Blackhawks

So far, Samardzija is living up to the hype

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So far, Samardzija is living up to the hype

CINCINNATI Jeff Samardzija lobbied hard to get this, and so far hes backed up all the talk about wanting to be in the rotation.

Theres probably too much instant analysis, too much fun with small sample sizes, but this is an everyday business. If Samardzija had gotten off to a slow start, the Cubs would have to spin how he has the right stuff, but is still learning on the job.

Theres no need when Samardzija is dealing like this, getting strike one with his fastball, mixing in his slider, finishing off hitters with his splitter and getting it up around 94 to 98 mph the entire game.

The education of Samardzija continued with Wednesdays 3-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. He didnt give up a hit until the fourth inning, and left with two outs in the eighth. He allowed one run on three hits and struck out seven.

It seems like things just keep getting more and more important, Samardzija said. It was important to have a big spring. It was important to have a good start and then as the season goes on, its going to be important to finish strong.

Its a game where you got to keep proving yourself. (You) cant get complacent and think your spots safe. Someones always nipping at your toes and you just got to keep pushing.

Through five starts, Samardzija is 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA and 32 strikeouts against 10 walks in 31.2 innings. He was pushed back a day and got another one because of Tuesdays rainout. The Cubs already have a plan in place thats going to monitor his workload as he transitions out of the bullpen.

There are going to be nights where its 87 degrees at first pitch and it all comes together. Ian Stewart whos hitting .173 and hadnt homered in almost three weeks drilled one 363 feet into the right-field seats.

Geovany Soto (.155) picked up his second RBI of the season with a single to left that gave the Cubs an insurance run in the sixth inning. Enigmatic closer Carlos Marmol worked a one-two-three ninth to earn his second save and finish off the Reds (11-12).

The Cubs (9-15) are only 24 games into the season, with 85 percent of the schedule still remaining.

Stewart had a tough year last year, Sveum said. But we didnt pick him up to give him 25 days (as) a chance, especially when (he) can be a two-way player. Its way too early, the weathers just starting to warm up (and) theres plenty of guys struggling.

(Albert) Pujols doesnt even have a home run yet. Prince Fielders hit one since the second day of the season. So its way too early to even think about any change or anything like that.

Sveum never got the job offer he sensed was coming from the Boston Red Sox last November. He took this one knowing it would come with a long runway. This is not the win-now team, and hes wired to be patient.

Ive been around too long to see the panic, Sveum said. These guys do have somewhat of a track record. Its not the elite track records, but they have put up good numbers and had good years in the big leagues.

I dont care what month it is, but everybody in this league is pretty much going to struggle for one month, if not two, out of the six months with their everyday players.

Realistically, the Cubs are looking at a rebuilding process that will take years. But having a one-two punch of Matt Garza and Samardzija at the top of the rotation could accelerate everything.

We didnt have the team meeting that said this is a rebuilding year, Samardzija said. We just kind of skipped that altogether. We want to win games. Every day you get a new chance to win a game.

We might have to do it a different way than, say, the Yankees or somebody (else). But pitching and defense goes a long way.

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 3 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 3 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

The Blackhawks would've been happy with one win in San Jose, but they got two going back to Chicago and built on that momentum by knocking off the Sharks 3-2 in overtime to go up 3-0 in the Western Conference Final. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Dustin Byfuglien's heroics

As tight as the first two games were, the Blackhawks faced their first real adversity of the series in Game 3 when they went up 2-1 late in the third period and gave up the tying goal 2:32 later as the Sharks forced overtime.

But then Big Buff did what he did best.

With 7:36 remaining in overtime, Byfuglien buried a pass in the slot, going top shelf before Evgeni Nabokov even realized where the puck was. And then Byfuglien celebrated the only way he knows how.

2. Dave Bolland was a force

Speaking of the game-winning overtime goal, what an incredible pass by Bolland to set that up. The Rat had an incredible third period and overtime, scoring the go-ahead goal with 6:55 left in regulation by getting past a couple of Sharks defenders and juking Nabokov.

3. A negated early goal

The Sharks were in a virtual must-win situation going into Game 3 after dropping their first two contests at home, and they thought they struck first in the opening 1:51 with a power-play goal. But after further review, the officials ruled that Joe Pavelski kicked the puck into the net and the call was overturned.

The Sharks scored the game's first goal anyways, but it didn't come until the 3:58 mark of the second period. You wonder how much life the negated goal would've given them and how it would've changed the complexion of the game had it counted.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Paul Konerko's lengthy season-opening slump

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Paul Konerko's lengthy season-opening slump

It might be easy to forget.

For a guy who hit a grand slam in the World Series, hit 41 home runs during the regular season and is well remembered as not only the best player on that championship team but one of the two best hitters in franchise history, Paul Konerko had a painfully slow start to the 2005 season.

#SoxRewind has rolled into mid May of that year, and Konerko is still slumping on our screens.

Obviously things turned out just fine for him, but it took Konerko a while to get into his typical swing of things in 2005. Through his first 40 games of the season, he owned a .196/.329/.420 slash line.

There were bright spots, sure, and he still had nine homers in those 40 games, right on pace for the 40 he ended up with. He had a two-homer, five-RBI game against the Blue Jays on May 7. At the end of that road trip, May 11 against the Devil Rays, he drove in a couple more with a big double.

But even those proved to be just glimpses rather than breakout performances.

What did keep Konerko afloat during that slow beginning was his ability to draw walks. He jacked his on-base percentage up to .370 by season’s end, but even at .329 during those first 40 games, he was doing a good job getting on base despite a batting average south of the Mendoza Line. Konerko walked 25 times in his first 40 games, with four multi-walk games. That included a pair of three-walk games during this stretch in May.

The tide finally turned May 18, a three-hit, three-run game against the Rangers. From that point on, over his final 118 games, he slashed .311/.390/.570. In other words, MVP-type production.

The White Sox needed their best hitter over the course of the 2005 regular season, the playoff push and the postseason. And there’s a statue at Guaranteed Rate Field that can inform you how important he was to that group.

But it wasn’t wire-to-wire success for Konerko. Thankfully for the White Sox, his teammates picked him up, finding other ways to win during the season's first month and a half. And it shows just how good he was after things finally got back to normal.

What else?

— The White Sox sure should have won this game by a lot more than they did. They started the third inning with back-to-back walks and a classic Tropicana Field catwalk single off the bat of Tadahito Iguchi. Bases loaded, nobody out. But after Aaron Rowand drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Timo Perez got picked off trying to steal third base and Konerko struck out to end the inning. Three innings later, the White Sox started with three straight singles, including a bunt hit by Juan Uirbe to load the bases. But the next three hitters went strikeout, pop out, strikeout to go scoreless in the frame. A 5-2 win didn’t necessarily need any more runs, but it could’ve been 10-2 easily.

— Pablo Ozuna made things happen. With one out in the top of the fifth, he reached base on an infield single, busting down the line and ducking out of the way of a tag attempt at first base. He moved to second base on a one-out walk and to third on a fly out. Then he raced home on a wild pitch to break a 1-all tie. That was the first run in a four-run inning for the White Sox. Making things happen, the Ozuna way.

— Iguchi stole two bases in this game, the only multi-steal game of his big league career. Iguchi stole a career-high 15 bases in 2005, part of the 137 bags the White Sox swiped as a team that season. That number ranked fourth in the majors, behind the Angels, the Mets and these Devil Rays. Iguchi ranked third on the White Sox behind Scott Podsednik’s 59 steals and the 16 of Rowand.

— It was Robin Ventura on the call alongside Darrin Jackson as Hawk Harrelson continued to recover from his eye surgery. The all-time White Sox great became the team’s 39th manager less than seven years later, taking over after the tenure of Ozzie Guillen, who was in his second season as the South Side skipper in 2005.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 9, 2005: Despite getting to Hideo Nomo early, the White Sox had their eight-game winning streak snapped when the Devil Rays battled back against Freddy Garcia. White Sox lose, 4-2, fall to 24-8.

May 10, 2005: The White Sox had leads of 4-1 and 6-4 but blew them both. Future White Sox catcher Toby Hall hit a three-run game-tying homer off Jose Contreras at one point. But Jorge Cantu’s walk-off homer off Shingo Takatsu in the bottom of the ninth assured the Devil Rays a series win. White Sox lose, 7-6, fall to 24-9.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Wednesday, when you can catch the May 13, 2005, game against the Orioles, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Mark Buehrle goes eight innings, and Konerko leads a come-from-behind win against the O’s.

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