White Sox

Bulls' comeback bid falls short, drop second-straight to Blazers

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Bulls' comeback bid falls short, drop second-straight to Blazers

PORTLAND If once is anomaly, is twice the start of a trend? For the second straight game, the Bulls (5-5) were given a taste of their own medicine and while Sundays 102-94 loss to the Trail Blazers (5-5) at the Rose Garden wasnt the blowout defeat the team suffered Saturday in Los Angeles, the lack of urgency, especially against an inexperienced young squad with inferior talent hints at deeper issues.

After an embarrassing loss the previous evening, the Bulls were locked in at the outset of the contest, as both Joakim Noah (16 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists) and Rip Hamilton (15 points) had their mid-range games clicking early on, helping the visitors build a slim cushion.

For the hosts, LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, 13 rebounds)a former Bulls draft pick, though he was traded for the eventually-jettisoned Tyrus Thomasjustified his All-Star status early with his combination of finesse and interior play, while fellow big man J.J. Hicksons high activity level also made an impact and star rookie Damian Lillard (16 points) showed flashes of his tremendous ability.

However, the Bulls were focused on both strong defense and getting quality shotsthey shot nearly 62 percent from the floor in the opening quarterand with Noah displaying his all-around game as a scorer, passer and rebounder, not to mention a balanced effort that saw seven of the eight players who received playing time get on the board, the Blazers found themselves on their heels. After a period of play, the Bulls led, 30-23.

Portland started the second quarter with a 6-0 run to quickly narrow the gap, prompting a Bulls timeout, though not much changed afterwards, as they reverted to their ways from the night before, as ball security once again was an issue. So was point production, as the guests experienced one of their periodic offensive droughts, with the second unit, aside from backup point guard Nate Robinson (18 points), and the Blazers capitalized with Aldridges continued domination, as well as contributions from swingman Wesley Matthews (21 points), to overtake their opponents.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau eventually reinserted his regulars, with the exception of reserve swingman Jimmy Butler, but the turnover issues and inefficient offense persisted, allowing Portland to gain some separation.

Having lost all momentum and simply being out of sync on both ends, at the intermission, the Bulls trailed, 51-43, following a last-second layup by Lillard before the halftime buzzer.

Typically, the Bulls, whether instantaneously or in a more gradual process, adjust their mindset and overall approach during the break, coming back with a more focused effort, regardless of the results. That didnt occur in the third quarter, as they continually permitted the Blazers open looks, settled for contested jumpers and perhaps most disturbingly, didnt display the hustle thats defined this team during Thibodeaus tenure, particularly in defensive transition.

Swingman Nicolas Batum (21 points) took over the hot hand for Portland in the period, knocking down a trio of shots from long range, while Lillard, an early-season Rookie of the Year candidate, resumed his consistent play.

As the period waned on, however, the Bulls managed to trim the deficit behind Hamilton, Noah and later, energetic subs Butler and Taj Gibson (11 points), who had been struggling as of late, and heading into the final stanza, the visitors were behind by a more manageable 73-68 score.

Gibsons energetic play carried over to the fourth quarter and sparked by his hustle and toughness, as well as solid play from Noah and Luol Deng (14 points, seven rebounds), the Bulls knotted up the contest early in the period. But Portland countered with an 8-0 run to acquire some breathing rooman extended 12-2 spurt gave the hosts a double-digit edgeto make the contest a continued uphill battle for its guests.

Down the stretch, Robinson was the Bulls offensive catalyst, but as admirable as the effort of the diminutive scorer was, the visitors simply couldnt get over the hump, with the Blazers seemingly getting to every key loose ball and rising to the occasion late.

To put a nail in the Bulls coffin, Matthews, Butlers college teammate at Marquette took it upon himself with an array of jumpers and hustle plays to cement the home teams victory and while their guests, led by Robinson, would make an inspired last-gasp comeback in the games final minute, it was too little, too late.

Michael Saunders joins Triple-A Charlotte: A potential addition to White Sox banged-up outfield?

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USA TODAY

Michael Saunders joins Triple-A Charlotte: A potential addition to White Sox banged-up outfield?

The White Sox could use some help in the outfield.

Did a reinforcement just join Triple-A Charlotte?

Former Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders signed with the White Sox organization Monday, joining up with Charlotte.

Saunders, 31, has parts of nine major league seasons under his belt. Last year, he split time with the Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies, posting a .202/.256/.344 slash line with six homers and 21 RBIs in 73 games.

The year prior he made his as-of-yet only All-Star appearance, slashing .253/.338/.478 with 24 homers in 140 games with the Jays.

The White Sox currently have both Opening Day corner outfielders on the shelf. Avisail Garcia has been on the disabled list for almost a month with a hamstring strain, and the team announced over the weekend that Garcia's injury is bad enough that it will likely keep him out until late June. Nicky Delmonico suffered a broken bone in his hand during the recently completed series with the Texas Rangers and will miss four to six weeks.

The White Sox have been giving playing time to Adam Engel, Leury Garcia, Daniel Palka and Trayce Thompson. But Engel and Thompson are both batting under .200, while Palka has an on-base percentage under .300.

So perhaps, with his major league experience, Saunders might make an appearance on the South Side sometime this summer.

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

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USA TODAY

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

This past weekend Ian Happ rocked Cincinnati harder than anyone since Dr. Johnny Fever, and the White Sox from last Sunday to yesterday posted a winning 4-3 record.

It’s Monday, so let’s examine the box scores from the previous seven days for another edition of Who Knew?

Leading off

Tim Anderson started this season 5-for-5 in plate appearances leading off games: double, single, single, home run, single.

He finally made a leadoff out on Sunday.

Déjà Vu

On Monday, Ozzie Albies hit a leadoff home run off José Quintana for the second time this season. 

It was rare enough that a batter had multiple leadoff home runs against the Cubs in the same season. The last batter to do that was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in 2006 (one each off Greg Maddux and then-starter Carlos Marmol).

But multiple leadoff home runs against the same Cubs PITCHER in the same season? Quite rare. At first, I believed it to be the first such occurrence since at least the 1880’s, but there was one other time since that I initially missed.

Prior to Ozzie Albies (off Quintana), the last batter with multiple leadoff home runs against a single Cubs pitcher in a season was Heinie Sand of the Phillies, who led off two games in 1924 with home runs off Cubs right-hander Vic Keen.

Before Sand, you DO have to go back to the 1880s. Hall of Famer Buck Ewing hit two leadoff home runs off Fred Goldsmith (who claimed to have invented the curveball, but likely did not) in 1883.  It may have happened in 1884, but there are some missing details in the home run database and I can’t be certain. But it’s rare!

Saves without Strikeouts

Cubs closer Brandon Morrow has 10 saves this season. In half of them (including his latest save Tuesday), he did not record a strikeout.

Only Wade Davis, who closed out games for the Cubs last season, has more strikeout-less saves in 2018 (no punchouts in seven of his 16 saves). Davis, for the record, saved 32 games for the Cubs last season, but in only nine of those 32 did he not strike anyone out.

Meanwhile, up in the Pacific Northwest, Edwin Díaz of the Mariners has 15 saves this season and has at least one strikeout in all 15.

National Treasure

Leury García took Jameson Taillon deep Wednesday in Pittsburgh, giving him 13 career home runs, all in a White Sox uniform.

The thing is, seven of those 13 home runs have been against National League teams!  Check out his career splits with the Sox:

Versus NL 26 games .325/.373/.636 7 home runs
Versus AL 225 games .227/.267/.306 6 home runs

Uncanny!

Hit Bonanza

The Cubs started Friday’s game in Cincinnati like this:

Zobrist single, Bryant double, Rizzo single, Contreras single, Russell single.

It was the first time the Cubs started a game with five straight hits since Sept. 8, 2009 when they had EIGHT straight hits to start a game. They started that game as follows:

Ryan Theriot single, Milton Bradley single, Derrek Lee single, Aramis Ramírez single, Jeff Baker single, Geovany Soto double, Kosuke Fukudome double, Bobby Scales single. A Ryan Dempster sacrifice bunt snapped the streak, giving up an out in the first inning with a 6-0 lead.

Palka Dots

Sox slugger Daniel Palka has made an impact so far in the Majors. Half of his 16 hits have been of the extra-base variety.

In only 18 career games, Palka already has multiple doubles (three), triples (two) and home runs (three). Through 18 career games, Frank Thomas could check off two of those three boxes, although maybe not the two that you think.

The Big Hurt had six doubles and THREE TRIPLES in his initial dozen-and-a-half career games, but no home runs! The last White Sox player who had at least two of each type of extra-base hit through his first 18 career Major League contests?

Go back to Greg Walker, who collected two doubles, two triples and three home runs in an 11-game taste of the Majors in 1982 and his first seven games of 1983.

Ace of On-Base

Ian Happ returned to his old stomping grounds (kind of… he attended the University of Cincinnati) over the weekend and had quite a four-game series:

Friday 1 hit 3 walks
Saturday (Game 1) 3 hits 1 walk
Saturday (Game 2) 1 hit 2 walks
Sunday 0 hits 3 walks

Now granted, there aren’t as many four-game series as there used to be, but Happ was the first Cub to reach base at least three times in each game of a four-game series since Mark Grace during a four-game set versus Mets at Wrigley Field Aug. 9-12, 1991.Five hits and nine walks; Happ reached base at least three times in all four games!

Happ’s season slashline was boosted from .233/.301/.417 to .254/.361/.509 in those four games alone. His nine walks (five intentional, four unintentional) in the series is better than Javier Báez (six walks: four intentional, two unintentional) has for the entire season.

Happ on Friday became the first Cub to be walked three times intentionally in a game since Andre Dawson (FIVE times) on May 22, 1990. Back then, it actually required pitches to intentionally walk a batter.

Happ was also the first Cub to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Chris Coghlan July 8, 2014 – also at Cincinnati. But Happ was able to do something Coghlan didn’t: in both games, Happ hit the lone Cubs home run! That’s something no Cub had done since Alfonso Soriano hit the lone Cubs' home run in each game of a doubleheader in St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2007.

Extra Extra!

José Abreu continues to produce. He doubled and homered Saturday night, making him the 23rd player in White Sox history to reach 300 career extra-base hits. He reached 300 extra-base hits in only 655 career Major League games, a number surpassed in White Sox history only by Frank Thomas (626). 

It was also Abreu’s 222nd career multi-hit game in a White Sox uniform, matching our “Beltin’” Bill Melton.