Superb Sale, red-hot Pierzynski get White Sox a split in LA

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Superb Sale, red-hot Pierzynski get White Sox a split in LA

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Chris Sale pitched effectively into the sixth inning, giving Chicago's rotation a much-needed solid outing, and the White Sox capitalized on some shoddy defense by the Los Angeles Angels for a 6-1 victory Thursday.After a three-game stretch in which starters John Danks, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd gave up a combined 18 earned runs over 14 1-3 innings, Sale (4-2) restored order in his sixth major league start. The 23-year-old left-hander struck out seven and was working on a three-hit shutout in the sixth when he gave up a one-out homer to Albert Pujols and a double to Mark Trumbo and was replaced by Nate Jones. Trumbo had a career-high four hits.Sale joined fellow left-hander Steve Rosenberg (1989) as the only White Sox pitchers to give up three runs or less in each of their first six big league starts since divisional play began in 1969. A first-round draft pick in 2010, Sale was used exclusively in relief by the White Sox during his two previous seasons in the big leagues.C.J. Wilson (4-4) threw 88 pitches in 3 2-3 innings and tied a career high with six walks. He was charged with four runs - one earned - and four hits.A.J. Pierzynski delivered a two-out RBI single in the third to open the scoring, after flying out with the bases loaded to end the White Sox first. He was 3 for 5 with two RBI singles, and is 29 for 70 in his last 19 games at Angel Stadium.Chicago tacked on three more in the fourth with the help of two balls that should have been caught and weren't. Angels center fielder Mike Trout started in right for the first time this season due to the absence of nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter because of his son's arrest in Texas, and dropped a routine flyball by Dyan Viciedo with one out in the first.Viciedo ended up at second base on the error, and Wilson walked the next two batters before Adam Dunn chased the left-hander with a two-run single. David Carpenter came in Paul Konerko hit a popup to short right field, but the ball fell in front of second baseman Howie Kendrick after he called off Trout. It was scored as an RBI single.

In the fifth, Alexei Ramirez' chopper fell between Trout and Kendrick for a hit after a leadoff single by Pierzynski. Viciedo followed with a flyball to short center, where Peter Bourjos converged with Trout and Kendrick before making the catch - resulting in a derisive cheer from the crowd of 30,786. Carpenter then fielded Brent Morel's comebacker and started a double play.Viciedo led off the eighth with his sixth homer and third in a four-game span. Three batters later, three-time Gold Glove winner Vernon Wells scaled the fence in front of the left field bullpen and pulled back Gordon Beckham's bid for a two-run homer.NOTES: Dunn struck out his first two times up, increasing his major league-worst total to 59, and has at least one in 38 of his first 39 games. He led the majors in strikeouts three consecutive seasons while with Cincinnati (2004-06). ... Both teams begin their respective interleague schedules on Friday. The Angels are at San Diego, and the White Sox have a day game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Dunn's 41 career home runs against the Cubs are the second-highest total among active players behind Albert Pujols' 63.
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5 things we learned about the Cubs in June

5 things we learned about the Cubs in June

As the Cubs get ready to open up a four-game series against the New York Mets on Thursday night, don't expect a magician in Citi Field’s visiting clubhouse, despite a few obvious parallels to last season.

The Cubs were also in New York on the final day of June in 2015, coming off arguably their worst stretch of the season (when they lost five straight to the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals). This summer, the Cubs have responded to their biggest speed bump – losing six of seven games to the Cardinals and Miami Marlins last week – by sweeping the Cincinnati Reds out of Great American Ball Park in a wildly eventful three-game series.

It's a little bit of deja vu for the Mets, too, as they are searching for an offensive identity for the second straight summer, just as the Cubs come into town. The Cubs will enter July with at least 51 wins and a share of the best record in baseball, now just a few percentage points separating them and the red-hot Texas Rangers.

Let's take a look at five things we learned about the Cubs in June:

1. They're not unstoppable.

Joe Maddon claims he doesn't believe in June swoons, but the Cubs just fought through their worst month of the season. But with a win Thursday, they will be 17-11 in June – only one game off May's pace (18-10 record).

The run differential (plus-170) is still almost double the next-closest team (Cleveland Indians at plus-91). Of course, the run differential soars while playing the Reds. The Cubs have scored 87 runs in those 10 games, or 21.1 percent of their runs for the season (412).

Also worth noting, this losing stretch coincided with a slew of injuries that included leadoff guy Dexter Fowler, role player Tommy La Stella and Jorge Soler, who had just started heating up before landing on the disabled list.

2. Kris Bryant is a superstar.

Bryant was already enjoying a pretty solid sophomore campaign before the series in Cincinnati, but he exploded for the best offensive game in franchise history on Monday night, and then added three more hits, two walks, an RBI and a pair of runs scored in the final two games at Great American Ball Park.

For June, Bryant enters play Thursday with a 1.058 OPS and is now on pace for 44 homers, 122 RBI and 128 runs scored with a .931 season OPS. 

Oh yeah, and over the past calendar year, he's leading the National League in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) – and ranking fourth in Major League Baseball – ahead of even 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper.

There's no sophomore slump for Bryant, and at the age of 24, he continues to get better. With only 225 big-league games under his belt, he's already one of the best players in the league.

3. They absolutely need more bullpen help.

After a 2.72 bullpen ERA in April, Cubs relievers have posted ERAs of 3.80 and 3.93 in May and June, respectively.

Even elite closer Hector Rondon has struggled, blowing all three of his saves on the season over the last two weeks and allowing three of the five earned runs he's given up in 2016 in June.

Justin Grimm has a 5.79 ERA on the season and Adam Warren had allowed 13 runs over his last 17.2 innings before going down to the minor leagues to stretch out as a starter.

The Cubs are still searching for another left-handed arm in the bullpen. (Travis Wood is effective against both righties and lefties and serves as one of the long men in the bullpen.) The Cubs would also like another potentially dominant reliever to help take some of the load off Pedro Strop and Rondon at the back end of the bullpen.

4. This really is a great situation for young players.

The Cubs promoted two of their top prospects in June, and Willson Contreras and Albert Almora both hit the ground running.

Contreras has played three different positions and has posted a 1.067 OPS and 10 RBI in 12 games, while Almora is hitting .286 with a .776 OPS and hit his first big-league home run on Wednesday in Cincinnati.

The two rookies joined a list that includes Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber as young players who came up to the big-league level and flourished amid a contending squad.

Maddon and his coaching staff help create an environment where every player can feel comfortable.

5. The starting rotation couldn't keep that up forever. 

While Jon Lester continues to roll, Jake Arrieta has looked human in June with a 3.54 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. John Lackey carried a hot streak into the month before allowing 10 earned runs in 10.1 innings against the Cardinals and Marlins.

The Cubs still lead baseball by a wide margin with a 2.54 rotation ERA (almost a full run better than the Mets' 3.30 mark), but there's a different look about this pitching staff when Arrieta is struggling with his command and the bullpen is searching for consistency.

To be clear, those are still excellent numbers. Just not the video-game stats the pitching staff was putting up in the first two months of the season.

Get to know Bears rookie Jordan Howard

Get to know Bears rookie Jordan Howard

Meet Jordan Howard.

Selected by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft, the 6-foot, 230-pound running back out of Indiana rushed for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns on 196 carries for the Hoosiers in 2015.

Howard is a physical offensive weapon who is sure to give Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey a run for their money come training camp in August. But before the rookie suits up in Bourbonnais, get the chance to know what he's all about off of the field. 

Howard is featured in the final segment of "Meet the Rookies," a four-part series on ChicagoBears.com that chronicles the inspirational stories of the team's newest additions. The other rookies featured in the series are outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, wide receiver Daniel Braverman and tight end Ben Braunecker.
 
Catch Howard's segment of "Meet the Rookies" here.
 

Cubs' Dexter Fowler hit in leg with bat by power-swinging toddler

Cubs' Dexter Fowler hit in leg with bat by power-swinging toddler

On this edition of Chicago's Funniest Home Videos, Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler is all smiles after being hit in the leg by a power-swinging toddler.

Fowler, who is currently on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury, posted the video of an impromptu batting practice that broke out with his neighbors and a young left-handed prospect named Kellen.

Take a look for yourself and insert your own Bob Saget play-by-play voice.

Hilarious!

For those hardcore fans who are concerned with Fowler's health, it's all good, the 30-year-old was lightly struck in the left leg by a soft NERF bat and did not appear to be in any serious pain.

Although Kellen missed on his initial swing in the video, we're certain his swing will continue to develop over time. A few more training sessions with Fowler, who currently leads all National League outfielders in MLB All-Star votes, should only enhance his potential of becoming a real home run threat down the road. And who knows, maybe we'll see the young fellow suiting up for the Cubbies one day.