White Sox

Hawks look to keep team-oriented mentality

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Hawks look to keep team-oriented mentality

It was game seven of that nine-game winless streak that the Blackhawks decided to change some things; namely, their system. It wasnt a drastic change; actually, it was just simplifying things.

It was just the way we looked at games and what we needed to do better. We kept it simple, forward Bryan Bickell said. Stick to the team game and dont get into individual style of play and such.

The Blackhawks kept that mentality through the rest of the skid, which lasted just two more games. They also followed that plan when captain Jonathan Toews missed 22 games with a concussion. And while the captain could be back on Thursday, the Blackhawks still need to play exactly how they did without him.

Toews is likely playing when the Blackhawks open their first-round playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday. His return is obviously a welcome one. But while lines and responsibilities will change, the Blackhawks play, the style that earned them a 13-5-4 record in Toews absence, cannot.

We dont have the luxury to say, Oh, Johnnys back. We can relax and Johnny can take over. Were not that kind of team, anyway, coach Joel Quenneville said. I just think everybody has to continue on with what got us here at the end of the year. We have to turn it up, too.

Indeed, this is the time of year for which each team plays. The pressure is on, and everyone has to be on board. For the Blackhawks, everyone has the past month and a half. When Toews first went down, the sky-is-falling mentality was running rampant on blogs and on Twitter. But the Blackhawks regrouped, got strong performances and faced the adversity fine. They were at their best during March, when they went 10-2-2 en route to solidifying their hold on the No. 6 seed.

When losing a guy like that other players have to step up and take on some responsibility, said Patrick Kane, who did that as well as anyone. But to be honest with you, we played a better team game. We just worried about the little things defensively. Even offensively, we were playing simpler, too. Sometimes when you play simple you get some confidence and it opens things up to be creative. That should be the mindset for all of us: work hard, play simple right away and let the game come to us instead of chasing it.

When he does play, Toews will be back on that top line with Kane and Hossa. He was also on the top power-play unit for the second straight day. Hes said hell just do whatever is necessary to fit back into things, and the Blackhawks hope to keep going the way they have.

I think we just need to stick to that, to the way weve been playing, Bickell said. When (Toews) comes in, hell adapt to the system that Q and the coaches want. Thats the most important part going into the playoffs.

The Blackhawks found success without Toews by simplifying things and spreading around the responsibilities. The duties and lines will change. The Blackhawks game cannot.

Things are going to get ratcheted up. Johnny has to be excited as well. But dont feel comfortable knowing Johnnys going to return, Quenneville said. There are going to be that many more demands on everyone. Were expecting more come playoff time.

If all goes well, Yoan Moncada could be back with White Sox this week

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USA TODAY

If all goes well, Yoan Moncada could be back with White Sox this week

Yoan Moncada's return to the White Sox could come as soon as Thursday.

The White Sox third baseman has been on the injured list for the entire month of August while recovering from a hamstring strain, but he could be back in the everyday lineup soon, according to manager Rick Renteria, who provided an update to reporters Monday in Minnesota.

Heading into Monday, Moncada has played three games on his current rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte, only one of which at third base. He went 4-for-12 in those three games, with a home run, two RBIs, a run scored and a pair of strikeouts.

Moncada's return to the lineup for the start of this weekend's four-game set with the Texas Rangers would be a big lift for the White Sox offense. He's been the team's best hitter this season, with a .301/.358/.535 slash line to go along with 20 home runs and 59 RBIs in 97 games.

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Tim Anderson's late summer surge

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USA TODAY

Tim Anderson's late summer surge

A stands for April. A stands for August.

A stands for Anderson.

Just as Tim Anderson torched pitching in the season’s initial month, he’s at it again here in late summer.

Anderson’s 30 hits in 17 August games are tied with Gio Urshela for the MLB lead (entering Monday), and he’s hitting a remarkable .411 for the month. What makes it even more remarkable is that the .411 includes an 0-for-8 in a doubleheader last week against the Astros. If you took that away, he’s hitting .500.

Anderson is riding a streak of five consecutive multi-hit games; it’s the third time this season he had multiple hits in at least four straight games. He had four straight multi-hit performances earlier this month as well as from March 31-April 7.

Whereas Tim took home American League Player of the Month honors for March-April, he’s even ahead of that pace for August in some respects.

  Games BA Multi-hit games
March-April 23 .375 9
August 17 .411 10

But how is he doing it?

He’s cutting down on his strikeouts.

2019 strikeout rate

  K %
March-July 21.5
August 14.5

And when he’s swinging at balls in the zone, he’s not missing.

Contact% of balls in zone

  Zone Contact %
March-July 87.9
August 93.3

He has been particularly deadly against breaking stuff.

2019 vs. breaking pitches

  Batting Avg. Slugging
March-July .291 .437
August .500 (11-22) .636

And he has returned to his lefty-crushing ways.

2019 vs. lefties

  Batting Avg
March-July .287 (23-80)
August .480 (12-25)

When Anderson suffered a high ankle sprain on June 25 in Boston, it was uncertain as to whether he’d be able to build on a breakout 2019 season. He showed signs of rust when he went 0-for-7 in his first two games back July 30-31 against the Mets. But it’s looking more and more like he just needed a few games to shake the rust off. Conveniently, his return to form coincides with the change of month. Let’s be honest, the fact that it’s August has nothing to do with anything.

 

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