Hawks continue to dive, fall to Blues 4-2


ST. LOUIS—The St. Louis Blues needed someone to move to the first line after Paul Kariya was hurt late in the first period. Alex Steen was the obvious choice. Steen had two goals and an assist and scored the go-ahead goal early in the third, helping the Blues keep alive faint playoff hopes and hand the slumping Blackhawks their seventh loss in nine games with a 4-2 victory Tuesday.Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson also scored, and Chris Mason thwarted the last of the Blackhawks’ three breakaways. The Blues have won three in a row at home, where they remain an NHL-worst 15-18-5, the biggest reason they’re six points out of the final Western Conference playoff spot with six games to go.The Blackhawks clinched a playoff spot a week ago and despite their recent woes are second in the West with 99 points. They had a similar skid late last season before making it to the conference finals.It wasn’t clear when or how Kariya was hurt, and Payne shed no light on the situation. Sharp and Marian Hossa scored in the first period for the Blackhawks, who have lost three in a row in regulation for the first time this season. Sharp scored on a breakaway and Hossa tapped in a rebound on his backhand after Jonathan Toews’ breakaway. Mason stopped Hossa’s bid for the go-ahead goal 1:25 into the third, and just over two minutes later Steen scored on a shot that deflected off goalie Antti Niemi’s glove and shoulder.Steen has a pair of two-goal games this month and four overall and leads the Blues with career highs of 23 goals and 46 points. He’d been scoreless the previous four games, but has 41 points the last 42 games and assisted on Johnson’s insurance goal midway through the period on a line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie.The Blackhawks are one point away from consecutive 100-point seasons for the first time since 1970-72.Brewer’s first goal in 17 games and seventh overall tied it at 2 early in the second period. The defenseman scored on a shot from the point that got through traffic.

NOTES—Oshie had an assist but is the only Blues player with two or more goals on the season with none against the Central division. … The Blackhawks have outshot opponents 66 times, including a 34-30 edge Tuesday, by far the most in the NHL. No other team had outshot their opponent more than 45 times. … Sharp has a five-game scoring streak with three goals and two assists. … Niemi has started five of the last six games ahead of slumping Cristobal Huet. …The Hawks were 0 for 2 on the power play and is 4 for 40 the last 11 games. … Blues enforcer Cam Janssen drew a game misconduct after punching Nick Boynton in the head while he was down in the second period, and he jousted with Ben Eager in the first.

Red hot Suns too much late for Bulls

Steve Nash was at his darting best in the final two minutes, paving the way for the Phoenix Suns’ eight straight victory on a night they clinched a playoff spot.In a 111-105 victory, Nash had the Bulls guessing: will he shoot, drive, dump it inside or kick it back out? And with Kirk Hinrich sidelined in the second half with a sprained ankle, Nash had room to work.In a frantic final stretch, Nash drove to the lane and turned around for a jumper. Seconds later, he maneuvered his way back to the basket and used his familiar scoop shot to score and start a three-point play.He found Channing Frye for a clutch tiebreaking 3-pointer with 41.6 seconds left, passed to Grant Hill for a dunk and then hit two free throws to finish off his 22-point, 10-assist night.All from a guy who had been nursing a sore back and the sniffles.Jason Richardson led the Suns with 27 points and Amare Stoudemire had 21 points — 13 in the first quarter — and 11 rebounds. The Suns are currently in fourth in the West.The 6-11 Frye connected on three 3-pointers.Flip Murray and Derrick Rose, who kept the Bulls close down the stretch with 10 points in the final period, had 23 points each. The Bulls are 1½ games behind Toronto for the eighth playoff spot in East.After Hill’s dunk 23.2 seconds remaining restored Phoenix’s lead to three, Rose missed a long 3-pointer when he had to double clutch. Nash then sank a pair of free throws with 13 seconds to go. Stoudemire dunked on the break over James Johnson, was fouled and converted the three-point play to highlight a late 10-0 first-quarter run by the Suns that opened up a quick 12-point lead.The Suns’ lead didn’t last long as Jannero Pargo hit a pair of 3-pointers and Murray another in a 13-2 run that tied the game early in the second.

NOTES—The Suns’ last eight-game winning streak came from Nov. 9-23, 2007….Hinrich sprained his left ankle in the second quarter. He tested it during warmups for the second half and then did not return…..Joakim Noah was assessed a technical foul after the first half. He said he was asking officials at midcourt why teammate Chris Richard had been called for a flagrant foul late in the half……Entering the game, Stoudemire had averaged 27.6 points in the 20 games since the All-Star break……Murray brought the crowd to its feet by swishing a midcourt hook shot at the end of the third quarter, but the shot came after the horn. The call was upheld by video review…..The Suns are 17-4 since the All-Star break.

Tracy beats out Millar as Cubs edge Giants

SCOTTSDALE—Chad Tracy celebrated his addition to the Cubs’ opening-day roster with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, leading the Northsiders over the San Francisco Giants 5-3 Tuesday.Tracy edged out veteran infielder Kevin Millar for the final spot earlier in the day. He homered off Guillermo Mota, making a bid for a short role in the Giants’ bullpen.Former Cub Mark DeRosa gave the Giants a 3-2 lead with a two-run homer in the fourth. The Cubs tied it in the seventh on Mike Fontenot’s single. Tyler Colvin, also a newcomer to the Cubs’ roster, had a pair of hits and raised his spring average to .457.Aaron Rowand continued his productive spring with two doubles and a single and is batting .479 for the Giants.Right-hander Todd Wellemeyer, formerly on the Cubs, moved closer to getting the No. 5 spot in the Giants’ rotation. He gave up three runs on five hits while pitching a spring-high seven innings. He walked one and struck out four.Wellemeyer said he still hasn’t officially been told that he has locked up that spot. He is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA and will pitch Sunday’s exhibition finale against Seattle.

NOTES—DeRosa showed he is adjusting to playing left field by throwing Marlon Byrd out at the plate in the seventh inning as he tried to score on a single by Fontenot. … Giants RHP Tim Lincecum will make his final start of the spring today against Oakland in a minor league game. … Cubs closer Carlos Marmol pitched 1 1-3 innings and John Grabow came on to get his second save.

Buehrle and Jenks look ready as Sox beat A’s

GLENDALE—Two starting pitchers slated to start opening day took the mound for the White Sox and the Athletics and looked ready to pitch in games that count. Mark Buehrle got the better of Ben Sheets and the Oakland Athletics in a 2-0 Sox win Tuesday.Paul Konerko broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth inning with a two-out double to drive in Juan Pierre, and Carlos Quentin hit a solo home run in the seventh.The White Sox completed their Camelback Ranch spring training schedule and have one full-squad game left in Arizona.Buehrle outdueled Sheets to earn his first victory and finished spring training with a 2.08 earned run average.Sheets, who struggled earlier this month and entered the game with a 17.28 ERA, put together a second straight quality start, going 5 1/3 innings and allowing a run on three hits with five strikeouts and five walks.Buehrle struck out three and allowed four hits over five innings and relievers Tony Pena, Randy Williams and closer Bobby Jenks worked the final four innings.Jenks pitched the last two and struck out the side in the eighth inning, pumping his fist in celebration after the third out.Buehrle said he’ll feel the rush of being on the mound in Chicago next week.Quentin’s home run was his fourth of spring training to go with a team high 13 runs batted in.The A’s were shut out for the first time this springs.

NOTES—The White Sox finalized their 25-man roster before Tuesday’s game, and reliever Sergio Santos, who was an infielder only a year ago, made the team. Santos, 26, has never appeared in a regular-season major league game, but made the team on the strength of a solid spring. “It’s a day I’ll never forget,” Santos said. Utility infielder Jayson Nix also made the club, as the White Sox optioned outfielder Alejandro De Aza, pitcher Daniel Hudson and infielder Brent Lillibridge to Class AAA Charlotte and reassigned pitchers Greg Aquino, Charlie Leesman and Erick Threets and catcher Donny Lucy to minor-league camp.

Sky trade Dupree to Phoenix in three team deal

Chicago Sky

The Sky have acquired WNBA All-Star Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld in a blockbuster three-team trade. The Sky have sent Candice Dupree to the Phoenix Mercury and the Mercury sent Marshall High School Alum Cappie Pondexter to the New York Liberty. The Liberty will also get the Sky’s 2010 second round draft pick.

“We are thrilled about this trade because it dramatically increases the depth of the Sky starting line-up, expands our shooting range and enhances our overall defensive intensity,” said Key. “We hate to lose Candice, but through this trade we are able to acquire All-Star Shameka Christon and established WNBA starter Cathrine Kraayeveld, replacing one experienced athlete with two. This sort of depth will be a great addition to our current roster which includes WNBA All-Stars Sylvia Fowles and Jia Perkins.”

Christon, a WNBA All-Star in 2009, averaged 16.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 32 minutes per game for the Liberty. At 6-feet 1-inches tall Christon is an impressive shooter, she shot 40.2% from the field and 38.2% from 3-point range. The six year WNBA veteran’s all-star appearance was the first of her career. Kraayeveld, a 6-foot 4-inch forward, averaged 9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 26 minutes per game for the Liberty in 2009. Kraayeveld is a well respected defensive presence around the league and is an accomplished 3-point shooter. Last season she shot 42% from 3-point range and has shot 38.7% throughout her five year WNBA career.As a restricted free-agent, Dupree had to approve the trade. She will head to Phoenix to join the defending WNBA Champions and the 2009 WNBA MVP, Diana Taurasi.

Cubs “beat up” Dusty’s Reds as Wells turns in another good start

MESA—Randy Wells allowed one run in 5 2-3 innings and three relievers pitched shutout ball Monday in the Cubs 8-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.The Cubs’ 4.11 ERA is the sixth-best in the majors this spring and their pitchers rank first with 197 strikeouts. Cub starters have recorded a 1.95 ERA in the last 15 games. All this without Ted Lilly, the team’s lone All-Star in 2009, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.Ryan Dempster has a 1.69 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 21 1-3 innings. Carlos Zambrano is at 3.15 and new starter Tom Gorzelanny 3.07. Two of the new relievers, Esmailin Caridad and James Russell, haven’t allowed a run. Sean Marshall’s ERA is 1.38. Justin Berg’s is 1.13.A year ago, Wells was pitching in relief and was bound for Triple-A, where he spent the first month. He got called up when Zambrano got hurt and never went back down, leading the team with a 3.05 ERA and tying Lilly’s club-high 12 victories.Now in his eighth professional season, the 27-year-old right-hander finally is going north with the Cubs out of spring training.Wells received plenty of offensive support. Marlon Byrd and Mike Fontenot hit two-run homers and Jeff Baker added a solo shot. Tyler Colvin, a rookie surprise who forced his way onto the 25-man roster by being one of baseball’s top hitters all spring, drove in two runs. He’s batting .455.The Reds dropped their fifth straight game, and former Cub and now Cinci manager Dusty Baker said: “We got beat up pretty good.” Justin Lehr, whose four-hit shutout at Wrigley Field last Aug. 5 started the Cubs on a 4-12 skid from which they never recovered, was the best of seven Cincinnati pitchers. He fanned three in two hitless innings but is a long shot to make the team despite his 3.14 spring ERA.

NOTES—Lilly is scheduled to throw 45 pitches in a minor league game Tuesday. He then would be on an every-fifth-day schedule in which he would throw 60, 75 and 90 pitches in rehab starts. If all goes well, he’d come off the DL and be able to start for the Cubs as early as April 19. … Piniella said Carlos Silva would be the No. 4 starter and Gorzelanny No. 5. The one who performs better will stay in the rotation once Lilly returns. … Reds No. 4 starter Homer Bailey pitched against a Dodgers minor league team Monday, allowing five runs on five hits and three walks in five innings.


***It doesn’t get any better than seeing Kentucky and Bruce Pearle(Tennessee)both LOSE in consecutive days. A Final Four without Kentucky,North Carolina,and as an added bonus,that creep Pearle will be aw some! This Saturday, it starts with Butler against Michigan State at 6:07 Chicago time followed by Duke vs West Virginia(Thank You Bob Huggins for taking UK out!).

***Just when it appeared that the Bulls were toast after their embarrassing loss to Miami last Thursday,they are now just 1/2 game behind Toronto for the 8th ans last Eastern Conference Playoff spot. Look for Tuesday’s game with Phoenix to be very high scoring at the United Center. The Suns can score like crazy, but your Grandmother can score on them!

***Just when it looked like the Blackhawks righted their ship last Tuesday with a nice 2-0 win over Phoenix at the U.C., the Columbus Blue Jackets,the team with the second worst record in the Western Conference,beats the Hawks 8-3 at Nationwide Arena Thursday night, and then 4-2 in the United Center Sunday evening. Well, nobody can blame Cristobal Huet for this defeat! He didn’t play! The Hawks next three games are away, and they all of a sudden have fallen 5 points behind the San Jose Sharks who have won three straight after they had dropped six in a row. The good thing is the Blackhawks still have two games in hand,but they have to quit wasting chances with just eight games left in the regular season.

***The Cubs are suddenly getting surprise starting pitching from Carlos Silva who has been named to the starting rotation along with Tom Gozelanny. Sean Marshall gets a raw deal,and is stuck in the bullpen which has been very sub par. Carlos Marmol has been less than impressive so far.

***What a piece of crap Milton Bradley continues to be. The former Cub Clubhouse cancer was kicked out of TWO Mariners Cactus League games last week, and was predictably held out of the M’s lineup against the Cubs Sunday in Surprise for obvious reasons. Then when some Chicago media members tried to talk to Milton, he refused, saying that the Chicago Media “ran me out of town”. He then added a sarcastic “Peace!” while walking away.

***The White Sox are not winning many Cactus League games,but Ozzie Guillen does not seem to be worried. He’s pleased with the pitching,and feels the lineup will be ready for the season opener a week from today.

***The Bears are about to waive Alex Brown as well as Adawale Ogunleye. What big surprise does Lovie Smith have in store next?


Hawks lose to Jackets again, now five pts behind Sharks


Jakub Voracek had two goals and an assist, and Steve Mason made 33 saves to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-2 win over the slumping Blackhawks on Sunday night.Andrew Murray and Mike Commodore also scored for Columbus, which defeated the Hawks for the second time in four days. The Blackhawks are 2-4-2 in their last eight and now trail San Jose by five points for the #1 seed in the West.Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp scored against Mason, who made several timely close-in stops and was supported by tight-checking play. Antti Niemi started for the fourth time in five games for the Black Hawks and made 16 saves.Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger each had two assists for the Blue Jackets.Bolland was credited with the goal that opened the scoring at 8:58 of the first. Mason stopped Brent Seabrook’s shot from the right point, and Bolland failed to tap in the rebound from the side of the net. Columbus’ Antoine Vermette swept in the crease and tried to clear the puck, but inadvertently knocked it into the net.Murray tied it at 1 just under two minutes later during a delayed penalty call when he stuffed in a loose puck from a scrum in the crease.The Blue Jackets scored twice late in the second period to take a 3-1 lead.Voracek knocked a loose puck into a wide-open net with 6:35 left in the second to make it 2-1. After Niemi blocked Brassard’s from the right circle and dropped to the ice, Voracek pounced on the rebound from the left edge of the crease.Commodore extended it to 3-1, scoring on a shot from the point with 6.3 seconds left in the period while Voracek was screening Niemi.Sharp cut it to 3-2 with 3:13 left in the third when he scored on a short-handed breakaway. The goal set off a late Hawk offensive flurry, but Voracek scored into an empty net with eight seconds remaining.

NOTES—Kim Johnsson missed his seventh game with a concussion. … Nick Boynton was a healthy scratch for the first time in six games since being recalled from Rockford of the AHL on March 16….The Hawks next three games are all on the road.

Bulls hold on, beat Pistons, just 1/2 game out of last playoff birth

AUBURN HILLS—The Bulls needed a win Sunday to boost their chances of a playoff spot.They found the perfect opponent.Flip Murray scored 23 points, Derrick Rose added 19 points and nine assists, and the Bulls beat the hapless Detroit Pistons 110-103.The Bulls now trail Toronto by a half-game for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.The Pistons have lost eight straight and 15 of 17. The victory gave the Bulls, who are seven games under .500 against the rest of the NBA, their first season sweep of Detroit since the Michael Jordan-led team that won 72 games in 1995-96. They have now beaten the Pistons seven straight times.Brad Miller added 17 points, while Hakim Warrick scored 14 off the bench.Rip Hamilton led all scorers with 29 points, while Rodney Stuckey overcame a twisted ankle to add 20. Hamilton also twisted his ankle late in the game.Detroit scored the game’s first five points, but that was the highlight of the night for the free-falling Pistons. The Bulls put together a 31-11 run to take a 62-44 halftime lead.A 32-point third quarter got the Pistons back within single digits, but they couldn’t hit enough shots in the fourth period to pose a serious threat.

NOTES—Detroit is 2-14 against the Central Division, with both wins coming against Milwaukee. Besides being swept by the Bulls for the first time in 14 years, they were swept by Indiana for the first time in franchise history….Murray, a former Piston, outscored former Bull Ben Gordon 23-3. Murray is making approximately one-sixth of Gordon’s salary this season…..Hamilton and Detroit Coach Jon Kuester both picked up technicals for arguing calls…..James Johnson returned for the Bulls after missing the last game with a strained foot.

Dempster sharp as Cubs blank M’s 1-0, Bradley blames media for “driving him out of Chicago”

PEORIA—Ryan Dempster put a little regular-season pressure on himself: bases loaded, no outs.Then came a dominant sequence the Cubs hope their No. 2 starter duplicates when the games get real beginning next week.Dempster struck out three consecutive Mariners with the bases full to end his seven shutout innings. He struck out nine in all and allowed just four hits in a 1-0 victory over Seattle on an unusual, shutdown Sunday in the homer-happy desert.For everyone with early dinner plans. The game lasted an hour and 59 minutes, more rare than rainouts in the Cactus League, thanks to Dempster and Seattle starter Ryan Rowland-Smith. Dempster sure looked ready for the season to get here. He continually fired low fastballs into the strike zone and worked with a quick, almost ruthless pace. His strikeouts were the most by a Cub this spring. He has 15 strikeouts in 12 1-3 innings of his last two spring starts.Two of the hits against the right-hander who has won 28 games over the last two seasons, began the seventh, sandwiched around a walk to Ken Griffey Jr. Dempster struck out minor-leaguer Mario Martinez – who was batting because Franklin Gutierrez’s stomach felt ill – then Mariners backup infielder candidate Matt Tuiasosopo and co-starting catcher Adam Moore.The final strike, a high fastball, seemed to stun Moore. Dempster yelled into his glove before teammates and coaches high-fived him at the top step of the dugout. The scene looked more April or August than March.He was 4-0 with a 3.16 ERA in April on his way to 17 wins and an All-Star game in his career-best 2008. But he was just 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in the season’s first month last year.Xavier Nady was 0 for 3 while starting his first game in the outfield since last April, following Tommy John surgery in his elbow. The former Yankee had only one fielding play: he cautiously threw a double by Casey Kotchman back into the infield in the first.Tyler Colvin, the 13th overall pick in the 2006 draft who debuted with Chicago over six games last season, got another hit minutes after manager Lou Piniella said the 24-year-old has won a backup outfielder job.Colvin, who got a chance this month with Nady rehabilitating, entered Sunday second in the Cactus League with a .475 batting average.Piniella was told Colvin is waiting until he is on the team plane to Atlanta for opening day next week before believing he has a job.

NOTES—Milton Bradley did not play for Seattle and also refused to speak with the Chicago media,telling them that they “drove him out of Chicago”, then he added “Peace!”….Jeff Baker doubled leading off the sixth, moved to third on a single by Ryan Theriot and scored the only run on a sacrifice fly by DH Kosuke Fukudome. … Piniella said that the last bench job is all that he must settle in camp’s final week. Candidates include IFs Kevin Millar and Chad Tracy.