Cubs

Motivated Crawford hopes to prove doubters wrong

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Motivated Crawford hopes to prove doubters wrong

Corey Crawford saw the stories this summer, saw that the Chicago Blackhawks went after future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur at the start of free agency.

As much as the Blackhawks said they were simply going after a good player, that it had nothing to do with their confidence level in Crawford, it seemed like there were doubts. But for Crawford, all of that didnt matter.

He had bigger concerns.

Having a chance at a guy like that, hes a great goaltender. At the same time, I cant focus on that stuff, Crawford said at the convention this weekend. I have to worry about what Im doing, how Im preparing myself this season. You start listening to that stuff, itll be a distraction.

Yeah, a teams seemingly wavering confidence in you can be distracting. But the Blackhawks didnt get Brodeur, and who the hell knows whats going on with Roberto Luongo hes going to Florida, hed like Chicago, but Florida is definitely where hed like to play, etc.

So after all that goalie hoopla this summer, one thing is clear right now: Crawford is still the No. 1 guy. And this season he has to get back to playing as such.

You cant win without goaltending; thats been preached throughout the league. The Los Angeles Kings exemplified that this season, especially in the playoffs. So this season Crawford needs to be back to the goalie he was his rookie season, the goalie the Blackhawks undoubtedly believed in when they signed him to a three-year deal in the summer of 2011.

And thats where he wants to be.

Im excited to play hockey. I just want to get out there and compete, he said. I just have to go out there and play well and show them. Thats all I can do on my part.

Goaltending coach Stephane Waite was asked at a coaching session this weekend what he does when his goaltender is going through low points.

Ill have an answer for him, and you have to be very positive, especially with goalies, he said. When hes not doing well, we adjust. Theres a lot of video and I just tell him, Dont worry, we know whats wrong and well adjust. Dont create a doubt in your mind. You fix the problem, turn the page and move on.

Waite and Crawford probably did that drill a few times last season, and at times it looked like it worked. Then Crawford would struggle again. So whatever the issue was be it mechanical or mental Crawford will look to eradicate it this season.

If not, the Blackhawks may be pursuing another goaltender next summer.

Im definitely motivated, he said. I want to do well, I want to be the No. 1. guy here. No matter what happens outside of my situation, it doesnt change what Im doing.

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

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AP

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

No one knows better than Joakim Soria that the more successful he is as the White Sox’s closer, there is an increased likelihood that the veteran right-hander will be headed out of town at some point.

Soria has not only solidified the back end of the bullpen, the 34-year-old has emerged as perhaps the Sox’s most valuable trade asset to a contending team in need of relief help.

Over this last 14 appearances, Soria has not allowed an earned run and has converted all seven save chances with five hits allowed, two walks and 15 strikeouts.

“My body feels good and my arm feels good,” Soria said before the Sox defeated the Athletics 10-3 on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. “I come to the ballpark expecting to pitch and … I try to be out there and help this team win.”

While the Sox haven’t done a whole lot of winning of late—Sunday’s win was just their second in their last 11 games—when they are victorious it’s accompanied by a Soria save. With the Sox’s rebuild in full swing, Soria understands that general manager Rick Hahn won’t hesitate to flip him in a trade.

“Players say they don’t think about it but you have to think about it,” said Soria, who was acquired from the Royals on Jan. 4 in a three-team trade also involving the Dodgers. “When you have a family with three kids and a wife you have to be prepared for everything. But it’s not like I come to the field thinking about that. It’s just God’s plan and whatever happens it’s a business and you prepare.”

Soria has 215 career saves, including 162 in seven seasons with the Royals, but hadn’t been a full-time closer since notching a combined 24 saves with the Tigers and Pirates. With the Sox, Soria won the closing job over fellow veteran Nate Jones in spring training and has been nearly unhittable in recent weeks.

Over his last 13 2/3 innings pitched, Soria has held opponents to a .109 batting average and sports a 2.89 ERA for the season. He has issued five walks in 28 innings and is averaging 10.29 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

The two-time All-Star has settled in nicely in a Sox clubhouse featuring a mix of veterans and promising talents. Soria has to balance that with the knowledge he might not be around as the season progresses.

“It’s something I can’t control,” Soria said. “I have a really good relationship with these guys and the chemistry with this team is very good. I can’t think outside of the box because (a trade) hasn’t happened yet. You have to keep focused and be ready for today’s game.”