Cubs

"The Shrug Game" airs tonight on CSN

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"The Shrug Game" airs tonight on CSN

Five things to watch for in Comcast SportsNet Chicago's Wednesday night "Bulls Classics" broadcast of the Bulls' 122-89 Game 1 1992 NBA Finals victory over the Portland Trailblazers on June 3, 1992 (airing at 7:30 p.m.):

1) This game will forever be known as the "Shrug Game," for Michael Jordan's sly shrug after hitting his sixth three-pointer of the contest. With his 6-for-10 shooting from deep and 35 first-half points en route to a game-high 39 on the evening, there wasn't much else to accomplish after the intermission, as he left Portland completely demoralized, setting the tone for what would eventually be the Bulls' second consecutive championship. Not that Jordan hadn't proved he could make outside jumpers by that point in his career, but given how dangerous he was attacking the basket, Trailblazers were at a loss as to how to stop him. However, it wasn't as if Jordan had a one-track mind that night, as he also finished with 11 assists, proving a willing passer when the defense heavily committed to him.

2) Scottie Pippen's versatility was in full bloom by this point in his career, something made evident by his near triple-double of 24 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. While he wasn't quite the scoring threat Jordan was -- as if any other player was -- Pippen had to be fully accounted for by opponents, lest he take over games, which he was fully capable of doing by then. Pippen not only expertly complemented Jordan's game and enabled him to rest defensively by guarding the other team's top perimeter scorer, he could also shoulder the offensive load himself when necessary. With the two top wing talents in the game on the same team, rivals were at the Bulls' mercy.

3) Chicago's bench was also coming into its own, as B.J. Armstrong (11 points and six assists) provided offensive firepower, forward Cliff Levingston and young center Scott Williams (12 points and nine rebounds) provided hustle and Bobby Hansen gave the team additional perimeter shooting. Backup big men Will Perdue and Stacey King, now the Bulls' television color analyst, added even more interior depth. Besides Armstrong, none of the reserves had an especially noteworthy individual NBA career, but as a unit, their skills were a perfect match to spell Chicago's starters.

4) Portland, which also lost to Detroit in the 1990 NBA Finals, was one of the better teams to never win a title during that era. Under Rick Adelman, the new coach of the Timberwolves, the Blazers had a deep and talented lineup, led by star shooting guard Clyde Drexler and steady floor general Terry Porter in the backcourt. They also had great size up front, with center Kevin Duckworth, underrated power forward Buck Williams and athletic small forward Jerome Kersey. Off the bench, the key players were perennial Sixth Man of the Year award candidate Cliff Robinson, blue-collar Mark Bryant and sharpshooter Danny Ainge, now the Celtics' top executive.

5) Drexler (16 points on 5-for-14 shooting) didn't have his best outing that particular evening, but the All-Star was regarded as one of the best players at his position in that era -- perhaps second to only Jordan -- something confirmed by his selection to the 1992 Dream Team. In fact, Drexler's all-around skills rivaled Jordan, as his size, athleticism, versatility and scoring ability put him in the upper echelon of players in the league. Some fans may remember Drexler as the reason Jordan ended up in the Bulls uniform in the first place. His presence in Portland -- along with that of veteran swingman Jim Paxson, the brother of Bulls guard John Paxson (both Paxsons currently work for the Bulls; John as the executive vice president and Jim, Cleveland's former general manager, as a scout) -- led the Blazers to select center Sam Bowie with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, one choice after Drexler's college teammate at the University of Houston, Hakeem Olajuwon went first to the Rockets.

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

The White Sox lost Saturday night.

That’s baseball, of course, they’re not all going to be winners. And this rebuilding franchise has seen plenty of losses. But the feelings have been so good of late — whether because of Eloy Jimenez’s 400-foot homers or Lucas Giolito’s Cy Young caliber season to this point or a variety of other positive signs that make the White Sox future so bright — that losing Saturday to the first-place New York Yankees seemed rather sour.

Obviously there will be plenty more losses for this White Sox team before the book closes on the 2019 campaign. Back under .500, these South Siders aren’t expected to reach elite status before all the pieces arrive, and it would be no shock if they’re removed from the playoff race in the American League by the time crunch time rolls around in September.

But don’t tell these White Sox that an 8-4 defeat is a return to reality or a reminder that this team is still a work in progress. Even if, for a lot of players, development is still occurring at the major league level, the “learning experiences” that have been such a large part of the conversation surrounding this team in recent seasons and their daily goal of winning baseball games aren’t mutually exclusive.

“The Yankees are sitting in first place and they lost two games in a row,” catcher James McCann said Saturday night, providing a reminder of how the first two games of this weekend series went. “Just because you're expected to win and expected to be World Series contenders doesn't mean you're not going to lose ballgames. It's how you bounce back.

“And it doesn't mean you're going to win tomorrow, either. It's just, how do you handle a defeat? How do you handle a bad at-bat? How do you handle a bad outing, whatever it may be? But it doesn't mean that we step back and say, ‘Oh, we're back under .500, we're supposed to lose.’

“We expect to win when we show up to the ballpark. You can take learning experiences whether you win or lose. Do I think a game like tonight reminds us we're supposed to be in a rebuilding mode? No. We still expect to win, and we're going to show up tomorrow with that mentality.”

Maybe that’s a description of the much-discussed “learning to win” young teams supposedly need to do on the road to contender status. Maybe that can’t happen until a team figures out how to bounce back from a defeat — until it learns how to lose and how to act in the wake of a loss.

For all McCann’s certainty about the team’s expectations on a daily basis, his explanation was peppered with questions. He said he’s seen the answer to “how do you bounce back?” from this club, and his three-run homer in the eighth inning Saturday night was fairly convincing evidence that the White Sox didn’t use up all their fight just getting back to .500.

So while the White Sox know they won’t win every game — that no team will — they need to know how they handle defeat. Losing, it turns out, might end up being more instructive about when this team is ready to win.

“I think we've done a pretty good job (bouncing back),” McCann said. “You look at the road trip in Houston and Minnesota where we took two out of four from a good Houston team and then played really not very good baseball for three days in Minnesota only to come home and have an extremely good homestand.

“It's the big picture. It's not the very next day. It's not, ‘We've got to bounce back and win.’ It's not a must-win situation in the middle of June. But it's how do you handle yourself? How does a game like tonight, do you show up flat tomorrow and let it snowball into a three-, four-game spiral? Or do you fight?

“And that's what this team's been really good at doing is fighting and not giving in.”

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