Blackhawks

Next stop South Side: Cubs dont look ready for prime time

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Next stop South Side: Cubs dont look ready for prime time

The Cubs got their advertisements for Wrigley Field, two games on national television, even if the grass looked torched after those concerts last weekend.

Theo Epstein didnt get an at-bat or throw a single pitch, but his presence hung over this marquee series. It finally ended Sunday night, with fans chanting Youk! for Kevin Youkilis and one keeping the home-run ball David Ortiz had deposited in the bleachers, a souvenir from Big Papi.

The Boston Red Sox will take a sloppy 7-4 victory, which pulled them back to .500, but still left them in last place in the American League East.

This followed the invasion from Detroit Tigers fans wearing orange and raising the decibels to levels you hadnt really heard at Clark and Addison all season (excluding concerts).

But this wont be for tourists. When the attention shifts to the South Side on Monday night, the city will get an up-close look at the Cubs and White Sox, two teams trending in opposite directions.

Obviously, theyre doing a nice job over there, manager Dale Sveum said. Were worried about day in and day out with us, and winning ballgames every single day, no matter who were playing.

But we all know that there will be a different atmosphere when we play the White Sox, especially after getting swept here. Hopefully, we come out and (show) were capable of competing with first-place teams.

The Cubs (22-44) couldnt hang with the Tigers or Red Sox and lost both series during this homestand. Paul Maholm made a quality start on Sunday night before three relievers gave up four runs in the final three innings.

Every guy in the locker rooms busting it, Maholm said. Theyre prepared. Theyre doing everything they can. Were just not coming up with the hit. Were not coming up with the big pitch. Its on us. We got to go out there and do it.

The White Sox (35-31) got a huge emotional lift the last time they played the Cubs, when conventional wisdom had it being a no-drama crosstown without Ozzie Guillen and Carlos Zambrano.

Then word began to leak out that Kerry Wood was going to retire, Jeff Samardzijas 85 mph splitter smashed into Paul Konerkos face, Gordon Beckham barreled over David DeJesus and Sveum exploded.

The White Sox woke up on May 18 with an 18-21 record, 4 12 games back in the American League Central, and already the talk was starting that general manager Kenny Williams could go into selling mode.

On Monday of that week, the Cubs had beaten the defending World Series champs in St. Louis to move to 15-20, five games back in the division. That wouldnt lead you to start printing playoff tickets, but it also didnt foreshadow a team that could break the franchise record for losses.

There isnt a direct cause-and-effect here. But its hard to ignore the big bounce the White Sox got off that series, part of a stretch that saw them win 13 of 14 games and surge into first place.

And you watched the Cubs bottom out with a 12-game losing streak, part of a stretch in which they would lose 20 of 24.

U.S. Cellular Field is where Lou Piniella cursed out Milton Bradley, and Zambrano had to be separated from Derrek Lee. Strange things seem to happen on the South Side, and its on Matt Garza to channel all that adrenaline on Monday night.

Its going to be loud and rowdy, outfielder Reed Johnson said. Thats the atmosphere you want, especially now when youre struggling as a team. (You) know theres going to be a packed house and it makes it a little easier to play that way. Its a little easier to concentrate.

Were playing good baseball. It just seems like we cant do those little things to finish off a ballgame.

Contenders are already starting to circle the Cubs. The New York Yankees were among the teams that had top talent evaluators in the seats behind home plate on Sunday night, and this is shaping up to be a sellers market.

Ryan Dempster says his focus is on his next start against the White Sox on Wednesday night, but the groundwork is already being laid behind the scenes.

Alfonso Soriano will get three more games to rest his knees and showcase himself as a designated hitter, where hes hitting .386 with six homers, 17 RBI and a 1.224 OPS in 57 career at-bats.

Because after watching the Cubs drop to 3-15 against left-handed starters, the defense commit two errors and another bullpen breakdown, Sveum knows he needs some reinforcements.

The thing thats going on all year long is basically we get into close ballgames and something breaks down, Sveum said. We cant score if its close, or we just cant make a pitch when its close to hold em or shut em down or get the game into extra innings.

We got to be better at those things, somebody stepping up and getting a big hit when it counts not when were four or five runs down.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

The Blackhawks finally got on the board for the season and did so in front of the 500th consecutive capacity crowd at the United Center.

Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the impressive performance by the Blackhawks against the undefeated Edmonton Oilers and discuss how Jeremy Colliton’s message got through to Alex Nylander and the rest of the team.

Plus, after an impressive performance in net, should Corey Crawford get the next game vs. the Blue Jackets? And what does the future have in store for Kirby Dach? Jamal makes a bold prediction.

0:54 – Blackhawks finally show urgency in 2nd period

2:47 – Penalty kill starting to show some life

5:00 – Thoughts on the Shaw/Strome/Kane line

6:43 – Blackhawks eliminating some defensive breakdowns

9:23 – Big rebound performance from Corey Crawford

11:36 – Colliton’s message to Alex Nylander got through

15:21 – Brandon Saad has been a pleasant surprise early on

17:15 – Dominik Kubalik’s impressive performance

18:31 – Will Kirby Dach be with the Blackhawks all season?

22:42 – Does Crawford or Lehner start vs. the Blue Jackets?

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Controversial calls played a large part in the Detroit Lions NFC North loss on Monday night

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USA TODAY

Controversial calls played a large part in the Detroit Lions NFC North loss on Monday night

The Green Bay Packers managed to pull off a dramatic comeback victory on Monday night, defeating the Detroit Lions 23-22 on a last-second field goal from Mason Crosby. But after the game, it wasn't Aaron Rodgers usual clutch ways that people were talking about, it was the officiating crew, who had two controversial hands to the face penalty calls against the Lions that all but killed any momentum they had going. 

As you can see in the clip above, both hands to the face calls seemed questionable at best, and downright ludicrous at worst. What makes the calls so tough is the timing. The first hands to the face penalty on Lions DE Trey Flowers came after he sacked Rodgers on third-and-10 and the penalty both took away the sack and provided the Pack with an automatic first down. Later in the drive, Rodgers dropped in a great 35-yard touchdown pass to bring Green Bay within two points 

The second questionable hands to the face call came on third-and-4 and it was the most costly call of the game. The Packers received another automatic first down and ran down the clock—Detroit was out of timeouts—to set up the eventual game-winning, walk-off field goal from Crosby. 

And it didn't take long for many people, everyone from former NFL greats to NFL reporters, to chime in on social media with their thoughts on the officiating that seemingly cost Detroit a crucial win. 

With the Green Bay win, the Lions moved to last-place in the NFC North, while the Bears now sit 2.5 games back of first place heading into their Week 7 matchup against the New Orleans Saints.