Lucky No. 13 for Soriano


Lucky No. 13 for Soriano

Apparently, 13 is Alfonso Soriano's new lucky number.

On Friday the 13th, Soriano moved into 13th place on the Cubs' all-time leaderboard for home runs.

The 36-year-old outfielder has been battling a creaky knee for the entire season and with a rain delay that lasted just shy of four hours, it would not have been crazy to see him scratched from the lineup on a slippery playing surface.

But Soriano played on and powered the Cubs to a 8-1 victory over visiting Arizona in the first game of the second half. Soriano swung early and often -- he only saw eight pitches in four at-bats -- but had two doubles, two homers, three runs and five RBI to show for it.

The five RBI tied his career high, which he has reached seven times, the last of which came Sept. 6, 2008 in Cincinnati.

The four days off during the All-Star break appears to have done wonders for Soriano.

"I told him he's getting four more days off," manager Dale Sveum said with a laugh. "That was impressive...That was huge. Coming out of the break for him to get hot, that would be huge. We could keep this thing rolling with him going."

Soriano said he cleared his mind and his body during the four-day layoff and that his leg has been feeling good the last month or two.

It showed on his first first double in the second inning, in which he hustled into second, advanced to third on Geovany Soto's fly out to center, and then scored on a wild pitch.

The first homer -- in the fourth inning -- left the ballpark, landing on Waveland Ave. for some lucky fan.

The second bomb was a dagger for the Diamondbacks, a three-run shot that just barely snuck into the center-field seats. It was Soriano's 149th in a Cubs uniform, which moved him into 13th place all-time in franchise history. He passed Mark Grace in the process, who ironically was in the house, working as a TV broadcaster for the Diamondbacks and singing the Seventh Inning Stretch.

Soriano added another RBI double in the seventh and coasted to one of his best games in a Cubs uniform.

Just under a month ago, Soriano was booed mercilessly by fans at Wrigley after failing to run out a line drive against the Red Sox. Friday, he was cheered and revered among the Wrigley faithful.

For all the criticism he's taken, the veteran outfielder is on pace for 32 home runs and 100 RBI this season. He raised his batting average 10 points and his OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) 43 points in Friday's game alone.

"It's nice that he's doing it for us," Sveum said. "We've played almost 90 games now. Seventeen homers and 53 RBI is pretty good for a guy that wasn't expected to do a whole lot this year. He's done one heck of a job for us."

Soriano attributes the new front office regime for sticking with him after a couple rough years.

"I'm very happy with the coaches and GM and president, because they show me respect and confidence in myself," he said. "I haven't had that in three or four years."

Soriano admitted it was great to have such a successful game at the plate, but at the end of the day, he was more worried about the victory.

"There was a lot of rain, but more importantly, we got the win," he said, flashing his trademark smile. "It's a long day, but you know, when you get the win, it doesn't matter how long you stay here."

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins


Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

The Bears defense was not its usual self in their overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The pass rush was minimal and tackling looked optional, and Brock Osweiler threw for almost 400 yards.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but a few individual defenders had success while their teammates struggled.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks made the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week for Week 6 with a 92.2 overall grade.

He recorded seven tackles that resulted in a defensive “stop,” the most of any defensive lineman according to PFF.

Chicago’s next highest-graded player was cornerback Kyle Fuller (78.2), who intercepted Osweiler twice but also missed two tackles.

Offensively, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel led the way with a 76.9 mark. PFF credited four of his five catches coming against Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer in coverage.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Khalil Mack had the lowest-graded game of his career (47.8), while linebacker Danny Trevathan (29.9) and safety Adrian Amos Jr. (47.5) each had their second-worst games.

Some of the Bears’ best players were at their worst in Miami. They’re going to need to get their act together for the New England Patriots on Sunday.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition


2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.