Peavy sharp as Sox down Tigers in home opener

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Peavy sharp as Sox down Tigers in home opener

Jake Peavy will tell you his first concern is all about winning. But the righty also admitted he doesn't want to give fans any reason to dislike him.

He certainly didn't do that Friday, throwing 6 23 solid innings to help lead the White Sox past Detroit in a 5-2 home opener victory. Peavy struck out eight, only issuing one walk and allowing two runs on two hits. This coming against a Tigers lineup that entered Friday averaging nearly seven runs per game.

"It just seemed like from the first pitch, he was more intense and more aggressive," A.J. Pierzynski said. "Sometimes in the past he's waited until he got into trouble and then went. But today he went from pitch one and you see the results."

The results were that Peavy never really got in any trouble. He allowed a two-out, two-run home run to Delmon Young in the seventh, but that was it. Peavy cruised through the powerful Detroit lineup, working his fastball and off speed pitches in perfectly.

"I struck probably as many guys out on a fastball today as I did on a breaking ball, and that's an encouraging sign when you can get guys out with your fastball," Peavy explained. "Obviously, you'd like to see the numbers creep up to what they once were, but at the same time if you can throw fastballs by somebody, keep guys off balance, that's what you're trying to do."

Peavy actually generated five swings and misses on his fastball and seven on other offerings -- slider, change up, curveball, cutter. His fastball averaged about 91 miles per hour, although he frequently touched 92 and 93 with it. And with his location and command of his breaking stuff, that was all he needed.

"He's got that extra little jump on his fastball," Paul Konerko said. "He'd be the first to tell you he's not throwing 95, 96 like he was with San Diego, but he's throwing 92, 93 -- that's enough in this league velocity's not everything, but if you can hit spots like he can and have the breaking ball he has, it makes a world of difference when you can rush it up there a couple more miles per hour."

Things easily could've unraveled early for Peavy when the game was paused in the top of the first for about 10 minutes after Miguel Cabrera voiced a complaint about the batter's box. Peavy didn't throw during that break -- although Pierzynski broached the idea -- and ultimately wasn't worse off for it.

"Next time it's like that we're going to stop the game and re-do the boxes for us," laughed Pierzynski.

Peavy's effort was buoyed by an odd offensive combination in the seventh inning. After Konerko delivered a two-out RBI single to put the Sox up 2-0, Pierzynski laced a line drive into the right field corner. Brennan Boesch had a bit of trouble with the ball in the corner, and third base coach Joe McEwing decided to get aggressive, sending Konerko around third. He just barely slid in under Alex Avila's tag to put the Sox up 3-0.

"Usually I'm getting the stop sign for sure -- when Joe McEwing was wheeling me around I was a little bit, uh, curious about that, wondering what the heck was going on," Konerko said dryly. "And the play at the plate, I don't know if I was safe or out, but it seems like most times I slide like that into a play, the guy usually calls me out, so I was kinda surprised he called me safe. As an umpire, I gotta believe it's hard to not to anticipate me being out. I think he made a great call, I just slid underneath it."

That last run was all the Sox needed, although Detroit battled back in the seventh and eighth innings. But stellar defensive plays by Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez stopped both Detroit scoring threats, and a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth put the game out of reach, even for the powerful Tigers offense.

"You're playing against that team, with that lineup and that pitching staff, you have to try to keep pressure on them because when they get to hammer on us, they're going to put pressure and do everything they can to be aggressive and do everything to stomp on us," Pierzynski said. "You have to do that, and that's the right way to go about it every day. It doesn't matter if you're playing Detroit or anybody.

"We've been playing well, and we said all along if we can keep guys healthy and guys have their years, then we should be okay."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.

Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.

Listen to the latest episode below:

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

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USA TODAY

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.

Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.

But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.

Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?

First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.

Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.

So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.

That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.

Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.

But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.

But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.

There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.

And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.

There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?

If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.

There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.