Top Five Stories for August 27-September 2, 2012

White Sox Back on the Road After a 6-0 Homestand
After getting swept in Kansas City, many were left to wonder the direction the White Sox were headed in wrong direction. One of the strengths of the 2012 White Sox has been resiliency. They have not lost more than five in a row all season. They followed their last five game losing streak with a five game winning streak.

The White Sox have a tough week ahead with a seven game road trip. They will begin with four games in Baltimore and a huge weekend series at Detroit.

The Orioles are having a resurgent season. They already have their highest win total since 2006 and are on pace for their first .500 season since 1998. They are tied for the second Wild Card with Oakland and are just a half game behind Tampa for the first Wild Card Spot.

The White Sox rotation sets up nicely for Baltimore. Francisco Liriano will pitch the opener Monday Night, followed by Chris Sale, Jake Peavy and Jose Quintana.

The Orioles will counter with their young staff of Wei-Yin Chen, and Miguel Gonzalez in the first three games of the series. The Orioles acquired Joe Saunders from Arizona earlier Sunday. He is likely to be the starter Thursday. No one is listed as the starter as of yet.

Chen has been the ace of the O’s staff. He leads the team in virtually every statistic among their starters. With a 12-7 record, Chen has a good chance to be the AL Rookie Pitcher of the year. Gonzalez and Steve Johnson are fellow rookie starters that have performed well for the O’s in 2012.

Their bullpen has been the strength of the team this season. Their 3.05 Bullpen ERA ranks third in the American League and their 43 saves leads the AL. Closer Jim Johnson’s 43 saves lead the AL.

The Tigers list Doug Fister and Max Scherzer as the starters for the first two games of the series. Justin Verlander is scheduled to go for Detroit at Kansas City on Tuesday. He is the likely started for the final game of the series Sunday.

Gavin Floyd’s exit after two innings on Sunday puts the White Sox rotation against the Tigers in flux. Hector Santiago relieved Floyd in his last two starts after just 4.2 innings combined. He gave up two earned runs in four innings on Sunday. Either he or Philip Humber are mostly likely to start if Floyd cannot go. Liriano and Sale's turns would come up Saturday and Sunday.

Cubs Continue Their Homestand Against Milwaukee and San Francisco
The Cubs begin the week with a four game series against Milwaukee and then conclude it with three games against the Giants. The Brewers will throw Marco Estrada, Yovani Gallardo, Mike Fiers and Shawn Marcum. The Cubs will counter with Justin Germano, Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija and Brooks Raley. Getting a win in the opener will be a key to setting a tone for the series. Estrada is 1-5 with a 4.23 ERA. He is the only Brewers starter in the series with an ERA over 4.00.

Gallardo has been the ace of the staff with a 13-8 record and 3.88 ERA. Since the Brewers traded Zack Greinke just before the trading deadline Gallardo is 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA. Fiers is having a very good rookie season with a 7-6 record and 2.98 ERA. He has struggled in his last three starts with a 1-2 record and a whopping 9.88 ERA.

Travis Wood has had good success against Milwaukee in his career with a 3-1 record and 3.31 ERA.

Bears Finish Preseason with a Trip to Cleveland
After a win at the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants last week, the Bears hope to close the preseason with a three game winning streak at Cleveland Thursday. Vaughn McClure had a good article in Sunday’s Tribune about Mike Tice’s commitment to run the ball. The Bears rank 30th in rushing offense through the first three preseason games.

Matt Forte has just 55 yards on 14 carries through two games. Michael Bush had two rushing touchdowns against Washington, but is averaging just 2.8 Yards Per Carry.

The Bears made an obvious commitment to upgrade their receiving corps in the offseason. Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery have combined for 16 catches for 222 yards and touchdown.

The fourth preseason game has become more of an opportunity for the teams to look at the fringe players trying to make the roster. Armando Allen and Lorenzo Booker seem to have a good battle going for the final running back spot. The final Wide Receiver spot is likely to come between Rashied Davis and Dane Sanzenbacher. Booker and Davis might have the edge because of their abilities to play special teams.

NFL Final Cut Down Day
NFL Teams have to get to 53 players by Friday. Running back and Wide Receiver will be the biggest battle for the Bears. The Final Quarterback spot could also be interesting. The Bears appear high on Matt Blanchard. Will they keep him over veteran Josh McCown or will they risk losing Blanchard with the hopes of putting him on the practice squad. Backup linebacker and the defensive secondary also areas to watch.

College Football Season Begins
Northwestern will begin the season on the road at Syracuse. NU has won four of the previous nine meetings. Kain Colter in the leading returning Passer, Rusher and Receiver for Northwestern. He will not accomplish that triple crown again as the NU QB. If everything falls right for the Wildcats, Colter could make a run at the Silver Football.

Illinois will start the season at home against Western Michigan and Northern Illinois will begin the year against Iowa at Soldier Field.

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