White Sox

Bulls hold off Suns in overtime to start 'Circus Trip'

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Bulls hold off Suns in overtime to start 'Circus Trip'

PHOENIXThings might get a bit hairy, but in the Tom Thibodeau era, the annual Circus Trip is no longer an event to be dreaded, as evidenced by the Bulls (5-3) 112-106 overtime victory over the Suns (4-5) Wednesday night at the U.S. Airways Center.

A physical contest that featured three Bulls technical fouls, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the third quarter, then squandered it as Phoenix made a dramatic comeback, but the visitors stayed resilient and held on to dominate the extra session for the win.

A fast-paced contest at the outset, Carlos Boozer (28 points, 14 rebounds) got off to another quick start, as the power forward finished at the rim, knocked down his mid-range jumper and ran the floor in transition. For Phoenix, point guard Goran Dragic (12 points) best known by Bulls fans for Derrick Roses vicious dunk on him three seasons ago, but a revelation in Houston in the previous campaign before returning to the Suns in free agency over the summer dominated play, but also got forwards and fellow offseason acquisitions Luis Scola (24 points, 14 rebounds) and Michael Beasley (12 points) involved.

The visitors were also hampered by early foul trouble for Joakim Noah (21 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) and Kirk Hinrich (seven assists), the latter of whom returned to the lineup after a one-game absence due to a right hip strain, but it still remained a close-knit affair in the opening period. Through one quarter of play the Bulls held a narrow advantage, 29-27.

Sparked by All-Star Luol Deng (21 points) and reserve guards Nate Robinson (11 points) and Marco Belinelli, the Bulls maintained the teams slight edge early in the second frame. However, the Suns rode Scolas combination of jumpers and crafty interior scoring to stay within striking distance and gradually overtook their hosts, even after the majority of the Bulls starters were inserted back into the game.

Following a technical foul on Rip Hamilton (15 points), Jimmy Butler, playing only spot minutes when Deng gets one of his rare breaks, ignited a 13-0 Bulls run which included Hamiltons first missed free throw of the season after making 17 straight to begin the campaign toward the end of the half. At the intermission, the Bulls led, 57-51.

After the break, the Bulls played with the same fervor that they ended the previous period with, pushing the pace successfully without sacrificing defense to create some breathing room. After seeing his playing curtailed because of first-half foul trouble, Noah made his presence felt in the third quarter and fellow big man Boozer continued his consistent scoring efforts.

Deng also got it going en route to the visitors blowing the contest wide open even Hinrich picking up his fourth foul early in the period couldnt derail their extended spurt, as Robinson picked up the slack nicely and with the defense forcing turnovers, their transition game in gear and unselfish passing leading to quality shot opportunities, the Bulls maintained a comfortable winning margin. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were ahead, 83-69.

At the outset of the fourth quarter, the Suns attempted to battle back behind Scola and surprising contributions from the likes of reserves Sebastian Telfair (17 points), Markieff Morris (10 rebounds), P.J. Tucker (eight rebounds) and Maywood, Ill., native Shannon Brown (11 points), but timely plays from the Bulls such as a desperation three-pointer off of one leg by Deng to beat the shot clock helped stave off the hosts. Still, Phoenix continued to make a push and by the midway point of the period, it was a two-possession contest.

It seemed as if the Bulls would eke out a win in regulation, but a combination of gutty plays by the Suns beating the visitors at their own game with a physical nature and outright hustle as well as missed opportunities by the guests led to Phoenix tying the game at 100 apiece with 9.4 seconds to go on a Tucker layup. Out of a timeout, the Bulls got the ball to Hamilton for a potential game-winner, but tough defense by Brown prevented the veteran from knocking down a heavily contested and the contest went into overtime.

In the extra session, the Bulls dominated, as they clamped down on the defensive end and began executing precisely on offense. Deng started things off with a jumper and they rolled from there, as Hamilton made a pair of jumpers, Noah was a force on the glass and clutch free-throw shooting ensured that the door wouldnt be left open for another Suns comeback.

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

As encouraging as the reports are on many of the White Sox’s minor-league pitching prospects, Carlos Rodon’s effort against the Athletics on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field could prove just as significant to the rebuild on the South Side.

Looking much like the ace the Sox envisioned prior to Rodon’s rough 2017 season that ended with shoulder surgery, the left-hander put together his most successful effort of ’18 during a 10-3 drubbing of the Athletics before a sun-drenched crowd of 21,908.

Making his fourth start of the season, Rodon matched a career-high by going eight innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Rodon earned his first win of the season to help the Sox salvage a split of the four-game series.

“I felt good today—a lot of strikes,” Rodon said. “It was good to go eight and just be ahead of guys.”

Helping matters for Rodon was an offensive explosion by the Sox, led by Yoan Moncada’s career-high six RBIs. After falling behind 2-0, the Sox plated five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings as Moncada cleared the bases with a double off the base of the wall in the fifth and launched his 10th home run of the season to drive in three more an inning later.

“Today was a great day,” Moncada said via a team interpreter. “I just went out to play the game the way that I play. Just to have fun. It was a very good game for me.”

Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sanchez also homered as the Sox won for just the second time in their last 11 games.

Rodon was the happy recipient of the run support to win his first game since Aug. 21, 2017, against the Twins. On Sunday, he threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes and was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball.

“I’m looking to do that every time out,” Rodon said. “Just show up and establish the strike zone with the fastball and be aggressive.”

The 25-year-old’s second-inning strikeout of Khris Davis was the 400th of Rodon’s career. It is a career that is continuing after a surgery that was a setback, but one that did not derail Rodon’s confidence that he would again pitch effectively.

“There are up-and-down days when you go through shoulder surgery or any surgery for any player,” Rodon said. “You've just got to work through it and try to make your way back. I'm here now and it’s looking up and I’m trying to get better.”

So is it reasonable to view Rodon as the future ace after all?

“You certainly can’t discount that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has to go out there and continue to get his feet underneath him and get through the rest of the season healthy and climbing.”

In other Sox pitching news, Renteria said starter Dylan Covey, who was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game due to a hip flexor injury, “felt better” Sunday and the team will continue to monitor the right-hander’s progress.

Meanwhile, veteran Miguel Gonzalez made a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gonzalez went three innings and allowed one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez belted his first homer for the Knights in the game.

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.