Central Division closest race in the league

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Central Division closest race in the league

The Bulls seem to have found their stride after a rough November, but the rest of the Central Division is surprisingly keeping pace.
Winners in eight of their last 11, the Bulls have jumped from 6-7 to 14-10, and have sat atop the Central standings the last week. The impressive play of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, both of whom are logging 40 minutes per night, has the Bulls in contention even without the services of Derrick Rose.
The Bulls may have the weakest record of any first-place team of any division, but the Central stands as the closest race in the league, and one of two divisions with three teams better than .500, as Christmas nears.
Three teams -- Chicago, Milwaukee and Indiana -- are within 1.5 games of each other. The next closest race involving three teams in a division is the Southwest, where Houston (12-12) sits 5.5 games back of San Antonio (19-8) and 5 behind Memphis (16-6).
The Bucks have feasted on a rather easy schedule to win six of their last nine games, all in December. During that stretch, the only team better than .500 the Bucks have defeated is Brooklyn (13-11).
Indiana has also maintained pace by winning nine of 14 games dating back to Nov. 19. But of teams with a winning record, the Pacers are just 1-10 against other winning teams. With games against Utah, Chicago, Atlanta and Memphis to close the month, the Pacers will know more about their squad's ability to remain in the Central division race by the time the calendar hits 2013.
DivisionWin Teams above .500Atlantic (East).5042 (NYK, BRK)Central (E).4783 (CHI, MKE, IND)Southeast (E).4602 (MIA, ATL)Northwest (West).5814 (OKC, DEN, UTAH, MIN)Pacific (W).5162 (LAC, GSW)Southwest (W).5242 (SAS, MEM)
No one will argue the Central division as being the league's best, but as it stands it is the Eastern Conference's most competitive division and the closest race in the league. The standings may change when the Pacers get Danny Granger (knee) back in February or when Rose returns for the Bulls, but for now it's looking like a three-team race that should continue late into the season.

Red Sox ace Chris Sale doesn't have time to get emotional in return to Chicago

Red Sox ace Chris Sale doesn't have time to get emotional in return to Chicago

Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox are about to roll through Chicago's South Side.

At the tail end of the holiday weekend, Sale and Co. will return to the place he called home for seven years.

Sale was initially scheduled to start in the series opener Monday against longtime teammate Jose Quintana, but the Red Sox will now throw out David Price in his 2017 debut.

The 28-year-old Sale is slotted in for Tuesday night's outing.

Asked how emotional he'll be returning to Chicago, Sale brushed it off:

"I don't have time to think about that right now," he said. "Get ready for it like any other start. I've pitched there a lot so I should be alright."

Sale last pitched Wednesday against the Texas Rangers, picking up his fifth win of the season with 7.1 strong innings. It was also the first time Sale didn't strike out at least 10 batters in a start since his 2017 debut on April 5, going eight straight starts with double digit whiffs.

On the season, Sale is 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 0.81 WHIP averaging a ridiculous 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Sale leads the league in games started, innings, strikeouts, WHIP and FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching).

The big southpaw appeared in 228 games for the White Sox — including 148 starts — posting a 74-50 record with a 3.00 ERA, 1.065 WHIP and 1,244 strikeouts in 1,110 innings.

Bastian Schweinsteiger happy with Manchester United's Europa League win

Bastian Schweinsteiger happy with Manchester United's Europa League win

Bastian Schweinsteiger's time with Manchester United wound down with him being essentially frozen out of the team for an extended period, but he was still happy to see his former teammates win a European trophy on Wednesday.

Man U beat Ajax 2-0 to win the Europa League final in Stockholm. The win sealed a berth in next year's Champions League for the Red Devils.

Despite the way Schweinsteiger's tenure in England ended, the German midfielder has still said positive things about the club since leaving for the Chicago Fire in March. He tweeted out a good luck message to the team ahead of the final.

Paul Pogba scored in the first half and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored in the second half to seal United's win and the trophy to end a season that included a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.

Schweinsteiger didn't play in any Premier League matches this season, but his last appearance for the Manchester club was as a subtitute in the Europa League round of 32 at French club Saint-Etienne.

Training with the Fire on Wednesday kept him from watching the whole final, but he said he did watch what he could.

“I’m happy for United," Schweinsteiger said after the Fire's 2-1 win against Dallas. "I’m happy for them. They are a good team and I’m happy they can play in Champions League next year.”