Chicago White Sox

Rees guides Notre Dame to victory, but Golson still the starter

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Rees guides Notre Dame to victory, but Golson still the starter

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame is off to its best start in a decade, and Everett Golson is still its starting quarterback.

In the second quarter of Notre Dame's 13-6 win over No. 18 Michigan, Golson was pulled in favor of Tommy Rees, just as he was two weeks ago late in the Irish's 20-17 win over Purdue. Rees' insertion into that game was explained in baseball terms by coach Brian Kelly, who said it was similar to a manager pulling his starter for a closer at the end of a contest.

But since closers generally aren't used in the fourth inning of baseball games, this instance was different. Golson had thrown two interceptions, and both were potentially costly. The first came backed up in Notre Dame territory, the second came in its own end zone.

"I don't really believe it's a matter of confidence as much as he just has to settle down," Kelly said. "He was not as comfortable as I could have liked after playing the Michigan State game, where he was in an incredible environment. He just needs to settle down a little bit, and he's going to be fine."

But Golson wasn't appearing to be fine on Saturday, and Notre Dame's coaches turned to Rees, who completed eight of 11 passes for 115 yards. More importantly, Rees didn't turn the ball over, allowing Notre Dame's stout defense to hold Michigan to just a pair of field goals.

"He's just a great asset to have if you need him," Kelly said. "To close out a game, we'll continue to go that route. We'd like to continue to develop Everett so we don't have to do that, but we're still going to try to win football games any way possible."

Rees has done plenty of 180s in the last few months, going from Notre Dame's turnover-plagued starter in 2011 to off the depth chart completely to sliding in as Golson's safety net. Rees threw his share of back-breaking interceptions last year, but in 2012 he's gained the trust of his coaching staff to hold on to the football.

Golson hasn't got there yet.

"Having dealt with poor performances and coming back, I'm going to give him my two cents," Rees said of what he'll say to Golson. "He'll listen and we'll continue to work hard and get ready."

The Golson-Rees relationship has grown ever since the pair roomed together during fall camp. Back then, Rees wasn't under consideration for the No. 1 quarterback job, as he was relegated to the sidelines thanks to a one-game suspension. Golson lauded Rees' attitude during August, and a month later it was Rees lauding Golson's attitude toward being temporarily benched.

"He was real supportive, and he talked to me about some things he was seeing," Rees said. "He couldn't have been more positive.

"I didn't know him all that well before spring ball and camp, but he's a great kid. He's got high character. I've really enjoyed getting to know him and being close, and I think our relationship is going to continue to grow and continue to get better."

Saturday's contest may be a microcosm for Notre Dame's season: a defense-oriented, grind-it-out victory in which the offense doesn't do anything special. The Irish forced five Denard Robinson turnovers, four of which were interceptions, the product of a swarming defense that put pressure of the star Michigan quarterback all night long. And with a seven-point lead and time winding down, Notre Dame bled the clock out.

Rees' 38-yard strike to Tyler Eifert sealed the deal, and stood in stark contrast to the myriad of woes that faced Notre Dame late in games during the 2011 season.

"That's what different about this team. Last year, we couldn't do that," said running back Theo Riddick, who also played an important role in the fourth quarter Saturday. "It was so many games that we lost just because we couldn't pull it out. This year, we have gained that mental capacity and determination overall to just do our job and settle down when we know what we have to do."

Notre Dame didn't execute with Golson under center in the fourth quarter. Instead, it was Rees, although Kelly insisted Golson is the team's starting quarterback going forward, even if there's the potential for him to be pulled in favor of Rees.

"Regardless of what you say, Everett's our guy," Riddick said. "Tommy did a great job today and we commend him for rallying us up and getting this W."

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

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USA TODAY

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

Just how valuable is Jose Abreu to the White Sox?

Well, whenever you join Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only baseball players ever to do something, you must be pretty darn valuable.

Abreu joined that elite company Saturday night, driving in both runs in the White Sox forgettable 8-2 loss to the visiting Kansas City Royals. Those RBIs brought his total to 100 on the season, making him the third major leaguer ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in his first four seasons.

“Every year after a season I meet with my family and we review my season and my stats. Last year when we had the meeting, I told them next year I’m gonna hit 30 homers, I’m gonna drive in at least 100 and I did it,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I was able to do it and that’s something that made me feel proud of myself and proud of my family, too, because they have been the ones who have been supported me through my whole career."

Abreu’s known as an extremely hard worker, a template to follow for many if not all of the youngsters coming up as the future stars of the White Sox rebuild. And so it makes this moment all the sweeter for him and those around him.

“It is especially important not just for me but for my family and my team,” Abreu said. “I think that this is a reward for the effort and all the work you put in for preparation for your season. It’s special when you get this kind of result and consistency in your stats. But the most important thing is it’s a reward for my family. And this organization, maybe we are not in the position we want to be right now as a team, but I know that better times are to come.”

“He works extremely hard,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think everybody was feeling it for him tonight. He’s been pushing. He fouled a ball off of his left shin the other day, and you see him kind of gimping around there. … He’s not one to do anything to deter from continuing to help the team win first and foremost, but along the way he’s able to collect some individual merit points, so to speak. And put himself in a very special class.”

The big question surrounding Abreu isn’t whether he’s worthy of being the leader the young White Sox of the future need to turn rebuilding mode into contending mode a few years down the line. The question is whether he’ll still be around by then. His final year of arbitration is 2019, meaning if the White Sox are looking at 2020 as the year of true contention, it will take a new contract to keep Abreu in town.

A few things factor into that, of course. No. 1, Abreu could continue this consistently terrific pace and be lured away by another team willing to spend more to acquire his services. No. 2, though, is his age. He’ll be 33 years old when the 2020 season starts, and while that’s not old by most standards, it means he’ll demand a big contract — and likely a lengthy one — as he reaches the latter part of his prime. It’s not to suggest Abreu will dramatically slow down in terms of production, but it will most definitely be under consideration as the White Sox look to keep their window of contention open as long as possible.

For what it’s worth, Abreu is constantly thanking the White Sox organization for the opportunity to do what he’s done over the past four seasons, and he’s said how much he wants to keep playing for this franchise.

What is of no question, however, is Abreu’s worth as a top-of-the-line offensive player. His totals with a week’s worth of games left in the 2017 season: 31 homers, 100 RBIs and a .305/.356/.551 slash line. All those percentages would be his highest since his outstanding rookie season in 2014.

And his worth as a leader, as a guy who could be a rallying point for all these young players, that’s pretty darn valuable, too.

“I haven’t (tonight) made light of what I believe he’s becoming as part of this organization and what he is as far as what he does for the team,” Renteria said. “You got a couple of young men in there that are growing up and becoming a part of what I believe are leaders within that clubhouse. And he’s one of them. He’s certainly deserves it. He’s earned it. He’s worked for it. He’s been in this organization since the inception of his major league career. He’s someone that we all are happy is a part of us.”

With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

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With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

Saturday got off to a good start for the Fire with New York City FC drawing at home, but the Fire were unable to gain ground in the race for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Not only did the Fire fail to gain ground, they lost ground. Philadelphia smashed the Fire 3-1 on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium, leaving the Fire four points behind NYCFC for second and vulnerable to the chasing pack. Atlanta can pass the Fire for third place with a win against Montreal on Sunday, and still would have a game in hand.

Things don’t get any easier for the Fire with a trip at San Jose coming up on Wednesday. The Earthquakes are in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference and have one home loss this season.

While Philadelphia has won a majority of its home matches this season, it was the easiest of the three remaining road games on the Fire’s schedule. In addition to the trip to San Jose, the Fire close the regular season at Houston, another team in the playoff hunt that has just one home loss this year.

So Saturday wasn’t such a good day for the Fire.

The game marked the first start for defender Joao Meira since Aug. 16, but midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho missed once again. This was the third straight game Schweinsteiger missed and two straight for Juninho.

Philadelphia took the lead on a Chris Pontius header in the 10th minute and added goals in the second half by Pontius and C.J. Sapong to secure a three-goal lead. Luis Solignac, who came off the bench to replace David Accam in the 60th minute, provided the Fire with a consolation goal, but there wasn’t another to make things interesting in the final minutes.

With four games left in the regular season, the Fire have a pair of tricky games coming up with that trip to San Jose before a big one at home against NYCFC.