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Thurs, Nov 7, 2013: NBA, NCAAF, NFL

Oregon and Stanford are ranked in the top five of the latest BCS standings and the No. 2 Ducks can move closer to a possible national championship game appearance when they visit the No. 6 Cardinal on Thursday. Oregon is third in the BCS race and waging a tight battle with Florida State for the second spot while Stanford is sitting fifth and looking to elevate its position. The Cardinal defeated Oregon in overtime last season and have kept opponents to under 20 points a game. So why are the Ducks favored by 10?

The Denver Nuggets are still winless this year and despite being the best home team in the NBA last season, dropping just three games in their own building, when the Nuggets host the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, they’ll be trying to avoid matching that mark just three home games into the 2013-14 campaign. It won’t matter.

And the Vikings are “just maybe” favorites to beat the Redskins on Thrusday Night Football. While I’m sure Washington will outrush Minnesota I also sure they will not lose the game either. The Redskins have every offensive advantage.

Thurs, Oct 31, 2013: NBA, NFL, NCAA

Well, it really must be Halloween because Boston was treated a World Series clincher at home. Sigh. That feels more like a trick to me; anytime the AL takes the big one. Bleck.
And speaking of bleck, Derrick Rose is not off to the start Chicago fans were looking for. First he gets his hat handed to him by the Heat now, he has a neck injury?! Already? You gonna take another year off? We’ll see how D-Rose fairs against the Knicks tonight.

Friday the games pick up in the NBA and hey, HOW ABOUT THOSE SIXERS?! Taking down the Heat for a big ‘W’. Guess they can’t go winless now. Congrats to those Philly fans who went to the game instead of bitching and moaning about how the 76ers are going to suck this year. You were rewarded justly. How about a repeat? Against the lowely Wizards — they have a fair shot i would say.

College football is a red, hot, mess. Schools with money have near equivalents of pro-caliber teams and the rest are just left to get their asses kicked. So it’s nice to see former semi-pro team USC not being quite so dominant anymore. Take their game Saturday against Oregon State. Trojans are 0-5 in their last 5 meetings in Oregon State and the home team is 7-1 in their last 8 meetings. In case you care, Oregon is at home…

MLB: Indians at Twins

Come on already Cleveland Indians, wrap this sucker up. Cleveland is a game up on the Texas Rangers for the American League’s second wild card and one behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the top spot. Will the Indians take full advantage of a weak schedule down the stretch to draw closer to a wild-card spot.

They visit the Minnesota Twins for the opener of a four-game, regular season-closing series Thursday and will have to hope they can get it done on the road.

The Twins (66-92) are just slightly better than Chicago and Houston but played the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers tough in a three-game series this week.

And Cleveland is going to get a nice gift as the Twins send left-hander Andrew Albers (2-4, 3.98) to the mound. Albers is attempting to snap a seven-start winless streak and make it through five innings for only the second time in his last five turns.

The Indians got to feel confident sending Zach McAllister (9-9, 3.88 ERA) to face Minnesota. The 25-year-old last made it through seven innings against Minnesota on Aug. 24, when he yielded two runs on four hits in 7 1/3 frames to pick up a win. Though overall, McAllister is 2-3 with a 4.43 ERA in five career starts against the Twins.

September has been a bit of a grind for the Twins. After winning their first three games this month, they have dropped 17 of 22, including a 3-10 mark against clubs currently holding playoff spots.

The Indians have won nine of 15 games against Minnesota this season, but they’ve split the six contests at Target Field.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Astros at Indians

The Astros are embarking on their final road trip of the season and Houston can impact the playoff chase one way or another, playing its final 13 games against contending teams. The Astros were out of the race months ago but have not stopped competing and took the Cincinnati Reds to extra innings on Wednesday before falling 6-5 in 13 frames.

So, The Indians don’t look to get much of a break when they host the opener of a four-game series against the major league-worst Houston Astros on Thursday. Cleveland sits one-half game behind the Texas Rangers for the second American League wild-card spot.

Or won’t they? Though Houston’s Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 5.71 ERA) snapped a string of seven straight winless appearances with a victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday he still allowed six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 frames. Keuchel was knocked around for seven runs (three earned) in 2 2/3 frames against Cleveland on April 20.

The Indians will counter with Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.49). Jimenez is becoming the most reliable starter on Terry Francona’s staff and is aiming for a four straight turn with fewer than two earned runs allowed.

I don’t see this one as being a pushover for the Indians, who won two of three from the Astros in Houston in April but, the teams have split six games all-time in Cleveland. And while Jimenez is expected to be the stopper in Cleveland’s mini-skid, the Astros have had some success against him.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Red Sox at Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays seem to be trying their hardest not to make the playoffs. The Rays look to avoid a three-game sweep and keep hold of their one-game lead for the second American League wild card when they host the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.

Boston sends right-hander Jake Peavy to the hill on Thursday, looking to build on the solid start to his Red Sox career. In seven starts with Boston since he was acquired from the White Sox at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Peavy is 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA.

He’ll be opposed by Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who threw 5 1/3 scoreless frames in Anaheim on Sept. 4, working on eight days’ rest. This time around, Hellickson had seven days between starts.

In two starts against Boston this season — both on the road — Hellickson has looked very sharp. He allowed two earned runs in each outing, working seven innings in April and six in June.

There are four teams within two games of Tampa Bay for that second wild card, with the New York Yankees the closest and the road isn’t going to be easy. Tampa Bay has 12 games remaining against teams still in contention — the most among all the clubs vying for an AL playoff berth.

Tampa Bay first baseman James Loney has hit Peavy hard in the past, notching nine hits — including four doubles and two homers — in 28 at-bats.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Cardinals at Reds

St. Louis starter Lance Lynn was happy to see the calendar flip to September after going 1-4 with a 5.84 ERA in six August outings. He will oppose rookie Tony Cingrani, who pitches for the first time since leaving his Aug. 20 start early because of a lower back strain. Each team is looking for the series split.

The Cardinals are within one game of the first-place Pirates in the NL Central, while the Reds are 3 1/2 back but lead Washington by 6 1/2 games for the second wild-card spot.

Perhaps Wednesday’s 16-inning victory is just what the Cardinals need to escape from their recent slide.

Lynn (13-9, 4.29 ERA) dropped to 0-4 in his last five starts after allowing seven runs and 10 hits in four innings of a 7-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday. The 26-year-old is 3-0 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in eight games (five starts) against Cincinnati. One big problem for Lynn has been the multi-run inning. In four of his recent outings, he endured at least one frame of at least three runs.

Cingrani (6-3, 2.76) defeated St. Louis 8-3 on Aug. 3, when he allowed three runs, four hits and five walks while striking out seven in five innings. The fireballer has recorded 112 strikeouts in 97 2/3 innings, walking only 39 and allowing 65 hits while recording a 1.06 WHIP and .190 batting average against.

Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig exited Wednesday’s game in the top of the fourth inning with a left foot sprain and was replaced by Adams who hit the winning shot.

Lynn is kind of a head case in pressure situations and Cingrani could have a short outing if his back isn’t 100% but, this game comes down to it being time for St. Louis to his the gas and the Reds to do what they usually do at the end of a season: collapse.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Yankees at Dodgers

The New York Yankees handed the Rays only their fourth defeat in 25 games, but they will face an equally red-hot club in the Dodgers, who are 26-6 over their last 32 games. Los Angeles took three of four from Cincinnati over the weekend – allowing two runs in the final three games – to move 2 1/2 games ahead of Arizona atop the National League West. The Dodgers are also coming off a walk-off 1-0 win, courtesy of Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig’s 11th-inning homer Sunday.

Not unlike Puig’s impact on the Dodgers, Derek Jeter’s instant impact on the Yankees is obvious. Look no further than his welcome-back moment on Sunday, a home run on the first pitch he saw in his return from the disabled list.

The Dodgers’ 25-6 run entering Sunday was not only the best record in the Majors during that span, it was also tied for the best 31-game stretch in Los Angeles Dodgers history.

Los Angeles’ starter Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.49) lost for the first time in 5 1/2 weeks when he gave up four runs and a pair of homers in a 5-2 loss to Cincinnati on Thursday. Greinke was 5-0 in his previous six outings and had yielded only one run and 11 hits over a span of 22 innings before running into the Reds. He is 2-4 with a 6.45 ERA in 11 career appearances (eight starts) versus the Yankees, but is 5-1 at home this season.

Andy Pettitte (7-8, 4.39 ERA) lost his second straight start but pitched much better last time out in Texas, giving up two runs in six innings to halt a string of seven straight outings with at least four runs allowed. The Yankees veteran starter has not struck out more than four batters in any of his last five starts and has surrendered five homers in that span.

Greinke bad game was a blip but Pettitte’s troubles aren’t going away any time soon unless you’re talking about the number of innings he gets through tonight.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Phillies at Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals will try to complete their first three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies at home since 2001 when the teams wrap up their series Thursday. The Cardinals sewed up the season series with an 11-3 victory Wednesday, maintaining their 1 1/2-game lead over Pittsburgh in the National League Central.

Philadelphia has dropped four straight and fallen eight games behind Atlanta in the NL East but look to get a break today when the Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn (11-5, 4.13) takes the mound. Lynn has 11 victories on the season, but has gone through a rough stretch lately. In his last eight starts, Lynn has a 6.32 ERA, and opponents are hitting .292 against him.

The Phillies will turn to Kyle Kendrick (9-6, 3.94 ERA) to stop the bleeding in the series finale. The right-hander won his last start, though he allowed six runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Mets. He surrendered two runs in six innings to the Cardinals on April 21.

Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter came into Wednesday with three of the top five averages in the National League. And each Cardinal upped his respective mark against the Phillies in this series. St. Louis boasts a .340 average with runners in scoring position – the best in the majors by a wide margin.

If Lynn implodes, the Cards will need every bit of that offense though the Phillies will also be without Domonic Brown.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: TEX-BAL, WSH-PHI

Rangers at Orioles

All-Star Yu Darvish, Thursday’s scheduled starter for Texas, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle in his right shoulder. The Rangers said fatigue is a factor and added that Darvish, who is 8-4 with a 3.02 ERA, will be ready to pitch when he comes off the DL on July 22. Texas, which had won five of its last six contests prior to Wednesday’s setback, scored at least five runs in each game during that span.

Ross Wolf (1-1, 1.95 ERA) will get his second career start in place of Darvish rather than Neil Ramirez from Double-A Frisco.  The 30-year-old Wolf allowed one run (unearned) and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings in his first start and was a 4-3 tough-luck loser at Toronto on June 6. Wolf was credited with a hold Monday when he retired one batter in the seventh inning in Texas’ 8-5 victory over Baltimore.

The Baltimore Orioles will try to earn a split of the four-game series when they host the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (6-3, 3.63 ERA) goes for the O’s and has faced the Rangers once – yielding four runs and eight hits in five innings of a 5-1 loss at Texas last season. Gonzalez received a no-decision after allowing one run, four hits and five walks in six innings of a 3-2 loss at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

Gonzalez has a .467 (7-of-15) opponents’ batting average against the Rangers lineup. He has allowed an extra-base hit to Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, but no player has more than one hit against Gonzalez.

Nationals at Phillies

The Washington Nationals benefited from an impressive power display to prevent the Philadelphia Phillies from reaching the .500 mark. The Nationals will look to ride that momentum and salvage a split of the four-game series on Thursday, when the National League East rivals reconvene at Citizens Bank Park.

The victory moved the Nationals within five games of division-leading Atlanta – and 2 1/2 ahead of the Phillies.

The Phillies will face one of their toughest tests of the month in Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann (12-3, 2.57 ERA) . The right-hander leads the National League with 12 victories. All year long, Zimmermann’s efficiency has been one of the most vital parts of his repertoire. But on Saturday against the Padres, he struggled a bit in that department, needing 101 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision.

Opposite Zimmermann will be Kyle Kendrick (7-6, 3.90), the first right-hander to get the ball for the Phillies in this four-game set. Kendrick is coming off a pair of very poor starts. In his last outing, he surrendered a career-high 12 hits against the Braves, and he gave up 10 hits and four runs to the Dodgers in the start before that.

The Phillies are 28-24 in games against teams with winning records, but they’ve gone just 17-23 against clubs at or below the .500 mark.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Phillies at Dodgers

There’s a lot of talk, including from me, that the Dodgers were just a mess this year. Too much money, no player continuity and too many distractions and then injuries.

Well, that mess is starting to get cleaned up and gel. Los Angeles swept the Giants, have won their last 5, got a huge shot in the arm from Yasiel Puig (despite his bizzaire tendency to try and take second on singles to the outfield) and the pitching — no change there.

Tonight againt the Phillies, Zack Greinke gets the ball for Los Angeles, coming off his best start of the season and has now lasted at least seven innings in three of his past four starts. At home this season, he is 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA.

Opposite Greinke will be Phillies right-hander Jonathan Pettibone, who exited his start Saturday in the seventh inning with back tightness. Pettibone (3-3, 4.14 ERA), who had tossed six innings of one-run ball, called his removal “precautionary” and said his lower back began to lock up while he was hitting.

The Dodgers haven’t won a series against Philadelphia in Los Angeles since they took two of three in August 2007 and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard is finally starting to resemble his old self.

I think Philadelphia will take this one but more interesting than that is matching up Puig with his Philadelphia counterpart.
[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]