Blackhawks' balance, grit proves troublesome again for Blues

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Blackhawks' balance, grit proves troublesome again for Blues

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock knows playing at the United Center had been no easy task for his team in the past, and it sure wouldn't be on Tuesday night either.
"We usually get our a kicked in this building," Hitchcock said light-heartedly at the Blues' morning shootaround.
The Blackhawks and Blues both headed into tonight's matchup undefeated, but the way the Chicago began tonight's game proved they weren't ready to add a tally to their non-existant loss column. Their momentum right off the bat mirrored the same strength they showed in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and just like the Kings and Coyotes, the Blues were taken aback by it.
"The start killed us," Blues forward Andy McDonald said. "We took too many penalties, we mismanaged the puck early in the game, it seemed to take us a while to feel comfortable making plays in our own zone, plays in the neutral zone. Maybe a little bit of that had to do with how how the Blackhawks were coming, but we've got the skill to make better plays and manage the puck better than that."
Since the 2009-10 season, the Blackhawks have hosted the Blues a total of 10 times in the regular season, and only once -- a matchup back in Feb. 2010 -- did St. Louis come out of top. But that sure hasn't slowed the rivalry between the two teams. McDonald, who scored the Blues' first goal in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss, knows the Blackhawks' strong chemistry among their four lines is what gave the Blues trouble from the start.
"They've got a pretty balanced team," McDonald said."They have a lot of talent up front and a lot of skill spread out. They also have some grit and physicality there, so I mean they're a pretty well-rounded team.
"It's always a great rivalry between them and us and we look forward to playing them whether it's here or in our building. It's always a lot of fun. We've got a few more games, so we've got to get them back."

Starters help White Sox bullpen maintain health for lengthy stretch

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Starters help White Sox bullpen maintain health for lengthy stretch

The White Sox are at another point in their schedule where every inning is precious.

So even though they only managed a split in Monday’s doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox have to feel good not to have taxed their bullpen.

Mat Latos and Erik Johnson combined for 12.1 innings pitched and five relievers combined for another 5.1 on Monday for the White Sox, who are in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 16 days. Given they have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana scheduled the next two games, the White Sox feel pretty fortunate at the midway point of their lengthy run.

“We didn’t really abuse anybody,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “These doubleheaders can kind of get away from you and both sides probably had that. You get out of these things without having to use anybody in both games and extending anybody.”

With the way things had recently gone for Latos and Johnson’s command issues in his last start, Monday’s doubleheader could have been trouble for the White Sox bullpen.

Latos hadn’t completed six innings since April 24 and posted a 7.84 ERA in his last four starts. And in his only major league start this season, Johnson allowed four earned runs in five innings against the Boston Red Sox on May 5.

Not only do the White Sox have two more here against the Indians, they start a four-game series in Kansas City on Thursday and then head to Citi Field for three against the New York Mets. Only then do they have another day off.

Johnson made two early mistakes, but mostly followed in the footsteps of Latos, who delivered six innings in the opening game before he departed with a 6-3 lead courtesy of a three-run homer by Brett Lawrie.

While Johnson left a 3-0 fastball up to Rajai Davis and he ripped it for a two-run homer, which put Cleveland up 3-1 in the fifth, he faced only five over the minimum through six innings.

“EJ did a good job for us, we just weren’t really getting anything going,” Ventura said.

Johnson — who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the start — entered the seventh inning at 93 pitches. With his team trailing by two, Ventura hoped to steal another inning from his right-hander. The Indians took advantage as Juan Uribe homered and scored another run off the combination of Johnson and reliever Matt Purke, who allowed a hit in 2.1 scoreless innings.

“You want to help the team out and save the bullpen as best you can, especially on these nine and nines,” Johnson said. “That’s your job as a starter for a regular nine inning game, whether it’s a doubleheader or not.

“I’m thankful for the opportunities and if they keep coming I’m going to keep coming back here.”

For now, the opportunity belongs to reliever Tommy Kahnle, whom was added as the 26th man before the doubleheader. By optioning Johnson to Charlotte, the White Sox will employ an eight-man bullpen.

Preview: Cubs look to snap losing streak vs. Cardinals on CSN

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Preview: Cubs look to snap losing streak vs. Cardinals on CSN

The Cubs look to snap a three-game losing streak against the St. Louis Cardinals tonight, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jason Hammel (5-1, 2.31 ERA) vs. Michael Wacha (2-4, 4.03 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Preview: Chris Sale targets 10th win as White Sox battle Indians on CSN+

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Preview: Chris Sale targets 10th win as White Sox battle Indians on CSN+

The White Sox continue their series with the Cleveland Indians tonight, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet Plus. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (9-0, 1.58 ERA) vs. Josh Tomlin (6-0, 3.56 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.