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1. We’ve been pushing for Adrian Beltre to get AL MVP consideration for weeks, pointing out how he and Josh Hamilton were dueling back and forth carrying the offense amid the Texas Rangers resurgence and the team’s push to clamp down home field advantage in the playoffs. No one seemed to be getting on board the Beltre bandwagon, but maybe they’ll start now after his two-run home run won the Rangers game and the series over the LA Angels 3-1 last night.
While Josh Hamilton is actually hitting better than Beltre in most categories over the course of the season, but Beltre has been more clutch down the final stretch. Still, those games have pushed Beltre toward the top in a lot of major categories in the AL. Beltre is 6th in the AL in OPS, 4th in slugging, and 3rd in hits. His OPS since August is well over 1.000 and he’s shown no signs of slowing down, even with his current shoulder injury.
But Beltre wouldn’t have been in position to win the game without Yu Darvish. Darvish, who actually doesn’t pitch all that well on the road compared to at home, came up with a strong performance last night holding the Angels to one run on four hits over eight innings while striking out nine. It was Darvish’s 7th straight quality start and the team’s 5th straight win when he’s on the hill.
Darvish did a great job of mixing up his pitches, but not only that, he seemed to have an extra zip on his fastball. He was still throwing around 90-93 mph on his fastballs, but they didn’t have much movement. With a breaking ball in the 63 mph range, he was making a lot of Angels look silly and getting batters to strike out on check-swings where the pitch was way out of the strike zone.
The Rangers maintained their four game division lead over the Oakland A’s and three game lead over the New York Yankees for the top spot in the AL. They have a weekend series against the Seattle Mariners and then next week starts a tough stretch that will define the 2nd half of their season, a four game home series against the A’s followed by three games in Arlington against the Angels and then, finally, a three-game series in Oakland.
2. Any hope of a strong finish to the regular season for the Houston Astros appears to be fading, especially after a three-game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. If you can believe it, it took Houston until September 21 to suffer a three-game losing streak this month. But after all the good feelings of winning some games and even a series this month, they’re slipping again.
Their 5-4 loss last night put them at 102 losses. With 12 games left, they just need to finish 4-8 or better to avoid 110 losses and better than 8-4 to avoid a franchise record for losses. 8-4 or better sounds ludicrous given that they haven’t gone on an 8-4 stretch all season, but 4-8 is well within reach especially against the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend. Pittsburgh is 4-14 this month so if Houston wins two of those games, they may save themselves from all-time history in losses and just save themselves for the personal horror of another franchise record for losses.
Photo courtesy Cooper Neill/Getty Images
3. On to football, where we don’t have to wait until tomorrow for some Big 12 action as the Baylor Bears are taking on the giant-killers, the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, tonight in Waco. In two games against SEC teams Arkansas (ranked #8 at the time) and Auburn, La-Monroe has taken both to overtime. They’ll go up against a Baylor team that has won eight straight games and nine straight home games.
Of course the heart of those winning streaks had to do with the past two seasons under Robert Griffin III. Who would have thought that Baylor would get a test from La-Monroe this early, but we’re going to find out a lot about this Baylor team tonight. So far they’ve played two cupcake teams in SMU and Sam Houston State. Everybody looks good. Nick Florence is lighting it up at quarterback, Jarred Salubi looks like a strong running back, Terrence Williams picked up where he left off last season, and the defense is forcing turnovers and scoring.
Baylor is going to have to control the line if they want to win this game. The one thing that La-Monroe did consistently was pressure the quarterback. It would get them in trouble when they would bring blitzes as they gave up a few big plays in the passing game in both contests, but it’s working for them because they’ve got the offense to hang. Basically the only reason Auburn won their game against La-Monroe was because of a Hail Mary touchdown pass at the end of the first half. Otherwise, Kolton Browning is lighting it up at quarterback. Even when he’s having a bit of an off-day like he did against Auburn, he stays away from mistakes and makes the right decisions in the red zone.
They’re committed to running the ball as well. Much like Florence, Browning is always a threat to run plus they’re dedicated to get Jyruss Edwards carries. There really isn’t much else to watch tonight in terms of sports. Certainly nothing else in college football. I highly suggest you tune into this game. It’s not often we get meaningful college football games on a Friday in late September.
4. TCU is the only other Big 12 Texas team in action this weekend as the Horned Frogs host the Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia is coming off a blowout at the hands of Georgia Tech, but TCU is only a week removed from an unimpressive 20-6 in Kansas over a terrible Jayhawks team that they couldn’t put away because they kept giving the ball away.
The winning formula for TCU this weekend is quite simple: don’t turn the ball over. Even with all of their fumbles last week, they still dominated time of possession against Kansas thanks to a strong defense and the ability to control the line with their running game. Casey Pachall even had a great game passing… he just gave up a fumble.
The other thing to watch for is BJ Catalon. With Waymon James done for the season, Matthew Tucker will be getting the majority of the carries with freshman Catalon seeing a significant increase in his workload. If he’s not up for it, the TCU offense will be in trouble the rest of the season.
5. The drama, for now, is over in Lubbock. After a whirlwind of a few weeks that has seen the Texas Tech Red Raiders head basketball coach face charges of rule-breaking, player abuse, and health concerns, Billy Gillispie has resigned.
After a visit to the Mayo Clinic, Gillispie basically found out that if you name an internal organ, he’s got a problem with it. And the high pressure environment of college basketball, even in Lubbock, Texas, Gillispie is taking advice from his doctors and walking away… for now. Obviously, Gillispie isn’t just leaving for medical reasons, but the heat on him is so strong after his other accusations that leaving was pretty easy.
Lots of coaches have left the game for medical reasons and come back, but his other troubles may keep him out of the game for good.
6. Finally, on the heels of a solid baseball movie being released today in Trouble with the Curve (check out our review, we surprisingly enjoyed it), it looks like another great baseball movie is on the way. This one is based on the Jackie Robinson’s rise from Negro League Baseball to Major League Baseball. Take a look at this new trailer for the movie 42:
Chadwick Boseman (now a sports movie veteran after playing Floyd Little in The Express) is Jackie Robinson while Harrison Ford is Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey. The rest of the cast also has some impressive veterans and young guys. Like how John C. McGinley is playing Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber, Christopher Meloni is playing Dodgers manager Leo Durocher, and Lucas Black (from the Friday Night Lights movie) will play Robinson’s teammate Pee Wee Reese.
The toughest task, to me, is on Ford. Edward Herrmann played Rickey in the HBO movie Soul of the Game about Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Josh Gibson and did an incredible job. He was set up for success because he looks just like Rickey. What I’m also hoping for is that we get a look at what his personal life was like. It’s one of the teases we get in the film that we’re not just seeing what his life was like on the field. I’d love to see Rachel Robinson (played by Nicole Beharie, who was also in The Express) play a prominent role because, by all accounts, she was Jackie’s rock and her strength carried him through some of the toughest times he faced because, in his early days in the majors, she wasn’t just his wife but she was also the only black person he’d see on a regular basis.
As a big fan of Jackie Robinson and his history and impact on the majors, I’m looking forward to seeing this movie when it’s released next year.