White Sox

Meet the 2012 Masters champion

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Meet the 2012 Masters champion

From Comcast SportsNet
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Sometimes, winning a golf tournament or putting on a green jacket can change a guy's life. Bubba Watson insists he's not that guy. Maybe that explains his ability to pull off the impossible when the pressure was boiling over at the Masters on Sunday. Perched atop pine needles far right of the fairway with a better view of a TV tower than the green, the left-hander hooked his way out of trouble and into history. His 155-yard curveball landed on the green and beat South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen on the second hole of a playoff and turned Oosthuizen's double eagle earlier in the round into the second-best shot on a day filled with magic at Augusta National. While Oosthuizen failed to get up and down from in front of the green, Watson wrapped it up with a no-stress two-putt on the 10th green to clinch his first major, then sobbed hard on his mother's shoulder. A bittersweet celebration. His father, Gerry, died 18 months ago after a long bout with cancer. But waiting at home for him is his wife, Angie, and their adopted newborn son, Caleb. "The thing is, golf is not my everything," Watson said. "But for me to come out here and win, it's awesome for a week and then we get back to real life. I haven't changed a diaper yet, so I'm probably going to have to change a diaper soon." Watson insists the shot that earned him the green jacket wasn't as ridiculously hard as it looked. Mostly because of his attitude. He hasn't taken formal lessons and insists he has never hit a ball perfectly straight. His motto, as he explained to caddie Ted Scott on the day they met six years ago: "If I have a swing, I have a shot." So when he blocked the tee shot on No. 10 into the woods, behind the gallery, onto the pine straw, way back in jail, he felt no sense of panic. "I get down there, saw it was a perfect draw," Watson said. "Even though the tower was in my way, I didn't want to ask if I could get relief or anything, because it just set up for a perfect draw -- well, hook. That's what we did. We just kept talking about you never know what's going to happen out here. Anything can happen." Can and pretty much did on this day. The excitement started with a pair of holes-in-1 on No. 16 by Adam Scott and Bo Van Pelt, each of whom was playing for position, not the championship. The fireworks really started when the leaders got on the course. Standing on the fairway, 253 yards from the hole on the par-5 second, Oosthuizen hit a 4-iron that bounced on the front of the green, then rolled toward a cup that looked like it had a magnet in it. The ball dropped and the South African was the owner of the fourth double-eagle 2 in Masters history and the first on the second hole -- to say nothing of a two-shot lead that moments earlier had been a one-shot deficit. He held that lead for most of the day, but realized as the round went on that there's nowhere else to go after you've touched the sun. "When something like that happens early in your round, you think that this is it," Oosthuizen said. "That was my first double eagle ever. So it was tough. It was tough the next five holes to just get my head around it and just play the course." He played it solidly, if not spectacularly, and finished at 10-under 278. Watson, meanwhile, saved his charge for where they usually come at Augusta -- the back nine on Sunday. He made a tricky 6-foot putt on No. 13 to start a string of four straight birdies. The fourth one put him in a tie for the lead and the leaders, in the same twosome, finished par-par to set up the first playoff at Augusta since Angel Cabrera of Argentina won in 2009. There was a four-way tie for third at 8 under -- Britain's Lee Westwood, Sweden's Peter Hanson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, going for his fourth green jacket, looked like the favorite coming into the day but dug himself a hole on No. 4 -- a 10-minute sitcom that could've been titled "Typical Phil." There was the tee shot off a railing and into the trees, well left of the green; the two right-handed hacks from the woods, the first of which popped up and moved about a foot; the blown flop shot from a trampled down area where the fans had been standing; then, of course, an out-of-this-world up and down from the sand to save 6. "There was no place to go other than back to the tee," Mickelson said, referring to his decision not to take an unplayable lie. "So I took the risk of trying to hit it a few times." His wasn't the ugliest shot of the day. That belonged to Hanson, who hit a dead shank on the par-3 12th, a shot so bad it didn't even make it close to Rae's Creek. He entered the day with the lead and shot 73. "I think it was a good test," Hanson said. "I mean, like I said yesterday, it was a good test of emotion, being out, how I can handle myself." Westwood got in the mix, but it was a double-bogey 6 on Friday that more or less gave him too big a deficit to overcome. He shot 68, matching Watson for the best final round among the top six. But it's a guy named Bubba who was celebrating his first major while Westwood still waits. And Oosthuizen remains stuck on one major -- the 2010 British Open -- and clearly in awe of what he witnessed at the end. "I had no idea where he was," Oosthuizen said. "Where I stood from, when the ball came out, it looked like a curveball. Unbelievable shot. That shot he hit definitely won him the tournament." Watson is the fifth left-hander to don a green jacket over the last 10 years and gives Americans back-to-back majors -- Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship -- after they'd gone a record six straight without. This one will be celebrated back home in Florida, with little Caleb in his arms and his father in his thoughts. "He'd say, You still need to practice. You missed that fairway. You were under the trees a couple of times. You missed the first putt,'" Watson said with a smile. "No, he would be excited. Just like my mom was excited. We didn't have any words. We just cried in each other's arms."

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."