Bears

Floyd, Dunn provide all the White Sox need

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Floyd, Dunn provide all the White Sox need

By Paul LaTour
CSNChicago.com contributor

Adam Dunn doesnt want to talk about last year. He doesnt want to think about. And he sure as heck doesnt want to be reminded of it.

Its no wonder. His struggles during the 2011 season are well-documented. But with his start to 2012, Dunn is set to obliterate his paltry numbers from a year ago.

With a first-inning home run, Dunn tied his total from last season. The long blast to right field started the White Sox to a 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field.

A two-run triple by Alex Rios and RBI singles from Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza provided more than enough offense for starter Gavin Floyd.

Floyd (3-3) made another strong start, holding the Royals to five hits and no runs in 7 23 innings. Escaping a second-inning jam sparked Floyd, who retired 11 consecutive batters and 17 of 18 during one stretch.

Dunn opened the scoring with his 11th home run of the season, which is also his sixth home run in his past 10 games. Dunn now has 376 career home runs, tying him with Carlton Fisk for 68th on the all-time list. More importantly, Dunn reached base in all four plate appearances, meaning it was his first game of the season without striking out.

The Sox added to their lead in the third with a two-out run when De Aza singled and stole second before Beckham followed with an RBI single. Dunn then rocketed a ground-rule double into the right-field corner that would have scored Beckham if not for going out of play. The rally ended when Paul Konerko flew out to left.

Another two-out rally scored two for the Sox in the sixth as they chased out starter Felipe Paulino. Alex Rios had the big hit, a two-run triple to score Beckham and A.J. Pierzynski to make it 4-0.

The Sox added a run in the seventh when De Aza drove in Eduardo Escobar with a single.

Floyd was perfect in four of the first five innings, but the Royals loaded the bases with one out in the second inning on two walks sandwiching a Mike Moustakas single. Floyd got out of it by getting back-to-back comebackers to the mound. The Royals didnt get another baserunner until Jarrod Dyson led off the sixth with a single. Floyd then retired the next three batters, stranding Dyson at second.

The Royals loaded the bases with three hits in the eighth as Floyd started running out of gas. He left with two outs and the bases still loaded as Matt Thornton struck out Eric Hosmer to deny the Royals any runs. Floyd, who entered with a 1.71 ERA in his previous three starts, finished with two walks and five strikeouts in a 116 pitch performance.

Hector Santiago pitched a perfect ninth to complete the shutout.

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

As they prepare for the season, it's time to start looking in depth at what the Bears could look like in 2020.

JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis are joined by one of the smartest minds in football media, Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, to discuss and predict what the Bears look like in 2020. The group discusses the QB competition, will the Bears defense improve or regress, and what should Matt Nagy do in terms of his scheme this year.

(2:40) - Nick Foles should be the starter in 2020

(7:45) - Matt Nagy needs to be more predictable in play calling

(15:30) - Have the Bears used and embraced analytics

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

(22:10) - How easy is the Bears schedule and what will be their record at the end of the season?

(31:00) - Why you should watch the Bears in 2020

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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SUBSCRIBE TO THE UNDER CENTER PODCAST FOR FREE.

Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Ask anyone in Chicago who the standout of training camp 2.0 was and you'll hear one name: Kirby Dach.

“He has all the potential in the world,” Patrick Kane said. “He can be a top player in the league.”

“He’s got the potential to be a great player in this league and a great player for the Blackhawks for a long time," echoed Brent Seabrook.

Upon hearing this enormous praise from a pair of three-time Stanley Cup champions and joining the hype train myself, I couldn’t help but think: Are we putting unfair expectations on a kid who’s still only 19?

The answer: Nope. Because he can handle it.

Dach looks like a completely different player after finally having an “offseason” to recharge, both mentally and physically. And it’s showing in the postseason.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

Through three games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, Dach has four points — all assists — and a team-best plus-4 rating; in total, he’s been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 13 goals so far. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to register at least one point in his first three postseason games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985. 

All those numbers are great, but here’s the eye-opener: Dach is averaging 20:21 of ice time in the postseason, which trails only Patrick Kane (22:21) among team forwards. He led all Blackhawks forwards with 23:21 of ice time in Wednesday’s Game 3 comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers, which was, by far, a career high for Dach, who averaged 14:16 of ice time during the regular season.

The Blackhawks are giving him an enormous amount of responsibility, whether it's top-six minutes at even strength, power-play time on the first unit and penalty kill reps. And Dach is handling it about as well as you could ask for.

"He loves responsibility and he thrives on it," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He's been great. He's been as advertised."

Dach isn't just making an impact on the scoresheet, either. He's doing the little things right, too.

Olli Maatta scored the first goal in Game 3 after his shot from the point got past Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but that puck doesn't go in without the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dach wreaking havoc in front of the net. Those plays don't go unnoticed inside the locker room.

"It shows that the coach trusts in your abilities to get a job done," Dach said of the added responsibility. "And as a player, it's a welcoming challenge. You want to be put in those situations and succeed in them."

One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks selected Dach third overall in 2019 was because of the way he elevated his game in the Western Hockey League playoffs. He was the engine for the Saskatoon Blades and the focal point for opponents yet thrived off the attention.

“He does all the things that can wow you, but then he does the other stuff, too," GM Stan Bowman said the day the Blackhawks drafted Dach. "He was great at stripping pucks, he was great at backchecking, he was great at the physical play when the series got pretty intense in the playoffs and it was clear they were targeting him. He not only took it, he gave it back. It was impressive to see him raise his game at a time of year when it matters most, which is playoff hockey.

"You watch the NHL playoffs and you see how intense it can be and then you look at the way he plays, and you can see that that game translates."

It sure does.

Whether he can be a big-time point producer in the NHL remains to be seen, but it's clear Dach is the kind of player whose game is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. And we're seeing why.