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Windy City Sports Report – 9/17/12

17 Sep

Hello sports fans, here is your Windy City Sports Report for this week. In today’s issue, how is the White Sox playoff push going? Are the youngsters playing the role of spoilers? How did the Bears face in their rivalry game against the Packers?

As the week started, the Sox had a 2 game lead over the Detroit Tigers. Those same Tigers came into Chicago for a huge 4 game series.

In the series opener, the ball was handed to Jose Quintana, who was struggling as of late. He had given up 12 runs with 12 hits over his last 5 innings. On this night, however, he was on point. He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing only 1 run on 7 hits and striking out 7. The offense took advantage of a key error in the 6th to hit back-to-back homers by Alex Rios and AJ Pierzynski to take the game 6-1, extending their division lead to 3 games.

The Tigers faced a must win game if they wanted to keep up with the Sox. They sent out Doug Fister to go against Jake Peavy. Fister was up to the task. He went 7 innings, allowing only 2 runs, striking out 6 and retiring the last 14 hitters he faced. The Tigers scored 3 in the 5th and added 2 in the 9th to get the win 5-3. It was a big win since going down by 4 games with 21 remaining would have been a pretty steep hill to climb. It was big also because the Tigers were going to send two of baseball’s best pitchers, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander out for the final 2 games.

In the third game, Scherzer continued his dominance. He went 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits, and striking out 7. In his last 7 starts, he is 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA. The Tigers owned a lead of 8-1 in the 8th but the Sox tried to rally in the final 2 innings. They scored 4 runs in the 8th and added another in the 9th but ultimately fell 8-6. The rally off the Tigers’ bullpen was nice, but as Pierzynski said after the game “There’s no moral victories anymore, it’s just about winning or losing.”

In the crucial final game, most people in baseball were looking forward to a great pitcher’s duel. The Sox had their ace, Cy Young Award candidate Chris Sale, facing the reigning Cy Young winner AND MVP Verlander. Mother Nature would not cooperate, however, as rain dampened the field and fans’ hopes of seeing a wonderful game. The game is to be made up today on what was to be each team’s day off.

After the big series at home, the Sox went to Minnesota to face the Twins. They continued their dominance over the Twinkies, pounding out 20 runs in the 3 game series. They are now 14-4 versus Minnesota.

With the Tigers winning 2 out of 3 against the Cleveland Indians, the Sox had the same lead they owned as the week began-2 games.

This week they have that make-up game today with Detroit, then they go face their tormentors, the Kansas City Royals, for the final time this season. After that 3 game set, they travel out to Los Angeles to face the Angels. We will see if they are able to put a dent on their magic number to clinch the AL Central, which now stands at 16.

Over at Wrigley, the youngsters continue to try to impress manager Dale Sveum, GM Jed Hoyer and team President Theo Epstein. They also tried to play spoiler against one of the playoff contenders.

The week started with the Cubbies facing the only team with a worse record than theirs, the Houston Astros. The two teams combined for an offensive onslaught in the series, with the Cubs outscoring the Astros 9-3 and taking the series 2 out of 3. The less said about these games, the better so we shall move on.

After leaving Houston, the Cubs went home to face the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates are in a dogfight trying to make the playoffs, and the Cubs put a damper on their hopes last week when they swept the Pirates in Pittsburgh. The Pirates were looking for payback over the weekend 4-game series that carried over to today.

This time the Cubs really did bring out their good bats, bashing 26 runs on 37 hits. On Sunday, there was a battle between the Cubs’ prized rookie Anthony Rizzo and the Pirates’ 3B Pedro Alvarez. The two combined for 4 homers and 11 RBI in the game.

Rizzo has been one of the few bright spots for the Cubs this season. Since being called up on June 26th, he has been hitting .300 with 14 HRs and 43 RBI. Sveum has been very impressed with the budding star. “Everything he’s done here has been what we expected,” said Sveum. “We don’t expect any more or any less. He’s been spectacular since he’s been here.”

On Sunday, Rizzo got his first major league multi-homer game, his first grand slam, and his first curtain call. The 13-9 win also put the Cubs to within 5 wins of preventing a 100-loss season, one they have not had since 1966.

After today’s series finale with the Pirates, the Cubs entertain the Cincinnati Reds, who own the NL’s second best record. Then over the weekend they host the hated St Louis Cardinals. The Cards own the last wild card spot, so the Cubs are going to try to continue having success as the spoiler. It would almost make this dismal season worth it if the Cubs could have a hand in knocking out the Cardinals-almost, but not quite.

After a 41-21 victory in the season opener, the Bears were flying high. They did not have much time to relish the victory, however, since they had to face their bitter rivals, the Green Bay Packers, on Thursday night. The Cutler-lead Bears have not had much success against the Pack lately, though, having lost 5 of their last 6 games.

Things did not change much at Lambeau Field on Thursday. Cutler was harassed all night, getting sacked 7 times and forced to throw 4 interceptions. He also lost his cool, going after LT J’Marcus Webb after Webb just could not stop Packers DE Clay Matthews. After a bad series, Cutler was caught on camera coming off the field yelling at Webb and at one point shoving him. It did not do any good. Webb still could not stop Matthews and Cutler could not stay upright.

The Bears also might have lost RB Matt Forte for some time. He left the game with an ankle injury. Some reported that it was a high ankle sprain, but today Head Coach Lovie Smith said it was not a high ankle sprain but would not elaborate as to how long Forte might be out. As a precaution, the Bears re-signed Kahlil Bell. Bell has played with the Bears before so he is familiar with the system. No word on whether Webb will miss the next game due to his pussycat hands.

I know I have not mentioned much of hockey, but there has not been much going on. Now it appears as that nothing will continue for a while. The NHL owners have locked out the players, in the league’s fourth shutdown since 1992. The last one was really long, having cancelled the entire 2004-2005 season.

This one also appears to be a protracted one, with each side deeply entrenched. There are not even any talks scheduled anytime soon. There could be an announcement of the cancellation of preseason games as early as this week. It also appears that training camps will not open on time.

The issue at hand in this dispute is (what else?) money. There is no agreement on how to split the $3.3 billion revenue. The owners want to lower the amount paid out to the players, while the players want to guarantee the $1.8 billion paid out this past year in salaries. We shall see if this ends up similar to 2004.

One would have thought that both the players and owners learned their lesson from that season. It appeared that baseball learned its lesson after the 1994 work stoppage hurt their game. Since then they are the only major US league that has not had a work stoppage.

Well fans, until next week, take a trip to see the Bean while it is still warm enough to do so.

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