White Sox

Kevin Durant ejected for the first time ever

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Kevin Durant ejected for the first time ever

From Comcast SportsNetOKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- P.J. Carlesimo's first big motivational message as the interim coach of the Brooklyn Nets earned him an elusive win in Oklahoma City, and perhaps the kind of jolt his team needs to get out of a monthlong funk.Joe Johnson scored a season-high 33 points, Deron Williams added 19 points and 13 assists, and the Nets snapped Oklahoma City's 12-game home winning streak by beating the Thunder 110-93 Wednesday night in a game featuring the first ejection of Kevin Durant's career.Johnson said Carlesimo "jumped on us" after a 31-point thumping at San Antonio two nights earlier, stressing the importance of ball movement on offense and helping each other out on defense."To be honest, it helped," Johnson said. "It translated into the game because we were in a spot defensively that we hadn't been in in a while. We was talking, communicating, the ball was moving great, guys were getting wide-open shots and it just kind of played into our hands."The Nets built a 23-point lead late in the second quarter, then allowed Oklahoma City to tie it at 85 before ripping off a 23-8 run to seize control right back. Durant was ejected near the end of the surge, arguing with Danny Crawford after the referee had already issued a technical foul against Kendrick Perkins."I just thought it was a bad call. You get frustrated throughout a game, you show emotion. That's how you can tell you love it," said Durant, who scored 27 points.The three-time scoring champion had never before been ejected in his six NBA seasons but got tossed after Brooklyn rallied largely from the foul line. The Nets made 11 free throws in a span of just over 5 minutes, pulling away after Oklahoma City had finally fought all the way back.But Durant said it wasn't a disparity in foul calls or any cumulative complaint about the officiating that sent him to the showers early."I said, It's a bad call,'" he said. "They've got a quick trigger now.""I think I'm allowed to be frustrated, especially in this league. With the ups and downs, the players are allowed to be frustrated," Durant added. "It is what it is, move on from it."Brook Lopez added 25 points as Brooklyn ended a seven-game losing streak in the series and got Carlesimo a victory against the team that fired him back in 2008. He'd only had one win in Oklahoma City during his abbreviated tenure in charge of the Thunder, getting fired after a 1-12 start after the team's summer relocation from Seattle.He started his interim stint with the Nets by notching wins against Charlotte and Cleveland before the 104-73 blowout loss at San Antonio."For whatever reason, we didn't have quite the same kind of energy in San Antonio, but we learned from it. ... Tonight was tremendous energy," Carlesimo said.Johnson gave him credit for the turnaround, but he deflected it to Gerald Wallace, who was back in the starting lineup after sitting out Monday's game with a bruised left knee."Gerald Wallace is a monster. You want to talk about something that wasn't in San Antonio? Gerald Wallace, because Gerald Wallace is kind of the heart, the way he plays," Carlesimo said. "So, it's not easy for us to play without Gerald Wallace."The Nets have been seeking a spark after following a strong November, when Avery Johnson was named the Eastern Conference's coach of the month, by going 3-10 and costing him his job."It's huge any time you play a good team, but particularly when you play them on the road," Carlesimo said. "Honestly, this is a big-time win. It's a great, great win."Russell Westbrook had 26 points and 10 assists for Oklahoma City, which lost for only the third time at home this season.The Thunder clamped down after trailing by 16 at halftime, rallying to pull within 71-68 when Westbrook finished off a 12-3 burst with a jumper from the left elbow with 3:47 left in the third quarter. Lopez powered his way in for a two-handed slam to stem the tide for Brooklyn, but Oklahoma City kept coming.Durant and Kevin Martin connected on consecutive 3-pointers to finally even it up at 85 with 7:11 to play, only for Johnson to answer with a runner at the other end to put the Nets right back ahead and start the clinching run.Brooklyn shot exactly 50 percent, becoming just the second team to hit at least half of its shots against Oklahoma City."Offense is not what lost us the game. It's not because we didn't make enough shots or we didn't have enough assists," Durant said. "We just didn't play any defense."Carlesimo spoke as though he held no grudge against the Thunder, who replaced him -- then on an interim basis -- with Scott Brooks, who has overseen the team's rise into a championship contender.Back when Carlesimo was in charge, Durant was starting his second year in the NBA and Westbrook was a rookie who had yet to break into the starting lineup. Now, they're both established All-Stars."It's a team I feel closer to than a lot of other teams. Hopefully, we helped KD and Nick (Collison) a little bit and Russell a tiny bit that first year, but I think it's safe to say they've gone on and overcome whatever coaching they got from me," Carlesimo said, drawing laughs.At the start, it looked like Carlesimo's new squad would run away with it against the Thunder, who started the day with the league's best record.Johnson and Lopez combined to go 9 for 9 from the field to propel the Nets to a quick 27-11 lead, and the lead grew to as much as 23 twice -- including at 55-32 after Johnson drilled a 3-pointer off a touch pass from Wallace.Notes: Carlesimo's only win with the Thunder -- after the SuperSonics had relocated from Seattle -- came at home on Nov. 2, 2008, against Minnesota. ... The Thunder's largest previous deficit of the season was 16 in a loss at home against Memphis. ... Oklahoma City got a delay of game warning for failing to get onto the court in time for tip-off, as part of the NBA's emphasis on allowing teams 90 seconds between the end of introductions and the tip-off. ... Nets reserve Jerry Stackhouse sat out with a sore right hamstring.

James Shields wraps impressive 2018 campaign, but is it last he'll pitch in White Sox uniform?

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USA TODAY

James Shields wraps impressive 2018 campaign, but is it last he'll pitch in White Sox uniform?

James Shields is unlikely to go down as one of White Sox fans’ most beloved pitchers.

It was always going to be hard to erase the memories of his first two seasons on the South Side, which saw him post a 5.99 ERA and give up 58 home runs.

But Shields, a 36-year-old veteran who doesn’t figures to have much of a place in this rebuilding franchise’s long-term plans, made a heck of an impact and did a heck of a job during this losing season, one that could end up being felt when the team does transition to contention mode.

Shields capped his 2018 season with another six innings Tuesday night. It didn’t end up his 20th quality start of the season, with him giving up four runs, but he reached the 200-inning mark for the 10th time in his 13-year major league career, as good an example as any of how reliable and how steady a veteran presence he’s been this season.

As of this writing, baseball’s 200-inning club in 2018 looked like this: Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Aaron Nola, Zack Greinke, Dallas Keuchel and Shields.

“Going into this season, I was really taking pride in being able to get to that 200 mark again,” Shields said. “It’s my 10th time I’ve done it in my career, so that was kind of looming over my head a little bit, and to be able to get that, it’s just all the hard work I’ve put in this year and I’m really really proud of that.”

The other numbers might not scream “overwhelming success” of a season, even if it was by far his best year in a White Sox uniform. Shields finished with a 4.54 ERA and 154 strikeouts. The 34 home runs he gave up are the second most in baseball. His 78 walks put him in the top five in the game in that category.

But Shields’ impact has been as much about what he’s done off the mound as what he’s done on it. He’s served as a mentor to this team of young players, one that keeps getting younger with every highly touted prospect that gets his call to the big leagues. He’s been a particularly strong influence on Lucas Giolito, with the two set up next to each other in the clubhouse all season — that is until Michael Kopech arrived and Shields requested Kopech slide in between him and Giolito, again for mentoring purposes.

That’s a valuable thing on a team that figures to stay young as this rebuilding process moves along toward planned contention.

“I think more than anything, when you see how he’s continued to pitch and work through all of the things he’s done over the course of his career, I think he’s been a big factor by example,” manager Rick Renteria said prior to Tuesday’s game. “He goes out there and shows you how to get through innings, grind through some rough outings and continue to eat up outs. I think these guys are seeing it. He’s been someone that’s shown them why he’s been around for so many years.

“I think these guys have taken on some of his personality, some of his traits. Hopefully it’s something they can cling to and continue to help each other with. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have someone that’s something like that. He’s done everything he could to help with both between the lines and being in the clubhouse.”

“I’ve done it my whole career,” Shields said of that leadership, mentorship role. “Ever since I was in Tampa, I’ve prided myself in being a leader in this clubhouse and just helping the guys out and being a good teammate. Hopefully these guys take all of the advice and the experience that I’ve had over the years and take it to heart.”

Shields’ 2018 season is over, but is his time on the South Side?

He is expected to hit the free-agent market this winter, though given how impressive he was as a reliable arm and as a team leader in 2018, perhaps the White Sox opt to bring him back. Not only do they have a recent track record of making similar additions — see Hector Santiago and Miguel Gonzalez this past offseason — but they have a need in the starting rotation, two holes to fill in Shields’ spot and that of Kopech, who will miss the 2019 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

It’s an option, if it’s something Shields and the White Sox both want to do. Certainly he’s given them reason to consider it with what he did this season.

“We’ll see where life takes me after this season’s over,” Shields said. “I’ve loved my time here, the guys are great, the coaching staff’s a great coaching staff, and the training staff, I can’t say enough about what they’ve done for me over the last three years. And just the organization itself has been an amazing organization to be a part of. So we’ll see where it goes this offseason.”

'We gotta bring it' — Cubs looking for motivation with five games left

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USA TODAY

'We gotta bring it' — Cubs looking for motivation with five games left

Thanks to a 6-0 loss to the Pirates Tuesday night, the Cubs are in an uncomfortable position in the NL Central division with just a half-game lead and five left to play, yet the clubhouse remains confident.

In fact, Mike Montgomery — who surrendered five runs on seven hits in four innings Tuesday — said after the game that this loss might serve a positive purpose.

"We got a resilient bunch of guys. We know where we’re at, and it’s kind of a little bit of motivation," Montgomery said. "We gotta bring it these last five games. Our guys know that, we’re not going to get discouraged. We’re going to regroup and get ready for tomorrow."

The Cubs have little choice but to bring it, especially with the red-hot Brewers scoring more runs on Tuesday night (12) than the Cubs have in their last three games combined. The Cubs did score 8 and then 6 runs on Saturday and Sunday on the South Side, but they turned around and put up only a single run Monday night before being blanked Tuesday. 

Joe Maddon said after the shutout loss that the up-and-down nature of his offense is a frustration.

"We're not happy. And again it’s really coming down to the one component of the game we just haven’t been good at recently, and that’s offense," Maddon said. "And then you have to be careful because guys start pressing even more."

In the loss, the Cubs got four hits off of Pirates starter Chris Archer, but he struck out nine and squashed any remote scoring opportunity almost as quickly as it arose. Whether or not the lineup is pressing, they struggled to put together good at bats against Archer.

"This has been going on for a bit — our offense has been very inconsistent. I mean, Archy was good, but we just got to fight through that, especially this time of the year," Maddon said.

Leadoff man Daniel Murphy started the game with a promising single for the Cubs, but the rest of the lineup couldn't turn that into a go-ahead run. The Pirates followed up with a three-run homer in the second inning, setting the Cubs up to chase for the rest of the night. 

"Our concept of scoring first is going to be pretty important," Maddon said of the next five games. "We have to grab the lead and hold on to it."

But, like Montgomery, Murphy saw some positive takeaway from Tuesday's loss.

"I think that what this club has done a really good job of is kinda washing off a poor performance, which is unfortunately what we've had the last two nights," Murphy said. "We'll go home, we'll sleep up, see our families, and see if we can come in here tomorrow and play a little bit better."

The pressure of a very close division race that is coming down to the final days is real, and Montgomery said that it creates the win-or-go-home playoff atmosphere in these last games. That's a challenge he and his teammates are up for. 

"We’ve grinded out this whole year. We have a lot of good players, a lot of guys who have been through a lot of different things," Montgomery said.

He knows a bit about that, having pitched the final out of the 2016 World Series. The core of the group that won that championship is largely still intact, but the success of the postseason two years ago feels further away in history when the picture to win the division is looking increasingly bleak. 

Unless the Brewers slow down, the Cubs are in a position where they have to nearly win out to keep from losing their hold on the NL Central. That said, they are a virtual lock for a postseason spot no matter what, thanks to the wild card. 

Not really a desirable outcome for a 90+ win team, but a loss for the Cardinals and a win for the Rockies on Tuesday put the Cubs' magic number to at least get in to the postseason down to one.

But that's not the outcome the team is expecting, and certainly not the one they're shooting for. Montgomery said that losing both the pitching and the hitting battle to the Pirates Tuesday is a little fuel for the Cubs.


"Take it like every game matters from this point on," Montgomery said of the team's mindset for the next five days. "Our guys are equipped for that, and mentally this gives us a chance to really come together as a group and go out there and perform our best baseball."