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.

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

The White Sox will battle the Oakland Athletics today, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 3:05 p.m.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Carlos Rodon vs. Kendall Graveman

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Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.