CSN's Top 20 preps rankings - Week 4

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CSN's Top 20 preps rankings - Week 4

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011Posted: 9:50 p.m.

By Joe Collins and Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

WATCH: High School Lites, Week 3

1. Maine South (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 1): Defeated Deerfield 48-7
Next Game: Friday vs. Niles North, 7:30 p.m.
READ: Alviti, Preston carry Maine South to easy win
2. Glenbard West (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 2): Defeated Lyons 31-3
Next Game: Saturday vs. Hinsdale Central, 1:30 p.m.

READ: Balogh leads rushing attack for Glenbard West

3. Mount Carmel (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 3): Defeated De La Salle 40-7
Next Game: Saturday at St. Joseph, 1:30 p.m.

READ: Lenti ties win record with Mount Carmel victory

4. Lincoln-Way East (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 4): Defeated Lockport 38-7
Next Game: Friday at Homewood-Flossmoor, 7:30 p.m.

5. Joliet Catholic (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 5): Defeated Peoria Richwoods 63-34
Next Game: Friday vs. St. Viator at Joliet Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.

6. Homewood-Flossmoor (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 6): Defeated Lincoln-Way Central 42-7
Next Game: Friday vs. Lincoln-Way East, 7:30 p.m.

7. Glenbard North (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 7): Defeated West Chicago 42-0
Next Game: Friday at Glenbard East, 7:30 p.m.

8. Loyola (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 8): Defeated Lake Forest Academy 48-13
Next Game: Friday at Providence, 7:30 p.m.

9. Downers Grove South (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 9): Defeated Morton 56-0
Next Game: Friday at Leyden, 7:30 p.m.

10. Carmel (2-1)
Last Week (Ranked No. 10): Defeated Notre Dame 26-7
Next Game: Friday vs. Marian Catholic, 7:30 p.m.

11. St. Rita (2-1)
Last Week (Ranked No. 11): Defeated Fenwick 42-0
Next Game: Friday at Brother Rice, 7:30 p.m.

12. Prairie Ridge (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 12): Defeated Huntley 43-2
Next Game: Friday vs. Dundee-Crown, 7:30 p.m.

13. Bolingbrook (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 13): Defeated Joliet Central 60-6
Next Game: Friday vs. Joliet West, 7:30 p.m.
14. Crete-Monee (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 14): Defeated Moline 37-13
Next Game: Saturday vs. Glenbard South, 1:30 p.m.

15. Lake Zurich (2-1)
Last Week (Ranked No. 16): Defeated Warren 33-14
Next Game: Friday vs. Lakes, 7:30 p.m.

16. Wheaton Warrenville South (1-2)
Last Week (Ranked No. 17): Defeated West Aurora 20-6
Next Game: Friday at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.

17. Crystal Lake South (3-0)
Last Week (Unranked): Defeated Cary-Grove 10-7
Next Game: Friday vs. Huntley, 7:30 p.m.

READ: Birthday boy lifts Gators to upset

18. Morris (3-0)
Last Week (Ranked No. 18): Defeated Streator 55-6
Next Game: Friday at Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.

19. Cary-Grove (2-1)
Last Week (Ranked No. 15): Lost to Crystal Lake South 10-7
Next Game: Saturday vs. Hampshire, 1:30 p.m.

20. Montini (2-1)
Last Week (Ranked No. 19): Defeated Marmion 13-6
Next Game: Friday at Marian Central, 7:30 p.m.

Lurking and Looming: Brother Rice, Providence, Oak Forest, Geneva,
Lemont, Stevenson, Addison Trail, Antioch, Wheaton North, Naperville
Central, St. Patrick, Simeon, Streamwood, Sandburg.

Jose Abreu's hot streak a good sign for White Sox

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Jose Abreu's hot streak a good sign for White Sox

Jose Abreu made it official on Wednesday night -- he’s on fire.

Everyone around the White Sox has known this hot streak would soon arrive. They saw signs in Toronto and again in Baltimore as he began to drive the ball to right with authority. They heard the sounds his lumber produced when he smacked another pitch.

But the first baseman confirmed it in the first inning Wednesday when he snapped a 61-plate appearance homeless streak with a towering two-run homer to left. And the idea that the White Sox have played as well as they have without consistent production from Abreu has the club very optimistic about its chances to contend this season.

“It’s awesome,” leadoff man Adam Eaton said. “You know it’s going to happen. He’s never not going to get going and be the type of hitter he is.”

“You’ve seen the month we’ve had and realistically without him producing a tremendous amount, without really the hitters producing a tremendous amount. The pitching staff has really carried us.”

Abreu has been a dominant force in the lineup in each of his two previous seasons. The 2014 American League Rookie of the Year has produced 9.3 Wins Above Replacement in his first two seasons, according to baseball-reference.com.

But until this last week, Abreu hasn’t been himself.

He hit .229/.303/.354 in April with 13 RBIs, the fewest he’s ever had in the opening month of the season. He chased pitches that weren’t his and got away from his game, rifling inside fastballs to right field. Yet the lengthy slump from a player who hit .303/.364/.540 with 66 homers and 208 RBIs in his first two seasons hasn’t dramatically hurt the White Sox, who entered Wednesday with the best record in the AL.

Abreu said the stretch reminds him of 2009 when he got out to a slow start and his team, the Elefantes de Cienfuegos, continued to play well in the Occidental Division of the Cuban National Series. Despite Abreu’s early slump, Cienfuegos finished in second place in the division and earned a postseason birth as it did in each of Abreu’s final eight seasons.

“I’ve had this moment before in Cuba,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I was struggling and the team was winning games.

“We won that year. That’s the same kind of feeling as I’m having right now because we’re getting all together, working hard and pulling in the same direction and that’s probably something God has for us for the season and I’m happy.”

Manager Robin Ventura might like similar results from this situation. Abreu finished the 2009 season hitting .399/.555/.822 with 30 homers and 76 RBIs in 393 plate appearances. Projected out to 600 plate appearances, Abreu would wind up with 45 round-trippers, or nine more than his career high.

No matter what kind of numbers Abreu produces, it’s clear he’s in a better position to do it after a slow start. From April 25 through Tuesday, Abreu hit .406/.486/.531 with nine RBIs in 37 plate appearances. While he hadn’t gone deep in that span, Abreu walked five times and struck out only three.

Abreu said it’s a function of improved timing. He feels right when he drives the ball on a line to right as he did throughout a four-game series in Baltimore. Those are the signs Ventura has seen plenty of lately.

“It sounds better,” Ventura said. “His hands work better. It just seemed like he could pull the inside pitch a little better and drive some more to right field. He was working on it, probably gave up a couple of at-bats trying to find it, knowing it might not look right. We could tell what he was trying to do, and I think it has helped him as we got home, how it feels for him.”

Eaton looks forward to what it can mean for the White Sox. The offense entered Wednesday with 45 runs in the past eight games after it produced 62 in the first 21.  

“He stays inside the ball really well, he goes the other way really well,” Eaton said. “That’s where his power is and somebody hangs one, he’ll pull it

“When he starts doing that and barreling balls the other way, and they throw a 95-mph heater on the inside part of the plate, he shoots it to right with authority and that’s when you know Jose is going.

“It should be interesting once he gets going and gets in a rhythm.”

Javier Baez becoming a game-changer for Cubs on defense and offense

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Javier Baez becoming a game-changer for Cubs on defense and offense

PITTSBURGH – When Javier Baez made his splashy debut in August 2014, it symbolized how much the Cubs wanted to sell the future and change the conversation after another selloff at the trade deadline. 

But it also makes a statement when Javy Being Javy starts to live up to the hype – and create a highlight reel – only as a role player. That’s one takeaway from the defensive clinic Baez put on at third base during this three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates that ended with Wednesday’s 6-2 win at PNC Park.   

“It’s a crazy situation here with the talent we have,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said, “and Javy at times being overlooked and not necessarily in the starting lineup every day. To have a guy like that with probably some of the best hands in all of baseball off the bench (is) a luxury that we’re happy to have. He’s a special talent.”

A natural shortstop, Baez has a unique ability to read the ball off the bat, but he’s also realized the value of sitting back and waiting at third base. Baez writes and eats left-handed and uses that as his dominant side, which helps him get into such an easy defensive flow. Even more than Addison Russell, Baez has the classic, big arm you’re looking for in a prototypical shortstop.    

“You’re crazy,” Arrieta told Baez on Tuesday night after watching the third baseman react to a John Jaso check swing in the sixth inning, charging to the edge of the infield grass, grabbing the ball with his bare hand and making a fluid throw to first base for the out.

Baez made it look easy again in the seventh inning, going to his backhand on a David Freese chopper up the third-base line, planting his right foot on the edge of the outfield grass and unleashing a laser throw to first base. 

Baez got Freese again in the ninth inning, making a charging backhanded play look routine and reinforcing why manager Joe Maddon sees him as such a weapon.

“You can actually say without stretching things way too far that he’s one of the best infielders in the National League – and he doesn’t start,” Maddon said. “Just purely as a defensive, groundball, infield-acumen kind of player, he’s one of the best in the league right now. Period. 

“So we just got to find an opportunity for him. His bat continues to make progress. I absolutely feel great when he’s out there on defense, because he can really impact a game in a positive way.”

With a 3-for-5, two-RBI afternoon on Wednesday, Baez pushed his average to .341, showing that he’s not the same all-or-nothing hitter who struck out 95 times and put up nine homers in 52 games in 2014.  

“When I got called up, I was hot with the bat, but I knew it wasn’t me,” Baez said. “It wasn’t my swing. I’m finally feeling really good at the plate and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Whether that means bumping Kris Bryant to the outfield more often or becoming that Ben Zobrist super-utility guy or filling in for the next injured player, right now it looks like the Cubs made the right choice in holding onto Baez and not packaging him in a deal for a pitcher.       

“You have not only a guy that can play the hell out of some infield,” pitcher Jon Lester said, “but he also gives you another guy at the bottom end of that lineup that has some thump. You make a mistake and this guy can take you back.”

Credit Baez for making those adjustments at the plate, smoothing out some of his rougher edges and realizing that for now this is his path to sticking in The Show.   

“I’ve been showing how much I’ve been growing up and my discipline at the plate,” Baez said. “My mind is all over the place with the positions, but I don’t have any problems playing it. I think I’m doing a pretty good job playing defense.”

Thursday on CSN: Cubs battle Harper, Nationals

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Thursday on CSN: Cubs battle Harper, Nationals

The Cubs take on the Washington Nationals on Thursday night, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies at 7:05 p.m.

Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 3.52) vs. Joe Ross (3-0, 0.79)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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