Stacey King sings 7th Inning Stretch

740082.png

Stacey King sings 7th Inning Stretch

Bulls announcer Stacey King brought the 'hot sauce' to Wrigley Field on Friday.

The former Chicago superstar spent his afternoon on the north side, cheering on the Cubs and singing during the 7th Inning Stretch. He continued to entertain fans by throwing his hat out into the crowd, but that plan backfired as soon as a quick burst of wind blew it up and onto the roof. Oops.

Here's a photo of the runaway hat:

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

NEW YORK – Let’s start with this boilerplate Theo Epstein quote and file it away for the next time Kyle Schwarber’s name appears on MLBTradeRumors.com or a fantasy-baseball proposal for the New York Yankees.

“I’m looking forward to Kyle Schwarber — who got hurt in a Cubs uniform and is working his ass off in a Cubs uniform — coming back and hitting a very big home run in a Cubs uniform sometime very early next season,” Epstein said.

The president of baseball operations clearly has a special bond with Schwarber, selecting the Indiana University catcher/outfielder with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, back when the industry consensus made it sound like a reach. Schwarber helped ignite those champagne celebrations last year by setting a franchise record with five postseason home runs. Epstein felt sick watching Schwarber wreck his knee in an outfield collision during the first week of this season, allowing him to rehab in Chicago and hang out in the draft room, essentially viewing him as an untouchable player because of his left-handed power and leadership qualities.

The Mets are the defending National League champs — with all due respect, as Joe Maddon might say, quoting Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby character in “Talladega Nights.” But the Yankees might be the New York team the Cubs should focus on now.

While the Mets returned home to Citi Field on Thursday as a third-place team — six games behind Washington after getting swept at Nationals Park — the Yankees will be in no man’s land on July 1 at 39-39.

The Bronx Bombers now have another month to decide whether or not they will become trade-deadline sellers for the first time in a generation, how breaking up the Andrew Miller/Aroldis Chapman/Dellin Betances bullpen could set them up for the future. And what surrender would mean for a YES Network/Yankee Stadium/27 World Series titles business plan. 

Epstein viewed Thursday’s action – the San Diego Padres flipped closer Fernando Rodney to the Miami Marlins while the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired right-hander Bud Norris from the Atlanta Braves – as more of a reaction to the July 2 international signing period (and Clayton Kershaw’s back injury) than a sign that the market would start to move quickly.

“We’re talking to clubs, just trying to see who might be available and where we might have matches,” Epstein said. “But there’s nothing real imminent. There’s usually a flurry of activity around (this time). Despite the trades today, I think it might end up being more of a slow-developing market. We’ll see. We’re not close to anything.”

Remember, the Cubs rebuilt their bullpen on the fly last summer with Clayton Richard (acquired for a dollar from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate), Trevor Cahill (released by the Braves and Dodgers before signing a minor-league deal) and Rodney (a two-time All-Star the Seattle Mariners had designated for assignment).

While Schwarber-for-Miller buzz is great on talk radio and Twitter, for now the Cubs will go with the grab-bag approach, looking at internal options like Carl Edwards Jr. and Joel Peralta, hoping for good news on their Tommy John cases (Joe Nathan, Jack Leathersich) and waiting for Justin Grimm to get locked in again.

“It’s pretty rare that you rebuild a bullpen midseason through big-ticket items,” Epstein said. “Last year was actually more typical. They don’t all work out — that’s not what I’m saying. But if you have a plan and a process — and you’re willing to kind of cycle through guys (and) ride things out — you often get rewarded in the end.

“For a postseason bullpen, if you’re thinking that far in advance, you’re not talking about eight guys. You’re talking about three or four guys that you can lean on heavily. It’s being open-minded, being willing to let guys ride through their downturns and make adjustments, so that they can find it.” 

Preview: White Sox take on the Astros Friday on CSN

Preview: White Sox take on the Astros Friday on CSN

The White Sox take on the Houston Astros on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Friday’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Mike Fiers

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

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

White Sox outlast Twins to move back above .500 mark

White Sox outlast Twins to move back above .500 mark

The White Sox have had to lean heavily on their bench in June and J.B. Shuck delivered one of the unit’s bigger hits to date.

The backup outfielder’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning on Thursday afternoon capped a three-hit day and a stellar week for Shuck. It also lifted the White Sox to a 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins in front of 26,158 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Despite blowing two leads, the White Sox, winners in seven of their last 10, managed to hang on for their third straight series victory. David Robertson converted his 21st save in 23 tries for the White Sox, who moved back above .500 for the first time since June 10.

“He's been playing great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think getting multiple at-bats consistently has really helped his swing. He was always a good pinch-hitter, but when you put him in there he would sputter a little bit.

“He's been swinging it great.”

Down three key relief pitchers, the White Sox also are without Austin Jackson for at least several more weeks. Melky Cabrera is set to miss one or two more games with a sore wrist. They lost Matt Davidson, who was promoted on Thursday, to a fractured right foot in his 2016 debut. And Avisail Garcia has been inconsistent at the plate, which means there are plenty of at-bats to go around.

Following a slow start to the season, Shuck has started to warm up and take advantage.

In the previous series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Shuck homered twice — his first and second homers since April 2014.

He added a third big hit in the eighth inning off left-hander Fernando Abad when he dumped a single into left to score Garcia, who drew the first of two, two-out walks to start the rally. Shuck also doubled during a fourth-inning rally and singled in the sixth. It was his most hits in a game since April 13, 2014.

“Growing up as a kid, you always play bottom of the ninth scenario, so it’s fun to get an opportunity to do it and come through,” Shuck said. “It’s a big win for the team, and to help out is fun.

“I knew we were going to have a chance there once it got over the shortstop’s head, and to see them score and give us the go-ahead run was a great thing.”

Carlos Rodon was off to a great start before the Minnesota lineup got going.

Ahead 2-0 in the fourth, Rodon allowed back-to-back homers to Robbie Grossman and Brian Dozier with two outs. Before that, Rodon retired the first 11 batters he faced, including five strikeouts.

The White Sox regained a three-run advantage in the fourth inning and Rodon responded with a perfect fifth. But he struggled in the sixth and allowed Minnesota to creep back within a run. Rodon gave up a double and a RBI single before he walked Grossman with one out and Dozier followed with an RBI single. Matt Albers stranded a pair to keep the White Sox ahead 5-4.

Rodon exited after allowing four earned runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.

The Twins tied it with a run off Zach Duke and Nate Jones in the seventh.

The White Sox offense figured out how to attack Tommy Milone and forced him out of the game in the fourth inning.

Todd Frazier got things rolling with a solo homer in the second inning — the 14th consecutive solo homer hit by the White Sox — to make it a 1-0 game. The team is one shy of tying a franchise record with 15 straight solo home runs, which was set from Sept. 2-25, 1965.

Jose Abreu singled in a run in the third to put the White Sox up two.

The White Sox regained the lead for Rodon in the fourth after Minnesota tied it in the top half. Garcia singled in Brett Lawrie, who started the inning with a double.

Garcia stole second base and scored on an RBI single by Davidson, his first big league RBI since Sept. 27, 2013 with Arizona. But en route to scoring in the inning, Davidson fractured his foot running the bases.

After Shuck doubled and Tim Anderson walked to load the bases — his first career free pass in 86 plate appearances — Milone hit Adam Eaton to force in a run and make it 5-2. But Neil Ramirez took over and got Abreu to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

With Anderson, who reached base four times, on second and one out in the seventh, Abreu struck out and Frazier flew out.

That set the stage for Shuck, who is 8-for-18 with four RBIs in his last five games.

“He's coming up getting some big hits, a ball in the gap,” Ventura said. “This is good for him and good for us at the same time.”