White Sox

Penn State races past No. 24 Northwestern

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Penn State races past No. 24 Northwestern

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Quarterback Matt McGloin had the go-ahead score with a 5-yard touchdown run with 2:37 left and Penn State rallied from 11 points down in fourth quarter to beat No. 24 Northwestern 39-28 on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions scored three times in the final 9:49, starting with McGloin's 8-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson as the receiver dragged along the back line of the end zone. Michael Zordich had a 2-point conversion run to get within 28-25 before McGloin's scramble into the end zone sent the homecoming weekend crowd into a frenzy.

Penn State (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) then stuffed Northwestern's last-gasp drive after Trevor Siemian's pass for Kain Colter was tipped away on fourth down.

Things looked so good for Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) after Venric Mark's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown with 50 seconds left in the third quarter demoralized the blue-and-white faithful for a 28-17 lead.

Mark also ran for a score.

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Scheelhaase's performance not enough for Illini

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Joel Stave threw two touchdown passes and Wisconsin's running game showed signs of life as the Badgers defeated Illinois 31-14 on Saturday.

Stave threw for 254 yards for the Badgers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten), who rushed for 173 yards - 96 in the fourth quarter.

The offensive struggles of the Illini (2-4, 0-2) continued, with quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase the only positive. He finished with 178 yards passing and 84 rushing as Illinois gained 287 yards overall.

Scheelhaase ran for a 5-yard touchdown in the first quarter and threw for an 8-yard touchdown to Ryan Lankford to make it 24-14 late in the game.

But Jared Abberdaris fielded the ensuing onside kick, and Montee Ball scored his second touchdown of the game to snuff any hopes of an Illinois comeback.

Ball has 59 rushing TDs in his career, nine shy of the NCAA record. He finished with 19 carries for 116 yards.

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Lynch rallies NIU past Ball State

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) Jordan Lynch accounted for 402 yards and gave Northern Illinois the lead for good with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Akeem Daniels, and the Huskies defeated Ball State 35-23 on Saturday.

Northern Illinois (5-1, 2-0 Mid-American), which has won five straight after a season-opening loss to Iowa, trailed 23-14 after Keith Wenning's short TD run for the Cardinals (3-3, 1-2) in the third quarter. But Lynch, who ran for 207 yards on 29 carries, scored on a 12-yard run. With 4:58 to play, the TD pass to Daniels made it 28-23 Huskies. Lynch then sealed it with a 71-yard run, his third rushing TD, with 3:03 left.

Lynch was 16 of 23 for 195 yards and was not intercepted. Wenning attempted 71 passes for Ball State, completing 42, for 434 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Jamill Smith ran for 146 yards on just 14 attempts for the Cardinals.

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SIU spoils Illinois State's homecoming

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) Anthony Thompson returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, and Southern Illinois intercepted four passes en route to a 17-0 victory against Illinois State on Saturday.

The Salukis (3-3, 2-1 Missouri Valley), who had just 182 yards of offense, recorded their first shutout since 2009.

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Western holds off South Dakota

VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) Wil Lunt connected with Fredson Salomon on a 66-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter Saturday and Western Illinois held on to beat South Dakota 24-17.

The Leathernecks (3-2, 1-1 Missouri Valley) trailed 10-3 at halftime but Kieron James blocked a punt to set Western Illinois up in Coyotes territory, and Lunt threw a 25-yard TD pass to Salomon to tie it. Lunt later hit Charles Chestnut for 39 yards to the South Dakota 1 and Caulton Ray ran it in on the next play to make it 17-10 WIU late in the third quarter.

South Dakota (1-4, 0-2) tied it up quickly. After Jasper Sanders returned the kickoff 55 yards, three plays later Josh Vander Maten found Anthony Williams for 41 yards and the tying score. But Lunt and Salomon answered for the winning points with 7:40 left.

Nikko Watson ran for 138 yards for the Leathernecks.

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UT-Martin downs Eastern

MARTIN, Tenn. (AP) Derek Carr threw four touchdowns and Tennessee-Martin racked up 616 yards of total offense in the Skyhawks' 51-37 win over Eastern Illinois on Saturday.

UT Martin (4-2, 2-1 Ohio Valley Conference) struck first, returning the opening kick 93 yards for a touchdown. The Skyhawks extended their lead to 21-6 behind two touchdown passes from Carr.

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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."