A.J. 9th inning blast carries Sox past Twins 4-3.

MINNEAPOLIS—A battery made up of former Twins once traded for one another teamed up to beat their old team Tuesday night.A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning and the White Sox held on to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-3.After Alex Rios singled off Jeff Gray (5-1), Pierzynski hit a 0-2 hanging slider into the right field bleachers for his second homer in as many nights after missing five games with a right oblique strain.

“I figure I gave `em one yesterday, maybe I could try to get one back for us today,” said Pierzynski, whose ninth inning throwing error Monday led to Minnesota’s winning run.

In his first start with the White Sox, Francisco Liriano, who was traded from Minnesota late Saturday for infielder Eduardo Escobar and left-hander Pedro Hernandez, allowed two earned runs and four hits in six innings.

“It’s just another game for me. I just tried to go out there and make some good pitches,” he said.

With his fastball regularly in the low-to-mid 90s and his slider and changeup staying away from Minnesota hitters, Liriano walked four and struck out eight, including Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham twice each.Mauer was caught looking at an inside pitch with two runners in scoring position in the third, leading the All-Star catcher to exchange words with home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski.

“Minnesota got a dose of what we’ve been facing for the last seven years and how hard he is to hit,” said Pierzynski, who was dealt to San Francisco in exchange for Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser in November 2003. “It was a good night for him.”

Although the Twins were getting deep in the count, Liriano allowed just two hits through five innings before the Twins got to him for two runs in the sixth.With one out, Darin Mastroianni hit a dribbler up the first base line and stole second and third. Walks to Mauer and Willingham loaded the bases for Justin Morneau, who hit a chopper to first base. Paul Konerko fielded the ball, but failed to step on the bag for the forceout and his throw home was wide of the plate, allowing Mastroianni to score.Valencia followed with a single that was stopped by a diving Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, but he could not make a throw. Brian Dozier nearly hit a grand slam the next at-bat, but the ball was caught on the warning track by Dayan Viciedo in left field.An RBI single by Ramirez scored Pierzynski to tie the game 2-2 in the seventh.Matt Thornton (3-6) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for the win. Thw White Sox are now 2½ games up on Detroit in the AL Central.Addison Reed allowed an RBI single to Denard Span in the bottom of the ninth, but still earned his 17th save in 20 chances.
Span, who was openly worried about being traded and expressed relief once the deadline passed, had four hits for the Twins, whose win streak was snapped at four.

“I feel all right now. Ready to go home and relax. It’s been a long 48 hours for me but I know where I’m going to be at, at least for now,” he said.

There was polite applause from the fans when Liriano’s name was announced and the crowd had no reaction when Liriano came out for the bottom of the first.Liriano came in with a 50-52 record and 4.33 ERA in his career. But so much more was expected of the enigmatic left-hander, who went 12-3 in 2006 as a rookie with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings. However, he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery later that year and has been inconsistent since.Liriano had a 9.45 ERA in six starts this year before being demoted to the bullpen in early May. After being put back in the rotation out of necessity late that month for the injury-plagued Twins, Liriano allowed three runs or less in eight of 11 starts while showing glimpses of his former dominance — including games with 10 and 15 strikeouts in July.

“He was doing what we got him to do,” said Robin Ventura. “He came out and pitched well even though the circumstances were probably a little odd for him.”

Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn allowed two earned runs and five hits in eight innings. Six days earlier against the Sox, Blackburn allowed eight earned runs on 10 hits over 4 1-3 innings in a losing effort.It was just the second time in eight starts that Blackburn allowed fewer than four runs.

“That’s the best I’ve felt in a long time,” he said. “I was finally out there relaxed a little bit, and let the ball move around. Unfortunately, we didn’t pull that one off, but, obviously, I’m pretty pleased with the way everything went for me tonight.”

Rios scored on a sacrifice fly by Viciedo to give the Sox a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

NOTES—John Danks is done for the season and is scheduled to have exploratory surgery Monday to find out what is causing his left shoulder strain….After trading Liriano late Saturday night, the Twins let the non-waiver deadline pass Tuesday afternoon without another deal. GM Terry Ryan said he wasn’t really close, either, but that the inaction didn’t disappoint him. “I’d be more disappointed if we made a bad trade,” said Ryan, who focused his search on starting pitchers….Minnesota’s Scott Diamond (9-4, 2.88 ERA) is scheduled to face Jake Peavy (8-7, 3.15) in Wednesday’s series finale.

Cubs avoid No Hitter by Burnett, but still get blanked 5-0

One thought kept crossing A.J. Burnett’s mind as he made his dramatic push for a no-hitter.He wanted it – badly.Instead, he will have to settle for a close call and maybe the best performance of his career.Burnett pitched a one-hitter, Neil Walker drove in five runs and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cubs 5-0 on Tuesday night, hours after the Northsiders traded ace Ryan Dempster.Burnett started thinking about a no-hitter in the third or fourth inning.

“I’m not going to lie,” he said. “So, it’s one of those things that you want to do, you want to take pride in, but at the same time a lot of luck’s got to go into it. I had a lot of great plays behind me. … Bottom line is it’s a `W’ for us.”

Burnett just about stole the spotlight after the Cubs traded their best pitcher to Texas just before the non-waiver deadline. His bid for a second career no-hitter and the sixth in the majors this season ended with two outs in the eighth.He had already hit Darwin Barney in the helmet with one out before striking out Luis Valbuena, but his no-hit bid ended at the hands of a rookie when pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas lined a 3-2 pitch to right for a single after two close pitches were called balls.Burnett said he was angry about a 2-2 curve that just missed outside, and he appeared to be yelling at the umpire after the hit. But he struck out David DeJesus with runners on first and third to end the inning. That’s probably not much consolation for the veteran, who pitched a wild no-hitter for the Marlins against San Diego on May 12, 2001.He walked nine in that game, two in this one while striking out eight.

“I always think about it,” he said. “I want to clean that one up. That was a wild one.”

That a Miami-area native, who was 13-years-old back then, broke it up was a bit of an ironic twist. Not since Sandy Koufax did it to them in September 1965 have the Cubs been no-hit, and the last no-hitter at Wrigley Field came when Milt Pappas pitched one against San Diego in September 1972.Burnett sure made it interesting, though. His curve was as sharp as it’s ever been, and he just missed the eighth no-hitter in franchise history.

“I thought he had a shot,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He was just so efficient, pinpoint command. He pitched the left-handers so extremely well tonight. Fastball gloveside, his curveball was sharp for strikes, for chase. Great tempo — 25 out of 31 first-pitch strikes. The pitch count was in a great place. That’s one of the best games I’ve seen pitched ever.”

Cubs manager Dale Sveum was impressed, too.

“He probably threw 60, 65 curveballs,” he said. “Even his fastball, he kept it out of the middle of the plate. We hit a few balls hard. A couple balls without the wind might have been home runs, but he pitched a heck of a game.”

He retired the first 11 batters before walking Anthony Rizzo, and as the game wore on, the sense that something special was happening filled the old ballpark.There was a loud gasp when Alfonso Soriano sent a drive to deep left-center in the seventh that Andrew McCutchen caught, and first baseman Garrett Jones then made a sliding stop on Bryan LaHair’s grounder to end the inning. The Cubs got some relief when Cardenas finally broke through, but even that was tempered by the reality that they got shut down.Cardenas faced Burnett in late May and didn’t do so well, going 0-for-3 with two errors in a 1-0 loss.

“I remember him and seeing how he was working throughout that game,” he said. “When I was able to get that hit, it was great but it was very short-lived because we lost 5-0. … It’s definitely sweet to break up the no-hitter here at our place. That’s something you don’t want to be a part of.”

While Burnett cruised along, Casey Coleman had a rough night after being recalled from the minors. Pitching in Dempster’s place, he lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits.Walker quickly put the Bucs ahead in the first when he drove a 2-1 pitch to right for a grand slam – the second of his career and second at Wrigley Field.He also had a sacrifice fly in the seventh.Burnett’s performance overshadowed the big news before the game, with Dempster going to the Rangers for two prospects. The Pirates were a busy bunch, too. They acquired former All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez from Florida and sent third baseman Casey McGehee to the Yankees for reliever Chad Qualls.

NOTES—Along with Coleman, the Cubs also recalled Cardenas and C Welington Castillo from Triple-A Iowa before the game….GM Jed Hoyer said it might not be long before Josh Vitters is called up from Triple-A. He was batting .298 with 15 homers….In the Sanchez deal, Pittsburgh also got minor league pitcher Kyle Kaminska for minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and the extra draft pick for 2013 that the Pirates won in the competitive balance lottery for financially weaker teams….The Pirates recalled RHP Daniel McCutchen from Triple-A Indianapolis to take Brad Lincoln’s spot in the bullpen. Lincoln was dealt to Toronto for Travis Snider on Monday.

Cubs finally deal Dempster–to Rangers

The Cubs have at last dealt Ryan Dempster.  He goes to the Texas Rangers. Dempster has a 2.25 ERA (good for second in the NL) and 83 strikeouts against 27 walks in 104.0 innings. While Dempster has obviously been outstanding in 2012, there’s reason to believe that he’s not going to be quite this good moving forward. That’s especially the case now that he’s in the DH league and pitching in Arlington.With that said, he’s clearly an upgrade for the Rangers, whose only real weakness is uncertainty in the rotation, what with the struggles of Roy Oswalt, the (likely) season-ending injury to Colby Lewis and the uncertain status of Neftali Feliz. In return, the Cubs will receive right-hander Kyle Hendricks and third baseman Christian Villanueva. Hendricks, age 22, is thriving this season at High-A Myrtle Beach (2.82 ERA, 130.2 IP, 112 K, 15 BB), and the 21-year-old Villanueva is hitting .285/.356/.421, also at Myrtle Beach.

Dempster had been scheduled to start Tuesday night against Pittsburgh,but Casey Colemanmwho was recalled from Iowa,will get the nod against the Pirates.

Matt Garza remains a Cub,but could always be dealt if the Cubs can get him through waivers,but that’s not likely since many teams will be primed to put a ‘block’ up to keep certain Clubs from claiming him.

Twins score in 9th, edge Sox 7-6.

MINNEAPOLIS—As Denard Span stood in center field, the ovation grew louder and louder. Finally, it got so loud Span had no choice but to tip his cap.Jamey Caroll’s sacrifice fly in the ninth inning scored Alexi Casilla and the Minnesota Twins won their fourth straight, beating the White Sox 7-6 Monday night.It was Span’s defense, however – highlighted by a leaping catch against the wall in left-center field – that stole the show.

“I made the catch, and I think the fans appreciated it more once they saw the replay,” Span said. “Just for them to clap and go as loud as they did for that amount of time – that was pretty special.”

Span added two hits and made another spectacular catch in the seventh, diving to rob A.J. Pierzynski and end the inning.Pierzynski homered in his first game after missing five with a strained oblique, and Alejandro De Aza returned from a wrist injury and matched a career high with four hits for the White Sox.

“We hit a lot of balls hard. It didn’t happen,” Robin Ventura said.

Danny Valencia, who had three hits and two RBI, led off the ninth with a single off reliever Brett Myers (0-1). Then Pierzynski’s throw to first after fielding Brian Dozier’s bunt sailed into right field, allowing each runner to move up.Carroll followed with a fly ball to right, allowing Casilla to slide in with the winning run ahead of Alex Rios’ throw.

“We’re giving away a lot of runs,” Ventura said. “The big ones are the unearned ones, you just give them something they really shouldn’t have. We’ve got to get better at that.”

De Aza’s single in the eighth off reliever Jared Burton tied it 6-6 and was the first run scored on Burton since June 12. The teams combined for nine hits and were tied 4-all after the first inning.The White Sox big inning was highlighted by Pierzynski’s three-run home run. Joe Mauer was one of four different Twins to drive in runs to tie it in the bottom half.The Twins took a 6-4 lead in the third on an RBI single from Ryan Doumit and a sacrifice fly from Valencia.Minnesota led 6-5 when Span made his leaping catch in the fifth. After sprinting into left-center field, he leaped against the fence and made the grab right in front of the White Sox bullpen.

“Oh my God, it was awesome,” said Twins starter Cole De Vries, who allowed five runs on seven hits in five innings. “Those are the things you count on when you’re not pitching well.”

The Twins, who snapped a five-game skid against the Sox, lead the American League in scoring for July and have scored 96 runs in their last 14 home games. Jose Quintana started, allowing six runs — four earned — on 10 hits over seven innings. Twins players were standing in the dugout and emotional on the field most of the night, obviously wanting to get a little payback after being swept by the White Sox last week.

“These guys are in first place in our division and we took a pretty good beating against them,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It was fun tonight. Guys were into it. We fought hard.”

Glen Perkins (2-1) pitched the ninth, striking out Pierzynski with Rios on first to end the inning. Pierzynski barked at home plate umpire Adrian Johnson on his way back to the dugout.

“We’ve been playing well and tonight hopefully is just a blip on the radar,” Pierzynski said. “We made some mistakes and, obviously, the one in the ninth was the big one that I made. But things happen, but I like the way we fought after giving up the lead. We had chances and that’s all we can really ask for.”

NOTES—Francisco Liriano debuts for the White Sox on Tuesday night after the Twins traded him to the Sox late Saturday. … To make room for Liriano, the White Sox optioned Hector Santiago to Triple-A Charlotte. Santiago was 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA in 32 relief appearances, but manager Robin Ventura said he’ll get a chance to start at Charlotte. … Liriano (3-10, 5.31 ERA) said before Monday’s game that he had no hard feelings toward the Twins after the trade and that he’s ready to face his former team. “It just feels weird right now,” he said. “I’m just trying to fit in, do my part.” … The Twins will counter with Nick Blackburn (4-6, 7.99). The right-hander has allowed four runs or more in six of his last seven starts. … Injured Twins starter Carl Pavano (rotator cuff) will make his first rehab start on Thursday in the Gulf Coast League.

Cubs rout Pirates–trade Maholm,Johnson and Soto. More to come?

Don’t let this ‘false hot streak’ fool you. Cub Management is breaking it down despite another win. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro homered during a nine-run fifth inning and the Cubs routed the Pittsburgh Pirates 14-4 Monday night in their highest-scoring game of the season.Rizzo and Darwin Barney hit three-run homers. Castro had a two-run shot and reached base four times as the Cubs won for the 11th time in their last 13 games at Wrigley Field.Rizzo’s drive off Erik Bedard (5-12) keyed the Northsiders biggest burst of the year. On Sunday, his 10th-inning homer beat St. Louis.Rizzo leads all NL rookies with a .330 average, eight homers and 20 RBIs since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa on June 26. The Cubs have gone 18-10 since he joined the team.Justin Germano (1-1) held Pittsburgh to two runs over five innings in his first start since Oct. 3, 2010. He picked up his first win since Aug. 28, 2007, when he beat Arizona as a member of the San Diego Padres.Barney dropped a throw when trying to make a pivot on a double play, allowing the Pirates to take a 2-1 lead in the fourth, an uncharacteristic defensive miscue for a player who completed his 88th straight errorless game at second base. Barney was not charged with an error on the play because he got the out at second.Barney made up for it in the bottom half, tagging Bedard for his first career three-run homer, a shot deep into the bleachers in left-center field. Barney also tripled, drove in a career-high four runs and scored three.Pinch hitter David DeJesus had a two-run single during the fifth-inning surge. Castro capped it with his 10th homer of the season, a shot to deep center field.Bedard allowed nine runs, matching a career worst and his 12 defeats give him the most in the majors. The Cubs have beaten eight of the last nine lefty starters they’ve faced.Rookie Starling Marte had three hits and an RBI for the Pirates and Mike McKenry drove in two runs.

NOTES—The Cubs have traded outfielder Reed Johnson and left-handed starting pitcher Paul Maholm to the Braves, the Cubs announced early Tuesday morning. In return, the Cubs get pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman.Word of the trade first started to circulate when those watching Monday night’s game noticed Johnson was hugging teammates after being removed, as if he was saying bye. It turns out, he was. Maholm’s involvement wasn’t as transparent, since he wasn’t pitching Monday.Maholm, 30, is 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 81 strikeouts in 120 1/3 innings this season. He’s been on fire of late, though, as he is 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his last seven starts.Johnson, 35, is hitting .302/.355/.444 with three homers, 16 RBI and 23 runs scored in 183 plate appearances this season. He’s been a great fourth-outfielder for the Cubs and can play all three outfield spots…Catcher Geovany Soto has also been traded, to the Rangers for minor-league pitcher Jacob Brigham.Soto left Monday night’s Cub game also hugging teammates as if to say goodbye, and it turns out he was.Soto, 29, is hitting .199/.284/.347 with six homers and 14 RBI this season. He was the NL Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in 2008. He hit .285/.364/.504 with 23 homers, 86 RBI and 35 doubles that season. He’s been up and down since, as he was bad in 2009, really good in 2010 and decent last season.The Rangers aren’t really hurting for catchers, with Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba already on the roster. That being said, Napoli can serve as the designated hitter or play first base, so there’s some added flexibility — which is especially needed with Michael Young having such a bad season. Also, this could well mean the end of the line for Torrealba with the Rangers.It is worth noting that Soto has been swinging the bat well of late. He’s hitting .298 with three doubles, a homer and five RBI in his past 14 games.Brigham, 24, is 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 116 strikeouts in 124 innings for Double-A Frisco this season.Soto is still in his arbitration years and won’t be a free agent until after the 2013 season…Ryan Dempster is slated to start the second game of the series for the Cubs though he continues to be the subject of trade rumors. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he would be “surprised” if Dempster was still with the team after Tuesday’s trade deadline. The Cubs will have a minor league pitcher travel to Chicago as a contingency to a Dempster transaction. … Another subject of trade rumors, Matt Garza threw a bullpen session on Monday that Sveum said went “extremely well.” Garza is expected to return to action later this week. His last start was pushed back because of cramping in his right arm. … Pirates manager Clint Hurdle celebrated his 55th birthday on Tuesday.

Bulls to add guard Nate Robinson

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

Just another ride on the NBA journeyman’s merry-go-round.The Bulls will sign unrestricted free agent guard Nate Robinson to a veteran minimum’s contract on Tuesday.Robinson, 28, will join his fourth team in the last three seasons after spending his first 4-plus years with the New York Knicks. An explosive, albeit very undersized, scoring guard, Robinson played for the Golden State Warriors in 2011-12 after spending the two previous years with the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder.Robinson averaged 11.2 points and 4.5 assists in 23.4 minutes off of Golden State’s bench last season.Best known for his diminutive stature (he is listed at 5-foot-9), his 3-time Slam Dunk winning vertical leap and his prolific use of social networking service Twitter, Robinson will join a Bulls backcourt that includes All-Star guard Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli and rookie Marquis Teague. Rose is expected to miss much of the 2012-13 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during the first round of the 2012 Eastern Conference playoffs.

Feldman shuts down Sox, Rangers win finale 2-0

ARLINGTON—Even as the Rangers keep an eye on the trade market for starting pitching, Scott Feldman seems to be saying, “don’t forget about me.” The Rangers’ right-hander, mixing a sharp sinker and a good fastball, tied a career high by pitching eight shutout innings in helping the Rangers snap a two-game skid with a 2-0 victory over the White Sox on Sunday. David Murphy had three hits, including a double, and Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz each scored a run for the Rangers, who used some aggressive base running to earn a victory the day before the start of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels in a West Division showdown. Feldman (5-6), who started the season 0-6, won his fifth consecutive decision, including four as a starter.

“The main adjustment I’ve made was to have a better attitude and not get caught up in the rumors and when I’m going to pitch and when I’m not going to pitch,” said Feldman, who was miffed when he was taken out of the rotation in June. “I’m just worrying about having a good time and keep things simple.”

That has translated to a very good July. In his last two starts he has allowed only one run in 15 innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks, compiling a 1.96 ERA in July. Feldman, who retired eight of the last 10 batters he faced, gave up seven hits on Sunday and was efficient, throwing only 88 pitches in matching the eight innings he has thrown on two other occasions, the last being June 2, 2010, also against the Sox at U.S.Cellular Field. Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth for his 21st save.

“He’s got a good sinker and breaking ball working — he’s not hanging it — keeping the ball down, executing his pitches extremely well and not making mistakes,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

“He’s got a crisp fastball, too.”

Gavin Floyd (8-9), who was 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA in his previous five starts, allowed seven hits over 6 2/3 innings in taking the loss for the White Sox, who have a 1½ game lead over Detroit in the AL Central.

“You just have to go out there and keep the team in the game and hope that we come back and put runs up,” said Floyd, who struck out one and walked five. “I got enough to focus on that I don’t worry about that. Our team is going to score runs.”

The White Sox left six runners on base and were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.The Rangers weren’t much better, continuing to struggle with runners in scoring position. They did manage to scratch across two runs after finishing the series 1 for 30 with runners in scoring position. They left 13 runners on base Sunday.

“I look at it the other way,” Washington said. “At least we’re getting them there [in position]. We’re too good a hitting team to [continue] to not get them home.”

Hamilton returned to the lineup for the Rangers, but not in his customary No. 3 slot. Washington penciled him in at No. 5.Hamilton is hitting .115 in his last 17 games after going 0 for 2 with two walks as the designated hitter.He scored the Rangers’ first run after reaching base on his second walk in the bottom half of the third. He advanced to third on Murphy’s single and scored when shortstop Alexei Ramirez bobbled and dropped Mike Napoli’s grounder in what would have been the third out. Nelson Cruz, who doubled to lead off the fifth, scored the Rangers’ second run, breaking for home from third when Floyd fielded Michael Young’s dribbler in front of the plate and threw to first.

“When you’re not scoring runs, you have to take chances,” Washington said. “You want that runner to come down the third-base line as far as he can, and then as a runner he has to make a decision. Either you go or you don’t.”

Jordan Danks was 2 for 3 for the White Sox.

NOTES—The White Sox lead on second place Detroit was trimmed to 1 1/2 games….Hamilton broke a string of consecutive games with a strikeout at seven…..Rangers starter Neftali Feliz was scratched from his scheduled rehabilitation start at Triple A Round Rock because of discomfort in his right elbow, team officials said. The 24-year-old Feliz hasn’t pitched in two months after being diagnosed with inflammation of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. He will undergo further evaluation…..A.J. Pierzynski sat out a fifth consecutive game with a strained oblique. Pierzynski said he could have played, but agreed with manager Robin Ventura’s decision to give him an extra day off. He is expected back in the lineup for the start of a three-game series Monday against Minnesota.

Rizzo homer in tenth gives Cubs 4-2 win and two of three vs Cards

Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning Sunday that lifted the Cubs over the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2.Starlin Castro led off the 10th with a single against Trevor Rosenthal (0-1) and Rizzo followed with his seventh homer.James Russell (5-0) worked an inning for the win. The Cubs are 12-3 in their last 15 home games.A struggling Carlos Beltran homered off Shawn Camp with one out in the St. Louis eighth, tying it at 2. The opposite-field solo shot was his 23rd homer of the year, but just his third in July. The All-Star is hitting .188 this month.Cubs starter Paul Maholm allowed one run and four hits over 6 2-3 innings. He walked four and struck out five.Maholm exited with the bases loaded in the seventh, but reliever Manny Corpas retired Allen Craig on a fly ball to end the threat.Maholm has allowed one run or fewer in six straight starts, becoming the first lefty in modern Cubs history to do so. He had won the previous five outings.Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright gave up two runs in six innings. He wasn’t fooling anybody early, allowing six of the first nine batters to reach base. David DeJesus tripled in the first and scored on Castro’s groundout. Darwin Barney doubled in the second and scored on an error in the second.Barney had two doubles and a single.Wainwright settled down to retire 12 of his final 14 batters.Beltran’s homer got Wainwright off the hook for what could have been his first loss in 13 career appearances at Wrigley Field. He is 5-0 at the ballpark, including his 20th win in 2010 when he finished second in the NL Cy Young voting.Despite a throwing error that allowed Barney to score in the second, shortstop Daniel Descalso made several exceptional defensive plays, including a dazzling diving stab and throw in the third to rob Rizzo of a hit.
NOTES—Cardinals SS Rafael Furcal (back tightness) missed a second straight game. Trainer Greg Hauck said he doesn’t expect it to be an extended absence. … Cardinals 1B Lance Berkman (general soreness) was also held out of the lineup, but pinch-hit in the seventh, drawing a walk. He was immediately removed for a pinch-runner. …Dale Sveum is still undecided on his Monday starter against Pittsburgh, but said it will “most likely”” be Justin Germano (0-1, 1.04 ERA), who was acquired from Boston on July 19. The Pirates send Erik Bedard (5-11, 4.32) to the mound for the series opener. … After an off-day Monday, the Cardinals travel to Colorado, where Kyle Lohse (10-2, 2.71) faces Jeff Francis (3-2, 4.97) on Tuesday.

USA 1-0 after pulling away from Parker,France 98-71 in Men’s Hoops opener

LONDON—Kevin Durant fell short trying to win his first NBA championship this summer. He looks determined to make up for it with his first Olympic gold medal.Durant delivered 22 points and nine rebounds in his Olympic debut as Team USA crushed France 98-71 to open the London Games with a dominating performance that had First Lady Michelle Obama on her feet and cheering.Durant led the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2010 world championships, and quickly took center stage from LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in his first Olympic game. He drove through the middle of the lane early in the first quarter and threw down a vicious dunk that brought a smile from the First Lady. Moments later, James threaded a stunning cross-court bounce pass to Durant for another dunk.Bryant had only five words of advice for Durant before his first Olympic game: “Just shoot the damn ball.”  Durant did that, make six of his 13 shots, including three of his five 3-pointers as he rose up over France’s defense. For much of the game, the ball moved freely and easily for the Americans, who had 27 assists on their 31 baskets.
“It’s exciting, man,” Durant said. “These are my first Olympic Games, and this is all about playing together.”
Only a few teams are expected to come close to challenging the Americans in these Games, and France isn’t among them. Led by San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, the French have a handful of NBA players on their roster, but they haven’t had much time to practice together. Parker was sidelined until recently after sustaining a serious eye injury when he was hit by broken glass in a New York club fight between entourage members of Drake and Chris Brown. He has to wear goggles in these Olympics and wasn’t much of a factor against Team USA, scoring 10 points.France stayed close for the opening quarter, pulling within one on a 3-pointer by Yannick Bokolo in the closing seconds of the period. France’s small group of fans roared in delight, but that was about the end of their fun for the afternoon. Durant and Bryant buried a pair of 3-pointers early in the second quarter and the rout was on.
“It can’t get tougher than that really,” said French forward Nicolas Batum.
U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski substituted liberally, shuttling many of his stars in and out of the game in short three-minute bursts. For all of the American’s talent, their depth is just as strong an advantage in these Olympics. Kevin Love added 14 points and Bryant added 10. James had an efficient all-around performance with nine points, eight assists and five rebounds in 25 minutes. Team USA’s next group game is Tuesday against Tunisia.
“It was a good first step for us,” Krzyzewski said.
Durant has become one of the NBA’s biggest stars, and he credits some of his growth to his international experience when he was tasked with leading the U.S. at the world championships two years ago. He’s won three consecutive NBA scoring titles and looked poised to take his first NBA title after the Oklahoma City Thunder won the opening game of this summer’s Finals. James and the Miami Heat, however, quickly quashed those dreams, overpowering OKC over the next four games.Durant admitted he still has a hard time stomaching that loss. These Olympics offer him some measure of redemption – and perhaps his first and only chance at a gold medal. If NBA owners push through with their plans to turn the Olympics into an under-23 tournament, Durant won’t get the chance to play in another Games.For now, though, Durant looks intent on making sure the world sees a lot of him over the next two weeks.

Sox beat Rangers again, get Liriano from Twins

ARLINGTON—Eduardo Escobar made his final contribution for the first-place White Sox on Saturday night.Escobar had two hits, including an RBI double in a three-run fifth, in a 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers and then was sent to Minnesota in a trade for left-hander Francisco Liriano.Adam Dunn hit his major league-leading 31st home run, Philip Humber pitched six solid innings in the White Sox won their fifth straight game.The postgame scene, however, was dominated by the news of Liriano’s acquisition. The lefty was traded to the South Side on Saturday night for Escobar and minor league left-hander Pedro Hernandez.
“He’s such a good kid,” Dunn said of Escobar, “We really enjoyed having him.”
Escobar, who started at short in place of Alexei Ramirez, helped the White Sox pull away in a three-run fifth that extended their lead to 5-0.Jordan Danks singled and came home on Escobar’s double. Two batters later, Dunn hit a two-run shot that just cleared the wall in center.Escobar also doubled in the seventh.
“Everybody loves [Escobar],” Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko said. “He’s probably going to play every day and become a household name over there.”
Konerko added a two-run homer for the Sox, who increased their AL Central lead to 2½ games over Detroit. The White Sox have won the first two in a three-game series between division leaders.Humber (5-5) didn’t allow a hit through three innings and won for the second time in three starts. He yielded one run, four hits and struck out four.The Texas native was making his first start in his home state against the Rangers.Matt Harrison (12-6), who lost his second straight start, gave up five runs and seven hits in seven innings. The left-hander walked three and struck out four.Josh Hamilton sat out after Rangers manager Ron Washington elected to give his slumping slugger a mental break. Hamilton is batting .145 in July and heard rare boos from his home fans after striking out twice Friday night.Adrian Beltre moved into Hamilton’s third spot in the batting order, and rookie Leonys Martin played left field.The Rangers also shuffled the middle of their lineup. Nelson Cruz hit fourth for the second time in two years, David Murphy was in the fifth spot and Michael Young batted sixth.Mike Napoli had a solo homer and an RBI groundout for Texas, which dropped its fifth in a row to the White Sox. Humber and three relievers held the Rangers to five hits.Texas went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position and 1 for 21 in the series.The White Sox had two rookies and backup catcher Tyler Flowers in the lineup, but offensive leaders Dunn and Konerko came through with the big hits to sink the Rangers.Harrison allowed only a walk through three innings before the Sox broke through. Dunn singled off Ian Kinsler’s glove at second base with one out in the fourth. Konerko followed with a 416-foot drive to left, his 17th home run of the season.Konerko is 10 for 19 with three home runs and seven RBI over his last five games.The White Sox broke the game open with their three runs in the fifth.After losing five in a row, the White Sox have responded by scoring 40 runs during their current winning streak.Young tripled leading off the seventh and Napoli followed with a walk that ended Humber’s night.Jesse Crain inherited the first-and-third jam. He struck out Martin and Craig Gentry, then got some help from his defense. Dayan Viciedo made a diving catch of Kinsler’s looping fly in shallow left to end the inning.
NOTES—The White Sox moved to shore up their rotation by acquiring lefty Liriano from the Twins. In exchange, the Twins will receive Hernandez and shortstop Eduardo Escobar.On the season, Liriano has a 5.31 ERA in 100.0 innings pitched; however, he’s generally fared much better since returning from his bullpen exile. When he was sent to the bullpen after his start on May 7, he had an ERA of 9.45. When he was restored to his starting role, he had an ERA of 8.47, and since that point he’s posted an ERA of 3.68. Obviously, the Sox are hoping that recent trends hold (save for Liriano’s disaster start last time out).Liriano will be owed the balance of his $5.5-million salary for this season. He’ll be eligible for free agency this winter….Alejandro De Aza (sprained left wrist) and SS Alexei Ramirez (bruised left hand) didn’t play one day after being involved in a scary outfield collision. While neither injury is considered serious, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said De Aza likely wouldn’t play Sunday, either. …A.J. Pierzynski missed his fourth straight game with a right oblique strain. … Texas RHP Neftali Feliz will make his fourth rehab appearance Sunday for Triple-A Round Rock. He is expected to throw about 80 pitches. …Gavin Floyd (8-8) will face Texas’ Scott Feldman (4-6) in the series finale Sunday.