Bulls

Cubs looking for more out of Nos. 4-5 SPs

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Cubs looking for more out of Nos. 4-5 SPs

Last season, starting pitching was all doom and gloom for the Cubs. It was the main reason for their 71-91 record.

Early injuries knocked both Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells out of the rotation after just one start and the Cubs did not have any depth behind them.

As a result, Chicago was 26th in the MLB in quality starts with 76 and had the worst starter's ERA in the National League (4.79).

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer set out to right that wrong this season. And so far so good in the large scheme of things. But the Cubs are still looking for more from Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm at the back end of the rotation.

Matt Garza (1.23 ERA0.75 WHIP) and Ryan Dempster (1.880.91) have been simply fantastic and have four of the Cubs' six quality starts this year. Jeff Samardzija was brilliant in his first outing, picking up the Cubs' first win of 2012. After the Cubs offense staked him to a big lead in St. Louis on Friday, however, Samardzija got complacent and allowed five runs in the fifth inning.

But Volstad and Maholm have struggled some. Volstad hasn't been bad, he just hasn't necessarily been good. The big right-hander has a 4.91 ERA and 0-1 record in two starts, but a sparkling 1.18 WHIP shows he has pitched better than his numbers indicate. He also had a quality start on Saturday against the Cardinals.

Mahlom, meanwhile, is bringing the whole rotation's numbers down. He has allowed 12 earned runs and three homers in just eight innings pitched. Maholm, whom the Cubs signed as a free agent this offseason, has not gotten more than 12 outs in a start yet this season.

The Cubs will hang their hat on starting pitching this year, as their bullpen is inexperienced and the offense isn't set up to out-slug teams. Even in losses so far this season, the starters have battled enough to keep their team in the game. Maholm has gotten rocked early in his outings, but both times he was able to settle down and at least give the offense a chance.

Maholm has a 4.42 career ERA in more than 1,100 big-league innings. He will rebound and should still wind up with a more manageable ERA.

Watch: NBA All-Star Game kicks off with amazing video featuring Chicago icons

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USA TODAY

Watch: NBA All-Star Game kicks off with amazing video featuring Chicago icons

As host of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, Chicago is on the world's center stage this weekend.

Ahead of Sunday's exhibition at the United Center, TNT broadcasted a goosebump-inducing video to kick-off the action. The tribute featured numerous Chicago icons, who discussed growing up/living in the city and what it means to them personally.

Those appearing in the video:

-Barack Obama
-Michael Jordan
-Common
-Chance the Rapper
-Dwyane Wade
-Candace Parker
-Isiah Thomas
-Buddy Guy
-Keke Palmer
-Jesse Williams
-Hebru Brantley

Jordan spoke for all Chicagoans when describing the impact the city has on its citizens:

"It's like a tattoo â€” it's not removable," the Bulls legend said

Best All-Star game intro ever? No doubt.

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

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USA TODAY

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, but the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to close out their five-game road trip. Here are three takeaways:

Bad trip

After losing in Winnipeg, the Blackhawks finished their five-game road trip with a 1-4-0 record. They began the trip last Sunday in Winnipeg with a 5-2 loss. 

Sunday's game against the Jets had flashes of good, but it was mostly strong plays from the go-to guys like Kane and Jonathan Toews. All three Jets' goals came from deflections off shots from the point. Overall, the effort and productivity paled in comparison to the lone victory of the trip, Saturday's 8-4 win over the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. 

The Blackhawks, six points out of the second wild card spot, will return home and face the New York Rangers at the United Center on Wednesday. They have 23 regular season games remaining. 

Kane keeps climbing 

With a two-point outing in Winnipeg, Kane tied former Blackhawk Steve Larmer for 87th on the NHL all-time points list with 1,012. 

"Showtime" set up Ryan Carpenter for the first goal of the game at 15:44 of the first period by backhanding a pass towards the front of the net for the crashing Carpenter to bury.

Kane scored with less than a minute remaining in the second period to tie it 2-2 off a three-way passing play with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. Kane has 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in his past 18 games. 

With the primary assist on Kane's goal, Toews earned his sixth point (two goals, four assists) of the road trip. 

0.0

Sunday's Blackhawks-Jets game was the only NHL contest this season to have zero penalties. This was good news for Toews, who had five minor penalties over the prior four games. 

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