Sox crushed by Royals in series finale

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Sox crushed by Royals in series finale

CHICAGO (AP) Jeff Francoeur hit his first homer of the season, pinch-hitter Johnny Giavotella had a big, two-run double and the Kansas City Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 9-1 on Sunday.Alcides Escobar went 3 for 3 with two walks for Kansas City, which broke it open with six runs in the ninth inning. Francoeur also had an RBI single and made a nice play in right field.Kansas City won for the fourth time in five games despite losing Danny Duffy to an apparent injury in the first inning. The left-hander faced three batters and recorded two outs before he trudged off the mound following a short discussion with manager Ned Yost and a trainer.Luis Mendoza came in and pitched 5 2-3 innings, keeping the Royals in the game while they struggled to score against Philip Humber. Mendoza (2-2) allowed one run and seven hits, struck out four and walked two.Humber broke out of his post-perfect game slump, pitching four-hit ball into the seventh inning, but the White Sox still lost for the fourth time in their last five home games.Humber issued a one-out walk to Escobar in the seventh, but got Humberto Quintero to foul out before he was replaced by left-hander Matt Thornton (1-3) with the White Sox clinging to a 1-0 lead.Jarrod Dyson then walked, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Giavotella followed with a double down the right-field line, giving the Royals the lead with his first hit of the season. The infielder is 1 for 10 in four games since he was recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Wednesday.Humber struck out seven and walked three in his best start since his gem at Seattle on April 21. The 29-year-old right-hander was 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in his previous three outings.Francoeur hit a drive to left off Nate Jones in the eighth for his first homer since Sept. 23 at U.S. Cellular Field. He also made a nice sliding catch on Brent Morel's drive to the warning track in the fourth before nearly doubling off Tyler Flowers with a strong throw to first.The White Sox put runners on first and second with one out in the eighth but Kosuke Fukudome struck out and fellow pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski bounced out to end the inning.NOTES: White Sox LHP Chris Sale said he felt fine one day after his first start since May 1. ''Everything went well today,'' he said. Sale was moved to the bullpen because the team was concerned about his sore elbow, but he talked his way back into the rotation after an MRI came back clean. ... Royals 3B Mike Moustakas (sore left hamstring) rested for the second straight day. ''Just one more day,'' Yost said. ''Playing cautious with it.'' ... White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he wants to keep Adam Dunn in the lineup when they face the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field next weekend, and he's leaning toward playing the burly slugger in left. ''Plus he'll enjoy the fans out in the outfield,'' Ventura said with a grin. ''He likes to talk. He likes fan interaction.'' ... The Royals open a two-game series at AL West-leading Texas on Monday. LHP Bruce Chen (1-4) is scheduled to face Rangers RHP Scott Feldman (0-0). ... Chicago hosts Detroit in the opener of a two-game series on Monday. White Sox LHP John Danks (2-4) is slated to face LHP Drew Smyly (1-0). ... White Sox reliever Jesse Crain (oblique) threw a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance with Triple-A Charlotte.

What White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson is doing to combat second-year struggles

What White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson is doing to combat second-year struggles

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tim Anderson got what sounds like a much-needed day off on Saturday night.

Normally soft-spoken, the White Sox shortstop was even quieter than normal during a pregame media session at Kauffman Stadium. Anderson discussed at length his struggles on and off the field after what has been another few trying days. A day after his mentor Todd Frazier was traded, Anderson bunted into a double play on Wednesday after he failed to quickly get out of the box. He also was surprisingly thrown out on an infield chopper in Friday’s loss, though his manager said that was more about Anderson’s route after he made contact. Either way, Anderson is learning how to handle the grind in a difficult season.

“It’s going to be — it was an up and down season,” Anderson said. “I’ve learned a lot. Just from on a maturity level. And just on the field. I still have to keep working and keep having fun with it.

“It’s easy to lose focus when you are not doing good. It’s something I have to keep grinding through. The game won’t stop for nobody. I have to keep playing.”

Anderson had a trying night during Friday’s four-plus hour affair played in 100-degree plus temperatures. Not only did he fail to beat out the infield chopper in the third, he also had a base running mistake to end the sixth inning. Anderson reached on a one-out single with a line drive to left. But he aggressively tried to advance from first to third on Kansas City pitcher Scott Alexander’s errant pickoff throw not noticing the ball rebounded most of the way back toward first base. Anderson got caught in the middle as Eric Hosmer quickly retrieved the ball and started an inning-ending rundown.

That play came three innings after Anderson hit an infield chopper that Alcides Escobar fielded near third base and fired to first just in time. Manager Rick Renteria said Friday he was a little surprised Anderson wasn’t safe but attributed it to his route out of the batter’s box. Renteria said it’s an adjustment the team is working on with Anderson.

“He's got a tendency to run out of the box, almost like he's going to start rounding a banana, and he does that a lot,” Renteria said. "We're trying to clean him up from going out and creating a straight line. I don't if it's because he ends up finishing his swing, he starts to fall out toward that side. But once he got down there he was busting his butt. I thought he got down there once he got himself back on track and line to try to give himself a chance and beat it out. Was I surprised? Yeah, it was close.”

Anderson said there’s been some discussion about his route from the box to first base but not a ton. He also said it’s an involuntary action.

“I don’t feel it,” Anderson said. “It’s something I’m still working on. I don’t feel it coming out of the box.

“When I get down the line a little bit, I kind of feel it. But I don’t feel it directly when I come out of the box. 

“Sometimes my finish could throw me back a little bit and kind of take me to that route.

“It’s just naturally.”

It’s only natural that Anderson is down about Tuesday night’s deal that sent Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees. Frazier has taken Anderson under his wing since the second-year player arrived in the majors last June.

Anderson said Frazier helped him improve his positioning and was a constant presence with their ongoing conversation.

“It’s tough to see people like him go,” Anderson said. “He’s kind of the voice of the locker room. So, it’s kind of, I’m on my own really. Just trying to figure it out myself.” 

Anderson’s had plenty to deal with already this season. The sudden death of his friend, Branden Moss, in May is well documented. He’s also struggled at the plate and in the field as the league adjusts to him. Renteria doesn’t think any one thing is responsible for the toughest year of Anderson’s life as a professional.

“There’s probably multiple factors,” Renteria said. “There are a lot of things going on in his life this year. I think the opponents are adjusting to him a little bit more. I think he’s having to deal with the newness of trying to also make his own adjustments. I’m sure he’s frustrated at times and still trying to kind of put himself in a position where he feels good about how he’s handling his at-bats. The truth is, though that’s the nature of the game of the big leagues.

"We’ve talked about process obviously, but we’ve also talked about, you’re always going to be making adjustments, but you’re also looking at some form of a finality in terms of trying to figure out exactly where you’re at and who you are as a hitter and as a player. And even then, you’re still always evolving, because the game’s always changing; the opponent’s always changing. You’re always having to make adjustments along the way and what will be I believe a very good and long career for Timmy.”

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense.