White Sox

Devils take joy in frustrating the Rangers

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Devils take joy in frustrating the Rangers

From Comcast SportsNet
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- If you have any doubt the New Jersey Devils are frustrating the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference finals, just look at Game 4. Forget that Zach Parise scored two goals and set up another in the Devils' 4-1 win that evened the series at 2-all. Look at the extracurricular stuff in the game Monday night. Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur got sucker-punched by former teammate Mike Rupp, who might now be facing a suspension. New Jersey teammates Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Steve Bernier were the victims of cheap shots, and the Rangers spent most of the final 20 minutes killing off penalties and acting foolish. In 48 hours, the tide has turned again in this series between longtime rivals. Henrik Lundqvist is no longer in the Devils' heads, and the Rangers seemingly are the ones fighting demons heading into Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. "It's a good sign, I guess, when they take liberties on players," Brodeur said after making 28 saves en route to his 10th postseason win. "That means they're getting off their game a little bit. We've been working really hard, putting our head down, taking a lot of shots throughout the playoffs. "It's no different in this series," the 40-year-old three-time Stanley Cup winner said. "And as we go, we're going to keep doing the same. And it's paying off for us to be disciplined about these things." The Rangers were undisciplined. They took six penalties and one led to Parise's first goal early in the third period that pushed the lead to 3-0. The tally gave New Jersey a comfortable lead, but the game was far from over, especially when Rupp punched Brodeur with a jab that appeared to connect in the neck area and slide up his mask. The punch seemingly came out of nowhere and almost set off a battle on the ice. It did spark a shouting match between coaches Peter DeBoer of the Devils and John Tortorella of the Rangers on the benches. "You don't like to see that," DeBoer said of the hit on his goaltender. "He's a key guy for us. Two teams battling it out. He's a big boy. He can take care of himself." Brodeur was more surprised by the incident than anything. "I didn't expect anything," he said. "I never got punched like that in my career. First time. It kind of surprised me more than anything, but now I know I can take a punch." Tortorella refused to say anything about his shouting match with DeBoer, with whom he has argued several times this season, including Sunday when he complained about the Devils using illegal picks and embellishing penalties. "This isn't about John and I," DeBoer said. "This is about the guys on the ice. So, I don't have anything to say about that." This game -- and its result -- was almost anticlimactic after the shenanigans. Bryce Salvador and Travis Zajac beat Henrik Lundqvist less than four minutes apart in the first to give the Devils their first two-goal lead in the series, which is developing an intensity and emotion comparable to the classic 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between these two rivals. In that series, there were suspensions on both sides, three double-overtime games, a Game 6 "Guarantee" by New York captain Mark Messier, and unparalleled drama. Well, this one is getting there. On Monday, Brodeur, the only remaining player on either side from that series, even notched an assist in the third, on Parise's empty netter, capping a game in which the Devils maintained their composure and bounced back from a 3-0 shutout in Game 3, while the Rangers took several uncharacteristic penalties and seemed rattled from the start. And the chippiness increased with each period. New York's Marc Staal whacked Elias in the back of the knee with his stick in the second. Ryan Callahan, the Rangers captain, and New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk tussled and then jawed at each other from the respective penalty boxes. "There are going to be situations out there where we get into each other's faces," Callahan said. "That's playoff hockey." But the Rupp incident might have been a little over the top, even for the Stanley Cup playoffs. A former Devil who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for New Jersey in 2003 against Anaheim, Rupp jabbed Brodeur while the goalie was in his crease in the third after a stoppage in play. That almost set off a free-for-all among the players on the ice, especially after Brodeur reacted like he had been hit by a roundhouse left. As Brodeur walked through the locker room, he was asked if Rupp was his friend. "That's what I thought," he said before heading to the podium for a postgame news conference. Rupp was not available for comment. Ruslan Fedotenko ruined Brodeur's bid for his 25th career playoff shutout with just over five minutes to play. The Rangers pulled Lundqvist, who had shut out the Devils in Games 1 and 3, with less than three minutes to play, and Brodeur made two outstanding saves to keep it a two-goal game. Parise -- two days after he did not speak to reporters after a disappointing effort in Game 3 -- finally iced it with his second of the game and sixth of the playoffs. It was a clearing pass that found its way into the net. Brodeur's assist was his fourth point of the playoffs, an NHL record for a goaltender in one postseason. But this game -- which did not include New York's Brendan Prust, who was suspended for elbowing Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 -- was decided early because the Devils finally found ways to beat Lundqvist. Salvador's wrist shot from the point found its way through a half-dozen players and sneaked by the Rangers' netminder for New Jersey's first goal since the third period of Game 2. Zajac's goal gave the Devils a 2-0 edge at 11:59, and the rejuvenated Parise had a big hand in it. New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus sent the puck along the boards and New York's Michael Del Zotto made two mistakes. He didn't flag down the puck and then he allowed Parise to skate past him, setting up a 2-on-1 break. Parise lifted a pass over the stick of a prone Dan Girardi, and Zajac one-timed the pass into the upper portion of the net before Lundqvist could react. Parise extended the lead to 3-0 early in the third, just 4 seconds after New York's Derek Stepan was sent off for high-sticking. Kovalchuk took a shot from the point that Lundqvist could not control and Parise whacked the rebound into the net. NOTES: Veteran Petr Sykora, who had played in every game for the Devils this season and won the 2000 Stanley Cup with New Jersey, sat, as Jacob Josefson returned to the lineup. ... With Prust forced to miss the game, the Rangers dressed seven defenseman, including Stu Bickel, who returned to the lineup after sitting for Game 3. ... Rangers rookie forward Chris Kreider had his three-game goal scoring streak snapped. ... The Devils' win was played on the 18th anniversary of New Jersey's 3-1 victory over the Rangers in the aforementioned 1994 series. That was also a Game 4, and that also tied that series, 2-2. New York went on to win in seven games. ... Monday night's game marked the first time the Rangers allowed more than three goals in a contest during these playoffs. New York tied an NHL record by holding its opponents to three goals or less in 17 consecutive games to begin the postseason.

White Sox no fans of MLB extra-inning rule after experiencing it vs. Indians

White Sox no fans of MLB extra-inning rule after experiencing it vs. Indians

Before the season started, White Sox manager Rick Renteria let it be known he wasn’t a fan of baseball’s new extra-inning rule, the one that starts every extra inning with a runner on second base.

He was speaking without experiencing it. Now that he’s been through it, he’s got all the more reason not to like it.

“The same,” he said after Sunday’s stinger of a loss to the Cleveland Indians, asked how he felt about the rule after watching it cost his team a game.

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The White Sox can point to several reasons why they walked out of Guaranteed Rate Field hurting Sunday night. They had a one-run lead after seven innings, Lucas Giolito out-dueling Shane Bieber in a phenomenal pitching matchup, and it didn’t stick. They managed just six hits on the night compared to 16 strikeouts, half of those coming in the game’s final four innings. And Jimmy Cordero gave up two runs in the top of the 10th, when the Indians started with just one rule-gifted runner in scoring position, not two. It’s that extra one that proved the difference in the final score.

But Cordero — who followed Evan Marshall and Alex Colomé, Renteria’s two highest leverage relievers now that Aaron Bummer is on the injured list, out of the bullpen — didn’t have to do much to watch a tie game turn into a two-run deficit. He gave up just one hit to the outfield, the other base knock he gave up an infield single on which Yoán Moncada couldn’t make a play. One piece of hard contact, and that was enough to make it a two-run inning.

That’s baseball, of course. Whether this new extra-inning rule is or not, that's up for debate.

The Indians started with José Ramírez on second base, and that’s where he stayed after Francisco Lindor flied out. Carlos Santana bounced the grounder at Moncada, who was ranging wide to his left and couldn’t control the ball. Had he made the play, it would have been an amazing one. In reality, he might not have got the out even had he been able to make a throw. Instead, the go-ahead run was 90 feet away, and it promptly scored on a squeeze play. Yasmani Grandal, playing first base, made a flip to James McCann at home plate, but Ramírez was flying down the base line. Perhaps no play would have beat him home.

A fly out, an infield hit and a bunt. And Cordero was losing.

The inning continued with a fielder’s choice that moved a runner to third, and that run came home when Mike Freeman lined a base hit into the outfield, the first ball to get there in the inning. The White Sox came up with their own run in the bottom of the inning, their free runner scoring, too. But a 45-minute rain delay snapped any momentum generated from the Indians trying to pitch and field in a downpour, and once the field was rung out by The Sodfather & Co., a new Cleveland pitcher finished the South Siders off.

“Yeah, that was a tough loss,” Giolito said. “You see the weird extra-innings thing come into effect there. And then a weird rain delay. It was a very strange last inning for sure, to say the least. It's unfortunate we didn't come out on top.”

Some like the zaniness of the new extra-inning rule, which is being compared to how overtime works in college football, typically an entertaining setup. Certainly it’s doing what it was intended to: bring an end to games. Without the added time of the rain delay Sunday, the 10th inning might not have been exactly swift, but it would have wrapped up faster than 11 innings or 12 or 13. And that’s the idea.

It also seems, though, like it’s just punishing for pitchers. Cordero didn’t have to do much of anything to be saddled with a couple game-deciding plays. For the most part, he did his job as he was supposed to. And still a couple of runs and an extra-inning loss.

“It’s one of those things that it’s set up to do exactly what it did, I guess,” Renteria said. “You have to deal with it. We just have to be efficient and effective.”

RELATED: White Sox stung by missed chance vs. Indians: 'This one hurts a little bit'

McCann went a step further in his discussion of why he doesn’t like this rule, pointing to a perhaps unintended consequence that could sap home-field advantage right out of the baseball rule book.

“I'm not a huge fan of it,” McCann said. “The reason for me is it changes the game a whole heck of a lot. And it actually, in my opinion, gives the away team the advantage a lot of time because in a tied ballgame in the ninth, the home team uses their closer. The away team doesn't use their closer in a tied game.

“So when you give the away team that type of an advantage, it takes away from the whole purpose of having the home-field advantage and getting the last at-bat and saving your closer.”

Not a bad point, and of course that’s exactly what happened to the White Sox on Sunday night. Renteria called on Colomé, his closer, to get through the top of the ninth and preserve a 3-all tie, and Colomé did. The Indians, waiting for a lead before they called on Brad Hand, did just that, bringing in their closer only after scoring twice in the 10th. Now, Hand wasn’t terribly effective — pitching in a watery environment looks tricky — but that’s something unique to this game, with McCann’s argument still applying when speaking generally.

Whether this rule sticks around past the unusual 2020 season remains to be seen. In a season where Major League Baseball is trying to limit the time players spend around other people, it’s a perfectly reasonable move. In a normal season, maybe not so much. But baseball seemed to be working toward bringing this to the big leagues before the COVID-19 pandemic was a thing, test driving it in the minors last season.

Renteria and McCann have both admitted themselves “old school” at times, and it was part of Renteria’s explanation for his dislike of this idea before the season started. But you don’t have to be “old school” to notice how little needs to happen for a game to be swung in one direction or another and how microscopic the margin of error is for pitchers in such a setup.

It might not have been the only reason the White Sox lost Sunday, but it certainly didn’t help.


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White Sox stung by missed chance vs. Indians: 'This one hurts a little bit'

White Sox stung by missed chance vs. Indians: 'This one hurts a little bit'

“This one hurts a little bit.”

Rick Renteria summed it up well.

The White Sox were on national TV, with a chance to take a series from a division rival. They did just enough against the best pitcher in the American League. They came back in somewhat dramatic fashion in another game dripping with playoff feeling. Their ace pitched great and turned it over to what’s been a nigh-untouchable back end of the bullpen.

And then … 

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Despite all that, the White Sox left Guaranteed Rate Field with another loss Sunday night. Instead of leapfrogging back over the Cleveland Indians and back into second place — an unexpected Minnesota Twins losing streak gave the White Sox a chance to be just a game out of first place — they tumbled back to .500 and fourth place in the constantly shifting AL Central standings.

Even in this most unusual season, this is still baseball, and all that can be flipped around tomorrow night. But with a chance to do something big on a national stage, they let one slip away.

Will it be the difference in the division standings come the end of the season? Who knows. But with every game meaning so much in a 60-game sprint to October, this is like dropping two or three in somewhat crushing fashion all at once.

Lucas Giolito was walking guys early and often in this one but settled down brilliantly and ended up relinquishing just two runs in his seven innings. He figured things out midway through and finished with nine strikeouts, including three in his final inning, in which he mowed down that trio of Cleveland batters and strode off the mound screaming.

Meanwhile, the White Sox won their showdown with Shane Bieber, who entered as and probably still is the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award. He added eight more strikeouts to his season total Sunday but gave up three runs. José Abreu hit a solo homer in the second, and James McCann did the same in the sixth. Yasmani Grandal’s RBI double gave the White Sox a lead heading to the late innings with a win in their sights.

But Evan Marshall’s season-starting scoreless streak came to an end in the first inning after Giolito’s departure. That tie spun the game into extra innings, where the league’s new rule putting a runner on second to start every extra frame bit the White Sox in their first experience with it this season. Cleveland only hit one ball out of the infield in Jimmy Cordero’s busy top of the 10th, but they scratched across two runs, including the tie-breaker on a squeeze play.

One run in this new extra-inning reality is almost to be expected. A second is difficult to overcome. The White Sox cashed in their own free runner in scoring position not long after and put runners on base against Cleveland closer Brad Hand. But a 45-minute rain delay washed away that momentum, and the White Sox left the runners where they stood.

RELATED: White Sox at quarter pole: Injuries, starting-pitching woes cloud rest of 2020

Baseball players like to take things one game at a time. They know tomorrow’s a new day in this sport. And they’re not terribly fond of admitting that one opponent means more than any other. But all the circumstances aligned for a golden opportunity Sunday night, and the White Sox felt the sting of letting it slip.

“This one hurts a little bit,” Renteria said. “They all hurt, but this one hurts a little bit because these guys really battled today. … It was a really good ballgame, but we wanted to be on the right side of it.”

The White Sox are already more than a quarter of the way through their season now, with nine of the 20 scheduled games against the Twins and Indians behind them. They won only three of those first nine, losing all three series two games to one.

That’s no way to compete alongside the division’s incumbent powers for a shot at the Central crown. The White Sox seem capable of having the most balanced group of the trio, but so far they’ve been bludgeoned twice by the Twins’ powerful bats and repeatedly silenced by the Indians’ sterling rotation. There’s no other option but to start figuring out how to tango with those elite units.

Sunday was a decent stride in that department, doing more damage against Bieber than the Indians could do against Giolito. But in order to be a contender, every unit has to be firing on all cylinders. Giolito held up his end of the bargain Sunday night, and the offense did what it could to Bieber, which seemed like enough. But games spin on after the starting pitchers depart, and what’s been an excellent White Sox bullpen was touched for three huge runs, while the White Sox offense mustered just six hits on the night compared to 16 strikeouts — half those Ks coming in the game’s final four innings.

As Giolito pointed out, as capable as the White Sox seem on paper, everything needs to click for the White Sox to run with the Twins and Indians.

“I think we stand well,” Giolito said, summing up the White Sox position in the division race. “It's just losses like this are tough. But all we can do is learn from it and move on, take care of business on this next road trip.

“When our offense, pitching and defense comes together, we can beat anybody. We've seen that this year against the Twins and the Indians. We've just got to try to get everything in sync more often.”

With a seemingly ever-growing list of injuries and some big question marks behind Giolito and Dallas Keuchel in the rotation, that will be easier said than done.

They had an opportunity to grab a big one Sunday night. Instead, the White Sox are hurting.


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