White Sox

Bears-Seahawks preview: Seahawks ball

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Bears-Seahawks preview: Seahawks ball

Stop Lynch, stop Seattlenot necessarily; rookie QB Wilson the real worry
The Seattle Seahawks really do just one thing very well on offense: give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch is behind only Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster in NFL rushing ranks, going over 1,000 yards in 10 games and sitting at 1,051 through 11.
But the Bears have throttled Lynch the last three times they faced him, giving up just 44 rushing yards in their 2010 game and 42 in a loss last season. Not that it did them much good; the Seahawks won both regular-season games.
Indeed, Lynch powering for 100 yards actually does little good for the Seahawks, who traded fourth- and fifth-round picks to acquire him from the Buffalo Bills. Seattle is 6-6 in regular-season games when Lynch has rushed for 100 yards.
By contrast, the Bears in Lovie Smiths coaching tenure are 25-9 when they have a 100-yard rusher.
Lynch has topped 100 yards and averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry in four of his last five games. And the Bears have fallen from No. 1 against the run (77.1 yards per game) to No. 8 in just five games, albeit against a roll call of the NFLs elite backs: Foster, Peterson, Chris Johnson and Frank Gore.
Every week theres someone for us, linebacker Brian Urlacher said, laughing. But Lynch is a hard running back to tackle. He likes to get downhill, makes guys miss, (has) got great speed.
Wilson worries
But the considerably greater problem lies in Russell Wilson, a Wisconsin teammate of Bears tackle, now guard, Gabe Carimi.
Wilson was a borderline afterthought (for a quarterback) pick in this years draft, going to Seattle in the third round, 75th overall.
Wilson already has 17 touchdown passes (vs. eight interceptions), a completion percentage of 63.6 and passer rating of 93.9 better than Jay Cutlers career-bests for completions and rating and only slightly below Cutlers best per-game rate for TD passes (27 in 2009, when he also threw 26 interceptions).
Wilson has thrown seven TD passes and zero interceptions in the last three games, and no interceptions in his last 80 passes. He set an NFL rookie record with 16 consecutive completions in last Sundays Seahawks loss at Miami.
He is listed at 5-11 so clearly too short to be an NFL quarterback, right?
What you have to do is keep him in the pocket and make him throw from a well, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Thats what youd like to be able to do. But thats where the problems come because hes tough to keep in there...
He forces you to defend the width of the field as a pass rusher. He runs a little bit of option, read-option, so you've got to defend that.
The problem is that Wilson is accustomed to throwing out of wells, or at least getting out of them in order to throw.
I know that Im a shorter quarterback, Wilson said. I know that I have to stay tall. I know that I have to have a high, quick release, throw the ball on time. I know I have to understand the game and understand the defenses. I think thats what helps me. I know where people are going, I know where theyre going to be, and obviously my feet help me a little bit too to extend the play and get away from some pressure at times.
Rookie QB? So what?
The Bears have beaten Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) this season in their only game against a rookie quarterback, a notion that is fast becoming irrelevant with the performances of rookies like Luck, Wilson and Robert Griffin III in Washington this season, and Cam Newton and Andy Dalton last year.
Indeed, rookie quarterback is a meaningless standard for assessing Wilson. He has out-performed Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo and Newton already this season.
The Seahawks won all four of those games.
All things considered, however, the Bears are just fine with facing a rookie.
He's got a laser for an arm, said linebacker Lance Briggs. He's short -- everybody knows that, that hurt him in the draft and all that good stuff. He's a smart guy, he's producing, they're getting some wins.
But at the end of the day he's still a rookie. He's still a rookie, and you get pressure on him, keep him in the pocket and force him to beat us.

Plenty of reasons to #VoteMcCann, but White Sox catcher should be an All Star regardless of election outcome

Plenty of reasons to #VoteMcCann, but White Sox catcher should be an All Star regardless of election outcome

James McCann should be an All Star. That's not me advocating a position as much as it is stating a fact: Barring something crazy, McCann should be a member of the American League roster next month in Cleveland.

Whether McCann is starting behind the plate or he'll get his turn in one of the later innings is in the hands of baseball fans, with the polls currently open for them to choose a starter between him, Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees and Robinson Chirinos of the Houston Astros. Sanchez is probably the favorite to win the most votes. He has the first-place Yankees' worldwide fan base behind him, as well as 23 home runs and 52 RBIs.

But McCann has his own stellar case to start, in the midst of a, frankly, out-of-nowhere campaign of spectacular proportions. He entered Wednesday afternoon's game against the Boston Red Sox with a .326/.387/.508 slash line to go along with everything else he's done for this team.

McCann did a little more to add to his case Wednesday, picking up a pair of hits against Chris Sale, one of which was mashed over the Green Monster for a third-inning home run in the White Sox win on getaway day.

"He's the best catcher in the American League," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said during Wednesday's broadcast. He's a tad biased, of course, but it doesn't mean he's necessarily wrong. "So I think that's all you have to really say. Offensive numbers, how much he's helped this team from a leadership standpoint, he checks all the boxes. He deserves to be starting the All-Star Game."

McCann has been a hell of a find for the White Sox. When they added him in December, it appeared they were simply acquiring a veteran bridge, and a backup at that, to get them to highly rated catching prospect Zack Collins. Instead, McCann has performed so well that he's being penciled in by fans and onlookers as the team's catcher moving forward. At 29 years old, that's hardly outrageous, and he's still arbitration eligible following this season, making it very easy for the White Sox to bring him back for 2020.

And why wouldn't they? He's made a shocking improvement to the offensive numbers he put up in five years with the division-rival Detroit Tigers, a half-decade during which he hit only 240/.288/.366. It goes without saying that whatever McCann did this offseason worked.

"It's something I've worked for," McCann said last week at Wrigley Field. "It's something, as a little boy, you dream of, and as you get older you work for it. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication.

"After a down year offensively last year, I got to do some soul searching, and the biggest thing for me was not trying to be someone that I wasn't. And it sounds simple, sounds silly, but literally just trying to be who James McCann is and not trying to be someone else."

Who James McCann is has been a middle-of-the-order hitter for these White Sox and a game-changer behind the plate. It didn't take long for manager Rick Renteria to make #CleanupManJamesMcCann a thing, and it took a similarly brief amount of time for Renteria to give the majority of the catching duties to McCann in his timeshare with Welington Castillo.

While McCann's offensive presence has been great, his ability to do what Castillo couldn't during the latter's 80-game steroid suspension last season has been perhaps McCann's greatest contribution. He's excelled working with the pitching staff, specifically Giolito, whose turnaround from the statistical worst pitcher in the game to one of the best has been the biggest story of the team's season to this point.

"I have nothing but fantastic things to say about him," Giolito said last week. "He's done a great job this year. Looking forward to him being an All Star. There's not enough good things I can say about what he does defensively and offensively for us."

McCann often deflects the credit heaped onto him by Giolito back to the pitcher. But certainly that part of the White Sox acquisition of the veteran backstop in the offseason has come to fruition. The offense? General manager Rick Hahn has said multiple times that McCann has exceeded their expectations in that department.

"Obviously I played against them for five years, so they'd seen me quite a bit," McCann said last week. "I just turned 29, which I guess in the game of baseball some people think is old now, but in all reality I feel like I'm just coming into my prime. I hope that's the way the organization looks at me.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity, and I've really enjoyed my time here."

That opportunity has yielded an All-Star first half for McCann. See you in Cleveland, James.

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Jose Abreu flips the score, beats the Red Sox with a ninth-inning home run

Jose Abreu flips the score, beats the Red Sox with a ninth-inning home run

Alex Colome blew his first save of the season in the eighth inning, and the White Sox seemed destined for a deflating loss that would have had them swept out of Fenway Park.

Jose Abreu had different plans.

Down a run with one out in the top of the ninth, Abreu battled Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes in a 10-pitch at-bat. The 10th of those pitches was sent over the Green Monster for a score-flipping, two-run homer that took a 7-6 loss to an 8-7 lead.

Clutch.

It was the second ball Abreu blasted over the Monster in this series. He smacked one off the National Car Rental sign Monday night. This one did even more damage and traveled completely outside of Fenway Park, to boot.

That 8-7 lead turned into an 8-7 win when Colome shut the door in the bottom of the ninth.

Abreu doesn't have the same averages he has throughout his immensely productive big league career, the owner of a .255/.295/.493 slash line coming into Wednesday's game. But he's back on track from a power perspective after last season's injury-plagues season, with 19 homers and 59 RBIs. The four runs he drove in Wednesday's three-hit effort brought him to that 19-59 total that's a special numerical combination to White Sox fans. As of this writing, Abreu is one off the league-leading 60 RBIs of Seattle's Domingo Santana.

Abreu's heroics prevented the White Sox losing streak from sliding to five. It also continued a nice bounce-back season for him that has proven he's still capable of doing plenty of damage and could keep him around on the South Side into the future. He's slated to hit free agency at the end of the 2019 campaign, but general manager Rick Hahn has made it sound like Abreu is part of the team's plans moving forward.

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