Alfonso Soriano wont go down without a fight

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Alfonso Soriano wont go down without a fight

In the minds of Cubs fans, Kerry Wood will be forever young.

When they look at Alfonso Soriano, they picture the meter running, some version of the national debt clock near Times Square, 136 million through 2014.

Soriano was supposed to breathe new life into the New York Yankees dynasty. Thats how hes remembered around Manhattan, an exciting young talent at the turn of the century, who was shipped out of town in the Alex Rodriguez deal.

Soriano hasnt been that player for some time now. Since signing that megadeal and it wasnt only former general manager Jim Hendry with fingerprints on that contract Sorianos legs have betrayed him.

So it was interesting to watch Wood whos less than a month from his 35th birthday play his final game last week. While taking a curtain call, the new Mr. Cub soaked it all in and pointed at the 36-year-old in left field, before disappearing into the dugout.

Afterward, inside Wrigley Fields interview roomdungeon, Wood sat down for the first of his two farewell press conferences. The final question last Friday asked Wood to sum up his career, and he took it in another direction that may surprise Cubs fans.

I learned from a lot of the injuries, Wood said. I learned what it takes to compete and go out and play in this game every day. Ive got respect for guys who have played this game a long time, because its not easy to do.

Tremendous respect for what Sorianos doing out there in left field for us this year. The way hes worked and what hes put in, knowing what his bodys gone through, (its) just more respect for guys that played the game a long time.

Since 2007, Soriano has gone on the disabled list with injuries to his right quad, right calf, left knee and left quad. The knees bothering him again, but hes not looking for a way out.

I just want to play every day, Soriano said. I dont want to be on the bench. I have to learn to play with pain. Im not young anymore. Thats what I have to do just play with the pain and see what happens.

I try not to think about it. (I) go outside and enjoy myself and have fun and try to make the team better and try to win.

I dont even pay attention or worry about it. I just try to concentrate and do my job.

Theres the outside perception of Soriano and the reality inside the clubhouse. First-base coach Dave McKay who had spent 26 seasons on Tony La Russas staff noticed it when Soriano came to him asking to work on specific aspects of his defensive game.

And what about that showdown with the manager that fans wanted to see whenever Soriano posed at home plate? Dale Sveum wrote it off as a weird habit, and wrote the teams only established power hitter into the middle of the lineup.

Like Ive said from the start, hes been the biggest surprise (for) me coming from the other side of the fence, Sveum said. (Its) his work ethic and the way he goes about his business and how much he wants to play every single day with the pain he has to go through with his knees.

Hes a very refreshing guy to be around all the time. Hes (always) got a smile.

Soriano had zero home runs in his first 30 games waiting 119 at-bats to get hot and then homered four times in his next eight games.

The pain, well, Sveum says, Hes good enough to go out there.

Hes in one of those streaks where hes feeling pretty good at home plate and seeing the ball good and then putting some good swings on (it).

Maybe the numbers will be there by the end. Soriano, Albert Pujols and David Ortiz are the only three players to reach 20 homers for 10 consecutive seasons through 2011.

Soriano knows he has to adapt. He entered Tuesday hitting .333 with runners in scoring position, and ranked second on the team with 22 RBI. His defense has become much less of an adventure in left field, and thats a direct result of the time hes put in out there.

The finish line to Sorianos contract is almost in sight. At some point, Anthony Rizzo figures to push Bryan LaHair from first base to the outfield, where Brett Jackson is trying to force the issue and get the call-up from Triple-A Iowa.

As Wood knows, it happens to every player you just dont know when or how itll go down. You usually dont get to script the ending.

But for now, Soriano will grab his bat and walk to the cage with Starlin Castro, fighting time to enjoy another day in the big leagues.

Those young guys, they give me a lot of energy and motivation, because I feel young like that, Soriano said.

I like the (attitude) of the team. We never give up. We have a bad record, but I like what I see so far. And I think sooner or later were going to be better.

White Sox announce Chris Sale will start Sunday's finale

White Sox announce Chris Sale will start Sunday's finale

Chris Sale will establish a new career high when he takes the mound in Sunday’s regular season finale.

The White Sox ace is set to start one more time this season and in doing so will make a career-best 32nd turn. One of the top contenders for the American League Cy Young Award, Sale has already established career highs for complete games (six) and innings pitched (221 2/3). White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Thursday that Sale, who pitched on Tuesday, would start against the Minnesota Twins.

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“At first you can look at it like he doesn’t necessarily have to throw,” Ventura said. “But I think he wants to throw and that’s a good sign. He’s motivated to throw and just to go do it. We’re not doing it for numbers or anything, but he wants to throw. I think that’s part of his commitment to being a teammate and all that stuff. So we’ll have a pretty good lineup out there.”

As for what to expect from Sale, Ventura said: “It won’t be four or five (innings), but it won’t be nine. Well, if he has a no-hitter, it’s a possibility. If there’s something special there and his pitch count and everything and he’s feeling good, he would go. But for the most part he’s not going to go nine.”

Red Stars enter NWSL semifinals with chip on shoulder

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Dan Bartel, ISI Photos

Red Stars enter NWSL semifinals with chip on shoulder

Just over a year ago the Chicago Red Stars hosted a National Women’s Soccer League semifinal and had high expectations for a playoff run.

However, it all came crashing down quickly in a 3-0 loss at Toyota Park in which visiting FC Kansas City scored all three goals in the first 25 minutes. Kansas City went on to win the league title and the Red Stars were left to wonder what the heck just happened.

Now, the Red Stars have a chance at redemption in a return to the NWSL semifinals. The Red Stars will visit the Washington Spirit on Friday.

“I’m personally really excited to play on Friday, to be back in the semifinals the year after kind of a hard loss last season against Kansas City,” Red Stars forward Christen Press said. “I think that the girls that were here last year we kind of have a chip on our shoulder about that match and how it went down. I think that’s helped motivate us to get back.”

After finishing third in the NWSL regular season the Red Stars have to go on the road in this year’s semifinal. The Spirit and Red Stars are the only two teams to return from the 2015 playoffs and both lost 3-0 in the semifinals so the redemption factor goes both ways.

The Red Stars are well aware of what happened last year, but coach Rory Dames doesn’t expect a repeat.

“I expect the game to not be over 20 minutes in,” Dames said. “Different team, different year.”

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This year’s Red Stars racked up plenty of individual accolades in getting back to the playoffs. Press is one of five finalists for league MVP, Julie Johnston and Arin Gilliland are Defender of the Year finalists and Alyssa Naeher is up for Goalkeeper of the Year.

A win would push the Red Stars into the club’s first NWSL final in the NWSL’s fourth season. Last year’s semifinal was the first playoff appearance for the Red Stars.

The Red Stars just beat the Spirit on Saturday 3-1 in the regular season finale at Toyota Park. Back on July 9 the Spirit won 2-0 at the Maryland SoccerPlex, host site of Friday’s semifinal.

“We played them at (their) home earlier in the season and it didn’t end the way we wanted,” said midfielder Courtney Raetzman, who graduated from Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. “But I think we showed that we can play with them and as our game just showed, we beat them and we probably didn’t even perform to our absolute best so I’m really excited going into this next game.”

Dames said playing back-to-back games against a playoff opponent “isn’t ideal” in terms of coaching but it’s also a confidence boost to have a win heading into the playoffs.

“I think it’s a good and a bad thing because we both have extra video on each other, on playing each other specifically,” midfielder Taylor Comeau said. “We have a couple things that we definitely want to clean up and we’ll rewatch the film and clean up just what we think we need to and hopefully have a better performance in the next game.”

The winner of Friday’s semifinal will play in the NWSL final in Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium on Oct. 9.