Believe it or not, this is the best team in the NL

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Believe it or not, this is the best team in the NL

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Adam LaRoche grabbed a different bat and suddenly solved the enigma of R.A. Dickey. LaRoche hit a tiebreaking homer and the Washington Nationals handed Dickey his first loss in three months, beating the sinking New York Mets 5-2 Tuesday night behind Gio Gonzalez's seven crisp innings. At the suggestion of injured teammate Ian Desmond, LaRoche switched bats in the sixth to a lighter model that belonged to speedy outfielder Roger Bernadina. "I've been using a heavier bat and obviously it hasn't been working against Dickey, so I figured it was time to try something new," said LaRoche, who was 2 for 14 against the knuckleballer before his long home run. Gonzalez (13-5) gave up only two singles in a rematch of All-Star pitchers, five days after New York hit him hard to back Dickey during his 13th win. This time, it went the other way. "Just wanted to redeem myself from the last start," Gonzalez said. "You always want to bounce back as a pitcher. You don't want to feel down and out. A lot of these guys came up to me and gave me some positive energy, positive feedback. So the best I wanted to do was return the favor." Dickey (13-2) allowed five consecutive hits in the sixth, ending his 11-game winning streak, as the Mets lost their fifth straight and 11th in 12 games. Their lone victory since July 7 was Dickey's 9-5 win over Gonzalez last Thursday in Washington. In a mini shake-up before the game, New York demoted slumping right fielder Lucas Duda to the minors. "When you're not playing good baseball against teams like this, they exploit you pretty quickly," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "This stretch is not going to define us over the course of the year." Ryan Zimmerman kept up his tear at the plate with three hits and the Nationals won their fourth in a row to improve the NL's best record to 57-39. They are 8-3 against the Mets this season, winning all four series so far, and will go for a three-game sweep Wednesday at noon with ace Stephen Strasburg on the mound against rookie Jeremy Hefner. "I think we're clicking pretty good," LaRoche said. "It can get better, but it's pretty good right now." Sean Burnett got three outs in the eighth and Tyler Clippard fanned two in a perfect ninth, finishing the three-hitter for his 17th save. Gonzalez struck out four, walked two and did not allow an earned run in his longest outing since May 27. "It was a masterpiece," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He had something to prove." Jordany Valdespin set a Mets record with his fifth pinch-hit homer of the season. The rookie connected off Ryan Mattheus leading off the eighth, breaking a mark he previously shared with Mark Carreon (1989) and Danny Heep (1983). Dickey was 11-0 in his previous 16 starts since getting roughed up in a 14-6 loss April 18 on a rainy day in Atlanta. Trying to become the first 14-game winner in the majors, he was unable to stop New York's nasty slide. He yielded five runs -- four earned -- and eight hits in six innings. The 37-year-old right-hander tossed an inning of relief Saturday against the Dodgers to help an overworked bullpen, only two days after throwing 111 pitches over 7 1-3 innings in Washington. He has a 5.36 ERA in his last seven outings. "I had a good knuckleball," Dickey said. "I should have pitched into the eighth inning. I felt too good for that to happen." Dickey whiffed star rookie Bryce Harper all three times on knuckleballs ranging from 66-81 mph and was in command until the sixth, when he gave up five straight hits with two outs. Michael Morse singled and LaRoche drove a low knuckler into the upper deck in right, snapping a 1-all tie with his 17th homer. Danny Espinosa singled, Bernadina beat out a slow dribbler toward first and Jesus Flores hit an RBI single to left. Jason Bay's wide throw to the plate got away for an error that allowed Bernadina to score, making it 5-1. Espinosa's throwing error at shortstop led to an unearned run in the second. Ronny Cedeno hit an RBI single to right with two outs, giving New York its first lead in 42 innings since last Thursday, but was thrown out by Harper trying to stretch it into a double. Gonzalez retired his next 11 batters and did not permit another hit until Ike Davis' two-out single in the seventh. A switch-hitter, Espinosa batted right-handed against Dickey to get a better look at the knuckleball. The first time up, Espinosa struck out swinging. But in the fourth, his two-out double tied it 1-all after Zimmerman opened the inning with a bloop double. NOTES: Flores (back) was back behind the plate after sitting out two games. ... Washington is 9-1-3 in series against NL East opponents. ... Harper is 0 for 10 against Dickey with six strikeouts. ... New York released RHP Miguel Batista, designated for assignment Sunday.

62 Days to Kickoff: Antioch

62 Days to Kickoff: Antioch

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Antioch Sequoits

Head coach: Brian Glashagel

Assistant Coaches: Del Pechauer, Jordan Eder, Neil Farlow, Ryan Shifley, Mike Karner, Pat Swanson, Mike Gordy, Vinny Juiditta, Rico Ellis

How they fared in 2015: 5-4 (3-3) North Suburban Prairie Conference. Antioch failed to qualify for the IHSA playoff field.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Sequoits avoid just missing out on the playoffs like last fall?

Names to watch this season: ATH Brandon Lind, K/P Ben Gutke

Biggest holes to fill: The Sequoits will need to replace a ton of rushing yards from graduated running back Griffin Hill and fullback Nick Dorosan.

EDGY's early take: Always look towards teams that just miss out on the IHSA playoffs the previous year to have a bit more motivation. Antioch has a good core back on both sides of the football, and will compete for a conference title in the newly formed Northern Lake County Conference.

White Sox first-rounder Zack Collins to start pro career next week

White Sox first-rounder Zack Collins to start pro career next week

ESPN suggested Zack Collins could be the first hitter from this month’s amateur baseball draft to reach the big leagues.

But the first-round pick has been given a few days to decompress before he begins his professional career with the White Sox. Collins spent Saturday morning in the clubhouse, took batting practice with some of his future teammates and threw out the first pitch less than a day after he officially signed with the White Sox. The university of Miami catcher — who received a $3,380,600 signing bonus — will first report to the team’s Glendale, Ariz. facility on July 2 and eventually will start at Single-A Winston-Salem.

“We’re probably going to give him a week or two to catch his breath a little bit,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “It’s been a long season for him. We’re probably going to send him to Arizona for a little bit and get his feet under him and then to Winston.”

Collins’ college career ended earlier this week when the Hurricanes were eliminated from the College World Series. He appeared in 62 games and hit .363/.544/.668 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs. Collins finished the season with 78 walks and 53 strikeouts.

The catcher brought his family with him to Chicago for the weekend and this week he’ll head to Wichita, KS, where he’s one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top collegiate catcher.  

“After that I’ll have a couple of days off and head out,” Collins said. “It’s definitely nice (to get a few days off). I pretty much caught every game this year for Miami so it’s nice to get my legs a little rest and get fresh and head out.”

Collins wants to stick at catcher and he thinks he can. But his approach, which ESPN said is the best of the draft, and bat could have Collins to the majors quickly. Of Collins, ESPN’s Keith Law said “he can really hit.”

Collins finished his collegiate career with 177 walks versus 164 strikeouts.

“Patience is key when you’re hitting, Collins said. “Swinging at the right pitches and put the barrel on it and the ball will fly, especially with these big-league balls. Take your walks and get on base and score runs to help the team.”

Zack Burdi, the team’s supplemental first-rounder, also is said to be a fast-mover and potentially could be the first pitcher drafted to reach the majors. Hostetler said the reason Collins and Burdi are ahead of others has as much to do with their mental approach as their skillset.

“They’re advanced from the standpoint not only physically, but mentally,” Hostetler said. “That’s probably the big thing if they can play here. These guys that play here on a nightly basis, they’re wired different between the ears. They have a different mentality about them and both of those kids as well as a couple of the other ones we drafted have that presently and don’t have to develop that. To think you can put it on a 21-year-old kid to pitch here in front of 40,000 a night, it’s a little tough to think about. But I do think they’d be capable of something like that.”

Alex DeBrincat, Chad Krys part of Blackhawks’ draft crop

Alex DeBrincat, Chad Krys part of Blackhawks’ draft crop

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Chad Krys couldn’t resist the moment.

The defenseman, whom the Blackhawks selected with the 45th overall pick on Saturday, threw his GoPro into the media session of Alex DeBrincat, picked by the Blackhawks six selections prior to Krys.

“Excuse me, Alex: what would you think if you got drafted to the same team as fellow World Junior teammate Chad Krys?” Krys asked.

For two more American players, it was one more reason to smile.

DeBrincat and Krys were two of the Blackhawks’ three second-round picks as the NHL Draft wrapped up in Buffalo on Saturday. Other selections included forward Artur Kayumov of Russia (50th overall), goaltender Wouter Peeters of Belgium and defenseman Lucas Carlsson of Sweden.

“It was good to have a nice mixture and you don’t always know how it’s going to work out with what you get,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “We did a lot of work last night planning for the picks we had in the second round. I know everyone says this but we’re really excited for the guys that we got.”

About two weeks ago the Blackhawks were short on 2016 draft picks and their first wasn’t until the third round. They ended up with nine, including those three second-round selections.

“When you’re at that point of the list, there are a lot of players that are probably at an equal value. So what we’re discussing is what we’re trying to get out of with those three picks,” said Mark Kelley, the Blackhawks’ director of amateur scouting. “I don’t think we stuck verbatim through the list in the order that it was, all close. The two wingers were very, very high skilled, and the defenseman he’s just a smart, puck-moving. He’s just a mature player.

The Blackhawks' 39th overall selection, DeBrincat is a small but offensively gifted player with the Erie Otters (Ontario Hockey League). DeBrincat, who played one season with Connor McDavid, had consecutive 51-goal seasons with the Otters.

“I don’t know the exact number of guys that scored 50 goals back-to-back in the OHL. It’s a very small list. He certainly is a competitive kid and really knows how to find the back of the net,” Bowman said. “People talk about his size but he did something that is rarely done. So really impressive performance with him and we’re excited.”

Given the Otters’ proximity to this year’s draft host Buffalo, there was a pretty sizeable cheer when DeBrincat’s name was announced.

“It’s pretty hard to put into words. I’m really excited to be a part of this organization,” DeBrincat said. “It was a long day [Friday.] I didn’t really know if I was going to go or not, but I’m really happy now and glad it’s over.”

Krys, who is headed to Boston University this fall, was part of Team USA’s U20 team with DeBrincat. For Krys, who hopes to develop his game more in college, the possibility of playing for the Blackhawks one day is enticing.

“I think they like skating defensemen who can move the puck quickly, get the puck up to their forwards and handle the puck well and be involved,” Krys said. “So it’s great to be part of an organization that has defensemen who play like that.”

BLACKHAWKS’ SELECTIONS

No. 39: Alex Debrincat, F, Erie Otters

45: Chad Krys, D, committed to Boston University

50: Artur Kayumov, F, Russia

83: Wouter Peeters, G, Belgium

110: Lucas Carlsson, D, Sweden

113: Nathan Noel, C, Saint John

143: Mathias From, D, Sweden

173: Blake Hillman, D, University of Denver

203: Jake Ryczek, D, Waterloo Black Hawks