White Sox open series vs. McCarthy, A's tonight

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White Sox open series vs. McCarthy, A's tonight

Chicago White Sox (60-50) vs. Oakland A's (60-51), 7:10 p.m.

The White Sox welcome the Oakland As to U.S. Cellular Field tonight hoping to bounce back from a series loss to the Royals and will try to increase their one-game lead over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central while theyre at it.

The availability of first baseman Paul Konerko for tonight is in question after suffering a mild concussion on Tuesday night against the Royals. He missed Wednesday's game and will be re-evaluated today. If he is not available, he may wind up on the seven-day disabled list.

The As enter this series after winning consecutive games and taking their three-game set with the Angels and are 17-8 since the All-Star break. Cuban center fielder Yeonis Cespedes has been on fire since the break, sporting a .408 batting average, .455 on-base percentage and 1.086 OPS which includes five home runs and 20 RBIs.

Pitching matchup

White Sox -- Gavin Floyd (8-9, 4.43 ERA): Floyds last start didnt begin well (41 pitches in the first inning), but he settled in and gave the Sox 6 13 hard-fought innings in a game thy eventually lost to the Angels in 10 innings on Saturday. The only time Floyd faced the As this season (April 24), he took the loss despite allowing just an earned run on two hits over 7 13 innings of work.

As -- Brandon McCarthy (6-2, 2.54 ERA): McCarthy will be on the mound with the As for the first time since June 19 thanks to right-shoulder soreness. In that June start he tossed seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and walking one while striking out five against the Dodgers.

They said it

Hes got great stuff. But usually it seems like youre going to get a pitch or two to hit. Tonight we did, but we didnt do anything with them. He didnt make mistakes. Adam Dunn on Jeremy Guthries eight shutout innings on Wednesday night

In case you missed it

Heres a quick recap of the latest White Sox news:

White Sox opponents no longer holding 'track meet'
White Sox have been feeling the Royal pains
White Sox deal minor leaguer Kuhn to Arizona
Konerko has mild concussion, could be placed on DL

Morning Update: Bulls fall to Blazers; Could Chris Sale be on the move?

Morning Update: Bulls fall to Blazers; Could Chris Sale be on the move?

Five Things to Watch: Bulls in Detroit for fourth game in five nights on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Coyotes tonight on CSN+

Despite Chris Sale rumors, White Sox say they have contingencies in place for a rebuild

Kenley Jansen? Wade Davis? Cubs keeping an open mind for the ninth inning

Slow start to fourth dooms Bulls in loss to Blazers

Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved

Scott Darling takes the reins for Blackhawks in Corey Crawford’s absence

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf knows 'it will be very hard to trade' Chris Sale

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

Rajon Rondo used foul language with Bulls assistant coaches following loss to Mavs

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

[MORE BEARS: Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved]

Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”