White Sox

See what had the Rangers' coach so enraged

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See what had the Rangers' coach so enraged

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins reached a milestone, sewed up home-ice advantage when the playoffs start and drew the ire of another divisional opponent on a busy Thursday night. Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves to tie the Pittsburgh franchise record for wins and the Penguins clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Pittsburgh earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference for the fourth consecutive season and will play the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. It was in the aftermath of a 6-4 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called Penguins counterpart Dan Bylsma "gutless" and Philadelphia forward Daniel Briere said Joe Vitale was "trying to hurt me" after a late-game check. After Thursday's game, Rangers coach John Tortorella was even more scathing, calling the Penguins "one of the most arrogant organizations in the league" during a profanity-laden tirade following Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik's knee-to-knee hit on New York center Derek Stepan. "It's a cheap, dirty hit," Tortorella said. "I wonder what would happen if we did it to their two whining stars over there. I wonder what would happen. So I'm anxious to see what happens with the league with this. Just not respect amongst players. None. It's sickening." Orpik was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct on the play. "They whine about this stuff all of the time, and look what happens?" Tortorella said. "It's ridiculous. But they'll whine about something else over there, won't they?" One of those stars Tortorella was referring to, Evgeni Malkin, had his 49th goal Thursday. He added an assist to give him 107 points and extend his lead on Steven Stamkos in the scoring race to 11 points with one game to play. Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang also each had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh. Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov scored for the Rangers, who were playing for the first time since clinching the top seed in the conference. New York and Vancouver Canucks, which lost in regulation, are tied for the most points in the NHL (109). New York rested Henrik Lundqvist for the first time in 11 games after he sustained a swollen right forearm during Tuesday's victory against Philadelphia. Lundqvist said after the morning skate that if the game was crucial that he would have played. The Rangers gave no update on the condition of Stepan, who remained on the bench but did not play after the hit from Orpik. Bylsma compared the hit to one Letang received from Dallas' Eric Nystrom last month. Nystrom was not fined or suspended by the league. "You see here where (Stepan) jumps out of the way and Brooks is on his track and looking to hit the guy at an angle, and he trying to get out of the way creates that scenario," Bylsma said. Orpik was not available to reporters after the game. Almost lost in the postgame insults was Fleury tying Tom Barrasso with his 226th victory for the Penguins. Fleury's 42nd win of the season is one behind the Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne for the league lead. "A great honor for me to catch up to a guy like that who's been on top and won a couple Stanley Cups," Fleury said. Kunitz picked up his 200th assist on Malkin's 49th goal with 10:54 left that elicited chants of "M-V-P" from the Penguins' 250th consecutive sellout crowd. Pascal Dupuis assisted on Richard Park's second-period goal to his point streak to 16 games, longest in the NHL this season. Tyler Kennedy also scored for the Penguins (50-25-6), who reached 50 wins for the second time in franchise history. But the Rangers had little to play for other than possibly winning their first Presidents' Trophy since 1993-94 or to make runs over their final two games at breaking team records for wins and points established during that Stanley Cup season. New York was clearly not pleased at perhaps losing their fourth-leading goal-scorer in Stepan in what was a virtually meaningless game. "It was pretty gutless and dirty, and (Orpik) is known for sticking his knee out and his elbow out," Rangers goalie Martin Biron said. "I don't really care what he says in defense of what he did, it was dirty. "It was what (Orpik's) done all his career, and he's going to continue to do that unless somebody just gets him either with a suspension or whatever. Those are hits that aren't going to be in the game much longer because it's very dangerous." Kunitz's career-high 25th goal came at 1:11 of the first. Dubinsky tied it 3:12 later when he slammed home a rebound of a Ruslan Fedotenko shot, his 10th, but Kennedy gave Pittsburgh the lead for good 8:27 into the game with his 11th of the season and fifth in his past 10 games. Park -- in the lineup only because wingers James Neal and Steve Sullivan were not because of lower-body injuries -- made it 3-1 with his seventh at 5:11 of the second. Anisimov's goal came during a five-minute power play with 2:14 left, but Letang answered with an empty-netter at 19:11. The Penguins beat the Rangers for the fourth consecutive time this season and won for the third time in their past four games. "Both teams played pretty hard to make sure they're playing good playoff hockey going into the playoffs," Crosby said. NOTES: The game was the 500th of Biron's career. He's won only 13 of 35 career decisions against Pittsburgh. ... The Penguins announced their season team awards throughout the game during stoppages. Malkin was selected most valuable player. ... The announced crowd of 18,585 set a new Penguins season attendance record of 742,608 -- with one game remaining. ... The Rangers had won their previous four on the road and five of their previous six in Pittsburgh. ... When leading after two periods, the Penguins are 31-0-3 this season. ... Pittsburgh D Matt Niskanen (upper-body injury) did not play.

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

The White Sox hit four home runs Tuesday night, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But the guys who hit those round trippers have combined for just 31 of them this season.

Meanwhile, when Miguel Sano obliterated a baseball 482 feet in the third inning, he became the Minnesota Twins’ fifth player to reach 30 bombs this season. That’s the first time that’s happened in a single season in baseball history.

While you were sleeping, the high-powered Twins defeated the White Sox on a walk-off hit by pitch, one of the least powerful ways you can win a ballgame. But the team from the Land of 10,000 Lakes has won far more games this season by smashing baseballs into the stratosphere.

They’ll likely win an AL Central title on that premise, and while it’s not the only way to set yourself up as a World Series contender, in 2019 it’s one of the better ways. The top eight teams in the game in home runs are either going to the postseason or remain in a pennant race: the Twins, the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland Athletics, the Cubs, the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.

So let’s bring this around to the White Sox, whose winter shopping list is beginning to take shape as they prepare to set their sights on the offseason.

We all know Rick Hahn and his front office will be targeting starting pitching, the general manager has said as much after the organization’s major league ready depth in that area was worn bare in 2019. We’ll have to wait to find out whether Hahn inks a top-of-the-rotation star or provides depth behind All-Star hurler Lucas Giolito. But that shouldn’t — nay, can’t — be the only area that gets a facelift.

The White Sox also need an everyday right fielder, the internal options whittled from bountiful to non-existent thanks to injuries and under-performance in the minor leagues this season. The White Sox could probably also use a designated hitter. While Zack Collins — one of the home-run hitters Tuesday night — is getting a lot of reps there right now, if this team has eyes on contending next season, they might not have the luxury of playing “let’s see what he can do” with Collins.

Those two positions would figure to provide opportunities for Hahn’s front office to add some desperately needed pop to this lineup.

The White Sox are in the middle of their final up-close-and-personal demonstration of what an influx of offseason power can do, playing against baseball’s home-run leaders in the Twins. No team in baseball has launched more homers than the Twins this season, which is by design after they spent last offseason adding Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez, a quartet that combined for 104 home runs in 2018. This year, they’ve blasted a combined 95 with a week and a half worth of games left.

The power numbers are remarkable in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and in an era where the home-run ball is dominating, they’re doing it better than anyone. White Sox fans surely don’t need to be reminded of that fact. The Twins have hit 39 home runs against the South Siders this season, including 27 of them at Guaranteed Rate Field. Cruz, who is the only player in the bigs to hit at least 35 homers in each of the last six seasons, has hit eight of his 37 dingers off White Sox pitching.

While the White Sox likely won’t deviate from their rebuilding efforts just to copy the Twins, there’s no doubt they could use some additional power. They came into Tuesday night with the sixth fewest home runs in baseball, some of the game’s worst teams the only ones behind them. With the Twins using the longball to win a division crown and make themselves one of the best teams in the game, surely the White Sox could benefit from mixing some outside pop in with their cavalcade of young players.

They’ll likely get some help from Luis Robert, who belted 32 home runs in the minors this season a year after hitting none while battling thumb injuries in 2018. Nick Madrigal probably won’t do much for the White Sox home-run total, but a full, healthy season of Eloy Jimenez should. He’s en route to a 30-homer rookie season despite missing nearly 40 games. Jose Abreu certainly hasn’t been the problem, flirting with a career high in homers while blasting past his career high in RBIs. James McCann, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson all had terrific seasons, but is a significant jump in home runs expected for 2020? Probably not.

So added power will have to come from the two holes that need plugging in the everyday lineup.

Who’s out there? Fans will jump right to J.D. Martinez, who’s expected to opt out of his deal with the Boston Red Sox and become a highly pursued free agent. Martinez would fit the bill, all right, with 35 more homers this season to bring his total since the start of the 2015 season to a whopping 183.

Martinez will have his fair share of pursuers, and it’ll cost some big bucks to make his opt-out worth it (even though the Red Sox would probably be happy to see his salary come off the books given their supposed financial pickle). But the White Sox have that much-discussed money to spend, and Martinez would solve their power deficiency as their everyday DH.

Corner outfield free agents to-be include Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig and Marcell Ozuna. If the disastrous Pittsburgh Pirates decide to let Starling Marte walk, he could add a career-high 23 homers to the lineup. Kole Calhoun could hit the market, and he’s past the 30-homer mark this season. He’s also the only lefty in that group, something that could matter considering the White Sox projected lineup for 2020 and beyond is heavily right handed.

And then there’s the trade market. But remember that the depth of the White Sox farm system doesn’t look much like it did a year ago, and it could be rather difficult for Hahn to create an appealing package of prospects that could fetch the kind of impact bat (or arm, for that matter) the team would like to add to the roster.

The opportunities are there for the White Sox to make some Twins-esque additions and ratchet up the power numbers in 2020. It won’t mean they’ll be mashing at a Twins-esque level — considering that no team in baseball has, even the ones also hitting homers in bunches — but it’s a trait that’s helping teams across the game win on a nightly basis.

The White Sox could help their crusade to contend in 2020 — to join that group of baseball’s best teams — by improving themselves in that area this winter.

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Bears offensive line stonewalled Von Miller in Week 2

Bears offensive line stonewalled Von Miller in Week 2

Denver Broncos superstar pass-rusher Von Miller is one of the most feared defenders in the NFL. He can single-handedly destroy an offense's gameplan, and in Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Chicago Bears, it was up to Charles Leno and Bobby Massie to make sure he didn't make a game-changing sack of Mitch Trubisky.

Mission accomplished.

The Bears' offensive line wasn't perfect in Denver, but they checked one of the biggest boxes of the week by keeping Miller away from Trubisky all afternoon. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller made no impact -- literally none -- as a pass rusher.

Miller entered the 2019 season with five-straight seasons of double-digit sacks, including 14.5 in 2018. His rare talent, combined with the defensive genius of Vic Fangio, appeared like a mission-impossible in Week 2. But Leno and Massie answered the call in dominant fashion. They both finished the game with top-10 grades on Chicago's offense, per PFF.

To be fair, Miller registered an elite grade against the run in Week 2, but his 49.3 pass-rush grade was the worst on the Broncos defense. You read that right; Miller was Denver's worst pass-rusher Sunday.

Kudos to Leno and Massie for a job well done.