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[Posted Sunday p.m., prior to Nats-Astros, Packers-Chiefs...And I’m posting before Tiger Woods finishes up in Japan...much more on this next chat.]
NFL Quiz: Adrian Peterson has moved up to sixth on the career yardage list, entering today with 13,701. Fill in the all-time top ten, which includes another active runner. Answer below.
The Nationals came back home up 2-0, after defeating Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, 5-4 and 12-3. But Friday night, the Nats lost to the Astros 4-1, as Zack Greinke and five other Houston hurlers held the potent Washington offense to a lone run, while Nats manager Dave Martinez made a questionable decision early.
In the bottom of the fourth, with the Nats down 2-1, a runner on third and one out, Martinez allowed starter Anibal Sanchez to hit, Sanchez with a .084 career average, the fifth worst ever for a player with at least 400 plate appearances. Martinez had Howie Kendrick and lefties Matt Adams and Gerardo Parra available, and a rested bullpen, but Sanchez feebly struck out and then Trea Turner grounded back to Greinke and the chance to tie the game was frittered away. Sanchez then gave up a run in the fifth and sixth and there was your 4-1 ballgame.
Saturday, Houston then evened the series at 2-2, blasting Patrick Corbin and Corps 8-1. Corbin gave up four runs in six innings, and then struggling Alex Bregman, 1-for-16 in the first four games (after a regular season of 41 home runs, 112 RBIs, 1.015 OPS), broke out, 3-for-5, a grand slam in the seventh off reliever Fernando Rodney for the clincher, 5 RBIs overall.
And for the Astros, the surprise starter was rookie Jose Urquidy, the easy-throwing right-handed pitcher from Mexico who had all of seven starts in the regular season, 41 innings. Houston was prepared to pull him early, but Urquidy ended up going five, allowing just two hits, no walks, four strikeouts.
Needless to say, Nationals fans are distraught, the offense with just one run in each of Games 3 and 4, 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position in the two, after hitting .355 (22-for-62) during its eight-game postseason win streak, including the final two against the Dodgers, and the sweep of the Cardinals.
And then late today we learned Max Scherzer wasn’t starting due to neck and back issues, so it’s Joe Ross against Cole.
As for the whole situation with Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman, Taubman was fired by the team after a Sports Illustrated report that Taubman had taunted a trio of female reporters with a loud, profane rant in support of pitcher Roberto Osuna, whom Houston traded for as he served a 75-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy.
The Astros at first stupidly attacked the SI story, saying the report was fabricated, before Houston wised up and fired Taubman Thursday, announcing “We were wrong” and apologizing to the SI reporter Stephanie Apstein.
Houston’s front office, which has made its share of mistakes in the past, blew it and it’s no mystery that a lot of general baseball fans now want the Astros to lose.
--Mets fans were torqued off after Joe Girardi wasn’t offered the managerial position and instead took the Phillies’ job. Girardi was clearly the best man for the Mets, but we also knew GM Brodie Van Wagenen didn’t want to give up the kind of control Girardi would have eventually wanted, especially with in-game decision-making. And we knew the two just wouldn’t mesh, let alone Girardi had a much bigger price tag than the Mets want to pay any manager.
So now it’s down to the likes of Tim Bogar (the guy I want at this point), Eduardo Perez, Carlos Beltran, and others. A lot of us are quizzical when it comes to Beltran, as in what makes him qualified?
Meanwhile, the recently fired Mickey Callaway joined Joe Maddon in Los Angeles to take up his old pitching coach role for the Angels.
--The Padres hired the Rangers’ Jayce Tingler as manager. Jayce Tingler? The 38-year-old was the Rangers’ major league player development field coordinator this season, working with outfielders and baserunners. Goodness gracious. I think I’d have more respect for the choice if he was in charge of the groundskeepers and concessions.
--On a separate issue in baseball, the Cubs are at a standoff over star third baseman Kris Bryant, who has filed a grievance with MLB over his service time and it being manipulated by Chicago.
Bryant, who is slated to become a free agent after the 2021 season, contends that the Cubs waited to call him up from Triple-A Iowa in 2015 until one day after he would have qualified for a full year of service time.
So Bryant’s status stands at four years and 171 days, effectively pushing his free agency back a year.
Further complicating things, the Cubs have a big offseason in 2021, with several other notable young players up for free agency, and it’s possible the team will look to trade Bryant and focus on retaining the others.
Meanwhile, Chicago hired former catcher David Ross as their new skipper. It was a natural choice. Ross, 42, has been working in the Cubs’ front office and replaces Joe Maddon. Ross has no managerial or coaching experience, but as opposed to me dissing others in such a situation, I can make an exception with him.
--Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks is undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow and is expected to miss eight to 10 months, so maybe after the All-Star Game at this early point.
Hicks valiantly came back for the playoffs, hitting a three-run homer off Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the ALCS, forcing a Game 6, but he was just 2-for-13 overall in the series. He also played in just 59 games during the regular season, the first year of a seven-year, $70 million contract extension the 30-year-old signed in the offseason.
College Football Review
[Comments written prior to release of latest AP Poll]
We will have a big shakeup in the Top Ten as No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 8 Notre Dame fell, while Ohio State further established itself as a CFP probable final four.
First, No. 1 Alabama, playing without Tua Tagovailoa, had no problem in dispatching with Arkansas (2-6) 48-7, as backup quarterback Mac Jones threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns, the Crimson Tide (8-0) leading 41-0 at the half.
But ‘Bama is convinced Tagovailoa will be ready for the biggie, Nov. 9, when it hosts No. 2 LSU (8-0), which beat No. 9 Auburn (6-2) 23-20, a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated, LSU dominating 508 yards to 287. Heisman candidate Joe Burrow threw for 321 yards, with a touchdown pass and another TD rushing, while running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire picked up 136 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Both ‘Bama and LSU are off this coming week, but, again, it’s all about Tua’s health, specifically his ankle.
The aforementioned No. 3 Ohio State is 8-0 after easily taking care of No. 13 Wisconsin (6-2) 38-7, as Justin Fields threw two touchdown passes and J.K. Dobbins rushed for 163 yards and two scores, the Buckeyes’ defense holding the Badgers to just 191 yards of offense, Chase Young tying a school record with four sacks. Ohio State has it all. [Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor was held to 52 yards on 20 carries.]
No. 4 Clemson (8-0) continues to play much better as we come down the stretch, manhandling Boston College (4-4) 59-7 in Death Valley, Trevor Lawrence a cool 16/19, 275, 3-0, all three touchdown passes to reserve wide receiver Diondre Overton, which is a cool story. Travis Etienne continued his own fine play of late, rushing 16 times for 109 yards and three scores.
B.C. was outgained 674-177. Eegads.
So that brings us to No. 5 Oklahoma at Kansas State, and the Wildcats (5-2) upset the Sooners (7-1) 48-41, as OU thought it had recovered an onside kick late for a potential game-tying drive, only to have the original call reversed when replay showed an Oklahoma player touched it a yard before the 10-yard limit. I was watching this in a bar and it was unclear if the call was the right one, but once I saw all the replays, yes, it was. [As for the plea the OU player was pushed in the back, that was impossible to determine definitively.]
Heisman candidate Jalen Hurts didn’t do anything wrong for Oklahoma, 19/26, 395, 1-0, with 96 yards rushing and three more TDs, it’s just that the Sooners turned the ball over twice, and K-State, behind four rushing touchdowns from quarterback Skylar Thompson, had a balanced offense as Oklahoma put itself in a 48-23 bind from which it ran out of time to recover.
So bye-bye Oklahoma’s CFP hopes (ditto the Big 12’s overall), and congrats to the Wildcats for just their fourth win ever against a top five team. [It was also OU’s first road loss in 23 games.]
No. 6 Penn State is 8-0 and refusing to go away, 28-7 winners at Michigan State (4-4) behind Sean Clifford’s four touchdown passes. The Nittany Lions play Ohio State Nov. 23, but before then, after a bye week, PSU travels to Minneapolis to play undefeated No. 17 Minnesota (8-0), 52-10 winners over Maryland (3-5) Saturday. That is going to be one interesting game, together with Alabama-LSU that day.
No. 7 Florida (7-1) was idle.
But No. 8 Notre Dame saw its CFP hopes go up in flames as Jim Harbaugh finally picked up an important win, No. 19 Michigan (6-2) whipping the Fighting Irish (5-2) 45-14. It’s not the “signature” win Harbaugh is still looking for, but nonetheless a big one. In a driving rain, the Wolverines dominated the line of scrimmage, rushing for 303 yards and holding Notre Dame to just 180 yards of offense, their quarterback, Ian Book, a miserable 8 for 25 for 73 yards.
So the Wolverines will move up smartly in the polls.
No. 10 Georgia (6-1) was idle.
No. 11 Oregon (7-1) remains on the fringes of the CFP conversation with a 37-35 win in Eugene against Washington State (4-4) and their electric quarterback, Anthony Gordon, who threw for another 400 yards (34/50, 406), but had two interceptions to go with his three TD passes.
Ducks QB Justin Herbert threw for 222 yards and no turnovers, as running back CJ Verdell was the star of the game, 23 carries for 257 yards and three scores. As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy Sunday morning while perusing the sports pages, Nancy making blueberry pancakes, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
In the battle for the Group of Five, New Year’s Six bowl bid, Thursday night, No. 16 SMU remained very much in contention, 34-31 winners at Houston (3-5), the Mustangs now 8-0.
And No. 21 Appalachian State is 7-0 after a 30-3 win at South Alabama (1-7).
No. 18 Cincinnati and No. 22 Boise State, both 6-1 and the other two vying for the Group of Five bid, were idle.
I do have to note UCLA’s upset of 24 Arizona State (5-3) 42-32. Chip Kelly’s Bruins, who started the season 0-3, are now 3-5, but more importantly 3-2 in the Pac-12 and with games against Pac-12 South leaders Utah and USC, UCLA controls its own destiny in terms of getting into the conference title game, which is rather remarkable.
Indiana is 6-2 after a 38-31 win at Nebraska, which means the program has a shot at its first nine-win season since 1967, when the Hoosiers last won a Big Ten championship and reached the Rose Bowl.
Kansas is 3-5 after a stunning 37-34 win against Texas Tech. It was 34-34, with 13 seconds to go when Kansas attempted a 40-yard field goal, which Texas Tech blocked, only to have Douglas Coleman III fumble it back to Kansas as he appeared to try pitching the ball back to a teammate...who wasn’t there. KU took over at the 15-yard line with two seconds left. The second attempt at the game-winner was then good from 32 yards.
Lastly, Rutgers is 2-6 after a 44-34 win over Liberty (5-3, an independent in Div. I). We congratulate the Scarlet Knights and their adoring fans...cough cough. Rutgers had scored 30 points, total, in its previous six games.
So now the new AP Poll...and we have a surprise! LSU!
1. LSU (17) 8-0...1476 points
2. Alabama (21) 8-0...1474
3. Ohio State (17) 8-0...1468
4. Clemson (7) 8-0...1406
5. Penn State 8-0...1302
6. Florida 7-1...1226
7. Oregon 7-1...1108
8. Georgia 6-1
9. Utah 7-1
10. Oklahoma 7-1
11. Auburn 6-2
12. Baylor 7-0
13. Minnesota 8-0...wow
14. Michigan 6-2
15. SMU 8-0...Go Paul P.!
16. Notre Dame 5-2
17. Cincinnati 6-1
20. Appalachian State 7-0
21. Boise State 6-1
22. Kansas State 5-2
23. Wake Forest 6-1...Go Deacs!
24. Memphis 7-1
25. San Diego State 7-1
So what we’ve learned with this poll is that it is as clear a top four as I’ve ever seen this late in the season.
As for this coming week, it’s a hideous schedule, with a ton of top teams in a bye week. Florida-Georgia is the biggie, while SMU at Memphis is huge for the Mustangs. Oregon at USC is a test for the Ducks as well.
And, heck, North Carolina State at Wake Forest is big, a must game for the Deacs, especially with three of their final four on the road, including Clemson.
But not for nothing, we already know the ACC title game is going to be atrocious. Good seats will be readily available.
--Jets fans have observed one positive from this dreadful season thus far. Kind of out of nowhere, Le’Veon Bell has been a total professional. We don’t care he came into Sunday’s game averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry (100-326-1), and just 6.0 per reception (29-175-1). The fact is we see he is playing his ass off. The poor guy just has a godawful offensive line.
So the New York Post’s Mark Cannizzaro had a story on Le’Veon yesterday and how he is “embracing the adversity.”
Bell: “I’ve never started 1-5, so I kind of look at this as a great opportunity for me to show what type of person and player I am to help turn things around....I could have signed anywhere I wanted. I could have gone to [a team] that was already good and helped make them a little better. Or I could have gone somewhere that hadn’t been winning games and help them win games.
“I’m a football player who loves challenges. I’ve never really been on a bad team before, and even if they were bad, I felt like I was a good enough player to make them better. So, why wouldn’t I try that at the highest level of football?
“Plus, I loved the Jets growing up. People think it was all about the money, but the Jets didn’t offer me the best deal. They made me happy with the offer, and this was somewhere I wanted to be. It was an easy decision.”
Bell has the respect of all his teammates, and as an aside, he is obsessed with chess, constantly playing it and trying to get his teammates involved.
“I am playing chess when I’m playing football,” Bell said. “It’s not saying I’m not gifted athletically, because I am. But I play so much more from the neck up.”
Well, I spent the time writing the above up prior to today’s game, but, whatever, as the Jets (1-6) lost 29-15 at Jacksonville (4-4), rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II (22/34, 279, 3-0, 119.6) totally outplaying the Jets’ Sam Darnold (21/20, 218, 2-3, 73.3); Le’Veon Bell with 23 yards rushing, 12 receiving on 12 touches. Again, it wasn’t Le’Veon’s fault.
But us Jets fans have to be major league concerned with Darnold, who has developed the kind of happy feet that are only appropriate if you were the dancer on “The Gong Show,” after being summoned by Chuck Barris. [“I hear that music...”]
I mean Darnold really looks awful. And Minshaw looks like a veteran. Unless Darnold improves the rest of the way, we’re obviously headed for a top draft pick and does the team explore taking a QB all over again? We’ll see.
I hate when the Giants and Jets are on at the same time, and so I only watched about a quarter’s worth of the former, the Giants now 2-6 after a 31-26 loss at Detroit (3-3-1). Daniel Jones threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns, 124.2, but it wasn’t enough as Matthew Stafford had three TD passes of his own, including a sweet flea-flicker that made it 31-19.
I do just have to add for those watching, if Darius Slayton had gone for the ball on that second near-pass interference call, rather than trying to draw the flag, he probably snags it.
It was expected that Drew Brees wouldn’t return until Nov. 10, following a bye week, but we learned late this week that Brees would be back after his thumb injury and all he did was go 34/43, 373, 3-1, 116.4, as New Orleans improved to 7-1, 31-9 winners over the Cardinals (3-4-1). Latavius Murray chipped in with 102 yards on the ground and a score, as well as 55 receiving and another TD.
Seattle is 6-2 after a 27-20 win at Atlanta (1-7), Russell Wilson with two touchdown passes and the Seahawks zero turnovers, while the Falcons turned it over three times, two of them by quarterback Matt Schaub, who started in place of Matt Ryan, out with a sprained ankle after 154 consecutive starts. Schaub threw for 460 yards but he got only 20 points out of it.
The Eagles are 4-4 after a big 31-13 win at Buffalo (5-2), Philly’s Jordan Howard with 96 yards on the ground, while rookie Miles Sanders ripped off a 65-yard TD scamper.
The Chargers (3-5) beat the Bears (3-4) 17-16 despite David Montgomery’s 135 yards rushing for Chicago. Bears fans are tired of Mitchell Trubisky.
The Titans improved to 4-4 with a 27-23 win over Tampa Bay (2-5) as Ryan Tannehill got the job done again in place of the benched Marcus Mariota; Tannehill throwing for three touchdowns, 109.8 PR.
Once again for the Bucs, Jameis Winston was a turnover machine, two picks, two lost fumbles.
The surprising Colts are 5-2 after a 15-13 win over Denver (2-6), 95-year-old Adam Vinatieri nailing a 51-yard FG with 0:22 left for the win. It’s amazing. He does it using a walker.
The Rams (5-3) have settled down after their 3-game losing streak, winning their last two, including today in London, 24-10 over the Bungles (0-8), Jared Goff throwing for 372 yards and two scores, receiver Cooper Kupp with a rather fine day, 7-220-1.
San Francisco is 7-0 after a 51-13 demolition of the Panthers (4-3), Carolina’s Kyle Allen getting his comeuppance, three interceptions, a 28.9 rating. Such is life in the NFL, Kyle.
For the 49ers, Tevin Coleman had four touchdowns; three rushing, one receiving.
The Texans moved to 4-4, 27-24 winners over the Raiders (3-4), both quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson and Derek Carr, throwing three touchdown passes, no turnovers for either squad.
And the Patriots are 8-0, 27-13 over the Browns (2-5), Cleveland with three turnovers...as in three TOs on three successive plays in the first quarter! For the Brownies, Nick Chubb rushed for 131 yards, but he lost two fumbles.
New England is now 119-18 at home in the Belichick/Brady era.
--The Knicks are off to a 0-3 start and except for a brief flurry against the Nets Friday night, have looked dreadful. The chief early whipping boy is point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who in the first three is 1-for-11 from the field, after going 3-for-17 in the preseason. He was the key piece in the Kristaps Porzingis trade and expectations are high. How coach David Fizdale handles this situation is going to go a long way in determining how quickly Fizdale himself is fired. This is going to be another brutal season, and it’s just hoped that prized rookie RJ Barrett, who is off to a very good start, won’t be negatively impacted.
--The other team in New York, the Brooklyn Nets, clearly made a brilliant move in signing Kyrie Irving. While Nets fans await the arrival of Kevin Durant, probably not until next season, Irving has clearly embraced the challenge of taking over New York, scoring 50 points in the Nets’ opener, a heart-breaking 127-126 overtime loss to the T-Wolves, before he had 26 in Brooklyn’s win over the Knicks Friday night.
There are still far more Knicks than Nets fans in New York, and it’s not even close, but if Kyrie takes the Nets to the playoffs, and then next season with Durant they make a big run at a title, the Nets will own Gotham.
Kyrie was just the fifth player with a 50-point game in a season opener in NBA history, Wilt Chamberlain with the most, 56, in 1962.
--The Phoenix Suns suffered a big early blow when their budding superstar center, Deandre Ayton, was suspended for 25 games without pay for “violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for a diuretic.”
Ayton apologized to the team, players, fans, China....calling it “an unintentional mistake. I put something in my body that I was completely unaware of.”
--It’s going to be fascinating following the Rockets if you’re a stat freak, with the reunion of Russell Westbrook and James Harden this year.
Thursday, Houston opened with a loss to the Bucks, 117-111, Westbrook with 24 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists. Harden 19 points on just 2 of 13 from the field (1 of 8 from three), with 14 assists and seven turnovers.
Saturday, Houston beat the Pelicans, 126-123, Westbrook with a triple-double, 28-10-13, while Harden had 29 points and another eight turnovers.
But Harden was 8 of 29 from the field, 2 of 18 from three!
As in for his first two games, Harden is 10 for 42, 3 of 26 from three! Geezuz, this sucks. [At least he’s made 25 of 26 free throws.]
We had an historic game on Friday in the Premier League, as Leicester City recorded the biggest ever English top-flight away win by beating 10-man Southampton 9-0 to move up to second place in the standings.
The biggest margin of victory on the road previously was eight goals, and the result also equaled Manchester United’s record for the largest win ever in the PL in a 9-0 win at home against Ipswich Town in 1995. Jamie Vardy and Ayoze Perez both had hat tricks.
Saturday, Manchester City shutout Aston Villa 3-0, and Chelsea kept up its winning ways, 4-2 at Burnley.
Today, we had a biggie, Tottenham at Liverpool, and after Harry Kane put the Spurs up 1-0 in the first minute, Liverpool needed two second-half goals to come back and take it, 2-1, the second goal on a bulls--- penalty kick by Salah. Your editor was not happy with the call.
Arsenal and Crystal Palace tied 2-2, while Manchester United beat Norwich on the road, 3-1.
So after 10 of 38 matches...W-D-L...pts. (ties broken by goal differential)
1. Liverpool 9-1-0...28
2. Man City 7-1-2...22
3. Leicester City 6-2-2...20
4. Chelsea 6-2-2...20 ...Champions League line
5. Arsenal 4-4-2...16
6. Crystal Palace 4-3-3...15
7. Man U 3-4-3...13
8. Sheffield 3-4-3...13
9. Bournemouth 3-4-3-13
10. West Ham 3-4-3...13
11. Tottenham 3-3-4...12...ugh
In the Champions League last Wednesday, Chelsea defeated Ajax, 1-0, while Liverpool whipped KRC Genke (the Belgium champs) 4-1.
Rugby World Cup
--Every description I read said England was “brilliant” in hammering New Zealand 19-7 in Saturday’s semifinal. Reuters said, “England produced one of their greatest-ever performances to end New Zealand’s bid for a third successive World Cup on Saturday, utterly outplaying them during an extraordinary 19-7 semifinal victory and reaching the final for the first time in 12 years....
“New Zealand, who had not lost a World Cup match since the 2007 quarterfinals, barely threatened all night.”
England is seeking their second victory after 2003 when they became the first – and only – northern hemisphere country to triumph.
But now England squares off against two-time winner South Africa in Saturday’s final, the Springboks a 19-16 winner over Wales, which failed in its bid to get to its first finals.
Martin Truex Jr. won his seventh race of the year at Martinsville today in a performance as dominating as any ever...leading 464 of 500 laps. This is a guy who started his career 0-for-80 in short track races, but is now 3 of 4 on same. Truex also punched his way into the final four at Homestead in three weeks.
After the race, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano got into it, Hamlin after with a hilarious imitation of Logano.
Thankfully I had Truex in my DraftKings lineup, securing my second straight win (though small $s).
Top 3 songs for the week of 10/29/77: #1 “You Light Up My Life” (Debby Boone) #2 “Nobody Does It Better” (Carly Simon) #3 “That’s Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Shaun Cassidy)...and...#4 “Boogie Nights” (Heatwave) #5 “Keep It Comin’ Love” (KC & The Sunshine Band) #6 “Brick House” (Commodores) #7 “I Feel Love” (Donna Summer) #8 “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me” (Barry White) #9 “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” (Meco...godawful...) #10 “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” (Crystal Gayle... ‘B-’ week, at best...this was fall of my sophomore year at Wake, what would develop into the worst semester in the history of U.S. academia...)
NFL Quiz Answer: Top Ten all-time rushing yards....
1. Emmitt Smith 18,355
2. Walter Payton 16,726
3. Barry Sanders 15,269
4. Frank Gore 15,136*
5. Curtis Martin 14,101
6. Adrian Peterson 13,701*
7. LaDainian Tomlinson 13,684
8. Jerome Bettis 13,662
9. Eric Dickerson 13,259
10. Tony Dorsett 12,739
11. Jim Brown 12,312...but still the best ever...
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.