Wood does it all, propels Cubs to sweep of Astros

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Wood does it all, propels Cubs to sweep of Astros

Travis Wood flirted with perfection just three starts into his major-league career, throwing nine spectacular innings of one-hit shutout ball against the Phillies on July 10, 2010.

It was that potential the Cubs hope they could harness when they acquired the 25-year-old lefty from Cincinnati in the offseason as part of the return for Sean Marshall.

Over the last month, Wood has shown flashes of that potential, although his start Sunday was perhaps his best yet in a Cubs uniform. Wood didn't issue a walk and only allowed three hits with four strikeouts in 7 23 innings of shutout ball, lowering his ERA to 3.15 on the season. Since the start of June, Wood has allowed eight runs with 28 strikeouts, 12 walks in 39 13 innings pitched, and he's only allowed one home run in that span, too.

Wood's success wasn't limited to the mound Sunday, though. He led off the sixth with a sharp double down the third base line and advanced to third on a heads-up baserunning play.

On Saturday, Houston intentionally walked Starlin Castro to set up a first-and-third situation, trying to induce a double play and take the bat out of Castro's hands. The strategy was successful, as Anthony Rizzo struck out, and the Cubs failed to score in the inning.

Houston did the same thing Sunday, walking Castro with Wood on third to get to Rizzo. But on the first pitch, Rizzo ripped a single through the right side, scoring Wood and netting him his third game-winning RBI in five games with the Cubs

Jeff Baker added a two-run double to put the Cubs up 3-0, which was plenty of support for Wood, who threw a season-high 104 pitches.

Carlos Marmol recorded a save for the third straight day and now has eight in 2012. The win gave the Cubs their second sweep of the season, with the last coming May 28-30 against San Diego.

Stan Bowman mum on Artemi Panarin contract talks

Stan Bowman mum on Artemi Panarin contract talks

In July, when asked how contract talks were going with star forward Artemi Panarin, general manager Stan Bowman said he wouldn’t negotiate through the media.

He reiterated that on Tuesday.

“Obviously Artemi's a big part of our team. We're excited for the season he had. We're looking forward to him building on that as well. Then the negotiations will be what they are between his agent and myself,” I respect Tom [Lynn, Panarin’s agent]. He's a very knowledgeable guy, and Artemi put a lot of faith in him. And Tom and I will work to get something done.”

Panarin is entering the final year of his current contract and is coming off a monster rookie season in which he recorded 77 points and took home the Calder Trophy. Panarin took home plenty of bonus money thanks to that season, too.

The 24-year-old could certainly command a hefty price, which would once again be a major concern to the cash-strapped Blackhawks. The salary cap is at $73 million for this season, a small increase from 2015-16 ($71.4 million). Factor in another likely small increase next season and the large contracts the Blackhawks are already doling out – Brent Seabrook’s eight-year deal with a cap hit of $6.875 kicks in this season – and could Panarin be another one that gets away?

But Bowman remains optimistic.

“We're always confident,” he said. “You go into a negotiation expecting to get a deal done. That's the way I've been in the past and that's the way I am now.”

Northwestern to play home basketball games at Allstate Arena in 2017-18

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Northwestern to play home basketball games at Allstate Arena in 2017-18

While Welsh-Ryan Arena undergoes a complete facelift, the Wildcats needed somewhere to play during the 2017-18 season.

That home location was announced Tuesday. Northwestern will play its home schedule at Allstate Arena in Rosemont during the 2017-18 campaign.

The previously announced renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2017 and finish up in the fall of 2018, ready for the 2018-19 season.

“We are excited to partner with Allstate Arena to host Northwestern men’s basketball games during the 2017-18 season while Welsh-Ryan Arena is undergoing its renovation,” Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips said in the announcement. “The venue has a rich college basketball tradition in the Chicagoland area. I know that our fans will enjoy cheering on our team at Allstate Arena during what will be an exciting season.”

Certainly Allstate Arena is no stranger to college hoops. It's served as the home court for DePaul for decades and famously hosted the NCAA tournament Midwest Regional in 2005, when Illinois scored a remarkable win over Arizona to advance to the Final Four.

The renovation to Welsh-Ryan Arena promises a radically transformed venue for Northwestern hoops. Announced back in June, the renovation's details include new chair-back seating throughout the arena, new locker rooms and offices for the men's and women's basketball teams, new restrooms and concession areas for fans, as well as an expanded concourse, a new ticket office, an expanded lobby and an expansion of the N-Club, plus the retention of the recently installed video boards.