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The learning curve for Welington Castillo

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The learning curve for Welington Castillo

MILWAUKEE Welington Castillo has a rocket arm, and his bat has shown enough pop in the minors that the Cubs think they have a potential All-Star behind the plate.

But the 25-year-old catcher still has to work on the details of his game.

Cubs television analyst Bob Brenly, a former catcher, pointed that out during Fridays broadcast, and the idea that Castillo has trouble framing pitches quickly gained traction on Twitter.

An 8-7 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers that took 13 innings and lasted more than five hours only amplified things. Cubs pitchers hit three batters and handed out 14 walks, one off the franchise mark set in 1962 during a 13-inning game in New York.

Welly will say it wasnt one of his better games receiving the ball, manager Dale Sveum said Saturday. Sometimes you do struggle with certain pitchers and you lose concentration.

But we got a grip on it. He knows what he was doing and we know what he was doing, so its not a big concern.

The Cubs specifically staff assistant Mike Borzello have been drilling this into Castillo and all their catchers since workouts at Fitch Park in spring training. The point of emphasis is making sure your thumb is up when you catch the ball (and not sticking out your elbow).

You dont want your thumb down when you catch it, Sveum said. You always take it out of the strike zone (that way).

Its like anything. If youre changing your mechanics hitting, it sometimes takes (awhile) to really (sink in). You can forget what youve been working on when you get in the batters box.

Its one of those things where we got to stay on (it) and make sure we dont revert back to our old habits.

The Cubs are still very high on Castillo, who came through their system in the Dominican Republic and worked hard to learn English. Hes played in the All-Star Futures Game and been on the prospect lists.

Castillo hit 28 homers in 130 games combined the previous two seasons at Triple-A Iowa. But his catching skills could still use a little polish. Its all part of the learning curve.

In the course of a game, Sveum said, it kind of speeds up and youre just worrying about calling the game, so you revert back to whats comfortable for you, but its not necessarily the right thing.

Controversial calls played a large part in the Detroit Lions NFC North loss on Monday night

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USA TODAY

Controversial calls played a large part in the Detroit Lions NFC North loss on Monday night

The Green Bay Packers managed to pull off a dramatic comeback victory on Monday night, defeating the Detroit Lions 23-22 on a last-second field goal from Mason Crosby. But after the game, it wasn't Aaron Rodgers usual clutch ways that people were talking about, it was the officiating crew, who had two controversial hands to the face penalty calls against the Lions that all but killed any momentum they had going. 

As you can see in the clip above, both hands to the face calls seemed questionable at best, and downright ludicrous at worst. What makes the calls so tough is the timing. The first hands to the face penalty on Lions DE Trey Flowers came after he sacked Rodgers on third-and-10 and the penalty both took away the sack and provided the Pack with an automatic first down. Later in the drive, Rodgers dropped in a great 35-yard touchdown pass to bring Green Bay within two points 

The second questionable hands to the face call came on third-and-4 and it was the most costly call of the game. The Packers received another automatic first down and ran down the clock—Detroit was out of timeouts—to set up the eventual game-winning, walk-off field goal from Crosby. 

And it didn't take long for many people, everyone from former NFL greats to NFL reporters, to chime in on social media with their thoughts on the officiating that seemingly cost Detroit a crucial win. 

With the Green Bay win, the Lions moved to last-place in the NFC North, while the Bears now sit 2.5 games back of first place heading into their Week 7 matchup against the New Orleans Saints.

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center on Monday:

1. Blackhawks are in the win column

The Blackhawks said after morning skate that they weren't going to "freak out" about their 0-2-1 start despite talking all training camp long about how they didn't want to dig a hole in October. Still, Monday felt like a game they had to win going into a three-day break because they have to start generating some positive vibes within the locker room.

And they did just that.

The Blackhawks handed the Oilers their first loss of the season (5-1-0), but more importantly, they're finally in the win column for the 2019-20 campaign.

"We played really well," Corey Crawford said. "I think everyone was going. Guys were coming back to help out defensively, and just a good team effort. The PK was strong, even though we gave up that one [late], it was strong early in the game. Just nice to win the first one."

2. Second period? That's more like it

The Blackhawks have been happy with their first periods this season. They've been mostly happy with their thirds. It's the middle frame that's been their downfall.

The team addressed those struggles as a team the morning of the game, and they certainly responded.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (32-8), even-strength scoring chances (16-6), even-strength high danger chances (5-4) and, of course, the goal column (1-0) in the second period. That's more like it.

"That was the message today from the coaches was how much better we need to be in the second," Connor Murphy said. "We showed examples of when we've done that in the past and what it takes. I think we were just better at staying on our toes and we drew some penalties and got on the forecheck quick and kept their goalie from being able to make plays and for them to be able to come up ice."

3. Corey Crawford shines

You could've made a good argument that Robin Lehner should've started this game, especially coming off a solid outing on Saturday and his career numbers against the Oilers (5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .943 save percentage). But the coaching staff went with Crawford and it proved to be the correct decision.

Crawford stopped 27 of 28 shots for a save percentage of .964 and faced nine high-danger chances at 5-on-5, none of which found the back of the net. His lone goal against came with 2:11 left in regulation and it was on a 6-on-4 power play for the Oilers. Overall, he was fantastic.

"He looked sharp as ever," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He was really good. He did make some saves for us. That team has some weapons so they had some opportunities and he was there and just he's under control. It's something I've said about him before, he really gives the team confidence. I thought tonight he was really good."

4. Blackhawks shut down Oilers' top guns

The first line of Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid went into Monday tied for the most goals scored as a trio. When the three of them are on the ice at 5-on-5, they're controlling 57.1 percent of the shot attempts, 61.2 percent of the scoring chances and 68.8 percent of the high danger chances.

The Blackhawks held them in check. That line had 14 shot attempts for and 20 against at 5-on-5 and were on the ice for 11 scoring chances. The third line of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad did a terrific job of shutting them down.

"They all just got real big motors, big engine," Colliton said of the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik line. "They work and compete and they all bring a little bit different ingredient. ... Pleased with that line."

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