Friday, October 30, 2009

MLB: It’s time to expand instant replay

NEWS ANALYSIS

Dear Bud Selig: The alarm’s going off. Time to wake up.

We get it. You’re standing behind your umpires. That’s admirable, especially in our culture, where such loyalty is rare.

And yes, these men are far and away the best in the world at what they do. Despite all the perks of their job, they certainly have an unenviable task – making decisions governed by millimeters and instants that have a direct effect on many people’s hearts and spirits … not to mention pocketbooks.

But they’re human. They’re destined to make mistakes. So why not give them a little more assistance?

Baseball, as usual, is lagging far behind the other three major American team sports in terms of technology. The NFL, NBA and NHL have already long since instituted widespread use of instant replay. Even college sports use it … even tennis uses it, for goodness’ sake.

Bud, you don’t want to take the human element out of the game. That’s understandable. The NFL doesn’t permit the use of instant replay to change rulings on judgment calls. That makes sense. So don’t use it on ball/strike calls. You’d have to review way too many pitches to make everyone happy.

Use it on objective calls, though. Either the man beat the throw to second base, or he didn’t. The ball was either fair, or it curved just outside the line. The tag at home either brushed the runner’s back, or the catcher’s mitt found nothing but air.

You don’t want to do that silly thing the NFL does with coaches throwing little red flags onto the field to challenge a call. That makes sense to us, too. We don’t like that, either. So have another umpire, or replay assistant, or whatever you want to call him, in the press box. Give him a direct line to the home-plate umpire. Or the crew chief, or all of the umpires. Doesn’t matter.

Let the man in the booth tell the men in blue if something needs to be fixed. Yeah, you might have to move a runner back a base every so often. But that’s a much less harrowing concept than giving a man a hit if the ball was, in fact, caught.

The very best baseball umpires in the world – the men working the postseason – have blown call after call in October. Hey, it happens. Here’s a rough working list:

Game 1 of the ALDS between Boston and the L.A. Angels. First-base umpire C.B. Bucknor twice ruled Los Angeles’ Howie Kendrick safe at first, when in fact he was out both times.

Game 2 of the Yankees-Minnesota ALDS. Left-field umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled the Twins’ Joe Mauer’s drive down the line foul, though it was fair by about a foot.

Game 3 of the Phillies’ NLDS matchup with Colorado. Philadelphia’s Chase Utley topped a pitch off his leg and back into the field of play. Problem is, it hit his leg while he was still in the batter’s box, meaning it should have been ruled a foul ball. Home-plate umpire Jerry Meals, however, didn’t stop the play. Then, Rockies pitcher Huston Street threw high to first baseman Todd Helton, who appeared to drag a toe across the base after snagging the ball, but first-base umpire Ron Kulpa ruled Helton didn’t make it back to the bag.

Game 4 of the Yankees-Angels ALCS. Los Angeles starter Scott Kazmir picked New York’s Nick Swisher off second base, but second-base umpire Dale Scott said Swisher got back safely. Later in the same inning, one of the very best umpires in the business – Tim McClelland, working third base – ruled Swisher tagged and left third too early on a flyout, calling him out. McClelland later completely botched a call at third when Angels catcher Mike Napoli ran up the line and tagged out both Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada, though McClelland ruled Cano safe.

Then, in ALCS Game 5, it happened again. New York’s Johnny Damon appeared to beat out a grounder to first, but first-base umpire Scott ruled him out.

Then, on the game’s biggest stage, it happened again last night – twice – in Game 2 of the World Series. First-base umpire Brian Gorman ruled Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard caught Damon’s low liner in the air. Replays showed the ball reached Howard’s glove on one hop, but Gorman called Damon out as well as Posada, who had run to second on the play.

Later, Utley was called out at first – again by Gorman – though replay showed he beat the throw.

What’s the common denominator among several of these calls? They’re tough to make when you only see them once, at full speed, and from only one angle. This is where being able to slow down the action and use multiple viewpoints would help.

Thankfully, none of these calls have greatly impacted the outcome of any games. So, the great philosopher Conventional Wisdom says, it’s only a matter of time.

You say it’s about the fans? Well, do them a favor. Get the calls right. As many of them as possible.

The alarm’s still going, Bud. Do you hear it? It won’t go away until you fix it. It’ll just keep getting louder and louder and more annoying and more noticeable.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Burnett beats Martinez, Yankees even series, 3-1

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WORLD SERIES GAME 2

A.J. Burnett out-dueled Pedro Martinez to earn his first career playoff win, Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui hit home runs and the Yankees evened the World Series at 1-1 with a 3-1 victory over the Phillies in New York Thursday night.

The Yankees tied the game and took the lead with two solo bombs. Teixeira, who has been ice-cold during much of this postseason, took Martinez’s fourth-inning offering out to right-center to tie the game at 1.

Matsui then gave New York the lead with a two-out sixth-inning homer to right for a 2-1 edge.

The Yankees added some insurance in the seventh. Jerry Hairston Jr., starting for the slumping Nick Swisher, led off the inning with a single to right. Pinch-hitter Jorge Posada greeted Philadelphia reliever Chan Ho Park with a single to right-center to score pinch-runner Brett Gardner for a 3-1 lead.

New York closer Mariano Rivera then came on and earned a six-out save, inducing an inning-ending double play from Chase Utley in the eighth and pitching around a two-out Raul Ibanez double in the ninth, striking out Matt Stairs swinging to end it.

Philadelphia had drawn first blood in the second off Burnett. Ibanez doubled with two down to left and scored on Stairs’ single to left off Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez’s glove.

Burnett (1-0) worked seven innings, yielding one run on four hits and two walks, with nine punchouts. Rivera picked up the save, allowing two hits and a walk with two strikeouts over two frames.

Matsui was 2-for-3 to lead New York at the plate.

Martinez (0-1) took the loss for the Phillies, allowing three runs on six hits over six innings. He walked two batters and struck out eight.

Ibanez went 2-for-4 for Philadelphia.

The teams will head to Philadelphia Game 3 of the series Saturday night. Andy Pettitte will pitch for New York, while Cole Hamels is slated to get the start for the Phillies.

NOTES: Martinez was making his second World Series start after beating St. Louis in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series … Martinez is 1-3 against the Yankees in the playoffs all-time … Hairston was making his first start in right field since July 21 … The Phillies lost for just the fifth time in their last 22 playoff games … The Phillies’ Greg Dobbs was sent back to Philadelphia with the flu … Rodriguez struck out three times for the second straight game … Utley extended his record for most consecutive playoff games to reach base to 27 games with an intentional walk in the third inning.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – FOX

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lee goes the distance, Utley homers twice, Phils win 6-1

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WORLD SERIES GAME 1

Cliff Lee pitched a complete-game six-hitter, Chase Utley hit two home runs and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Yankees 6-1 in Game 1 of the World Series in New York Wednesday night.

Utley, who also set the record for most consecutive postseason games to reach base with 26, gave the Phillies their first two runs with solo shots to right field in the third and sixth innings against New York starter C.C. Sabathia.

Then, Philadelphia doubled its advantage in the eighth against the shaky Yanks bullpen. New York’s Phil Hughes yielded walks to Jimmy Rollins, who then stole second base, and Shane Victorino before making way for reliever Damaso Marte, who set down Utley and Ryan Howard.

New York manager Joe Girardi then went to the bullpen again, bringing on David Robertson, who walked Jayson Werth to load the bases and gave up a single to Raul Ibanez to score Rollins and Victorino.

The Phillies tacked on two more runs in the ninth. Carlos Ruiz doubled off reliever Brian Bruney with one out and Jimmy Rollins reached when his topped grounder stopped dead in front of New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Victorino singled to right to score Ruiz and chase Bruney, and Howard’s double to right off Phil Coke plated Rollins.

New York finally got to Lee for a run in the ninth, but it was far too little, too late. Derek Jeter led off with a single to center and scored on a Rollins throwing error on Mark Teixeira’s fielder’s choice.

However, Lee struck out Rodriguez and Jorge Posada swinging to quench the threat and end the game.

Lee (1-0) yielded one run, struck out 10 batters and walked one. He also made a spectacular fielding play in the eighth, snagging Robinson Cano’s grounder behind his back. His performance was reminiscent of then-Marlin Josh Beckett’s complete-game shutout victory to clinch the 2003 World Series at the old Yankee Stadium.

Utley was 2-for-4, while Howard went 2-for-5.

Sabathia (0-1) took his first loss of the postseason but pitched well, scattering two runs on four hits over seven runs before the parade of relievers – Girardi, who drew criticism for his handling of the bullpen in the ALCS against the Angels, summoned five relievers, none of whom pitched more than two-thirds of an inning.

Jeter went 3-for-4 to pace the Yankee offense.

Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday night. The Phillies’ Pedro Martinez will oppose New York’s A.J. Burnett.

NOTES:
Lee is 3-0 in the postseason … Utley became the second left-handed batter to hit two home runs off a left-handed pitcher in a World Series game. New York’s Babe Ruth accomplished the feat in Game 4 of the 1928 World Series to finish off St. Louis … Utley reached base in his 26th straight playoff game, breaking a tie with Baltimore’s Boog Powell, who reached in 25 straight playoff games from 1966-71 ... The last six World Series Game 1 winners have gone on to win the series.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – FOX

Defending champ Phils, resurgent Yanks set for Series

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WORLD SERIES


The NL champion Philadelphia Phillies and AL-winning New York Yankees have swept through their respective leagues' postseasons with little trouble en route to the World Series. The Phillies are back one year after knocking off Tampa Bay to win it all, while the Yanks return to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2003 and will look to win it for the first time since 2000.

New York has been led offensively by Alex Rodriguez, who very recently was derisively known as "Mr. April" for his tendency to come through when it mattered least but flop in the clutch. He's all but put those rumors to bed, knocking in 12 runs via five home runs with a .438 average in October. Mark Teixeira is beginning to break out of a slump, while Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Derek Jeter have provided some reliable offense as well.

Philadelphia's Ryan Howard has been deadly to opposing pitchers during the playoffs as well, knocking in 14 runs. Jayson Werth chipped in 10, with five homers, and Raul Ibanez had a big homer to help dispatch the Dodgers after a good regular season.

Both teams have taken advantage of strong starting pitching. New York's C.C. Sabathia has been everything the Yankees envisioned when picking him up in free agency; he twice went eight innings in victories against the Angels and also beat Minnesota in the division series, putting up a 1.19 playoff earned run average. Andy Pettitte pitched well twice against Los Angeles and won the series clincher, and A.J. Burnett has been reasonably dependable as well.

The Phillies' Cliff Lee has been especially strong, winning two playoff games after coming over from Cleveland at the trade deadline and sports an 0.74 playoff ERA. Pedro Martinez pitched admirably in a loss to the Dodgers during the NLCS and is slated to work Game 2 against his former nemesis, the Bombers, at the new Yankee Stadium. Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, hasn't pitched spectacularly this season but certainly knows what it takes to win in October.

One big key will be the battle of the bullpens. Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge was spectacular last season, not blowing a save. This regular season he blew 11, but hasn't missed a beat during the playoffs, closing out three games successfully. Chad Durbin has won two playoff games in relief, Scott Eyre has pitched well and Brett Myers, the opening-night starter and a former closer, is back in the bullpen after being left off the NLCS roster due in part to injury problems. J.A. Happ is also available, having started one NLDS game at Colorado and seen action in relief against the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, Yankees legend Mariano Rivera has been his usual dominant self, posting three playoff saves of his own. Phil Coke, David Robertson and Damaso Marte have also pitched extremely well. The problem is that relievers Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves have been far less dependable.

There is a slight unusual air of familiarity with this series, since these two teams faced off in New York during interleague play May 22-24. Philadelphia took two of those meetings, though Lidge blew two saves.

Prediction: Yankees in seven.

World Series Schedule (Probable pitchers)

Game 1 -- Oct. 28, Phillies (Lee) at Yankees (Sabathia), 8 p.m.
Game 2 -- Oct. 29, Phillies (Martinez) at Yankees (Burnett), 8 p.m.
Game 3 -- Oct. 31, Yankees (Pettitte) at Phillies (Hamels), 8 p.m.
Game 4 -- Nov. 1, Yankees (Sabathia) at Phillies (Lee), 8 p.m.
Game 5* -- Nov. 2, Yankees (TBA) at Phillies (TBA), 8 p.m.
Game 6* -- Nov. 4, Phillies (TBA) at Yankees TBA), 8 p.m.
Game 7* -- Nov. 5, Phillies (TBA) at Yankees (TBA), 8 p.m.

*denotes if necessary

Information from ESPN.com was used in this report.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pettitte, Yankees finish off L.A. 5-2, head back to Series

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – ALCS GAME 6

Andy Pettitte pitched into the seventh inning to earn his 16th career playoff win, the most all-time, as the New York Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 in New York Sunday night to win the ALCS.

With the win, the Yankees will head to the World Series, where they will face NL champion Philadelphia, for the first time since 2003. The Angels, meanwhile, see their season, which included crucial early-season injuries and the shocking April death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, come to a close.

Trailing 1-0, the Yankee offense scored all the runs it would need in the fourth inning. Robinson Cano drew a leadoff walk from Angels starter Joe Saunders, Nick Swisher singled to left and Melky Cabrera advanced each a base with a sacrifice bunt. Derek Jeter then drew a walk to load the bases.

Johnny Damon singled to left-center to score Cano and Swisher. Mark Teixeira’s infield single loaded the bases again before Alex Rodriguez walked to force in Jeter for a 3-1 Yankee advantage and chase Saunders.

The Angels stranded two runners in scoring position in the sixth inning but scored a run in the eighth off vaunted New York closer Mariano Rivera. Chone Figgins sent a leadoff single just over Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter’s glove into shallow left and scored on Vladimir Guerrero’s two-out single to right to cut the Los Angeles deficit to 3-2.

However, New York took advantage of some shoddy Angel defense to add some insurance in the bottom of the inning. Cano walked to lead off, and Swisher bunted but reached first when second baseman Howie Kendrick dropped the throw at first. Cabrera sacrificed back to Scott Kazmir, on the hill in relief, who promptly threw the ball over Kendrick’s head covering first again, allowing Cano to score.

Teixeira’s sac fly to deep center then plated Brett Gardner, who was pinch-running for Swisher, to open up a 5-2 lead.

Rivera then shut down Kendrick, Juan Rivera and pinch hitter Gary Matthews Jr. to end the game and give New York its 40th AL pennant.

Los Angeles had drawn first blood against Pettitte in the third. Jeff Mathis led off the inning with a double to the wall in right-center and came home on Bobby Abreu’s two-out single to right.

Pettitte (1-0) scattered seven hits and one run over 6 1-3 innings, with six strikeouts and a walk. Joba Chamberlain pitched two-thirds of an inning before Rivera came on to work two innings for his second save of the series.

Rodriguez went 2-for-2 for New York. Damon and Teixeira were each 2-for-4, and Damon knocked in two runs.

Saunders (0-1) took the loss, lasting just 3 1-3 innings, yielding three runs on seven hits and five walks.

Guerrero was 3-for-4 at the plate for the Angels. Rivera went 2-for-4.

NOTES: The game was originally scheduled for Saturday night, but was rained out … Pettitte also won his fifth series clincher, another record. He had been tied with St. Louis pitcher John Smoltz for the lead in all-time playoff wins. Smoltz accumulated all of his victories with Atlanta … Pettitte had not beaten the Angels since August 2007 … Game 1 of the World Series is scheduled for Wednesday night in New York. C.C. Sabathia, who is 3-0 this postseason and beat the Angels twice, is the likely starter for the Yankees. Cliff Lee is slated to throw for the Phillies, who dispatched the Dodgers in five games to win the NLCS.

BOX SCORE


Video credit – FOX

Sunday, October 25, 2009

ZSN College Football Week 9 Top 25 Rankings

School (Record)/Next game (Oct. 31 unless otherwise noted)/Why?

1. Florida (7-0)/Georgia (Jacksonville, Fla.)/Held off scrappy Mississippi State to remain perfect.

2. Texas (7-0)/at Oklahoma State/Moves back to No. 2 – finally one of the top three teams plays well against a solid team as the Longhorns dominated Missouri.

3. Alabama (8-0)/LSU (Nov. 7)/Survived by blocking two fourth-quarter Tennessee field goal attempts.

4. Southern California (6-1)/at Oregon/Held off Oregon State for league win.

5. Texas Christian (7-0)/UNLV/Drilled BYU on the road to stay perfect and on track for a potential BCS bid.

6. Penn State (7-1)/at Northwestern/Surprisingly easy win at Michigan.

7. Boise State (7-0)/San Jose State/Drilled Hawai’i on the road.

8. Oregon (6-1)/USC/Big win at Washington, still on top in conference play.

9. Cincinnati (7-0)/at Syracuse/Didn’t need starting QB Tony Pike to blow out Louisville, which looks like it has just quit on coach Steve Kragthorpe.

10. Iowa (8-0)/Indiana/Remains undefeated after winning at Michigan State.

11. Oklahoma State (6-1)/Texas/Looked good at Baylor.

12. LSU (6-1)/Tulane/Dominating home win over Auburn.

13. Georgia Tech (7-1)/at Vanderbilt/Conference beatdown of Virginia.

14. Virginia Tech (5-2)/North Carolina (Oct. 29)/Off this past week.

15. Ohio State (6-2)/New Mexico State/Took care of business against conference mate Minnesota.

16. Miami (Fla.) (5-2)/at Wake Forest/Hard-fought overtime defeat at the hands of Clemson.

17. Utah (6-1)/Wyoming/Held off Air Force in overtime defensive battle.

18. Houston (6-1)/Southern Miss/Cougars did what they were supposed to do against SMU.

19. Mississippi (5-2)/at Auburn/Schizophrenic Rebels played well against Arkansas.

20. Pittsburgh (7-1)/Syracuse (Nov. 7)/Looked good in drilling South Florida.

21. Oklahoma (4-3)/Kansas State/Good road win over Kansas.

22. South Carolina (6-2)/at Tennessee/Pulled out conference win over Vanderbilt.

23. West Virginia (6-1)/at South Florida (Oct. 30)/Re-enters rankings after four straight wins, including win over emotion-filled UConn.

24. Brigham Young (6-2)/at Wyoming (Nov. 7)/Flat-out dominated by TCU.

25. Notre Dame (5-2)/Washington State/Back in polls after finally beating rival Boston College.

Dropped out/Why?


Kansas. Drilled by Oklahoma at home.

Nebraska. Ugly, ugly, ugly home loss to Iowa State.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Emotional Huskies suffer tough loss to West Virginia

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

If West Virginia’s late comeback win over Connecticut were any normal football game, it would be easy to say that the Huskies suffered a “heartbreaker.”

After everything they’ve been through during the past week, though, the loss of a football game hardly seems that important.

West Virginia’s Noel Devine ran for a 56-yard touchdown with 2:10 to play as the Mountaineers defeated UConn 28-24 in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday afternoon. It was the Huskies’ first game since starting junior cornerback Jasper Howard was stabbed to death early Sunday morning.

Trailing 21-17 late in the fourth quarter, UConn avoided a disastrous turnover and used a big play to take the lead back. Quarterback Cody Endres threw an interception to the Mountaineers’ Kent Richardson, who ran 47 yards to the Huskies’ 10-yard line before Connecticut wide receiver Marcus Easley ran him down and knocked the ball out.

UConn recovered the ball, and on third-and-8 deep in his own territory, Endres hooked up with Easley for an 88-yard touchdown. Dave Teggart hit the point-after to take a 24-21 lead with 3:50 to go.

That was more than enough time for the Mountaineers to find the end zone. Quarterback Jarrett Brown, returning from a concussion last week, ran for seven yards on third-and-6 and his Jock Sanders for four yards and another first down before Devine took off down the sideline and just managed to fend off a shove from a Huskie defender to remain in bounds. Tyler Bitancurt kicked the extra point to give West Virginia a 28-24 edge.

The Huskies had one final shot, but Endres’ fourth-down pass was intercepted by the Mountaineers’ Chris Neild with 48 seconds left.

West Virginia wasted no time taking the first lead of the game. Tavon Austin returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, and Bitancurt booted the extra point.

Connecticut scored its first points five drives later. Jordan Todman ran for a gain of 17 yards, Ryan Griffin caught a pass for 17 on third-and-3 and Anthony Sherman made a reception for 12. Todman then ran on a fake reverse for a 5-yard touchdown on third-and-4 on the ninth play of the drive. Teggart’s kick evened the score at 7.

UConn took its first lead in the second period. Kashif Moore caught a pass for 33 yards to set up a 38-yard Teggart field goal for a 10-7 lead.

The Mountaineers responded with a touchdown. Sanders made a reception for 11, Brown managed to find Alric Arnett for 23 yards on third-and-5 and Sanders caught another pass for 31. Brown ran for a 5-yard score on third-and-4, and Bitancurt’s kick gave West Virginia a four-point lead.

Connecticut struck back with a score on its next drive. Robbie Frey returned the kickoff 38 yards and Endres hit Easley for 16 before a 17-yard touchdown to Moore. Teggart extended the Huskies’ advantage to 17-14, which held up until halftime.

Both kickers missed field goal attempts and UConn lost a fumble to set up a quick Mountaineers scoring drive. Sidney Glover recovered Todman’s fumble, Devine ran 63 yards two plays later and Brown hit Tyler Urban for a 2-yard touchdown. Bitancurt gave West Virginia a 21-17 lead.

Devine ran for 178 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Brown hit 16 of 27 passes for 153 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and ran for 41 yards on 10 carries. Sanders caught eight passes for 80 yards, and Arnett hauled in five tosses for 51 yards.

Endres completed 25 of 41 passes for 378 yards, two scores and three picks. Easley caught five passes for 157 yards and a score, Moore made four receptions for 61 yards, Brad Kanuch hauled in four passes for 47 yards and Isiah Moore caught two tosses for 45 yards. Todman ran for 93 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

Both kickers struggled, with Teggart missing two of three field goals and Bitancurt going 0-for-1.

NOTES:
Howard was stabbed outside a campus dance Sunday morning. Police are investigating the death as a homicide. He was a 20-year-old expectant father … West Virginia has won all six of the teams’ meetings … The Huskies have lost three games this season by a total of nine points … Brown started after sustaining a concussion in a helmet-to-helmet hit in a win over Marshall last Saturday. He left that game but played all the way against UConn … Connecticut has led at halftime in every game this season … On West Virginia’s homecoming, the Mountaineers surpassed the 10 million mark in total attendance at Milan Puskar Stadium, which opened in 1980 … West Virginia (6-1, 2-0 Big East) remained tied atop conference play. UConn (4-3, 1-2) falls below .500 in the league … The Mountaineers return to action at South Florida Friday night. Connecticut hosts Rutgers Saturday afternoon.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – ESPNU

Friday, October 23, 2009

Angels rally to send ALCS back to New York, 7-6

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – ALCS GAME 5

The Los Angeles Angels played eight innings of spectacular defensive baseball. As it turned out, their offense was just good enough to save their season from one terrible frame.

The Angels jumped on the Yankees with four runs in the first inning, yielded six in the top of the seventh and came back with a three-run bottom of the inning to survive Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, 7-6, in Anaheim, Calif., Thursday night.

L.A. cut its series deficit to 3-2 going back to New York for Games 6 and 7, if necessary.

Trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the seventh, eight Angels went to the plate to retake the lead. Jeff Mathis led off with a single off Yankees starter A.J. Burnett and Erick Aybar drew a free pass. Chone Figgins advanced them each a base with a bunt before former Yankee Bobby Abreu’s groundout off reliever Damaso Marte plated Mathis.

Torii Hunter walked against reliever Phil Hughes, Vladimir Guerrero singled to center to score Aybar and Kendry Morales singled to right to send Hunter home to take a 7-6 lead.

That lead held up despite New York loading the bases against Angels closer Brian Fuentes in the bottom of the ninth. With two down, Alex Rodriguez was intentionally walked, Hideki Matsui took a base on balls and Fuentes hit Robinson Cano with a pitch to load the bases before Nick Swisher, who has no runs batted in this series, popped out to Aybar, the shortstop, to end the game.

Facing elimination and having been badly outgunned in Game 4, the Angels scored four times in their first at-bat. Figgins drew a leadoff walk, Abreu doubled to center and Hunter singled up the middle to score two runs. Guerrero doubled to left-center, the third straight Burnett pitch the Angels hit, to score Hunter from first.

Morales then singled over shortstop Derek Jeter’s glove to score Guerrero.

Los Angeles starter John Lackey made that stand up for six innings but ran into trouble in the seventh. Melky Cabrera doubled with one out and Jorge Posada and Jeter walked to load the bases.

Reliever Darren Oliver then came out of the bullpen with two outs and promptly yielded a double to the badly slumping Mark Teixeira to score three runs, his first three RBI of the series, to cut the Yankee deficit to 4-3. Matsui’s single to right-center scored Teixeira before Cano tripled to right-center against Kevin Jepsen to score Rodriguez, who had been intentionally walked, and Matsui for a 6-4 edge.

Hunter went 2-for-2 with two RBI. Mathis was 3-for-4 and Guerrero and Morales each were 2-for-4.

Lackey worked 6 2-3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. Jepsen (1-0) earned the win, and Fuentes picked up his first save of the series.

Cabrera went 2-for-5 for New York, and Teixeira was 2-for-5.

Burnett pitched six frames, allowing six runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Hughes was the pitcher of record for the Yankees.

NOTES: The Angels had only scored 10 runs in 42 ALCS innings coming in … Neither team has announced a starter for Game 6 Saturday night.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – FOX

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sabathia, Rodriguez, New York take out Angels, 10-1

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – ALCS GAME 4

C.C. Sabathia pitched eight stellar innings on three days’ rest, Alex Rodriguez homered for the third straight game and the New York Yankees are one win from the World Series after a 10-1 victory over the Angels in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday night.

The Yankees now lead the best-of-7 American League Championship Series 3-1. The Angels, meanwhile, have lost six of their last seven ALCS games and stand one loss from elimination.

Rodriguez, who all of a sudden is as clutch as they come, knocked in a run for the eighth straight playoff game. That ties him for the longest streak all-time with Yankees legend Lou Gehrig, who accomplished the feat from 1928-32, and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard, whose streak is also current.

New York scored the game’s first runs in the fourth against Los Angeles starter Scott Kazmir. Rodriguez lined a leadoff single up the middle and Jorge Posada doubled to left. With one out, Robinson Cano hit a grounder to the Angels’ Howie Kendrick, whose throw home to catcher Mike Napoli was a bit high, allowing Rodriguez to beat Napoli’s tag.

Melky Cabrera then singled through the left side to score Posada and Cano. Cabrera’s hit ended New York’s 0-for-26 slump with runners in scoring position and gave the Yankees a 3-0 edge.

Then, in the fifth, Mark Teixeira led off with a single to left ahead of Rodriguez, who lifted a two-run shot to left field.

Los Angeles got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning. Kendry Morales hit a one-out solo homer that just cleared New York left fielder Cabrera’s glove to cut the Angels’ deficit to 5-1.

The Yankees got that run back and one more in the eighth. Cabrera drew a one-out free pass and Johnny Damon hit a two-out homer to right.

New York then used some hustle and capitalized on a Los Angeles mistake, tacking on three more in the ninth to close the scorebook. Rodriguez led off with a double to left, took third on Posada’s flyout and scored when Angels right fielder Bobby Abreu’s throw sailed past third.

Cabrera then doubled into the right-field corner to score Cano, who had walked, and Brett Gardner, who singled, to make the score 10-1.

Sabathia (2-0), who threw eight innings to win Game 1 Friday, held the Angels to a run on five hits over eight frames. He walked two batters and struck out five, retiring 10 straight Angels at one point and the last eight he faced before making way for Chad Gaudin to work the ninth.

Cabrera went 3-for-4 with four runs batted in, Rodriguez was 3-for-4 with two RBI and Jeter was 2-for-5.

Kazmir (0-1), who had not pitched since a no-decision Oct. 11 in the ALDS clincher against Boston, yielded four runs on six hits in four innings of work. He walked four and struck out three.

The series resumes Thursday night in Anaheim, with A.J. Burnett pitching for the Yankees and John Lackey trying to save the Los Angeles’ season.

NOTES: Sabathia is 3-0 in the playoffs … The Yankees moved to 6-1 this postseason after sweeping Minnesota in the ALDS … Rodriguez’s homer was his 70th against the Angels all-time … Jeter had his 46th career multi-hit game, extending his own playoff record … The Angels beat Sabathia both times they faced him during the regular season.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – FOX

Rollins double moves Phils to within one game of Series

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – NLCS GAME 4

Jimmy Rollins knocked home two runs with a double in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 5-4 win over Los Angeles in Philadelphia Monday night.

The 2008 champion Phillies took a 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series and are now one win away from returning to the World Series to defend their title.

Trailing 4-3 in the ninth, Philadelphia struck for two runs against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton. Pinch hitter Matt Stairs, who famously victimized Broxton for a home run in last year’s NLCS, drew a one-out walk and Broxton hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch.

One out later, Rollins laced a double to right-center, sending home pinch runner Eric Bruntlett and Ruiz to walk off with the win.

Philadelphia got to Dodgers starter Randy Wolf, a former Phillie, for two runs in the first inning. Rollins led off with a single before Ryan Howard hit a two-out homer to right for an early 2-0 lead.

Los Angeles evened the count in the fourth. Matt Kemp drew a one-out walk off Phillies starter Joe Blanton and Manny Ramirez singled to left with two down before James Loney’s single plated Kemp. Russell Martin then singled to left to score Ramirez.

The Dodgers took their first lead in their next at-bat. Kemp hit a solo shot with two down for a 3-2 edge.

Los Angeles then tacked on one more in the sixth. Ramirez reached base on Philadelphia third baseman Pedro Feliz’s throwing error, and Casey Blake’s two-out single to right scored Ramirez from second.

The Phillies then cut their deficit to one run in the sixth. Shane Victorino tripled to left with one down and scored on Chase Utley’s single to make the score 4-3.

Rollins had two of Philadelphia’s five hits, with two RBI.

Blanton worked six innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on six hits. He walked two batters and struck out two. Closer Brad Lidge (1-0) earned the win, pitching two-thirds of a frame.

Loney was 2-for-4 for the Dodgers.

Wolf lasted 5 1-3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits. He had two walks and two strikeouts. Broxton (0-1) took the loss after yielding two runs on a hit and a walk.

Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, will try to finish off the Dodgers in Game 5 Wednesday night. He will oppose Los Angeles’ Vicente Padilla.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – TBS

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seven Saints score touchdowns to top Giants, 48-27

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Drew Brees threw four touchdown passes against the NFL’s top defense, seven Saints found the end zone and the much-anticipated battle of two undefeated teams never developed as the Saints drilled the Giants 48-27 in New Orleans Sunday afternoon.

Just how dominant was Brees and the New Orleans offense? New York had allowed 34 points in its first five games. The Saints matched that total by halftime en route to posting their first 5-0 record since 1993.

Trailing 27-17 late in the second quarter, the Giants seemed to establish some momentum heading into halftime when Bryan Kehl and Osi Umenyiora stopped New Orleans’ Pierre Thomas on fourth-and-goal.

However, the New Orleans defense made a big play to re-establish control. Roman Harper hit Giants quarterback Eli Manning and jarred the ball loose, and Scott Shanle recovered the ball and returned it 11 yards to the New York 7-yard line.

Given 18 seconds to score before halftime, the Saints didn’t need that long. Reggie Bush ran for a 7-yard score, and John Carney hit the extra point for a 34-17 halftime advantage.

The Saints’ defense made another big play to set up another score. Jabari Greer intercepted Manning at the New Orleans 18 on the Giants’ second offensive possession of the third period.

Bush then ran for two yards to convert a third-and-1, Marques Colston caught a pass for 26 and Brees found Lance Moore for 22 on third-and-17 before a 12-yard Colston touchdown catch. Carney’s boot gave the Saints a 41-17 lead.

Manning found Hakeem Nicks for 58 yards on third-and-10 and Domenik Hixon made a reception for 10 on fourth-and-8 to set up a 38-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal to bring New York to within 41-20.

New Orleans responded with another touchdown. Thomas ran for 25 yards, New York’s Barry Cofield was offsides on third-and-1 to give the offense a free first down and Robert Meachem caught a pass for 34 on third-and-8, which was upheld by replay. Fullback Heath Evans then ran for a 2-yard score, and Carney hit the point-after.

Backup David Carr led the Giants to the game’s final points. Carr found Nicks for a 7-yard gain and a first down before hooking up with Nicks again for a 37-yard score. Tynes closed the scorebook at 48-27 with the extra point.

The Saints drew first blood by scoring on their first possession for the fifth straight game. Brees ran for six yards on third-and-3, former Giant Jeremy Shockey caught a pass for seven and a first down and Moore made a juggling reception for 18 after New York’s Corey Webster’s deflection. Moore caught a pass for six on third-and-2 before Mike Bell leapt into the end zone on fourth-and-inches for a 2-yard touchdown on the 15th play of the drive. Carney gave New Orleans a 7-0 edge.

After a Giants punt, New Orleans doubled its advantage. Brees found Moore for 15 yards, Shockey for 18 and Colston for 12 more. Colston then made another reception for 28 before Brees and Shockey teamed up for a 1-yard touchdown. Carney’s kick made it 14-0.

New York got on the scoreboard the next time it had the ball. Hixon returned a kickoff 45 yards and Brandon Jacobs ran for 14 before Manning just missed a potential touchdown pass to Steve Smith. Tynes hit a 49-yard field goal, his season long, to cut the Giants’ deficit to 14-3.

Courtney Roby returned the ensuing kickoff for the Saints and was horse-collared by New York’s Travis Beckum, resulting in 15 free yards to kick off the second quarter. Thomas ran for two yards and a first down and Shockey caught a pass for 11 before Meachem hauled in a 36-yard scoring toss. The Giants’ Fred Robbins blocked Carney’s point-after attempt, leaving the count at 20-3.

The Giants then momentarily escaped disaster to get back within 10 points with a touchdown. Mario Manningham caught a pass for 12 yards, Manning found Hixon for just enough on third-and-10 and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 13.

Manning’s next toss was intercepted by Darren Sharper, who returned it 70 yards to the end zone. However, Jonathan Vilma was flagged for roughing the passer, negating the play, and Bradshaw ran for a 10-yard score on third-and-1. Tynes brought the Giants to within 20-10.

New Orleans was undeterred, going right back to the end zone. Roby drew another personal foul, this one for a face-mask, on his kickoff return. Bell picked up five yards on third-and-1, Webster was penalized for pass interference after his feet got tangled with Colston’s, moving the ball to the New York 12. Brees then found Moore on play-action for a 12-yard score, his 100th touchdown pass as a Saint. Carney extended the New Orleans lead to 27-10.

The Giants came right back. Hixon returned the ensuing kickoff 68 yards, Kevin Boss caught a pass for 18 and Manningham made a 15-yard touchdown reception, robbing Sharper of another pick in the process. Tynes’ kick cut the New York deficit to 27-17.

Brees completed 23 of 30 tosses, hitting 15 straight at one point in the first half, for 369 yards before giving way to Mark Brunell in the final period. Colston made eight receptions for 166 yards and a score, Moore pulled in six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown and Meachem caught two balls for 70 yards and a score. Thomas ran the ball 15 times for 72 yards as the Saints finished with 493 total yards.

New York (5-1) was led by Manning, the New Orleans native playing his first career game at the Louisiana Superdome, who hit 14 of 31 passes for 178 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Carr was 4-for-5 for 72 yards and a score. Nicks caught five passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, Manningham made four catches for 50 yards and a score and Smith hauled in four tosses for 44 yards. Bradshaw had 10 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown, and Hixon returned seven kicks 230 yards.

C.C. Brown and Chase Blackburn led New York with 13 and 11 tackles, respectively.

NOTES: The Saints’ seven touchdowns matched the team record, set Nov. 2, 1969 against the Cardinals … New Orleans has won three of four against the Giants and has beaten New York two straight times for the first time since 1978-79. The Saints won 30-7 in East Rutherford, N.J., on Christmas Eve 2006 … Colston passed Henry Childs for the fourth-most touchdown catches in team history with his 28th and passed Deuce McAllister for eighth in team history on the reception list, making his 240th catch … The Saints are 7-3 in New Orleans against the Giants … New Orleans has won nine of 11 at home … Hixon returned kicks for New York for the first time since spraining his knee in a Sept. 20 win at Dallas … Shockey played in his 100th career game. He has a reception in all of them … Carney made his 100th appearance for New Orleans … The Saints had not scored on their opening possession five straight times since 1995 … The Giants’ defense yielded its most points since surrendering 50 to Washington in 1999 and its most yards since a 1980 game against San Diego … New Orleans returns to action at Miami Sunday afternoon. The Giants host Arizona Sunday night.

BOX SCORE


Video credit – FOX

ZSN College Football Week 8 Top 25 Rankings

School (Record)/Next game (Oct. 24 unless otherwise noted)/Why?

1. Florida (6-0)/at Mississippi State/Didn’t play particularly well but managed to avoid upset loss to Arkansas.

2. Alabama (7-0)/Tennessee/Another workmanlike conference win over South Carolina. Quite frankly is looking better than Florida right now and could pass the Gators if that continues.

3. Texas (6-0)/at Missouri/Good win over rival Oklahoma in Dallas to stay in control in the Big 12.

4. Southern California (5-1)/Oregon State/Let off the gas but survived upset attempt at rival Notre Dame.

5. Texas Christian (6-0)/at BYU/Dominating win over Colorado State. Big game against BYU coming up.

6. Penn State (6-1)/at Michigan/Great defensive effort in shutout of Minnesota.

7. Oregon (5-1)/at Washington/Off this past week.

8. Boise State (6-0)/at Hawai’i/Survived road test at Tulsa; should have relatively smooth sailing to BCS berth from here.

9. Cincinnati (6-0)/Louisville/Good conference road win. Definitely the team to beat in the Big East.

10. Iowa (7-0)/at Michigan State/Hawkeyes post comeback win at Wisconsin.

11. Miami (Fla.) (5-1)/Clemson/Took care of business to beat in-state foe Central Florida.

12. Virginia Tech (5-2)/North Carolina (Oct. 29)/Tough loss to Georgia Tech’s triple option.

13. Oklahoma State (5-1)/at Baylor/Solid victory over decent Missouri squad.

14. LSU (5-1)/Auburn/Off this past week.

15. Georgia Tech (6-1)/at Virginia/Looking good after knocking off top-five Virginia Tech.

16. Brigham Young (6-1)/TCU/Pulled out win at San Diego State to set up showdown with TCU.

17. Utah (5-1)/Air Force/Convincing road conference win.

18. Ohio State (5-2)/Minnesota/Not a good loss at Big Ten bottom-feeder Purdue.

19. Houston (5-1)/Southern Methodist/Took care of business in-conference at Tulane.

20. Mississippi (4-2)/Arkansas/Beat a pushover handily.

21. Pittsburgh (6-1)/South Florida/Enters the rankings after win at Rutgers to open Big East slate 3-0.

22. Oklahoma (3-3)/at Kansas/Clearly would be looking much better if it could keep Sam Bradford off the sideline.

23. South Carolina (5-2)/Vanderbilt/Didn’t play incredibly poorly but was just outclassed by Alabama.

24. Kansas (5-1)/Oklahoma/Upset loss at Colorado just about ends the Jayhawks’ BCS hopes.

25. Nebraska (4-2)/Iowa State/Thoroughly outplayed in home loss to Texas Tech.

Dropped out/Why?


South Florida. Rough home loss to Cincinnati.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

No. 3 Texas knocks out Bradford, beats Sooners, 16-13

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Something about landing on the turf on Dallas-area football fields seems not to agree with Sam Bradford’s right shoulder.

The Oklahoma quarterback was knocked out of Saturday’s game, and from there rival Texas, led by its defense, outslugged the Sooners for a 16-13 victory in the Red River Rivalry.

The Longhorns (No. 3 ZSN/3 AP) have now beaten Oklahoma (No. 17/20) four times in the past five years.

The contrast in this game from some of those meetings was striking because of the defensive nature of the contest – both defenses rank in the top 10 nationally and forced crucial turnovers.

With the score tied at 6, Texas scored the game’s first touchdown midway through the third quarter. Senior quarterback Colt McCoy found Marquise Goodwin for 11 yards on third-and-8, Cody Johnson ran for 14 yards and a third-down pass interference penalty on the Sooners gave Texas a free first down. Foswhitt Whitaker ran for six and a first down before McCoy and Goodwin hooked up for a 14-yard touchdown. Hunter Lawrence booted the point-after for a 13-6 Longhorn edge.

Oklahoma, led by backup freshman quarterback Landry Jones, came right back to tie the score. Jones hit Adron Tennell for 18 yards and Cameron Kenney for seven yards, with a Texas personal foul tacked onto the end of the play. Ryan Broyles, returning from a shoulder injury, then caught a 35-yard touchdown. Jimmy Stevens’ extra point knotted the count at 13.

The Longhorns then scored the final points of the afternoon early in the fourth period. McCoy picked up a first down on third-and-1 and Johnson ran for two yards and a first down to set up Lawrence’s 32-yard boot to lead, 16-13.

The Sooners’ final three possessions all ended without points. Running back Chris Brown was stopped near midfield for no gain on fourth-and-1 for a turnover on downs and Jones threw two interceptions – the first to a leaping Aaron Williams near the sideline after scrambling and trying to throw the ball away, and the second to Earl Thomas into double coverage with 3:30 remaining.

McCoy then picked up a first down on third-and-4, and Texas was able to run out the clock from there.

Bradford and Oklahoma drew first blood on the game’s first possession. Bradford found DeMarco Murray for gains of 13 and 64 yards, the latter on third-and-10, before Stevens’ 26-yard field goal.

Bradford then went down on the Sooners’ next possession, when Texas’ Aaron Williams came unblocked and knocked Bradford down, where he immediately began writhing.

After a Longhorns punt, Jones got the Sooners back on the scoreboard on his first full possession. Jones found Brandon Caleb for 20 yards and a Texas pass interference penalty gave Oklahoma a free first down. Kenney made a reception for 16 before Stevens hit from 37 yards out for a 6-0 edge.

Texas scored its first points midway through the second period. Oklahoma’s Dominique Franks fumbled a punt return and Malcolm Williams recovered at the Sooner 18. Lawrence kicked a 42-yard field goal to cut the Oklahoma lead in half, 6-3.

The Longhorns then tied the game on their first possession of the second half. Whittaker ran for 23- and 7-yard gains for first downs before Lawrence’s 42-yard field goal.

McCoy went 21-for-39 for 127 yards, a score and an interception for Texas. Whittaker ran for 71 yards on 18 carries, and D.J. Monroe returned three kicks 75 yards.

Jones was 24-for-43 for 250 yards, with a touchdown and two picks. Bradford completed two of six attempts for 77 yards before leaving.

Murray made eight receptions for 116 yards, Caleb caught three passes for 42 yards, Brown caught four passes for 40 and Tennell snagged two balls for 40. Mossis Madu took five kicks back 108 yards.

NOTES: Texas has won 10 straight games … Bradford first sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder in the Sept. 5 season-opening loss to BYU in nearby Arlington. He missed three games before coming back for last week’s win over Baylor … Broyles returned after sustaining a hairline fracture in his left shoulder during the Sooners’ Oct. 3 loss at Miami. He did not play last week … Oklahoma’s Brian Jackson made a big interception at the Sooners’ 9-yard line. It was his fourth pick in as many games … The Longhorns lead the all-time series, 59-40-5 … Texas (6-0, 3-0 Big 12), which leads the Big 12 South, travels to Missouri Saturday night. Oklahoma (3-3, 1-1) goes to Kansas Saturday.

BOX SCORE


Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sabathia, Yanks capitalize on Angels miscues to win 4-1

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – ALCS GAME 1

New York starter C.C. Sabathia allowed one hit over eight innings and the Yankees offense took advantage of three Los Angeles errors to beat the Angels 4-1 in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series in New York Friday night.

Los Angeles’ first big miscues came in the first inning. New York’s Derek Jeter led off with a single off Angels starter John Lackey, and Johnny Damon singled to left and advanced to second base on a poor throw by Los Angeles left fielder Juan Rivera.

Alex Rodriguez lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Jeter for a 1-0 edge before Lackey got Hideki Matsui to hit a pop fly to the left side of the infield to seemingly retire the side. However, Los Angeles’ Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar let the ball drop between them, and Damon came in to score from second.

The Angels were able to cut their deficit in half in the fourth. Kendry Morales’ two-out single off Sabathia to left-center scored Vladimir Guerrero, who had doubled.

New York got that run back in the fifth, but only scored one after running into an out at home. Damon led off with a double to center and Rodriguez walked ahead of Matsui, who hit a one-out double to left-center. Damon scored, but Rodriguez ran through third-base coach Rob Thomson’s stop sign and was out at home on Aybar’s relay throw from Rivera to catcher Jeff Mathis, who blocked the plate successfully despite Rodriguez’s best efforts.

However, the Yankees did cross the plate once more in the sixth. Melky Cabrera drew a two-out walk, advanced to second on Lackey’s throwing error trying to pick him off at first and scored on Jeter’s single up the middle, which then bounded over center fielder Torii Hunter’s glove for an error.

That was quite enough offense for Sabathia (1-0), who scattered four hits over eight innings with seven strikeouts and one walk, and closer Mariano Rivera, who worked the ninth to earn the save.

Matsui was 2-for-3 with two runs batted in. Jeter and Damon each went 2-for-5.

Lackey (0-1) went 5 2-3 frames, allowing four runs, two earned, on nine hits. He walked three batters and struck out three.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Saturday night, with New York’s A.J. Burnett set to oppose the Angels’ Joe Saunders.

NOTES: Mariano Rivera has yielded just 10 earned runs in 122 career postseason innings … Angels manager Mike Scioscia came running out of the dugout to argue first-base umpire Laz Diaz’s call on Hunter’s sixth-inning bunt. Diaz ruled that Sabathia’s throw beat Hunter to first and first baseman Mark Teixeira stayed on the bag; Hunter, first-base coach Alfredo Griffin and Scioscia all disagreed vehemently, but to no avail … The Yankees have won four of five against the Angels at home this season.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – FOX

Sunday, October 11, 2009

ZSN College Football Week 7 Top 25 Rankings

School (Record)/Next game (Oct. 17 unless otherwise noted)/Why?

1. Florida (5-0)/Arkansas/Big road win over LSU, despite Tim Tebow not being at his best.

2. Alabama (6-0)/South Carolina/Moves up after dominating road win at Ole Miss.

3. Texas (5-0)/Oklahoma (Dallas)/Drops a spot after Alabama dominated a strong opponent and the Horns played uninspired football for a half against Colorado.

4. Southern California (4-1)/at Notre Dame/Off this past week.

5. Virginia Tech (5-1)/at Georgia Tech/Took care of business against Boston College.

6. Texas Christian (5-0)/Colorado State/Narrowly avoided upset loss at Air Force.

7. Penn State (5-1)/Minnesota/Beat a pushover handily. Finally another game against a decent team.

8. Oregon (5-1)/at Washington (Oct. 24)/Ducks stay perfect in Pac-10 with nice win at UCLA.

9. Boise State (5-0)/at Tulsa (Oct. 14)/Off this past week.

10. Miami (Fla.) (4-1)/at Central Florida/Beat a pushover handily.

11. Ohio State (5-1)/at Purdue/Buckeyes take Big Ten lead by dominating Wisconsin.

12. Iowa (6-0)/at Wisconsin/Hawkeyes looking good after conference win over Michigan.

13. LSU (5-1)/Auburn (Oct. 24)/The SEC is a two-tier conference: Florida and Alabama, and everyone else.

14. Oklahoma State (4-1)/Missouri/Missing two stars, rare win at Texas A&M. Needs to figure out how to replace offense lost in Dez Bryant saga.

15. Cincinnati (5-0)/at South Florida (Oct. 15)/Off this past week.

16. Brigham Young (5-1)/at San Diego State/Took care of business against UNLV.

17. Oklahoma (3-2)/Texas (Dallas)/Sam Bradford is back in fine form as Oklahoma gets ready for Texas by taking care of Baylor.

18. Georgia Tech (5-1)/Virginia Tech/Won a shootout at Florida State.

19. Kansas (5-0)/at Colorado/Close win over Iowa State. Jayhawks have a good record but not a good strength of schedule.

20. Nebraska (4-1)/Texas Tech/Shut down Missouri on the road.

21. Utah (4-1)/at UNLV/Picked up a conference road win.

22. South Carolina (5-1)/at Alabama/Barely beat Kentucky, will have to play much better against Crimson Tide.

23. Mississippi (3-2)/Alabama-Birmingham/Exposed (again) by powerhouse Alabama.

24. Houston (4-1)/at Tulane/Back in polls after third win over BCS automatic qualifier this season.

25. South Florida (5-0)/Cincinnati (Oct. 15)/Off this past week.

Dropped out/Why?

Georgia. Drilled at Tennessee; hasn’t performed up to expectations this season.

Auburn. Back to earth after blowout loss at Arkansas.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Padilla handcuffs Cardinals, Dodgers advance, 5-1

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – NLDS GAME 3

August acquisition Vicente Padilla worked seven scoreless innings in his playoff debut, Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez each knocked in two runs and the Los Angeles Dodgers finished off an NLDS sweep of the Cardinals, 5-1, in St. Louis Saturday night.

The Dodgers wasted no time, taking the lead in the first inning. Matt Kemp hit a one-out infield single off Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro and scored on Ramirez’s two-out double to center for a quick 1-0 edge.

Los Angeles supplemented its lead with a two-run third. Rafael Furcal singled to right with one down ahead of Ethier, who hit a two-out homer to right for a 3-0 advantage.

The Dodgers then tacked on one more run in the fourth. Ronnie Belliard led off with an infield single and came around on Furcal’s two-out single down the left-field line.

L.A. plated its final run in the seventh. Ethier tripled with two out to the center-field wall and scored on Ramirez’ single to left.

St. Louis and megastar Albert Pujols finally came alive in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Julio Lugo drew a one-out walk and stole second before Pujols picked up his first RBI of the series with a two-out single to right to cut the Cardinal deficit to 5-1.

The Cardinals got a little something going in the ninth on Yadier Molina’s one-out broken-bat infield single. He then took second base on defensive indifference, but Dodger closer Jonathan Broxton struck out pinch hitter Rick Ankiel swinging to end the NL Central champions’ season.

Padilla (1-0) held the St. Louis offense to four hits and no runs over seven frames, with one walk and four strikeouts. Padilla, who was signed Aug. 19 after an acrimonious departure from Texas, is 5-0 in eight starts with the Dodgers.

Ethier and Ramirez were each 3-for-5. Furcal went 2-for-5.

Pineiro (0-1) lasted four innings, yielding four runs on seven hits. He walked no batters and struck out three.

Pujols and Molina each went 2-for-4 for the Cardinals, who finished the series 4-for-31 with runners in scoring position.

The NL West champion Dodgers will advance to face the winner of the Colorado-Philadelphia division series. The Rockies and Phillies currently sit tied at one game apiece.

NOTES: Pineiro was also making his first postseason start. He pitched in the 2001 ALCS with Seattle … Los Angeles scored all of its runs with two outs … St. Louis lost 11 of its final 13 games … The Dodgers beat St. Louis in a road postseason game for the first time. They had been 0-5, with three losses in 1985 and two in 2004.

BOX SCORE

Video credit – TBS

Friday, October 9, 2009

Teixeira 11th-inning walk-off homer beats Twins, 4-3

2009 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – ALDS GAME 2

Not long ago considered a guaranteed failure in the clutch, Alex Rodriguez hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Playing in pinstripes in the postseason for the first time, Mark Teixeira then delivered the big extra-inning shot that won the game.

And after a few seasons absent of playoff success, the Yankees are back in a familiar place – one win away from advancing after a 4-3 11-inning victory over the Minnesota Twins in New York Friday night.

With the win, New York leads the best-of-5 American League Division Series with the Twins 2-0.

Trailing 3-1 after having been handcuffed most of the night by Twins starter Nick Blackburn, New York came back in the ninth against All-Star closer Joe Nathan to force extra innings. Teixeira led off with a single to right field before Rodriguez’s homer to center tied the score.

After squandering a major opportunity in getting pinch runner Brett Gardner to third base with one out in the 10th but failing to score, the Yankees had to avert disaster themselves in the top of the 11th. Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer hit back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases with one out.

However, Delmon Young lined out to Teixeira, Carlos Gomez grounded to Teixeira, who threw to catcher Francisco Cervelli, the Yankees’ third catcher, to get Mauer at home, and Brendan Harris flied out to center to end the threat.

Teixeira then took Minnesota reliever Jose Mijares (0-1) out to left to lead off the bottom of the frame to end it.

Minnesota scored the first run of the night in the sixth inning. Young drew a one-out walk from New York starter A.J. Burnett, stole second base and scored on pinch-hitter Harris’ two-out triple over Yankees left fielder Johnny Damon’s head to the wall.

The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the sixth. Derek Jeter hit a one-out ground-rule double to right-center and came home on Rodriguez’s two-out single to left.

The Twins punched across two to retake the lead in the eighth. Nick Punto’s two-out single to center scored Gomez, who had walked. Denard Span then singled home Harris, who had singled, for a 3-1 edge.

Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with three RBI to lead the Yankees offense. Teixeira was 2-for-5.

David Robertson (1-0) earned the win in relief, allowing one hit and no runs over one inning. Burnett lasted six frames, allowing a run on three hits, with five walks and six strikeouts. Eight pitchers total worked for New York.

Cuddyer was 3-for-6 for Minnesota. Mauer and Harris were 2-for-4, while Span went 2-for-6.

Blackburn was lights-out, not allowing a Yankee hit until Robinson Cano’s two-out single in the fifth inning. He went 5 2-3 innings, yielding a run on three hits, with two walks and three strikeouts. Minnesota used six pitchers overall.

Game 3 of the series is set for Sunday night in Minneapolis, with New York, behind pitcher Andy Pettitte, looking to finish off the Twins and starter Carl Pavano, a former Yankee.

NOTES: Burnett and Blackburn were each making their first career playoff starts … This was the first Yankees postseason game Jorge Posada did not start since Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS against the Angels. Jose Molina started behind the plate, Posada came on as a pinch hitter in the sixth and Cervelli entered the game in the 11th after Posada was lifted for a pinch runner … New York is 9-0 against Minnesota this season … The Twins lost for just the sixth time in their last 23 games … The Yankees have not led an ALDS 2-0 since their 1999 series with Texas … New York is 13-4 at home when Burnett starts.

BOX SCORE


Video credit – TBS

Sunday, October 4, 2009

ZSN College Football Week 6 Top 25 Rankings

School (Record)/Next game (Oct. 10 unless otherwise noted)/Why?

1. Florida (4-0)/at LSU/Off this past week.

2. Texas (4-0)/Colorado/Off this past week.

3. Alabama (5-0)/at Ole Miss/Took care of business at Kentucky.

4. LSU (5-0)/Florida/Tigers are beginning to prove they’re for real. Another big test this week.

5. Southern California (4-1)/at Notre Dame (Oct. 17)/Made a statement in road win at Cal.

6. Virginia Tech (4-1)/Boston College/Survived at Duke.

7. Texas Christian (4-0)/at Air Force/Took care of business against SMU.

8. Penn State (4-1)/Eastern Illinois/Good road conference win.

9. Mississippi (3-1)/Alabama/Took care of business at Vanderbilt; the SEC West will begin to sort itself out this week.

10. Boise State (5-0)/at Tulsa (Oct. 14)/Beat a pushover handily, though not as handily as they probably should have.

11. Oregon (3-1)/at UCLA/Drilled Washington State. Big road test this week.

12. Miami (Fla.) (3-1)/Florida A&M/Back in the polls after finishing dreadful season-opening four-game stretch at 3-1, culminating in a home victory over Oklahoma.

13. Ohio State (4-1)/Wisconsin/Took care of business at Indiana.

14. Oklahoma State (3-1)/at Texas A&M/Off this past week.

15. Cincinnati (5-0)/at South Florida (Oct. 15)/Got it done on the road.

16. Brigham Young (4-1)/at UNLV/Took care of business against Utah State.

17. Oklahoma (2-2)/Baylor/Still having trouble winning big games; this week should be a bit of a respite.

18. Georgia Tech (4-1)/at Florida State/Good nonconference road win.

19. Georgia (3-2)/at Tennessee/Not a bad loss to LSU.

20. Kansas (4-0)/Iowa State/Off this past week.

21. Utah (3-1)/at Colorado State/Off this past week.

22. Iowa (5-0)/Michigan/Another too-close-for-comfort home win over a decidedly weaker opponent.

23. Nebraska (3-1)/at Missouri (Oct. 8)/Off this past week.

24. Auburn (5-0)/at Arkansas/Enters the polls after good win at Tennessee.

T25. South Carolina (4-1)/Kentucky/Enters the polls after a couple of good early wins and beating a pushover handily this past week.

T25. South Florida (5-0)/Cincinnati (Oct. 15)/Enters the polls after stout defensive effort in league road win.

Dropped out/Why?

Houston. Not a good loss to UTEP.

California. Two straight blowout conference losses.

Michigan. Not a bad loss (in overtime at rival Michigan State), but didn’t have much room for error to remain in the polls.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Arizona hands Cubs third straight blowout loss, 12-3

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Going into their final series of the season, neither the Arizona Diamondbacks nor the Chicago Cubs have anything left to play for.

The Cubs are sure looking like it.

Eric Byrnes homered twice, the struggling Chris Young finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and the woeful Diamondbacks drilled the Cubs 12-3 in Chicago Friday afternoon.

With this loss, Chicago has lost three straight games by a combined score of 24-5 after dropping both ends of a doubleheader to lowly Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Arizona’s offense began the carnage early, touching Chicago starter Tom Gorzelanny for three runs in the top of the first. Stephen Drew singled to center to score Ryan Roberts, who had led off the game with a triple. Drew took second on Gorzelanny’s throwing error and scored on a one-out Mark Reynolds sacrifice fly before Young’s two-out bomb to left-center gave Arizona a 3-0 lead.

The Diamondbacks added four runs to their total in the third. Rusty Ryal’s two-out double to deep center scored Drew, who had singled, Justin Upton, who recorded and infield single, and Young, who drew a free pass.

Ryal took third on catcher Koyie Hill’s passed ball and scored on Eric Byrnes’ single to right-center to make the count 7-0.

That was more than enough for Arizona starter Billy Buckner (4-6), who has won two straight starts after his previous five decisions were losses. He limited the Chicago offense to three runs on six hits over 6 1-3 innings, with four walks and five strikeouts.

But the Arizona offense wasn’t done. Byrnes led off the sixth inning with an absolute jack to left that left the stadium and found Waveland Avenue.

Then, in the seventh, Ryal’s sac fly scored Reynolds, who had walked with one out. Young, who had doubled, took third on Cubs reliever David Patton’s wild pitch and crossed the plate on Byrnes’ bloop single to shallow center, taking a 10-0 advantage.

Chicago finally dented the scoreboard in the bottom half of the frame. Hill led off with a single to center and scored on pinch hitter Micah Hoffpauir’s ground-rule double down the right-field line into the Diamondbacks bullpen.

Aramis Ramirez then singled to left to score Andres Blanco, who had singled, before Hoffpauir came home on Jake Fox’s fielder’s choice, cutting Chicago’s deficit to 10-3.

The D-backs tacked on two more runs just for fun in the ninth. Byrnes hit a two-out homer to center that just barely got out, scoring Young, who had singled, closing the scorebook at 12-3.

Young went 4-for-4 for Arizona, while Byrnes was 4-for-5 while knocking in five runs. Drew went 3-for-5, Roberts was 2-for-5 and Ryal put up four RBI.

Hill was the only Cub with a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4.

Gorzelanny (7-3) yielded seven hits on seven runs, only completing three frames. He walked one batter and struck out three.

NOTES: The Diamondbacks snapped a three-game losing streak and won for just the third time in 11 tries on the road … Reynolds extended his major league record for strikeouts in a season to 216 and remains mired in a 6-for-52 slump after his last 14 games, going 0-for-3 Friday … Chicago’s Derrek Lee was again not in the lineup after sitting out Thursday due to personal issues … Cubs reliever John Grabow made his career-high 75th appearance of the season … Arizona (69-91) remains in fifth in the NL West, climbing to 24.5 games back of the division-leading Dodgers. Chicago (82-77) is second in the Central, nine games behind St. Louis, which has already clinched the division … Arizona’s Daniel Cabrera and the Cubs’ Randy Wells will do battle in the second-to-last game of the season Saturday afternoon.

BOX SCORE


Video credit – WGN