running, some version of the national debt clock near Times Square, 136 million through 2014.

Soriano was supposed to breathe new life into the New York Yankees dynasty. Thats how hes remembered around Manhattan, an exciting young talent at the turn of the century, who was shipped out of town in the Alex Rodriguez deal.

Soriano hasnt been that player for some time now. Since signing that megadeal and it wasnt only former general manager Jim Hendry with fingerprints on that contract Sorianos legs have betrayed him.

So it was interesting to watch Wood whos less than a month from his 35th birthday play his final game last week. While taking a curtain call, the new Mr. Cub soaked it all in and pointed at the 36-year-old in left field, before disappearing into the dugout.

Afterward, inside Wrigley Fields interview roomdungeon, Wood sat down for the first of his two farewell press conferences. The final question last Friday asked Wood to sum up his career, and he took it in another direction that may surprise Cubs fans.

I learned from a lot of the injuries, Wood said. I learned what it takes to compete and go out and play in this game every day. Ive got respect for guys who have played this game a long time, because its not easy to do.

Tremendous respect for what Sorianos doing out there in left field for us this year. The way hes worked and what hes put in, knowing what his bodys gone through, (its) just more respect for guys that played the game a long time.

Since 2007, Soriano has gone on the disabled list with injuries to his right quad, right calf, left knee and left quad. The knees bothering him again, but hes not looking for a way out.

I just want to play every day, Soriano said. I dont want to be on the bench. I have to learn to play with pain. Im not young anymore. Thats what I have to do just play with the pain and see what happens.

I try not to think about it. (I) go outside and enjoy myself and have fun and try to make the team better and try to win.

I dont even pay attention or worry about it. I just try to concentrate and do my job.

Theres the outside perception of Soriano and the reality inside the clubhouse. First-base coach Dave McKay who had spent 26 seasons on Tony La Russas staff noticed it when Soriano came to him asking to work on specific aspects of his defensive game.

And what about that showdown with the manager that fans wanted to see whenever Soriano posed at home plate? Dale Sveum wrote it off as a weird habit, and wrote the teams only established power hitter into the middle of the lineup.

Like Ive said from the start, hes been the biggest surprise (for) me coming from the other side of the fence, Sveum said. (Its) his work ethic and the way he goes about his business and how much he wants to play every single day with the pain he has to go through with his knees.

Hes a very refreshing guy to be around all the time. Hes (always) got a smile.

Soriano had zero home runs in his first 30 games waiting 119 at-bats to get hot and then homered four times in his next eight games.

The pain, well, Sveum says, Hes good enough to go out there.

Hes in one of those streaks where hes feeling pretty good at home plate and seeing the ball good and then putting some good swings on (it).

Maybe the numbers will be there by the end. Soriano, Albert Pujols and David Ortiz are the only three players to reach 20 homers for 10 consecutive seasons through 2011.

Soriano knows he has to adapt. He entered Tuesday hitting .333 with runners in scoring position, and ranked second on the team with 22 RBI. His defense has become much less of an adventure in left field, and thats a direct result of the time hes put in out there.

The finish line to Sorianos contract is almost in sight. At some point, Anthony Rizzo figures to push Bryan LaHair from first base to the outfield, where Brett Jackson is trying to force the issue and get the call-up from Triple-A Iowa.

As Wood knows, it happens to every player you just dont know when or how itll go down. You usually dont get to script the ending.

But for now, Soriano will grab his bat and walk to the cage with Starlin Castro, fighting time to enjoy another day in the big leagues.

Those young guys, they give me a lot of energy and motivation, because I feel young like that, Soriano said.

I like the (attitude) of the team. We never give up. We have a bad record, but I like what I see so far. And I think sooner or later were going to be better.

White Sox stung by missed chance vs. Indians: 'This one hurts a little bit'

White Sox stung by missed chance vs. Indians: 'This one hurts a little bit'

“This one hurts a little bit.”

Rick Renteria summed it up well.

The White Sox were on national TV, with a chance to take a series from a division rival. They did just enough against the best pitcher in the American League. They came back in somewhat dramatic fashion in another game dripping with playoff feeling. Their ace pitched great and turned it over to what’s been a nigh-untouchable back end of the bullpen.

And then … 

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Despite all that, the White Sox left Guaranteed Rate Field with another loss Sunday night. Instead of leapfrogging back over the Cleveland Indians and back into second place — an unexpected Minnesota Twins losing streak gave the White Sox a chance to be just a game out of first place — they tumbled back to .500 and fourth place in the constantly shifting AL Central standings.

Even in this most unusual season, this is still baseball, and all that can be flipped around tomorrow night. But with a chance to do something big on a national stage, they let one slip away.

Will it be the difference in the division standings come the end of the season? Who knows. But with every game meaning so much in a 60-game sprint to October, this is like dropping two or three in somewhat crushing fashion all at once.

Lucas Giolito was walking guys early and often in this one but settled down brilliantly and ended up relinquishing just two runs in his seven innings. He figured things out midway through and finished with nine strikeouts, including three in his final inning, in which he mowed down that trio of Cleveland batters and strode off the mound screaming.

Meanwhile, the White Sox won their showdown with Shane Bieber, who entered as and probably still is the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award. He added eight more strikeouts to his season total Sunday but gave up three runs. José Abreu hit a solo homer in the second, and James McCann did the same in the sixth. Yasmani Grandal’s RBI double gave the White Sox a lead heading to the late innings with a win in their sights.

But Evan Marshall’s season-starting scoreless streak came to an end in the first inning after Giolito’s departure. That tie spun the game into extra innings, where the league’s new rule putting a runner on second to start every extra frame bit the White Sox in their first experience with it this season. Cleveland only hit one ball out of the infield in Jimmy Cordero’s busy top of the 10th, but they scratched across two runs, including the tie-breaker on a squeeze play.

One run in this new extra-inning reality is almost to be expected. A second is difficult to overcome. The White Sox cashed in their own free runner in scoring position not long after and put runners on base against Cleveland closer Brad Hand. But a 45-minute rain delay washed away that momentum, and the White Sox left the runners where they stood.

RELATED: White Sox at quarter pole: Injuries, starting-pitching woes cloud rest of 2020

Baseball players like to take things one game at a time. They know tomorrow’s a new day in this sport. And they’re not terribly fond of admitting that one opponent means more than any other. But all the circumstances aligned for a golden opportunity Sunday night, and the White Sox felt the sting of letting it slip.

“This one hurts a little bit,” Renteria said. “They all hurt, but this one hurts a little bit because these guys really battled today. … It was a really good ballgame, but we wanted to be on the right side of it.”

The White Sox are already more than a quarter of the way through their season now, with nine of the 20 scheduled games against the Twins and Indians behind them. They won only three of those first nine, losing all three series two games to one.

That’s no way to compete alongside the division’s incumbent powers for a shot at the Central crown. The White Sox seem capable of having the most balanced group of the trio, but so far they’ve been bludgeoned twice by the Twins’ powerful bats and repeatedly silenced by the Indians’ sterling rotation. There’s no other option but to start figuring out how to tango with those elite units.

Sunday was a decent stride in that department, doing more damage against Bieber than the Indians could do against Giolito. But in order to be a contender, every unit has to be firing on all cylinders. Giolito held up his end of the bargain Sunday night, and the offense did what it could to Bieber, which seemed like enough. But games spin on after the starting pitchers depart, and what’s been an excellent White Sox bullpen was touched for three huge runs, while the White Sox offense mustered just six hits on the night compared to 16 strikeouts — half those Ks coming in the game’s final four innings.

As Giolito pointed out, as capable as the White Sox seem on paper, everything needs to click for the White Sox to run with the Twins and Indians.

“I think we stand well,” Giolito said, summing up the White Sox position in the division race. “It's just losses like this are tough. But all we can do is learn from it and move on, take care of business on this next road trip.

“When our offense, pitching and defense comes together, we can beat anybody. We've seen that this year against the Twins and the Indians. We've just got to try to get everything in sync more often.”

With a seemingly ever-growing list of injuries and some big question marks behind Giolito and Dallas Keuchel in the rotation, that will be easier said than done.

They had an opportunity to grab a big one Sunday night. Instead, the White Sox are hurting.


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2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Blackhawks-Golden Knights full first-round schedule

2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Blackhawks-Golden Knights full first-round schedule

The Blackhawks will open the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. CT. You can catch the action on NBC Sports Chicago, starting with Pregame Live at 9 p.m.

The Blackhawks are 1-6-2 all-time against the Golden Knights, who won two of the three matchups this season. The two teams will square off in a best-of-seven series after the Blackhawks eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in four games of the qualifying round to secure the No. 8 seed while the Golden Knights won all three round-robin games to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Check out the full first-round schedule below:

Game 1: Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 9:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
Game 2: Thursday, Aug. 13 at 4:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
Game 3: Saturday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. (NBC)
Game 4: Sunday, Aug. 16 at 5:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
*Game 5: Tuesday, Aug. 18: TBD (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
*Game 6: Thursday, Aug. 20: TBD (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
*Game 7: Saturday, Aug. 22: TBD (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
*If necessary

As the lower seed, the Blackhawks are slated to be the home team for Games 3, 4 and 6. As the higher seed, the Golden Knights will be the home team for Games 1, 2, 5 and 7.

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