Cubs

Riddick powers Notre Dame past BYU

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Riddick powers Notre Dame past BYU

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Theo Riddick never once felt like Notre Dame would lose on Saturday. Thanks to his efforts, the Irish didn't, and will head to Oklahoma with a 7-0 record following a 17-14 win over BYU Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

The senior running back rushed for a career-high 143 yards, including runs for 55 and 19 yards that set up all 10 of Notre Dame's second-half points.

"I feel we just have a whole other level of confidence," Riddick said after the game. "No one puts their head down or anything. We all knew what we had to do in the second half and that was get more points than the opposing team, and we did that."

Riddick's 55-yard run sparked an Irish offense that had stagnated since the first quarter, allowing BYU to take a 14-7 lead at halftime. On a third-and-one from Notre Dame's 37, Riddick appeared to be bottled up at the line of scrimmage. But he broke free and raced 55 yards before being caught at the BYU eight.

"What he did more than anything else is that he ran north and south and he played physical. That gets an energy for everybody," coach Brian Kelly said. "The O-line sees a guy that's really pounding it in there. I think that he got us that energy that we needed."

Leading up to Saturday's game, Riddick fielded questions regarding his average yards per carry, which was under four -- much lower than that of Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III. But Riddick averaged 9.5 yards per carry on Saturday, with that average buoyed by success after the first hit.

"As hard as I've seen someone run," quarterback Tommy Rees evaluated. "He had so many yards after contact, and that's the kind of kid, the kind of runner he is."

It wasn't all Riddick, though -- his roommate helped a lot, too. Wood racked up 114 yards on 18 carries, helping pace Notre Dame to 270 rushing yards against a team that only allowed an average of 67.9 yards on the ground per game, the third-lowest in the nation.

"I think we both feed off each other," Riddick said, with Wood at his side mock-interviewing him. "Once we both see one of us make a big run or something like that, we get amped, very hyped up and things like that to make another play. And I think we did that today."

Thanks to the efforts of Riddick, Wood and Atkinson -- who only rushed five times for 11 yards, but scored the game-winning touchdown for Notre Dame -- the Irish pulled out yet another close victory. Four of Notre Dame's seven wins have been by seven points or less, with that standing in stark contrast to the team's 3-3 record in games decided by one possession last year.

"It goes to the toughness of our football team," Kelly said. "They believe they are going to win. There's no question they believe they are going to win, and if there's any questions out there, that's been eradicated over the last couple weeks."

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez had an absolutely fantastic 2018 campaign, but he is not the National League MVP.

Brewers star Christian Yelich was deemed the best player in the Senior Circuit, receiving 29 of the 30 first-place votes. Baez finished second with no first-place votes. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado finished third after leading the NL in homers (38) and posting a .935 OPS for a Colorado team that lost out on the division in Game 163 and then beat the Cubs in the NL Wild-Card Game.

It may not be popular with Cubs fans who love them some Javy, but it's easy to see why Yelich will take home the highest yearly honor.

The 26-year-old outfielder enjoyed a special season, leading the league in OPS (1.000), batting average (.326) and WAR (7.6 — FanGraphs), finishing 1.3 WAR above the next highest guy (Anthony Rendon — 6.3). For reference, Baez notched a 5.3 WAR.

Baez led the NL in RBI (111) and was among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category while also filling a huge role for the Cubs playing very good defense all over the infield (104 games at second base, 65 at shortstop, 22 at third base and even played an out at first base). 

It's easy to say Baez was the Cubs' most important and valuable player in 2018 and there's no way they win 95 games or maintain a share of first place through Game 162 without his contributions.

But the Brewers surged past the Cubs in the NL Central in large part because of Yelich, who slashed .372/.451/.762 (1.213 OPS) from July 14 on, driving in 68 runs and hitting 25 homers in only 68 games. He was even hotter over the last two weeks of the season — posting a .488/.621/1.116 slash line (1.737 OPS) while Milwaukee went 11-2 and caught the Cubs from behind. 

With both players under contract through at least the 2021 season in the same division, it'll be interesting to see if they can build off their breakout campaigns and continue to battle against each other for future NL MVP voting.

Luis Robert highlights White Sox prospects as Arizona Fall League concludes

Luis Robert highlights White Sox prospects as Arizona Fall League concludes

The Arizona Fall League wrapped up on Thursday for White Sox prospects and the overall results were mixed.

Perhaps the most important thing from the seven-week season is that Luis Robert began to show his potential. After injuries limited him to just 50 games in 2018, his first season playing in the U.S., Robert added 18 games and 79 plate appearances against much more experienced players in Arizona.

Robert, still just 21 and the second-youngest hitter on the team, hit in his first 14 games in the AFL and tallied a hit in 16 of his 18 games. He did this while missing over a week in the middle of the season due to a hamstring injury. The Cuban outfielder’s final numbers are .324/.367/.432. He had five walks, which isn’t an inspiring total, but he kept the strikeouts down at 13.

One of the things that still hasn’t shown in games very often is Robert’s power. He didn’t hit a home run in the 2018 minor league season, but it’s possible his thumb injury was affecting his ability to hit for power. Robert’s power didn’t come through much in the AFL, but there was definitely improvement. He hit two home runs and had two doubles, but this home run last week was definitely seductive.

The AFL isn’t make or break for prospects. Adam Engel hit .403/.523/.642 in the AFL in 2015 and hasn’t shown the ability to hit in the majors yet. Still, Robert showed flashes of his potential with the bat while also causing chaos on the base paths with five stolen bases in five attempts.

Robert was one of seven White Sox minor leaguers who played for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Glendale finished the season 12-18.

The next biggest hitting prospect on Glendale was Luis Alexander Basabe. Basabe struggled in his time in Arizona, but did show some of what has makes him an intriguing prospect.

Basabe hit just .180, but did draw 12 walks in 63 plate appearances. The 22-year-old isn’t known for hitting for average. He is a career .258 hitter in six minor league seasons, including a .251 mark in Double-A in the second half of 2018. However, if he can draw walks at a high rate while bringing good speed in the outfield, he can have some value.

Overall, hitting .180/.333/.180 is a disappointing stint, but there was at least one positive with the walk rate.

Laz Rivera rounded out White Sox hitters with a line of .215/.271/.246. Rivera had solid stints at both levels of Single-A in 2018, his first full season of pro ball, but the AFL showed he may find the adjustment to Double-A a tough one.

On the pitching side the only marquee name was Zack Burdi, but he got shut down early in the season. He made only five appearances (4 2/3 innings, 3 unearned runs, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits), but Rick Hahn said there’s nothing to be concerned about.

Tanner Banks (4.43 ERA, 10 strikeouts, 5 walks, 30 hits in 22 1/3 innings), Zach Thompson (2.70 ERA, 15 strikeouts, 6 walks, 10 hits in 13 1/3 innings) and Danny Dopico (6.57 ERA, 15 strikeouts, 12 walks, 10 hits in 12 1/3 innings) also pitched for Glendale. All three will be 25 or older when 2019 rolls around.