White Sox not taking exception with Konerko's beaning


White Sox not taking exception with Konerko's beaning

The White Sox may have pulled out a 3-2 win over the Cubs Friday at Wrigley Field, but the loss suffered in the third inning may loom larger.

A 2-2 splitter from Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija ran inside on Paul Konerko, hitting him in the face and leaving the White Sox captain crumpled in a heap at home plate for a few scary moments. The 36-year-old first baseman got up and had to be escorted off the field with a towel pinned to his face, as he suffered a small cut above his left eye thanks to the 85 mile per hour pitch.

"You never want to see a guy get hurt, period. To have a ball around someones head is a scary situation," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Its something you dont want to see."

Manager Robin Ventura said he didn't have an update on Konerko's status, which was announced as just a laceration and swelling, although he was set to undergo further tests. Pierzynski saw Konerko before he left the park, though, and offered somewhat encouraging news.

"His eye was pretty swelled up, but he was cognizant and didnt say he was dizzy or anything," Pierzynski said. "Ive seen him get hit before and get up and go to first. It was a little scary when he didnt get right up. He seemed fine and well see how he feels tomorrow."

Konerko homered in his previous at-bat, so when Samardzija's offering sailed inside, naturally there were calls for blood from the White Sox fans in attendance at Wrigley Field. The Sox, however, weren't playing that game -- at least, so they say.

Philip Humber threw a fastball up and behind Bryan LaHair to lead off the bottom of the fourth, a pitch Humber and Ventura insist just got away from the White Sox starter. But home plate umpire Tim Timmons had other ideas and issued a warning to both benches.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn't label the pitch as retaliatory, but if it was, he thought the Sox could have done a better and safer job of sending the message.

Are you expecting retaliation of somebody throwing at somebody elses head? No," Sveum said. "Unfortunately, youre not really expecting any retaliation after somebody gets hit by a split-finger fastball. Were obviously not trying to hit Paul with any kind of pitch like that.

"But if theres retaliation, youd sure appreciate if the guy throws a little bit lower than he did. Unfortunately, you know, he didnt."

Sveum, essentially, just hoped the pitch got away from Humber and that it wasn't thrown in response to Konerko's beaning. Ventura tried to add some credence to that thought after the game.

"If we wanted to do anything, we would have hit him," Ventura said, referring to Samardzija, who led off the bottom of the third. "It's just baseball, you just keep going."

"That one just got away from me," added Humber. "It's just one of those things that happens during the game."

Pierzynski and Samardzija chatted before the Cubs pitcher came up to hit in the third, during which Samardzija apologized. From the sound of it, Pierzynski and his teammates knew the beaning wasn't intentional.

"He was asking if Paul was ok and that was it," Pierzynski said. "It was an offspeed pitch and we knew it wasnt intentional and Samardzija just said to tell Paul he was sorry, I didnt mean to do it. I was like yeah, we know. It was no big deal."

But in these crosstown contests, plenty of things can be blown out of proportion. Luckily for Gordon Beckham, most of the vitriol was directed at the umpiring crew when he, for all intents and purposes, tackled David DeJesus off the second-base bag, leading to a questionable out call that ultimately got Sveum ejected for the first time in his managerial career.

"I couldn't stop. I tried to get there and realized right when I lunged out that I was going to be late and ended up basically tackling him," Beckham said. "Didn't mean to do it, obviously."

For the first time in a little while, Friday's game felt like a classic crosstown matchup. The beaning of Konerko, the play at second, Samardzija's game-tying single, Beckham's go-ahead home run and, of course, Kerry Wood's final career pitch contributed to a lively atmosphere after questions about the series going stale were numerous this week.

"I think that was more than the typical game, it seemed like there was a lot of stuff going on," Beckham said. "Both teams played really hard, so you gotta be proud about that. We were fortunate enough to come out on top."

Fortunate is a good way to put it. The Sox are hoping Konerko, arguably the most irreplaceable player on the roster, won't miss much time. Without Konerko, the Sox may be fortunate to come away with wins.

Someone else who's hoping Konerko is back soon is his golfing buddy, who happens to be the manager on the other side of town.

"I hope Pauls all right, because hes a friend of mine," Sveum said. "I play with golf with him. Hopefully, its no big deal.

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

With the chance to book their first trip to the World Series since 1945, the Cubs benched the player with the biggest contract in franchise history and started a 22-year-old rookie who began this season at Triple-A Iowa.

Now that says something about Clayton Kershaw’s overall brilliance and Albert Almora Jr.’s precocious nature, but it also again spotlights Jason Heyward’s offensive spiral during the first year of that $184 million megadeal.  

Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field, well-rounded skills and clubhouse intangibles certainly helped the Cubs get to this point – up 3-2 on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series – but manager Joe Maddon wanted to go in a different direction for Saturday’s Game 6 at Wrigley Field.   

“Kershaw’s pretty good,” Maddon said. “You look at his numbers, he’s been absurd versus lefties, (so you) get another right-handed bat out there and the way Albert can play defense really makes it a little bit easier.

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“If we didn’t have the opportunity to do something differently tonight I wouldn’t have. But we do. Albert just presents well at the plate – and well on defense – to the point where I thought we needed to give it a go.”

Almora – the first player the Theo Epstein regime drafted here with the sixth overall pick in 2012 – could be the 2017 Opening Day starter in center field if Dexter Fowler cashes in elsewhere as a free agent.

After posting career lows in homers (seven) and OPS (.631) during the regular season, Heyward has gone 2-for-28 (.071 average) in the playoffs and will probably need to reboot during the winter.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of internal work done in the offseason with him, no question,” Maddon said. “You know he’s not satisfied with the year. (But) he was a big part of our 100-plus wins this year.

“It is something that he has to work on – and he will work on it – but by no means is anybody giving up on him. He just needs to probably clear his mind a little bit when this is all said and done and get back to the drawing board.”

Huskers stay unbeaten with comeback win over Purdue


Huskers stay unbeaten with comeback win over Purdue

At halftime Saturday, Nebraska, the No. 8 team in the country, was trailing Purdue, which just fired its coach.

Uh, what?

Order was soon restored, but the Huskers needed to bounce back from a halftime deficit to grab a 27-14 win over the lowly Boilermakers on Saturday in Lincoln.

Purdue threw an interception on the game's opening drive, and Nebraska turned that into a touchdown, something that looked very much like how everyone expected this one to go. But quarterback David Blough retaliated with the first of two first-half touchdown passes, while the Huskers mustered only a field goal on the next drive and then went silent the rest of the opening 30 minutes, punting three times and Tommy Armstrong throwing an interception right before the break. In there, Blough threw his second touchdown, an 88-yard monster to DeAngelo Yancey that gave the Boilers a lead.

That lead didn't last too long, though, as after going three and out on their first drive of the third quarter, the Huskers scored on each of their next three possessions: an Armstrong pass to De'Mornay Pierson-El, a 24-yard run by Alonzo Moore and a 51-yard field goal by Drew Brown. Meanwhile, the Nebraska defense clamped down, and Purdue had just one drive that lasted more than five plays in the second half, with that drive ending in a turnover on downs and Blough adding an interception.

All in all, the Huskers out-gained the Boilers, 409-333, and had the ball for about seven more minutes, avoiding a repeat of last year's matchup, when Purdue scored its lone Big Ten win over Nebraska.

Armstrong threw for 252 yards, one touchdown and one interception and added 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Terrell Newby had 82 yards rushing.

Blough threw for 309 yards, but the Boilers managed just 24 rushing yards.

The win sent Nebraska to a perfect 7-0 ahead of next weekend's huge Big Ten West Division showdown with Wisconsin.

The loss dropped Purdue to 3-4. The Boilers take on Penn State next weekend.