Bulls

Cubs' valiant comeback falls short

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Cubs' valiant comeback falls short

Roy Halladay threw eight strong innings for his first victory in a month and the Philadelphia Phillies held on for an 8-7 win over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night.Halladay (4-3) hadn't won since April 16, a span of five starts, and had lost three straight decisions to match a career high, but held the Cubs to three runs and scattered seven hits. The two-time Cy Young winner has allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts this season.Chicago's Welington Castillo's stroked a two-out, three-run double in the ninth against Phillies LHP Jake Diekman to close the gap to two runs. Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon came on and allowed an RBI single to Darwin Barney, but got Reed Johnson on a grounder to third for his 11th save of the season.While Halladay ended his modest skid, Cubs starter Chris Volstad (0-6) suffered his 19th straight start without a win. He lasted just two innings, allowing four runs, six hits and three walks. Volstad threw 58 pitches, a total Halladay didn't reach until there was one out in the sixth.Carlos Ruiz had his sixth career four-hit game and drove in three runs as the Phillies won a season-best fifth straight game. Jimmy Rollins had two hits, a walk and scored three runs. Hunter Pence added a two-run single.Philadelphia (20-19) moved over .500 for the first time since winning its season opener.The Cubs may have lost three straight, but Volstad hasn't won since July 10, 2011. He's gone 0-11 during his drought with a 5.40 ERA. His ERA rose to 7.46 for this season and it could have been worse -- the Phillies stranded five runners during his two innings.In addition to the bases-clearing double, Castillo homered and drove in a career-high four runs.Volstad's run support has been the lowest in baseball during his skid among pitchers with at least 15 starts, but his results have been increasingly poor in recent outings. He's allowed 15 runs over his last 17 innings, with 19 hits, eight walks and just four strikeouts.Halladay had lost five of his last six games against Chicago before dominating Thursday's game. He even chipped in with two hits and a run at the plate for his third career multi-hit game.Ruiz leads NL catchers with 27 RBIs and is 9 for 14 over his last four games. He even stole his first base of the season on the back end of a double steal in the first.Starlin Castro hit solo homers and drove in two runs for Chicago. David DeJesus had two hits and a run, extending his hitting streak to nine games.NOTES:
Phillies 2B Chase Utley reported no problems after taking grounders for the first time this season before Wednesday's game. Utley has spent the entire season on the disabled list because of patella tendinitis in his right knee. No timetable has been established for his return. . C Geovany Soto was a late scratch from the Cubs' lineup due left knee inflammation and was replaced by Castillo. Soto is listed as day-to-day. . Before the game, the Cubs selected the contract of RHP Blake Parker from Triple-A Iowa and optioned LHP Scott Maine to Iowa. Parker was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in the minors and converted all five of his save opportunities. He made his debut in Thursday's game, striking out Ty Wigginton to begin his big-league career, but allowed three unearned runs on his own throwing error in the eighth. . Phillies 3B Placido Polanco sat out with a bruised left knee. He left Wednesday's game after fouling a pitch off his leg, something he's done several times over the last week.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.