Blackhawks

Konerko gets hot yet again

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Konerko gets hot yet again

In less than two months, Paul Konerko went from challenging the .400 mark to a slump that had many pundits questioning whether White Sox manager Robin Ventura should drop him in the batting order.

On May 27, Konerko's average hit a high-water mark of .399. After an 0-for-3 night at the plate in Boston on July 26, he was at .318 -- still strong, just not Ted Williams-esque.

But he's been on fire ever since.

"On the road trip I was feeling better as we went. The last couple of days in Detroit I was feeling better," Konerko said. "But sometimes you get good pitches to hit. Even when youre feeling good sometimes it doesnt line up with what theyre doing, even though youre doing things right. A little bit of that and just trying to get better."

Over his last eight games, Konerko is 15-for-28 and his average has jumped 18 points to .336. Monday, Konerko talked about winning the fight over the last two months of the season. Round 1 is leaning in his favor.

"Like typical Paulie, he worked harder," White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto said. "That's what he's been doing for his whole career is work hard, and the feeling clicked back in, and this is the results of it.

"He started taking more reps in the cage more than anything else. When you're not feeling right, some people search for mechanics and obviously Paul is one of the smarter ones in the game. He was searching for a feel and now he's got the feel back and he's more confident."

A younger Konerko might have been too hard on himself during the slump and struggled to come out of it. But, in his 16th season, Konerko has a different mindset when he goes through difficult times at the plate.

"The season has a lot of peaks and valleys with how you feel out there, and sometimes you think you're feeling really good but for that three or four game stretch it doesn't line up with what you're getting," Konerko explained. "I'm still working, still grinding, just trying to play the game and play through the situation in front of me."

After scoring just 13 runs over the last six games of their 10-game road trip, the White Sox have scored 18 in two games against the Twins. Is it merely a coincidence that Konerko is once again swinging a hot bat to the tune of 7 for his last 8 with two home runs and four RBIs? Not according to the guys surrounding him in the batting order.

"He's such a big part of the lineup. He's so important to have doing well," Alex Rios admitted. "He's been pretty consistent all year and that's been a key for us being in the position we are right now."

Perhaps Adam Dunn, who homered and drove in four runs ahead of Konerko Tuesday, summed it up best: "We're not going to go anywhere without Paul doing what what he does. People think Paul is struggling, everybody's all over him for reasons I don't know why, but he's still hitting .330."

The captain's bat leads the way. For the White Sox, that's right back into a tie for first place.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?