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Deadline madness: Cubs expect Sveum to hold it all together

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Deadline madness: Cubs expect Sveum to hold it all together

Dale Sveum cracks open a beer and folds his arms across his chest. Tattoos run up to his biceps, where two ideas stressed by his late father, a Marine, are anchored.

Give em hell.
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Win or lose on the road, Sveum sits in the managers office and lets the game wash over him. He shrugs. He rolls his eyes. He laughs. He speaks in a flat voice.

Sveum has a laptop on his desk, but says he doesnt surf the Internet or watch much SportsCenter.

Sveum really doesnt understand Twitter, where his players are traded 247. He has jokingly asked for the latest Whats the twits? and threatened to put any reporter who mentions Twitter in timeout.

No matter how Tuesdays deadline plays out, there will be no excuses from the Cubs manager.

Anything can happen at any hour, any minute, Sveum said. We just focus on what we got. Everybody in the rotations going to pitch and all the hitters are still here and we just dont worry about that. We cant worry about it. Its part of the game.

After slamming a cooler in the dugout and firing a plastic bottle against the wall on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Ryan Dempster zipped up his Cubs 46 duffel bag and planned to weigh his options during Thursdays off-day.

Who knows what the roster will look like by Friday when the St. Louis Cardinals come to Wrigley Field? The sense is that Dempster will be hearing I Love L.A. at Dodger Stadium sometime next week.

But as Theo Epstein works the phones trying to dismantle this team and collect more prospects, the 40-57 Cubs have gone 16-9 since June 25, the day before Anthony Rizzo was promoted.

Weve been playing our best baseball while all this stuff (was going on), general manager Jed Hoyer said. Dale and the coaching staff handled that really well. Their focus, all along, has been on winning, even while rumors have swirled.

Dempsters tantrum at PNC Park was steps away from where he screamed at Mike Quade after being pulled from a game last season. That confrontation undercut the managers authority, confirming on television what the players were starting to think behind closed doors.

But Sveum who dressed up along with the players and went as Hellboy for this weeks Superheroes flight from St. Louis to Pittsburgh has a good feel for the clubhouse.

Theyve been the same with us from Day 1, utility man Jeff Baker said. As a player, you really respect that, because they understand how hard the game is. They work with you every day. Theres no front-running. Theyre not patting you on the back, being your best friend when youre getting hits and when youre not, they dont talk to you. Thats not how it is here.

Pitching coach Chris Bosio did the job for Lou Piniella and threw a no-hitter in the big leagues. First-base coach Dave McKay spent 26 years on Tony La Russas staff. Bench coach Jamie Quirk is in his 38th season in pro ball.

Sveum is also surrounded by an American League Rookie of the Year (Pat Listach), and the bullpen catcher (Mike Borzello) who warmed up Mariano Rivera the night the New York Yankees closer discovered his cutter.

Thats part of our jobs, to keep things together, whether theyre good or bad, Sveum said. Its always trying to keep the same atmosphere and the same work ethic and the same preparation. All of us, including my staff, (have been) through some horrible times (and) some great times.

You got to give the players as much credit as anything. I could walk in the locker room (and) even during the 12-game losing streak it was always the same every single day. Thats all you can ask for, and thats all you can try and create.

Whether people call it trying to change a culture or whatever, but thats the idea of everything we do: Try to be consistent in preparation and understanding about making yourself a better player every day, paying attention to details.

Answering questions from the media, Sveum doesnt get defensive or second-guess himself or try to entertain everyone. He almost always backs his players, unless they go off script from the game plan, like Carlos Marmol not throwing enough fastballs or Chris Volstad shaking off the catcher.

The coaching staffs been fantastic, second baseman Darwin Barney said. Everybody on this team has been very pleased and happy with the way that theyve been handling things, the way they communicate with people. That definitely has nothing to do with us not winning ballgames. Were just missing a few pieces.

For all the buzz at the trade deadline, thats the bigger question: How far is this team from contention? Epstein can have a vision for the next decade, but Sveum is the one who has to be out front every day, talking to reporters before and after every game.

Its the starting pitching thats going to dictate anything, Sveum said. Our offense is going to gradually get better and better. But I think when you go into the season, youll still put a competitive team together. You have to have all the pieces though.

You cant have an offense, no bullpen, one starting pitcher. You have to have three or four quality starting pitchers. You have to have a back end of a bullpen.

Its a whole combination of things that you have to put together during the winter, (so) that when you go into Opening Day next year, you got those pieces hopefully put together. Anything can happen, but you have to find those pieces and put them together at the right time.

Epstein and Hoyer rarely travel on the road with the major-league club. With the deadline approaching, Sveum said he hasnt been speaking with them any more than normal.

We talk about a lot of stuff all the time, but you dont have that interaction of talking about (moves for) the future, Sveum said. We have a great relationship, but right now they obviously have a lot on the table.

Sveum has to hope they play their cards right, because eventually this is going to become a lot less about feel and more about wins and losses, especially in a big market not known for patience.

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center on Tuesday:

1. Brandon Saad's breakout game

After turning in one of his best efforts of the season on Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks rewarded Saad with a promotion to the top-six again. And he took advantage of that opportunity.

In the first period alone, Saad recorded four shots on goal, scored his first of the season on the power play, drew a penalty and had a takeaway in 7:42 of ice time, which led all forwards. He finished with nine shot attempts (a season-high seven on goal) and 18:56 of ice time.

On his power-play goal, Saad battled for position in front of the net, called for the puck and scored on his second effort. He did all the right things and got rewarded, including on the empty-netter that sealed the victory.

"I've had some chances, especially as of late," Saad said. "But it's definitely nice for them to get in and get a win on top of that."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "He was excellent tonight. ... I thought he had great speed all over the ice, had the puck way more. We’re happy for him. Big factor in the win."

2. Erik Gustafsson's slap-pass becoming a thing

For the second time this season, Gustafsson contributed to a game-winning goal that involved a fake shot and slap-pass from the point. Patrick Kane was the recipient of the cross-ice pass and buried home the one-timer from the right faceoff circle

"I can’t score by myself, so it’s better to pass it," Gustafsson joked. "No, I know Kaner is out there. He’s always getting open when someone else has the puck so it’s easy to find him and there was one guy in front of me so I wanted to pass it."

3. Blackhawks cut down on high-danger chances

On Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks allowed 25 high-danger chances at even strength. It put them at the very bottom of the league for most on average per game, ironically falling below Anaheim.

Through two periods on Tuesday, the Blackhawks allowed zero and only five at 5-on-5 for the entire game. Certainly a 180 from two nights ago, and an area they will continue to build upon.

"We just took away those quality chances," said Corey Crawford, who made 24 saves and picked up his first win at home since Dec. 17, 2017. "I don't think they really had too many where they had time in front of the net to really think about where they wanted to shoot and our guys were on the right away in the middle of the ice and that'll give you a great chance to win a hockey game."

4. Special teams battle

There were a total of 20 penalty minutes (10 for Anaheim, 10 for Chicago), which meant lots of power play opportunities and not as much even-strength time.

The Blackhawks had four of them in the first period, and converted on the second try when Saad scored his first of the season. The penalty killed went 4-for-4, allowing a combined eight combined shots on goal but limiting the quality chances.

Chris Sale labors in World Series opener for Red Sox

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USA TODAY

Chris Sale labors in World Series opener for Red Sox

When Chris Sale was with the White Sox, fans dreamed of seeing him headline a postseason playoff rotation.

That never materialized in his time with the White Sox, but Sale is headlining a World Series rotation for the Red Sox. The 29-year-old pitched Game 1 for the Red Sox against the Dodgers on Tuesday.

Sale didn't last long, making it into the fifth and getting pulled before recording an out. In those 4+ innings, Sale gave up three runs while striking out seven.

One of the key plays of the game featured Manny Machado getting an RBI single against Sale in the third inning to tie the game at 2-2. Machado later had an RBI groundout to again tie the game in the fifth before Boston regained the lead in the bottom half of that inning.

Was that a meeting of the White Sox past (Sale) against the White Sox future (Machado)? Machado will be a highly sought after free agent this winter and the White Sox have been connected to the former Orioles infielder since last offseason.

Game 1 featured a stellar pitching matchup of Sale against Clayton Kershaw, but it didn't materialize as it looked on paper. Sale labored while Kershaw gave up five runs in 4+ innings.

This postseason hasn't been a standout one for Sale. The lefty has a 4.40 ERA in 16 1/3 innings over four appearances (three starts and a relief appearance).

The longer Chris Sale is with the Red Sox, the less this will feel relevant to the White Sox, but it is still something to see the longtime White Sox ace on the mound starting a World Series opener.