Bears

In the zone: Garza shuts down Phillies

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In the zone: Garza shuts down Phillies

PHILADELPHIA Matt Garza bobbed his head and swayed from side to side in front of his locker. He buttoned up his blue dress shirt, singing along with the Bob Marley music spilling from the clubhouse speakers.

Dont worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing gonna be all right.'

Garza doesnt exactly project calm. Hes hyperactive and talks to himself. But as Cubs president Theo Epstein once said, theres a method to the madness.

And the idea of Garza staring down hitters from a distance of 60 feet, 6 inches has to be reassuring to the other 24 guys in the room.

In front of a sellout crowd, Garza crossed over into another zone on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, dominating the Philadelphia Phillies in a 5-1 victory that highlighted everything he could be for this franchise.

Garza allowed a bloop single to Jimmy Rollins that fell into right-center field to begin his game and then retired the next 18 batters he faced.

It was a steady stream of weak pop-ups and routine groundballs, the nasty stuff you need in October. After seven scoreless innings, Garza left with a one-hitter and 10 strikeouts, the 10th time hes hit double digits in his career.

Manager Dale Sveum said Garza who knows his own personality very well would be the first one to tell you this.

Thats probably the most comfortable place hes at on the mound, Sveum said. Other than that, hes bouncing off walls all the time.

Its probably the one place where he can kind of gather himself and calm down and obviously hes done it throughout his career. Hes been one of the better pitchers in baseball.

This is where Garza pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 World Series. The Cubs are 8-14 and near the start of a long rebuilding process.

There are indications that Garza (2-1, 2.67 ERA), who is under club control through 2013, will likely be a major part of those plans. How long will it take to get back to those heights?

I dont know Im just trying to get through the next five days, Garza said. I dont foresee anything. I just know that were moving in the right direction. Were playing aggressive (and) were playing hard through nine. Thats all we can do.

I have every expectation to be a part of that. Id like for it to happen this year. I dont know anything beyond the next five days.

It wasnt a perfect game Carlos Marmol walked three batters and forced in a run in a close-your-eyes ninth. And a Phillies team (10-12) weakened by injuries has been hearing the boos, struggling to generate offense throughout April.

But the Cubs could laugh about waiting until Game 22 before an outfielder (Joe Mather) hit his first home run this season. The small-ball approach continued to work with Tony Campana (two hits, two runs and his sixth stolen base in eight games).

The rotation (4.12 ERA) wont stack up with Philadelphias. But the Cubs have been competitive, and theyve enjoyed watching Jeff Samardzija evolve into a potential frontline starter, and look forward to Ryan Dempster coming off the disabled list on Thursday.

Everyone feels pretty confident when (Garza) goes out on the mound, Mather said. Those guys are going out there and giving us a chance to win every single time.

It remains to be seen whether the Cubs can really run that momentum out into the summer, and give their fans reasons to watch, but Garza expects to enjoy the ride.

We got a lot of moving pieces, Garza said, but I think its going to be a lot of fun (with) a lot of youth (and) a lot of growing up.

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.

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center on Monday:

1. Blackhawks are in the win column

The Blackhawks said after morning skate that they weren't going to "freak out" about their 0-2-1 start despite talking all training camp long about how they didn't want to dig a hole in October. Still, Monday felt like a game they had to win going into a three-day break because they have to start generating some positive vibes within the locker room.

And they did just that.

The Blackhawks handed the Oilers their first loss of the season (5-1-0), but more importantly, they're finally in the win column for the 2019-20 campaign.

"We played really well," Corey Crawford said. "I think everyone was going. Guys were coming back to help out defensively, and just a good team effort. The PK was strong, even though we gave up that one [late], it was strong early in the game. Just nice to win the first one."

2. Second period? That's more like it

The Blackhawks have been happy with their first periods this season. They've been mostly happy with their thirds. It's the middle frame that's been their downfall.

The team addressed those struggles as a team the morning of the game, and they certainly responded.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (32-8), even-strength scoring chances (16-6), even-strength high danger chances (5-4) and, of course, the goal column (1-0) in the second period. That's more like it.

"That was the message today from the coaches was how much better we need to be in the second," Connor Murphy said. "We showed examples of when we've done that in the past and what it takes. I think we were just better at staying on our toes and we drew some penalties and got on the forecheck quick and kept their goalie from being able to make plays and for them to be able to come up ice."

3. Corey Crawford shines

You could've made a good argument that Robin Lehner should've started this game, especially coming off a solid outing on Saturday and his career numbers against the Oilers (5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .943 save percentage). But the coaching staff went with Crawford and it proved to be the correct decision.

Crawford stopped 27 of 28 shots for a save percentage of .964 and faced nine high-danger chances at 5-on-5, none of which found the back of the net. His lone goal against came with 2:11 left in regulation and it was on a 6-on-4 power play for the Oilers. Overall, he was fantastic.

"He looked sharp as ever," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He was really good. He did make some saves for us. That team has some weapons so they had some opportunities and he was there and just he's under control. It's something I've said about him before, he really gives the team confidence. I thought tonight he was really good."

4. Blackhawks shut down Oilers' top guns

The first line of Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid went into Monday tied for the most goals scored as a trio. When the three of them are on the ice at 5-on-5, they're controlling 57.1 percent of the shot attempts, 61.2 percent of the scoring chances and 68.8 percent of the high danger chances.

The Blackhawks held them in check. That line had 14 shot attempts for and 20 against at 5-on-5 and were on the ice for 11 scoring chances. The third line of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad did a terrific job of shutting them down.

"They all just got real big motors, big engine," Colliton said of the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik line. "They work and compete and they all bring a little bit different ingredient. ... Pleased with that line."

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