White Sox

Blackhawks' Keith ready to shake rust off

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Blackhawks' Keith ready to shake rust off

ST. PAUL, Minn. Duncan Keith has been a spectator for long enough; its time to play again.

Keith will be back in the lineup tonight when the Blackhawks face the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks are jockeying for position at this point, a playoff berth already secured last weekend. But for Keith, its a chance to shake the rust off and get back to playing those heavy minutes hes logged over the past few seasons.

So how long will it take Keith to get re-acclimated?

I guess were going to find out, Keith said this morning. Ive played a lot of hockey already so Ill just take the first period, (take) short shifts, keep it simple and go from there.

Indeed, Keiths already logged plenty of ice time this season. Hes second in the league with 26 minutes, 53 seconds of ice time per game this season; former teammate Brian Campbell is first, his TOIgame just two seconds higher. If nothing else, Keith got some much-needed rest.

I feel good and stronger than I was before (the suspension), Keith said recently. So hopefully it pays off.

The Blackhawks went a respectable 2-1-2 without Keith, with fellow defensemen picking up his minutes and responsibilities. Keiths return restores the defensive balance the Blackhawks have enjoyed since Johnny Oduya was acquired at the end of February.

That, and that copious amount of ice time Keith always consumes.

It means a lot to your team as far as what he brings, the quality and quantity of ice he gives us, coach Joel Quenneville said. He plays in all situations and important minutes and brings a lot to our back end, our team, our puck-possession game and quickness in all zones.

As much as Keith didnt like watching instead of playing, he said he did observe a few things in his down time.

I think definitely I learned we have a good team. Thats what I took out of it, he said. I think you always try to look at things, that its real easy playing the game (when youre) sitting upstairs and watching from the chair. There are a lot of good teams; its just a matter of playing as a team like we know how to.

Reynaldo Lopez continues hot start to second half, helps snap White Sox losing streak

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez continues hot start to second half, helps snap White Sox losing streak

After a rough outing against the Detroit Tigers on July 4 — his last before the All-Star break — White Sox starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez vowed to be a different pitcher going forward.

“At this point, after a really bad first half, there's not much I can say about that. Starting today, you're going to see a different pitcher going forward for the second half of the season,” Lopez said after his July 4 start through team interpreter Billy Russo. “What is done is done. There's nothing else that I can do to change what is done.

“I can do different things to get better and to be a better pitcher for the year and that's what I'm going to do.”

Two outings later, and Lopez is nearing the point where he can say “I told you so.”

Lopez has come out of the break firing on all cylinders after struggling to a 4-8 record and MLB-worst 6.34 ERA before the Midsummer Classic. Friday, he tossed seven innings of two-run ball, allowing just six hits and one walk compared to eight strikeouts. This follows his brilliant outing against the Athletics on Sunday in which he pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and one run — albeit unearned — with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Lopez exited Sunday’s game in line for a win before the White Sox bullpen slipped up. The offense allowed no such opportunity on Friday, tallying 16 hits en route to a 9-2 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s Lopez’s first win since June 9 against the Kansas City Royals.

Lopez has received a fair share of criticism this season for his struggles, but his recent success should not come as much of a surprise considering how he fared in 2018. The 25-year-old posted a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts, striking out 151 batters in 188 2/3 innings.

Lopez’s strikeout rate in 2019 is up compared to 2018 (8.19 K/9 in 2019 vs. 7.20 in 2018) and his walk rate is down (3.32 BB/9 in 2019 vs. 3.58 in 2018). The major difference is that opponents are hitting .284 against him this season compared to .234 in 2018, while also holding a .319 BABIP, up from .260 last season.

It may just be two starts, but Lopez is backing up his vow to pitch better. Between Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and the returns of Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón from Tommy John surgery in 2020, the White Sox future starting rotation is in good hands. Getting Lopez back to pitching how he did in 2018 will only take that group to the next level.

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Dare we ask... are the Cubs back?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Dare we ask... are the Cubs back?

Rick Telander, Ben Finfer and Seth Gruen join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Cubs beat the Padres from their 6th win in their 7 games since the All-Star Break. Are they really this good or are they just feasting on sub-.500 teams?

7:00 - The White Sox have lost seven straight after the break. Should fans be furious with the slump or still optimistic about the future?

13:00 - The Bears report to Bourbonnais in 6 days. Will the 2019 season be a failure if they do not make it to the Super Bowl?

19:00 - Kap gives out his play of the night in the FanDuel Friday Faves.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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