McDonald gets hot in chilly Chi-Town

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McDonald gets hot in chilly Chi-Town

CHICAGO -- On a bitterly cold night, with temperatures hovering near freezing at U.S. Cellular Field, no one needed to get hotter more than Darnell McDonald.

McDonald came into Friday's game with a batting average of .100, and his playing time had been reduced ever since the acquisition of Marlon Byrd.

But getting into the lineup against lefty John Danks, McDonald made the most of his opportunity. With the bases full in the sixth inning, he laced a three-run double to left. Then, in his final at-bat in the ninth, he added a solo homer, giving him a career-best four RBI.

"It's definitely better than going 0-for,'' said McDonald. "It's a crazy game. You go from feeling so good in spring training and starting the season off to not feeling good up there at the plate. I had two at-bats tonight where I didn't feel good and I just told myself, 'Just simplify things. Just go up there and try to see the ball, hit the ball and just go back to Little League.

"You start thinking about too many things and it's tough to hit that way.''

As an extra outfielder, McDonald has gone from regular, almost daily at-bats in spring training to playing only a couple of times per weeks. It's never an easy adjustment.

"It's tough,''acknowledged McDonald. "But that's my role, so I try to do the best I can to prepare myself for my at-bats. I think the toughest part is you have to sleep on those (unsuccessful) at-bats and wait until your next go-around. But hitting is contagious and guys have been swinging the bats really well and I was able to get in there and get a couple of knocks tonight.''

In the sixth, with three baserunners aboard, McDonald abandoned his approach to take the perfect swing and instead focused on being aggressive.

"I was able to put the barrell on the baseball,'' he said.

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)