A finish that baseball has never seen before

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A finish that baseball has never seen before

From Comcast SportsNet
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Two innings after Nelson Cruz crumbled to the ground writhing in pain, the slugger provided a grand finish for the Texas Rangers. Cruz hit the first game-ending grand slam in postseason history, sending the defending AL champions to Detroit with a 2-0 lead in the American League championship series after a 7-3 victory over the Tigers in 11 innings Monday. "That's the guy you want to see right now," Elvis Andrus said. "He's getting hot again. That's what we're looking for." The high drive to left off Ryan Perry was the second homer of the game for Cruz, and his third in the ALCS after struggling so badly in the first round of the playoffs (1 for 15 with only a single against Tampa Bay). He now has the Rangers on Cruz control in the ALCS. They are two wins away from their second consecutive World Series after having never won a postseason series before last year. "When Nellie gets going like he's going, he's tough to beat," Ian Kinsler said. "Hopefully he can continue that and carry us." Game 3 is Tuesday night in Detroit. Colby Lewis, 4-0 in five career postseason starts, pitches for Texas against Doug Fister. Lewis was on a flight ahead of the team, and was probably already in Detroit before the 4-hour, 25-minute marathon ended in Texas. Fister flew home with the rest of the Tigers. Cruz doubled early and chased Tigers starter Max Scherzer with a tying home run in the seventh. Then he was hit near the right wrist by a Jose Valverde fastball in the ninth, when the Rangers blew a bases-loaded chance -- same as Detroit had done in the top half of the inning. "When I got hit, I thought it was worse," Cruz said. "In that situation, you want to stay in the game. Thank God I got a chance to win the game." Manager Ron Washington said Cruz "was a little scared" because the area where he got hit was already black and blue. "But after the doctor checked him and told him he was fine, then Nelson got up," Washington said. "We certainly needed everything he gave us tonight. He tied the ballgame, and he won it." Michael Young, the Rangers' career hits leader, snapped an 0-for-15 postseason slide when he led off the 11th with a single off Perry, the fifth Detroit pitcher. Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli followed with singles, the latter on a liner to right-center that looked as though it would be caught. Instead, right fielder Andy Dirks let the ball glance off his glove as center fielder Austin Jackson ran behind him. "It was one of those balls that's a little between us, should have been caught," Dirks said, adding there was no miscommunication between him and Jackson. The ball dropped for a single that loaded the bases. That brought up Cruz, who also homered in Texas' 3-2 win in the series opener. Just before his game-ending blast, Cruz fouled a ball deep into the stands near the pole. He stood briefly and watched when he connected again before a trip around the bases that ended with him getting mobbed at the plate by the Rangers. "It was amazing," said Cruz, who is 4 for 7 with three homers, a double and six RBIs in the ALCS. "First two pitches, I was too aggressive. I hit the ball -- foul ball, foul ball. So after that, I told myself just slow down and try to hit a fly ball to the outfield." STATS LLC said Cruz's slam was the first to end a postseason game -- with a postscript. Robin Ventura sent a bases-loaded drive over the fence to finish a New York Mets victory against Atlanta in the 1999 NLCS, but was swarmed by teammates between first and second. Ventura never made it around the bases and was officially credited with an RBI single. His 15th-inning drive for a 4-3 Mets win in Game 5 came to be known as "the grand slam-single." Instead of the scheduled travel day Monday, the Tigers and Rangers played Game 2, which was postponed Sunday because of a forecast that called for more rain that never came a night after the twice-delayed series opener. Detroit left 13 runners on base, including five in the first two innings, and is now in an 0-2 hole that only three teams have overcome since the league championship series became a best-of-seven in 1985. "It's just been two close games and could have gone either way," said cleanup hitter Victor Martinez, who is 0 for 7 in the series. "Unfortunately, we end up on the losing side, but ... we're going home. We've been doing it the whole season: turn the page, come back tomorrow and keep on going." Mike Adams, the sixth Texas pitcher, got the win with a pair of strikeouts in a scoreless 11th inning. Scherzer bounced off the mound pumping his fist and glove after getting out of a two-on, none-out jam in the sixth with a 3-2 lead. There was a conversation with Leyland after he got to the dugout, and the right-hander went back out for the seventh. That was one batter too long because Cruz led off the inning by pulling a ball down the left-field line that ricocheted high off the pole. "If he got Cruz out, I was going to let him keep going," Leyland said. "I thought he was throwing great. He was throwing tremendous. ... He tried to elevate one in the strike zone, and he didn't get it there."

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

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AP

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White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”