- Created on 04 April 2013
Given all their trouble against the Royals, it's fair to say the White Sox are enjoying this.
Adam Dunn homered and Chicago went deep four times to back a solid outing by Jake Peavy in a 5-2 victory over Kansas City on Wednesday.
Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez also connected, and the White Sox made it two straight wins to start the season after dropping 12 of 18 to the Royals a year ago.
"I love their team," Peavy said. "I love their makeup. I love their manager. They have a great team. They have a great bunch of guys, and they play hard. That team is scrappy. They don't strike out much. ... It's nice to come out (against) a team that's had our number as a team and play well."
The Royals, full of optimism after posting the majors' best record in spring training, will try to avoid a season-opening sweep Thursday.
"They're a good team," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "I don't think they're going to lay down."
The White Sox have no intention of that, either. They insist they can make another run in the AL Central after finishing second to Detroit, even though they made no splashy additions while other teams in the division loaded up.
They're off to a good start.
Peavy (1-0) allowed one earned run and four hits in six innings, striking out six and walking none. Not bad, considering he said he didn't have his best stuff.
Even so, he managed to keep the Royals off balance on a chilly day when the game-time temperature was 43. More important, he looked about as good as he did last year, when he rebounded from all those injuries and made the All-Star team.
"I don't wake up every day worrying about my body holding together," Peavy said. "But at the same time, I do a lot of preventive work to try to hold everything intact the way it is now and stay as strong as I did last year."
Dunn had two hits and scored twice. He led off the second with his 407th home run — tying Duke Snider for 48th place on the career list — and Flowers opened the third with his second shot.
Viciedo made up for his gaffes in left field with a big swing in the fourth, hitting a two-run drive that made it 4-1. The Royals scored a run in the sixth and loaded the bases against the Chicago bullpen in the seventh, only to come away empty-handed. Ramirez got the lead back up to 5-2 with a drive leading off the bottom half off Luke Hochevar, and the White Sox hung on from there.
Peavy did his part, outpitching Ervin Santana (0-1) after Chris Sale shut down the Royals in a 1-0 victory Monday in the opener.
The three-time All-Star re-signed with Chicago after a rebound season last year and started this one on a strong note. Five relievers combined to shut down the Royals, with Addison Reed working the ninth for his second save.
Santana (0-1), a mainstay in the Angels' rotation for eight seasons, also went six innings and gave up four runs and five hits. He struck out eight and walked one in his first start with the Royals.
"Everything was good," Santana said. "My off-speed was very good. My sinker was good. Fastball was good."
Royals hitters did him no favors, going 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, and the long ball did him in.
Dunn put the White Sox ahead 1-0 with a 431-foot line drive to the seats in right-center, but the White Sox quickly gave it back.
Ramirez, the shortstop, was charged with an error even though Viciedo actually dropped Chris Getz's pop fly in a collision with one out. Then with two out, Viciedo misplayed Alcides Escobar's single, allowing Getz to score from first.
Flowers, who homered Monday, connected again leading off the third, and Viciedo gave them a cushion with his two-run drive in the fourth, the ball tipping a leaping Alex Gordon's glove in left.
"I wish I could have done that over again," Gordon said. "I was right there in position."
The Royals got a run off Peavy in the sixth when Gordon doubled past a diving Viciedo and scored from third on a groundout by Billy Butler, but they couldn't come through after they loaded the bases against the White Sox bullpen in the seventh.
Donnie Veal relieved Jesse Crain with two on and one out and walked pinch hitter Miguel Tejada before retiring Gordon on a fly to shallow left. Matt Lindstrom came in and got Escobar to fly to right, ending the threat.
- Created on 02 April 2013
For all the deep breaths he took before the game, Chris Sale sure was a picture of calm once he stepped on the mound. More important for the White Sox, he was the definition of dominant.
Sale outpitched James Shields, Tyler Flowers homered and the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0 in the season opener on Monday.
The White Sox believe they're in position to make a run at the AL Central title even though they made no splashy additions while the rest of the division loaded up. They're off to a good start after a late fade left them three games behind Detroit a year ago.
A dominant performance by Sale and Flowers' drive leading off the fifth against Shields were just enough to beat a team that's trying to make a big jump after finishing with a losing record 17 of the past 18 seasons. It also gave the White Sox a rare win over the Royals, who took 12 of 18 from them a year ago.
Sale was a first-round draft pick in 2010 out of Florida Gulf Coast University, whose basketball team was the darlings of this year's NCAA men's tournament. He said the toughest part of Monday's game was the wait beforehand. But he watched other games and took deep breaths, trying to clear his mind.
"I tried not to hurt myself with my own thoughts," he said.
Sale (1-0) showed the form that made him a 17-game winner and an All-Star in his first season as a starter. On a chilly day when the game-time temperature was 44, he allowed just seven hits and struck out seven while walking one.
Sale got an assist in the seventh when second baseman Gordon Beckham dived to his right to snag Lorenzo Cain's line drive with a runner on first, and he left to a standing ovation after Alcides Escobar's single with two outs in the eighth.
Nate Jones came in and, after Escobar stole second, threw a wild pitch while walking Billy Butler to put runners on first and third. Matt Thornton then struck out Mike Moustakas on three pitches to end the threat, and Addison Reed worked the ninth for the save.
Sale, meanwhile, backed up the White Sox's decision to reward him with a new five-year deal this spring and the opening day start.
"I think a lot of stuff's been thrown at him in spring training," manager Robin Ventura said. "He gets the contract, he gets the opening day. There's a lot of expectations of him, but that all comes with it."
He said Sale has "come along great."
And Butler was impressed: "He's been pitching pretty well the last year and had another really good game out there.
Shields (0-1) was a tough-luck loser even though he gave the Royals exactly what they envisioned when they acquired him from Tampa Bay. The former All-Star lasted six innings, allowing just one run and eight hits while striking out six without a walk.
Along with the addition of Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels and the re-signing of Jeremy Guthrie after he dazzled in a short stint with Kansas City last season, the Royals believe they have the arms to challenge reigning division champion Detroit and make the playoffs for the first time since the 1985 championship season.
"That's exactly what I expect," manager Ned Yost said. "We get further into the year and he'd go back out. That's how good he was throwing the ball. Early, I limit them to 100 pitches. Guys like James and Santana and Guthrie take your 100 pitches and go to work."
Chicago finally broke through when Flowers drove a high 2-2 changeup out to left-center leading off the fifth. It was his first homer since he went deep against Kansas City last Sept. 8, and it was a promising sight for the organization. After all, one reason the White Sox let A.J. Pierzynski sign with Texas was they believed Flowers was ready to become the everyday catcher.
"If every day could be like today, it'll be fine," Flowers said. "I really don't think about it much. Hopefully, in a couple weeks or a couple months, I'll quit getting asked all these questions about A.J. and what size shoe I wear."
- Created on 01 April 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY — From the opening tip of the season, there was only one question in women's college basketball: How do you stop Brittney Griner?
Louisville found the answer Sunday night, pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.
Considered a lock for the Final Four — and prohibitive favorites to win a second straight championship — Griner and her Lady Bears got bounced 82-81 by fifth-seeded Louisville in an NCAA regional semifinal.
"I'm just sad," Griner said. "I didn't do what I needed to do to get my team to the Elite Eight and just disappointment in myself."
Baylor (34-2) had won 32 straight games and 74 of 75 behind Griner, among the greatest players ever in her sport. But the 6-foot-8 star didn't make a basket until the second half, then committed a foul with 2.6 seconds left that gave Louisville a chance to win.
Monique Reid made those two foul shots, rescuing the Cardinals (27-8) after they squandered a 17-point lead in the last 7½ minutes.
The win made it quite a day for the school — hours earlier, the men's team from Louisville beat Duke 85-63 to reach the Final Four.
Reid and the Cardinals will play Tennessee in the regional final on Tuesday for a berth in the Final Four.
Odyssey Sims scored 29 points, including two free throws with 9.1 seconds to go that put Baylor ahead 81-80. Sims had one more chance to save the season, but she was off-target and late on a desperation heave.
Sims dropped to the floor after her miss, pulling her jersey over her face and kicking her legs as she lay flat on her back.
Griner squatted near her and slapped the floor with both hands before pulling Sims up to her feet.
It was a stunning end of a remarkable college career for Griner, the second-highest scoring player in NCAA history. She also holds the career records for blocks and dunks.
"It's a tough way to lose," coach Kim Mulkey said. "It's hard to lose when it's your last game, but it's even harder the way that game ended. Makes it a little tougher."
Griner, who had averaged 33 points in Baylor's first two games in the tournament, didn't make a basket until she converted a putback with 15:20 left in the second half. She wound up with 14 points and 10 rebounds, making only four of her 10 shots and being a relative non-factor for her considerable stature.
Louisville surrounded Griner as she has been most of her career, using a zone defense Louisville coach Jeff Walz called the "claw and one." He put one player in front of Griner and another behind her, and often another one in the vicinity.
"I think I could smell what toothpaste she used," Antonita Slaughter said. "I was in her face the whole time with my hands up."
Unusually, Griner's teammates were unable to hit outside shots and relieve the pressure.
- Created on 02 April 2013
PITTSBURGH — A.J. Burnett was idly patting the rosin bag against his right hip when he suddenly found himself in the middle of a dust cloud. The bag had somehow exploded in his hand, covering the Pittsburgh Pirates ace and leaving him shaking his head.
It's the first time Burnett can ever remember it happening in his lengthy career. Unfortunately, the numbers he saw on the scoreboard were all too familiar.
Pittsburgh's offense struggled against Chicago's Jeff Samardzija and the first opening day start in Burnett's 15 seasons in the majors ended with a 3-1 loss on Monday. Burnett struck out 10 in 5 2-3 innings but also gave up a long two-run shot to Anthony Rizzo in the first inning that gave the rebuilding Cubs a needed adrenaline shot.
"The pitch to Rizzo and the rosin bag, that was my day," Burnett said.
The Pirates continued a troubling trend that began during their late collapse last fall, when they failed to score in any of Burnett's final three starts at PNC Park. It was more of the same on the first day of the 2013 season. Pittsburgh managed just two hits off Samardzija then saw a ninth-inning rally fall short when Russell Martin popped out with two runners on against Chicago reliever Kyuji Fujikawa.
"I was thinking about making something special happen," said Martin, who was making his Pittsburgh debut after coming over in the offseason from the New York Yankees. "I just didn't get it done."
Burnett called it an honor to get the call in the opener, but the 15-year veteran showed some nerves early. Castro singled with one out and Rizzo followed with a towering two-run shot to center field that landed on the concourse behind the seats for one of the longest homers in the park's 13-year history. The ball left the park so fast even center fielder Andrew McCutchen — a Gold Glove winner last year — trotted only couple of steps before stopping.
Rizzo hit just .229 in spring training with just three extra base hits, but his blast gave the rebuilding Cubs an early shot of adrenaline.
Chicago threatened to expand the lead in the fourth, putting runners in scoring position with no outs. Two strikeouts and a harmless chopper to third ended the threat, but the Pirates could muster little fight against Samardzija.
The converted reliever — beginning his second season as a full-time starter — only ran into trouble in the first, when a walk and an error put two runners on with nobody out. A fielder's choice and two strikeouts later Samardzija was out of the jam. At one point he retired 14 straight batters, almost all of them on strikeouts or routine groundballs.
"When they're making plays behind you it gives you the confidence to really kind of make stuff up out there, keep the ball down in the zone and you know they're going to make some plays for me like they did all day for me," Samardzija said.
And the Pirates were only too happy to oblige Samardzija as he worked both sides of the plate and kept the Pirates off-balance with a two-seam fastball clocked in the mid-90s and a changeup that didn't break 80.
Pittsburgh only managed two balls out of the infield while Samardzija was on the hill as he improved to 4-0 in his short career against the Pirates.
"The last two times we've seen him, he's been a beast out there," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "He had command of everything out of his hand."
Pittsburgh grounded out 12 times and appeared on the way to getting shutout before Samardzija gave way to closer Carlos Marmol in the ninth, who almost gave it away.
Marmol hit McCutchen with one out. McCutchen stole second then scored on Pedro Alvarez's single up the middle. Gaby Sanchez followed with a walk, ending Marmol's afternoon.
James Russell entered and managed to get Neil Walker to line out to right before Fujikawa, who had more than 200 saves for Japan's Hanshin Tigers before arriving in Chicago in the offseason, prevented Russell from coming through in his first game in black and gold.
- Created on 28 March 2013
The streak is over. The big prize is still out there.
That's what mattered most to LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
The Heat's bid for NBA history ended Wednesday night when their 27-game winning streak was snapped by the Chicago Bulls 101-97, setting off a raucous celebration inside United Center. Miami finished six shy of the 33-game record held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
With 11 games remaining, there's no time for Miami to take another shot at the record. A big run in the postseason would seem to be a sure bet.
For the better part of two months, they were the NBA's comeback kings. They erased seven double-digit deficits during the streak. They found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter 11 times, and won them all.
"We understand, probably more so later on in our careers, the significance of that. And then that was it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We took that moment to acknowledge it, to acknowledge each other, that experience, but it was never about the streak. We have a bigger goal, but also right now, it's about 'Are we getting better?'"
They walked off the floor stoically, not exchanging handshakes or pleasantries with the Bulls. James slapped high-fives with a couple teammates and coaches, then glared at a fan who touched his head as he walked toward the tunnel leading to the visitors' locker room.
James was frustrated on the court at times, and showed more of the same in the locker room afterward with regard to how he's officiated.
He cited two instances from Wednesday — a play in which Kirk Hinrich took him down with two hands in the first quarter, and Taj Gibson appearing to hit him around his neck with about 4 minutes remaining — where he thought the contact was excessive. Referees reviewed the Gibson hit, but did not award a flagrant foul. So, seconds later, James tried to barrel through Carlos Boozer on a screen, and got called for a Flagrant 1 himself.
"Those are not basketball plays and it's been happening all year," James said. "I've been able to keep my cool and try to tell Spo, 'Let's not worry about it too much,' but it is getting to me a little bit."
The Bulls, meanwhile, whooped and slapped hands with anyone they could reach after clinching a playoff berth.
"It's a five-second moment of reflection before we move on to the rest of the season," Wade said. "In here, it didn't feel like we were on this amazing streak."
What a run it was, though.
It will go down as the second-longest winning streak in the history of American major pro sports.
The Heat trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, took the lead while outscoring Chicago 22-14 in the third quarter and were within two early in the fourth after a basket by Wade.
That's when Deng answered with a 3-pointer from the wing and Kirk Hinrich brought the crowd to its feet with a floater. Then, after a layup by James, Deng nailed a 3 to make it 83-75 with just over six minutes left.
It got testy after that. James did all he could to keep the streak going, taking enough hard hits that even his headband was dislodged, and finished with seven rebounds.
Bosh scored 21. Wade added 18 points after a sore right knee sidelined him for victories over Charlotte and Orlando, but the Heat fell to a team that continues to give them fits even though Derrick Rose has been sidelined all year.
Deng came up big, burying four 3-pointers. He also had seven rebounds and five assists.
Boozer was a force inside. Jimmy Butler provided a spark with 17 points and the Bulls stopped Miami even though they were missing Joakim Noah (right foot), Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) and Richard Hamilton (lower back).
"It says we have a good team," Gibson said. "It's all about what we think in the locker room. A lot of people kind of write us off every other day, but we just stick to our principles and do what we have to do."
There was a rumor that Rose would make his long-awaited return from a knee injury after rapper Waka Flocka Flame posted on Twitter, "Word is D.Rose back." The two are fans of each other, but the superstar point guard squashed it at the morning shootaround, with two words — "Not tonight."
The Bulls were the biggest threat to Miami in the Eastern Conference the past two years, but without their superstar, they're just part of the pack.
Even so, no one has given the Heat more trouble since James and Bosh united with Wade in 2010. They had split 14 games leading up to this one, with Chicago winning at Miami in early January and the Heat returning the favor at the United Center last month.