Vikings stunned by late comeback

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Vikings stunned by late comeback

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, September 19, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers retreated to the locker room after an awful first half, still confident they could win despite a 17-0 deficit. The comeback, after all, is what Freeman has perfected in his 26-game career. LeGarrette Blount's 4-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left sent the Buccaneers past the stunned Minnesota Vikings 24-20 on Sunday, completing another rally guided by Tampa Bay's calm young quarterback. "He doesn't blink," coach Raheem Morris said. Eight of Freeman's 14 career victories have come when the Bucs (1-1) went ahead in the fourth quarter or overtime. Given how overwhelmed they were before halftime, outgained 284 yards to 62 during the first two quarters, this might have been the most impressive. "Arguably our worst half of football since I've been a head coach," Morris said. After expressing frustration he wasn't more involved last week, Blount finished with 71 yards and two scores on 13 carries. "We just came together and collectively said, 'This is not how we play football. Let's go out and do what we do best,'" Freeman said. There was no screaming, throwing chairs or drastic readjustments to the game plan. The Bucs simply emerged with the kind of steadiness and confidence down the stretch that the Vikings (0-2), still led by a bunch of veterans, haven't shown yet. "We have to have that attitude that we can't be stopped," quarterback Donovan McNabb said. Freeman found Arrelious Benn for a 25-yard touchdown pass over Cedric Griffin with 6:39 remaining to cut Minnesota's lead to three points. A 19-yard leaping catch by Dezmond Briscoe and a 15-yard late hit penalty on Jared Allen set up the score. Freeman told Benn to watch for the ball because the Vikings were focusing on Blount. "He just ran by him, straight up," Freeman said. "There's just nothing special about that play." Morris said he thought his young team "blinked" last week in the 27-20 loss to Detroit, when the Lions led at the half and held on. This time, the Bucs didn't flinch. "If we thought we were going to lose in the second half, we would've stayed in the locker room," linebacker Quincy Black said. Tampa Bay even overcame a couple of costly mistakes. The Bucs recovered an onside kick after Blount's first touchdown, but Freeman threw off his back foot for Kellen Winslow into the end zone. Husain Abdullah returned the interception 32 yards. Then an illegal shift penalty wiped out what would've been a terrific touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone by Mike Williams, and they settled for a field goal by Connor Barth to pull within 17-10. "With the bitter taste in our mouths from last week, we had to be better," Blount said. Adrian Peterson had 25 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the first half for the Vikings (0-2), who blew a healthy lead for the second straight week and were booed off the field when their desperation drive was stopped around midfield as the clock ran out. "Wow. You're not supposed to give away a game like that," Peterson said. McNabb was much better than in his Minnesota debut, finishing 18 for 30 for 228 yards and effectively using the rollout often to find open receivers in the middle of the field. But Freeman was the better quarterback when it counted most, completing 22 of 31 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception. "I thought Josh did a wonderful job of keeping his composure, being a great leader and leading his team to a big victory," McNabb said. "When the chips were down, they were able to keep confidence in themselves. Josh did a great job leading the charge, but this is a game we should've won." The Vikings showed better balance than the week before. But in mixing up their play calls, they might have strayed too far in the second half from Peterson, who plowed and danced through Tampa Bay's front seven for much of the afternoon. The Bucs needed several ankle tackles to bring him down in the first half, and the Vikings had touchdown drives of 90 and 75 yards. The Vikings were flawless on defense before halftime, but their tackling was substandard again down the stretch and Freeman was able to find cracks in the coverage with better protection. The Bucs began the go-ahead drive at their 39-yard line and got to the Vikings 16 by the two-minute warning, but coach Leslie Frazier chose not to use any of Minnesota's three timeouts -- leaving only 24 seconds for the offense after Percy Harvin fumbled the kickoff and was tackled at the 10. "I really had confidence we were going to stop them," Frazier said. NOTES: The Vikings have started 0-2 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001-02. They started 0-4 in 2002. ... After failing to complete a pass to a tight end in the opener, McNabb connected three times with Visanthe Shiancoe and targeted TEs a total of nine times. ... The Buccaneers have won five straight games in this series, dating to 2001, when they were together in the old NFC Central division. ... Through the first half, Blount's season totals were 10 carries and 19 yards. He now has 18 rushes for 90 yards. ... Bucs LB Mason Foster had 10 tackles and a sack.

White Sox expect Chris Sale's return to be 'fairly normal'

White Sox expect Chris Sale's return to be 'fairly normal'

It doesn’t sound as if there’s much ambivalence among the White Sox about Chris Sale’s expected return on Thursday.

Manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday he expects things to be “fairly normal” as Sale is scheduled to pitch the finale of the Crosstown series after serving a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property. Adam Eaton said teammates should have no reservations about Sale’s coming back after his actions Saturday left them in a bit of a bind. And pitching coach Don Cooper said he’s the first to forgive and that everyone has situations they might later wish they’d handled differently.

“Open arms,” Eaton said. “He’s our teammate. He’s our guy. All of the things that are swelling around about his character, who he is as a player … he’s my brother and I enjoy every second with him on and off the field. Can’t be a better person. I’ll be excited to see him and I’m sure he’ll be in the same form he’s been the entire year — go out and perform and be Chris Sale.

“I’m sure he’ll be well-rested and a clear mind for him I’m sure is going to be a good thing. We’ll welcome him back.”

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The pitching staff could use some innings from Sale without question. When he didn’t pitch Saturday, the White Sox filled those innings with a committee of relief pitchers. Prior to Tuesday’s win, the bullpen had pitched 19 1/3 innings the previous four games.

But the White Sox have handled the drama extremely well. They’re 4-0 with one game left in Sale’s suspension and they look forward to having their ace back. Cooper said he hopes to move on, sentiments that were previously echoed by Ventura and executive vice president Kenny Williams.

“Welcome back, let’s go,” Cooper said. “Let’s go to work. Let’s move on. Listen man, who would want to be held responsible for the (stuff) they did at 22, 24, 26, 27, you know what I mean? He’s way too good of a kid. I don’t think anybody would. Everybody screws up from time to time or has some missteps.”

One of the actions that has caught Sale flack is his criticism of Ventura’s handling of the situation. Neither Ventura or Williams responded to Sale’s comment on Tuesday that “Robin is the one who has to fight for us.” Ventura said he wouldn’t have done things any differently and Williams applauded how Hahn and Ventura handled a difficult, “unique” situation.

Ventura said he doesn’t expect much out of the ordinary.

“I think it’s going to be fine,” Ventura said. “Players always have their teammates’ backs, and that’s no different with our clubhouse, and it’s going to be fairly normal, as far as he’s going to be prepared to pitch and our guys are going to prepare to play and it’s going to go from there.”

White Sox C Dioner Navarro has a good story behind the best game of his career

White Sox C Dioner Navarro has a good story behind the best game of his career

There’s a good story behind the best game of Dioner Navarro’s 13-year career. 

On May 29, 2013, Navarro — then playing for the Cubs — hit three home runs and drive in six in a 9-3 Crosstown victory at Wrigley Field. Both were career highs. 

And Navarro did it without a whole lot of preparation. 

“I got to the ballpark and I didn’t see the lineup, I thought I wasn’t playing,” Navarro recalled. “So we go out for stretch and the first group is hitting and they called my name and I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And they said ‘You’re playing.’ It was already too late to get into the group so I went inside.”

Navarro only took two rounds of batting practice in his haste to get ready. But he also took those swings thinking right-hander Jake Peavy was going to start for the White Sox, so he hit left-handed during batting practice. 

The White Sox, though, were starting left-hander John Danks, so the switch-hitting Navarro wound up batting right-handed when the game started. 

The pregame mixup hardly hurt Navarro, as it turned out. He homered off Danks in his first and second at-bats, and then launched a three-run homer in the seventh off White Sox right-hander Brian Omogrosso. 

“It was one of the best experiences of my career,” Navarro said.

Navarro is one of a handful of people to play for both the Cubs and White Sox since the two teams began their annual interleague series in 1997 (others include pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Bob Howry, Edwin Jackson and Neal Cotts, among others). His perspective from playing off the Addison and Sox/35th Red Line stops is one he said he’ll cherish after his career is over. 

“I’m really fortunate to be part of it from both sides,” Navarro said. “A little bit bittersweet because the Cubbies had lost 100 games the year before and we were onto our way to lose 100 more games that year (2013). But still the rivalry against this team was something that people always talked about. Being part of it with the Cubs and now being part with the White Sox is a tremendous experience, something I look forward to share with my kids when I get older.”

White Sox happy to retain, and drink beer from, Crosstown Cup

White Sox happy to retain, and drink beer from, Crosstown Cup

The White Sox had a little fun with the Crosstown Cup trophy after securing it for the third consecutive year.

Well, at least one player did for sure: Left fielder Melky Cabrera, according to first baseman Jose Abreu, drank some beer out of the trophy after the White Sox beat the Cubs, 3-0, Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. 

The White Sox retained the Crosstown Cup by virtue of winning the season series in 2014 (three wins, one loss), splitting in 2015 (three wins, three losses), and assuring themselves of at least a split in 2016 (two wins with two games to play). 

This isn’t like a college football rivalry trophy that gets passed between campuses every year. And baseball players generally aren't keen to over-emphasize four or six games over the course of a 162-game season. 

But the Crosstown Cup is still a trophy, and it’s one White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton appreciated receiving again. 

“Any time you win an award — I don’t care if my grandma gives me an award during checkers, I’m excited,” Eaton said. “I don’t really care. But if you play for anything there’s some extra emphasis there. I definitely do think guys take pride in it for sure. But more pride in it that our side of town is happy with us in that sense that we’ve taken the cup back. 

“You don’t want to put too much emphasis on any particular series. But at the same time, if it makes our fans happy that we got the cup back then that’s what we do.”