Suffocating defense gives St. Rita shutout win

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Suffocating defense gives St. Rita shutout win

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 11:50 p.m.
By Pat DiSabato
YourSeason.com

St. Ritas defense was its best offense Friday night.Ryan Leonard and Max Kurucar each returned interceptions for touchdowns to guide No. 4 St. Rita to a 19-0 win over Providence in a Catholic League Blue battle on Chicagos South Side.St. Rita totaled five interceptions on the night, but Leonards and Kurucars were the show-stoppers.Our defense has been doing it all year long, St. Rita coach Todd Kuska said. Were not there yet offensively, but were getting better.Kurucars pick-six covered 68 yards and extended the Mustangs lead to 12-0 at 8:40 of the third quarter.Leonards return put the finishing touches on the victory. The 5-foot-11 senior stepped in front of quarterback Jake Godfreys pass deep in Celtics territory and scampered 22 yards for the score. Connor Gilroys point-after kick made it 19-0 with just 4:48 left to play.Leonards first pick, in the opening quarter, set up John Kellys 42-yard field goal that gave St. Rita (4-1, 2-0) a 3-0 lead at 4:32. Kellys 25-yard field goal on the Mustangs first series of the second half upped the margin to 6-0 at 9:46 of the third quarter.Our special teams did really well, too, Kuska said. Our kicking game was outstanding.Charles Elmore had the other interception for St. Rita.For Providence (3-2, 0-2), Godfrey finished 6 of 15 for 109 yards in substituting for the injured Chris Salazar. The Celtics ground game totaled 89 yards on the night.Those numbers, however, were superior to St. Ritas output, particularly on the ground. The Mustangs had just 31 yards on 19 carries. St. Rita was without starting running back Mike Zunica and guard Kevin Pergande, both of whom are injured.St. Rita quarterback Scott Thomas was 7 of 16 for 52 yards and was picked off twice, both times by Troy Sheppard.The Celtics defensive front line of Mike Hryn, Nick Cemeno, Vincent Ambrose and Jack Klyczek contributed mightily to the Mustangs offensive woes. But St. Ritas defense was even better, led by its opportunistic secondary and stalwarts Will McNamara, Patrick OConnor and Ricky Valadez.We made some correctable mistakes on offense, Kuska said. Im confident that were going to start progressing on offense. We didnt capitalize on some opportunities. But, hey, anytime you can get a W its a good game. Providence is a good football team, and it was a physical game. We just want to keep getting better.

Cubs have ‘all kinds of different lines in the water’ leading up to trade deadline

Cubs have ‘all kinds of different lines in the water’ leading up to trade deadline

MILWAUKEE – The White Sox would never trade Chris Sale to the North Side and give the Cubs this year’s potential American League Cy Young Award winner to pair with the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta), the game’s most entertaining manager (Joe Maddon) and one of the most iconic venues in sports (Wrigley Field), making the biggest story in baseball ever bigger.

Silly season is already in full swing with reports that the White Sox sent Sale home from U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday…because their all-world pitcher cut up throwback jerseys he didn’t want the team to wear during his scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers.

You can’t make this stuff up. But it’s yet another reminder of what Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer predicted leading up to the Aug. 1 trade deadline: “Expect the unexpected.”   

By late Saturday night, Twitter buzzed about a Fox Sports report that the New York Yankees are telling teams that they will hold onto All-Star reliever Andrew Miller and are moving closer toward dealing 100-mph closer Aroldis Chapman.

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President of baseball operations Theo Epstein never likes to rule anything out, running a front office that keeps all options open. So expect to hear more rumors about the Cubs trying to engineer a deal for a controllable starting pitcher, canvassing the bullpen market and scouting rentals like Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick.

“All I know is that Theo and Jed really have all kinds of different lines in the water,” manager Joe Maddon said before a 6-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “Like any of the GMs at this time of the year, they’re always going to look to make us better. So if something makes sense to these boys, I’m sure we’re considering it.”

It’s difficult to see Reddick or the offense being a priority or a focal point when the Cubs are so loaded with position players and have plenty of short- and long-term pitching issues. But the Epstein regime has already poured so much capital into their lineup, rebuilding the franchise around hitters. Why stop now?

Epstein has also hinted the Cubs could pivot in a bad market for starting pitching or if the prices for relievers become prohibitive.

 [RELATED: Cubs ready to activate Joe Nathan, but is that enough for this bullpen?]  

“Sometimes, if the marketplace makes it hard to improve a weakness,” Epstein said, “you can compensate for that by making an area of strength even stronger. That’s not necessarily the direction we’re going to go, but it could be.”

Reddick has Boston Red Sox roots, hits left-handed and will become a free agent after this season. The Cubs just welcomed back their leadoff guy (Dexter Fowler) and have a Gold Glove right fielder with a $184 million contract (Jason Heyward) and multiple options in left field (Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Willson Contreras) plus Chris Coghlan (strained ribcage) and Jorge Soler (strained hamstring) rehabbing at Double-A Tennessee.

“‘CC’ last year was really big for us and we’re still waiting on George,” Maddon said. “I wouldn’t create conjecture for or against. I mean, it’s possible, it absolutely is. They are really hunkered down trying to figure out what’s best for us right now.

“They’re probably looking at us as two different teams versus righties and versus lefties and what we need in those particular moments. And: How far is George actually? I don’t think George is that far off, and I don’t think ‘CC’ is either. But regarding my conversations with (Theo and Jed), they are looking at a lot of different options.”

White Sox mum on Chris Sale incident after suspended game against Tigers

White Sox mum on Chris Sale incident after suspended game against Tigers

The White Sox and Detroit Tigers will resume play of their suspended game — which is tied 3-3 to begin the top of the ninth — on Sunday after a third rain delay finally washed things out Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field. 

But literal storms paled in comparison to the figurative one that erupted from the White Sox clubhouse involving ace left-hander Chris Sale. The American League's All-Star Game starter was scratched from his start about 30 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, with a vague statement from general manager Rick Hahn mentioning a “non-physical” incident in the clubhouse that was under investigation by the team

Just as the game's second rain delay hit, though, a report surfaced — which was later confirmed by CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes — that Sale, who started for the American League All-Stars last week in San Diego, was so furious over having to wear the team’s 1976 throwback uniforms that he cut them up so they couldn’t be worn. Sale was sent home by the White Sox after the incident. 

The White Sox will still start All-Star left-hander Jose Quintana for Sunday’s series finale — which will begin 30 minutes after the final out of the suspended game, which will resume play at 1:10 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet — and manager Robin Ventura said he doesn’t have any plans for when Sale will make his next start. 

“I’ll talk about the game, but any of that stuff, we’ll wait on that,” Ventura said when asked about the Sale incident. “I know the team put out a release on that and we’re just going to stick with that. I’m not going to discuss what went on in there. But unfortunate he didn’t start tonight and proud of the guys that came in and filled in.”

Third baseman Todd Frazier declined comment — “I can’t really talk anything about that,” he said — as did right-hander Matt Albers, who started and threw two innings as the first cog in a seven-pitcher “Johnny Wholestaff” game.  

"I think we're going to keep that in-house,” Albers said. “For me, obviously you guys probably know what happened, but for me as a player, and in our clubhouse, we're going to keep in in-house. So, you're going to have to ask somebody else about that."

Without anything close to ample time to shuttle a starting pitcher up from the minor leagues to replace Sale, the White Sox went with Albers despite the 33-year-old throwing an inning both Thursday and Friday against the Tigers. Albers said he was told he would start the game around 4:30 p.m. 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox needed seven relievers to get through the evening, with Albers, Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle all soaking up two innings and Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson combining for the final two frames before more heavy storms slammed the South Side. 

“(Sale’s) one of the best, absolutely,” Albers said. “But we're here for teammates. We're here to pick each other up in good times and bad, so we're just here to pick whoever up whenever."

On Thursday, general manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox are open to all options at the trade deadline outside of adding a short-term rental, meaning that a complete teardown and rebuild of the roster is on the table, even if it’s ultimately an unlikely scenario. But Frazier said the swirling rumors about plenty of players in the clubhouse aren’t fraying — or causing bizarre, national storylines — a White Sox team that only has one win since the All-Star break. 

“That’s happened to me the last two years,” Frazier said. “You just gotta be professional and play baseball. That’s it. Control what you can control, that’s playing the game.”

Frustrated John Lackey after Cubs lose in Milwaukee: ‘This is the big leagues’

Frustrated John Lackey after Cubs lose in Milwaukee: ‘This is the big leagues’

MILWAUKEE – Cubs fans took over Miller Park again on Saturday night, booing Ryan Braun when he stepped into the batter’s box, wearing Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant and Darwin Barney jerseys and chanting “Let’s go, Cubbies!” over and over again.

Big Boy Game? Eh, not so much for John Lackey, the two-time World Series champion the Cubs imported to anchor their playoff rotation and give the clubhouse some much-needed edge. Not when it’s late July and the Milwaukee Brewers are near the ground floor of a full-scale rebuild. 

But the Brewers haven’t sold off All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy yet, and Lackey still looked annoyed some three hours after a game-changing play in the first inning.

“You guys can decide” if that was a double-play ball, Lackey told the reporters at his locker after a 6-1 loss. “This is the big leagues.”

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Lackey threw up his arms in frustration after Braun hit a groundball toward second baseman Javier Baez, who flipped the ball to shortstop Addison Russell for the second out. Lucroy, the next batter, hammered Lackey’s 93-mph fastball off a second-deck advertisement in left-center field for a two-run homer. 

Baez (age 23) and Russell (age 22) have the potential to become Gold Glove winners, already transforming this team’s defensive profile. Lackey has a reputation for being ornery on the mound and with the media. This isn’t the first time Lackey (7-7, 3.79 ERA) has alluded to tightening things up, and it probably won’t be the last.   

Even though you could wonder about the offense, the rush from Dexter Fowler’s return to the top of the lineup wearing off quickly as rookie right-hander Zach Davies limited the Cubs to only one run across 6.1 innings, drawing comparisons to Kyle Hendricks from manager Joe Maddon.

[RELATED: Cubs ready to activate Joe Nathan, but is that enough for this bullpen?]

And Cubs fans started heading toward the exits in the eighth inning after Mike Montgomery – the high-upside lefty Theo Epstein’s front office acquired in advance of the Aug. 1 trade deadline – gave up a three-run homer to Kirk Nieuwenhuis that made it a beat-the-traffic game.

Nieuwenhuis (.195 average entering Saturday) had led off the fourth inning by homering off Lackey, who put together his first quality start since June 30 but still hasn’t earned a win since June 8. 

“They just purely beat us,” Maddon said. “Give them credit.”

The Cubs (58-38) say they aren’t scoreboard watching now, even though the St. Louis Cardinals (52-45) have closed to within 6.5 games in a division race that looks much tighter now. 

“No, you can’t,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “They’re playing well. They’re a good team. They know how to win. That’s what they have done for a long time. It’s not going to be a cakewalk. But that’s the way baseball is. We know that. Everyone knows that.”