Friday, September 30, 2005

Three Games To Go

Will anyone be this season's Bucky Dent?

Excitment thick enough to cut with a machete.

The weedy jungle of the regular season has nearly been hacked through and at the clearing sit several teams on the precipice.

New York @ Boston

Nothing much needs to be said about this series finale that bookends nicely with the season's opening series and all 156 games in between. For all those games, the Yankees hold a fragile one game lead.

One of these teams will take two out of three at Fenway. If it's the Yankees, they will win the AL East and gloat into the playoffs. If it's the Red Sox, a playoff for the AL East title will follow.

Making matters even more tense is the possibility that one of these teams might not make it into the post season at all, should the Indians continue to roll against the White Sox, who have already clinched the AL Central and their birth in the playoffs.

"I wish good luck to our pitching, because let me tell you, (the Yankees) are hitting the (expletive) out of the ball," Sox hero Papi Ortiz warned. "If you don't come and throw some good games against them, you have no chance.

"They're hitting right now, they're hitting good. All of them. Every one of them. You're going to have to bring your best stuff, to every hitter. It's hard to do it, but you have to."

Game One will feature the unexpected Chien Ming Wang taking the mound against former Yankee headache and sometime saviour David Wells. At Fenway Park this year, Wells is 7-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 11 starts.

Game Two will see the man the Yankees coveted specifically for this sort of situation, Randy Johnson, facing knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. The Big Unit is 4-0 against the Red Sox and he's held their league-leading offense to a .230 batting average this season. Precisely what he's been paid to do and he will have to do it at least once more this season against the Sox.

The Final Game which will be the biggest game of the year unless the Yankees take the first two, will feature Mike Mussina against Curt Schilling. Little more needs to be said.

Who Is The Real Number One?

Will this be the Year for A-Rod finally after last season's scorn and derision? He is 9 for his last 23 at-bats with a pair of homers and 8 RBIs. He has alot to pay the Red Sox back for.

Or Will Papi Rock Fenway like he rocked the Yankees last season?

As Newsday's Shawn Powell wrote, this is the perfect finish for an endless rivalry.

White Sox @ Indians

Some of the sparkle was taken off of this season finale when the White Sox avoided one of the more infamous collapses in baseball history and clinched their AL Central title already.

However, the Indians are still tied with the Red Sox for the AL Wildcard lead and winning two out of three against the White Sox will almost assure their place in the postseason.

Tonight, AL ERA leader Kevin Millwood takes the mound for the Tribe. Millwood, just 3-7 at home this season, has made all four of his career starts against the White Sox in 2005 and is 0-2, despite giving up only four earned runs in 27 frames (1.33 ERA).

He will face Mark Buehrle, (16-8, 3.19).

Five days earlier versus Cleveland, Buehrle escaped with a no-decision after surrendering four runs on seven hits, including three homers, in six innings.

He is 7-7 in his career versus the Indians with a 4.36 ERA in 19 games, including 18 starts. Buehrle has faced Cleveland four times in 2005 and is 2-0 with a 2.96 earned run average.

Chicago leads the season series, 11-5, and is 6-1 at Jacobs Field this season.

Game Two will feature Jake Westbrook (15-14, 4.46) vs. Jon Garland (17-10, 3.53) Saturday afternoon.

Game Three will see Scott Elarton (11-8, 4.51) go for the Indians vs. Brandon McCarthy (2-2, 4.21) Sunday afternoon.


Cleveland will lose two out of three and the Red Sox will take two out of three from the Yankees.

That means the Yankees will win the AL East by virtue of the better head-to-head record against the Sox and the Sox will make it in as the AL Wildcard. The Indians will do a quick fade and settle for happiness at having come so close out of nowhere.

Red Sox @ White Sox - Soxtober won't last forever
Angels @ Yankees - Exhausted by their final push, Yankees suffer repeat of their 2003 AL playoff meltdown.

Hmmm? Red Sox @ Angels in ALCS.



Significantly less exciting. We already know the Cardinals, Braves and Padres are in and frankly, barring a historic collapse, the Astros will make it in as the NL Wildcard meaning the playoffs pan out like this:

Astros @ Braves
Padres @ Cardinals

Hmmm? Braves @ Cardinals in NLCS


World Series Rematch:

Cardinals v. Red Sox.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Still Tied At The Top

Yankees rookie Robinson Cano hits a 7th inning homer


dressed up like a cheerleader in a kinky Yankee rookie hazing "tradition"

The Yankees and Red Sox both won their games yesterday to leave the AL East knotted going into baseball's final regular season week.

The Yankees won their final regular season game 8-4 as Chien Ming-Wang won his 8th game of the season behind Cano's two-run homer in the 7th and Gary Sheffield's three-run homer in the 8th. It was their 12th win in their last 14 games and they finished 53-28 in the Bronx.


Jason Varitek scores in easy win

Meanwhile the Red Sox completed their three game sweep of the Orioles with an easy 9-3 victory yesterday.

Unlike the Yankees, who have played their last game of the home season, the Red Sox have played their last road game of the regular season.

The Red Sox will play host to Toronto for four games starting Monday. Then they welcome the Yankees on Friday.


Royals celebrate their unexpected victory

The Indians finally gagged on a game, losing to the lowly Kansas City Royals yesterday as Cleveland center fielder Grady Sizemore lost Paul Phillips' ninth-inning double in the sun, allowing Angel Berroa to score the winning run for the Royals in a 5-4 victory in Kansas City.

The loss dropped the Indians AL Wildcard lead to a half game over both the Yankees and Red Sox and, coupled with the White Sox third consecutive victory, now drops them two and a half games behind for the AL Central lead.


Jimmy Rollins maintains a 30-game hitting streak in the middle of a wildcard race.

In the National League, the Phillies kept charging, defeating the Cincinnati Reds 6-3 which, coupled with the Astros 3-2 loss to the Cubs, moved the Phillies to within a game of the Astros. Both teams have 6 games remaining.

Chase Utley added his first career inside-the-park homer and Cory Lidle turned in his longest outing in seven starts as the Phillies improved to 39-39 on the road this season, including 6-3 on the trip that ended Sunday.

The Astros have two at St Louis to face the Cardinals and then move home for the final four games of the regular season against the Chicago Cubs.

The Phillies will now host the Mets for three games and then travel to DC to close out their season against the Nats.


Jets Lose Game And Both QBs

If this guy is Joe Montana, he's Joe Montana playing for the Chiefs, not the 49ers.

Well, you can pack up the welcome wagon and send those horses running off in all directions. The Jets season is over and we might as well start looking for a new head coach now.

Bad enough to start a season full of hope with a pathetic one win in three games. The Jacksonville Jags did us one better, they knocked starting QB Chad Pennington out of the game with YET ANOTHER right shoulder injury and then for good measure, knocked backup Jay Fiedler out of the game as well which necessitated Pennington coming back in, injured wing and all, to go 3 for 8 for 15 yards to close out the game.

Some offence this Heimerdinger lad's got us running.

Oh yeah, the Jets lost, 26-20 in overtime.

Bengals Believers

Chad Johnson, scoring one of two of his TDs on the day

Cincinnati, which entered the game with a league-leading 10 takeaways, picked off Bears quarterback Kyle Orton five times and the Bengals became the first NFL team in 34 years to intercept five passes in consecutive games. Let us not forget they are coached by Marvin Lewis, architect of the Ravens World Championship defence a few years ago.

The Bengals, now 3-0, defeated the Chicago Bears by a comfortable 24-7 margin

QB Carson Palmer was 16-of-23 for 169 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Chad Johnson, and did not throw an interception against a Bears defense that picked off Detroit's Joey Harrington five times the previous week.

The Bengals offense, which averaged 462 yards over the first two weeks, finished with 244.

Pack Is Sacked Again

Shelton Quarles gets a blow

If you're looking for a team more pathetic than the Jets, try the Green Bay Packers who not only lost at home to drop to 0-3 on the season, but had their 13-game home victory streak against the Bucs snapped. This is the worst start for the Pack since 1988, when Miracle Boy Brett Favre was still a sophomore back at Southern Miss.

The Buccaneers, 3-0 for the first time since 2000, got two touchdown receptions from Joey Galloway and two interceptions from safety Will Allen in winning at Lambeau Field for the first time since Sept 10, 1989.

Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, the first NFL rookie to start his career with three straight 100-yard games, rushed for 158 yards on a sprained foot and has 434 yards rushing so far, besting Ameche's mark of 410 set in 1955 for the Baltimore Colts.

Pats Top Steelers, Again

They didn't humiliate them with the same flair as they did last time these two teams met but the New England Patriots got the job done anyway with a last-second Vinatieri field goal to win 23-20.

The Patriots, badly depleted by injuries, withstood the longest scoring pass play against them in 15 years and two turnovers inside the Pittsburgh 10 to rally in the fourth quarter behind Brady, beating the Steelers 23-20 Sunday on Vinatieri's 43-yard field goal with one second remaining.

The Patriots won in the same stadium where their own record 18-game regular season streak ended last season with a 34-20 loss on Oct. 31. They came back 2½ months later and manhandled the Steelers 41-27 in the AFC championship game, the second time in four seasons their road to a Super Bowl title ran through Heinz Field.

Just as in that game, the Patriots (2-1) all but took away Pittsburgh's running game -- Willie Parker, coming off consecutive 100-yard games, was held to 55 yards - and forced Roethlisberger to try and beat them.

Roethlisberger, who hasn't lost to any other team in 18 NFL starts, counting the postseason, wasn't much better than he was in that AFC title game loss, when he threw three interceptions. Under a heavy rush, he went 12 of 28 for 216 yards in his first loss in 16 regular-season starts, despite going against a badly depleted Patriots defense.

So that makes two QBs, Roethlisberger and Indy's Peyton Manning, who only lose to the Patriots.

Colts Still Unbeaten, then again They Haven't Faced The Pats

Robert Mathis celebrates a sack of Cleveland's Trent Dilfer. The Colts defense led Indianapolis to a 13-6 win.

Peyton Manning was 19-of-23 for 228 yards with one interception against his old nemesis, Crennel, who had won six straight against Manning since 2001 as Patriots defensive coordinator.

Still, Manning did enough to become the second-fastest quarterback to top 30,000 yards passing in his 115th game. Miami's Dan Marino did it in 114 games.

A tough defence and a feeble offence. Looks like Tony Dungy has finally succeeded in turning the league's most potent offensive juggernaut into a version of the auld Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fish Shock Again

Delhomme gets roughed up in the Florida Marlins infield

Maybe it wasn't so shocking. After all, the Carolina Panthers were a week removed from shocking the NFL with it's relatively simple defeat of the New England Patriots and were probably still in the clouds by the time they had to play the Dolphins.

Dolphins Safety Lance Schulters intercepted Panther QB Jake Delhomme with 2 minutes left to set up Olindo Mare 's game-winning field goal, and Miami won 27-24.

Rookie Ronnie Brown rushed for 132 yards for Miami, while Carolina lost despite Smith's 11 catches for 170 yards and three scores, including a 53-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to tie the game at 24.

Sunny, 85-degree weather likely helped the Dolphins, who are accustomed to the sweltering subtropical climate. They improved to 43-8 at home in August and September since the NFL merger in 1970.


Other significant news: The Chargers won their first game of the season and the Giants lost their first, all in the same game, the Eli Manning Bowl.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Yankees Relinquish Sole Share of First

Don't look now but are those the Red Sox gaining in the rear view mirror?

Yankees starter Jared Wright shows Red Sox how to get on all fours and bark like a dog.

The New York Yankees have a simple task in front of them: win more games than the Red Sox for the next week.

Last night, facing the Blue Jays, they stumbled early on, well early on as in Jared Wright never making it out of the second inning early on.

Not only that but Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano couldn't catch the ball, leading to four unearned runs.

The offense couldn't get the big hit with the Yankees down three runs, and the middle of the order couldn't touch closer Miguel Batista, who struck out the final four batters, including Jason Giambi with the bases loaded in the eighth inning.

"Basically, I suck," Matsui said through an interpreter who was probably a little more liberal with his translation than necessary. "There's no other way to explain it." Matsui said of his fielding gaffe.

Chien Ming-Wang will take the mound for the Yankees today facing Josh Towers who has made 12 straight quality starts and is 12-11 this season with a 3.78 ERA.


Edgar Renteria's bases loaded single proved to drive in the winning runs for the Sox.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox seized their first chance to move back into a tie for first by beating the Baltimore Orioles 4-3, a team ravaged by Palmeiro's steroid scandal and subsequent bullshit accusation landed on teammate Miguel Tejada. Can you believe what a prick move it was of Palmeiro to try and rope Tejada down with him? All time gutless and classless move and if ever there were a case for Palmeiro NEVER to make the Hall of Fame ballot, here it is, in technicolor for you.

Two Massive Steroid Douchebags Discuss In Secret Who Else's Name They Can Drag Through The Mud

In any event, the Red Sox victory, coupled of course with the Yankee loss means that the AL East is tied yet again, less than 72 hours after the Yankees had taken the lead. By the time the Red Sox had taken the field last night, after the Yankees loss, their deficit in the American League East was down to a half-game.

Today, Fat Man David Wells faces John Maine of the Orioles. Wells has struggled on the road this season, going 6-6 with a 5.66 ERA. He is 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA in four starts against the Orioles in 2005.


In the Central, the Indians continued their improbable roll towards infamy with an 11-4 pasting of the KC Royals.

Peralta demonstrates his home run trot

Jhonny Peralta's two-run home run gave Kevin Millwood an early lead, and he took advantage as the Tribe won No. 17 of its last 19. Ronnie Belliard, Grady Sizemore and Coco Crisp homered; birthday boy Ben Broussard had three doubles.


The White Sox beat the Twins 8-1 Saturday night to lower their magic number to seven, but their biggest victory may have been over themselves.

Freddy Garcia allowed only five baserunners in eight innings in winning for just the second time in 10 starts.

The confidence was back in the clubhouse as the Sox took magic matters into their own hands with their first back-to-back victories since Sept. 6-7 and their biggest offensive outburst in a victory since Sept. 2.

The Sox have five games left—one against Minnesota and four at Detroit—before what could be the showdown series in Cleveland next weekend


Hokies Swarmed Over Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech, 51-7

"I think this is a football team that is relentless, that's a word I like," said Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, whose team has outscored its last three opponents 141-7. "I think they keep the pressure on you."

USC shocked no one in whooping up on the previously undefeated Oregon by a 45-13 margin. Southern California (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10) has outscored its opponents 178-47 this season.

Defending Heisman winner Matt Leinart threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns whilst Reggie Bush had another big game with 165 yards from scrimmage and two TDs.

Brady Quinn, look at the arms on this guy for a QB, are you kidding me?

The Fighting Irish showed what a difference it makes NOT having Ty Willingham coaching your side as the Charlie Weiss-coached Notre Dame side humiliated Washington, 36-17.

Quinn had just one touchdown pass, but still compiled 327 yards passing in the win.

Weis facetiously dubbed this game "The Ty Bowl" because of all the attention on Willingham's three years with the Irish, which ended with his firing mid-contract last December, and his move to Washington.

Irish sophomore halfback Darius Walker rushed for a career-high 128 yards on 21 carries and became the first running back in Notre Dame history to rush for more than 100 yards in each of his first four games.

Sports Amnesia Top Ten

1. USC (4-0) trampled Oregon 45-13.
2. Florida State (2-0) idle.
3. Texas (3-0) idle.
4. VA Tech (4-0) defeated GA Tech 51-7.
5. Miami (2-1) defeated Colorado 23-3.
6. Florida (4-0) defeated Kentucky 49-28.
7. Ohio State (3-1) defeated Iowa 31-6.
8. UCLA (3-0) idle.
9. Cal (4-0) defeated New Mexico St. 41-13.
10. Michigan State (4-0) defeated Illinois 61-14.
Honourable Mention:
Notre Dame (3-1) defeated Washington 36-17
Virginia (3-0) defeated Duke 38-7
Alabama (4-0) defeated Arkansas 24-13.
Wisconsin (4-0) defeated Michigan 23-20.
Georgia (4-0) defeated Miss State 23-10.
Within Two Games

Jeter scores all the runs they needed last night in beating the Jays, 5-0.

After last night's efforts, the Red Sox, who beat the Orioles, remained a game behind the Yankees, who beat the Blue Jays in the AL East.

Manny pastes number 40 on the year as the Sox beat the Orioles, 6-3.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox won a coin toss that would give them a home game against the Indians if the teams tie for the wild card.

The Indians, who beat the Royals, remained 1 1/2 games behind the Chicago White Sox, who beat the Twins, for the AL Central, but are still 1 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox for the AL Wildcard.

Travis Hafner hit a homer in his 6th consecutive game and the Indians won for the 9th time in 10 games.

What does it all mean in these confusing times?

It still comes down to this:

The Yankees still have to play the Red Sox at Fenway three more times and their lead is "only" one game. If all things remain the same until then and the Sox take two out of three at Fenway, the two teams would finish the season tied for first. In a playoff to win the AL East, the Red Sox would meet the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

On the other hand, the Indians will still close out their season facing the White Sox at home for the final three games of the season. However, the Indians played one more game than the White Sox, so one White Sox victory could mean they'd be a game and a half ahead going into that season finale, meaning the Indians would have to take two out of three to win the AL Central but only three of their other seven games to win the AL Wildcard. (or something like that -)

Let's say the Red Sox take 4 of their 6 non-Yankee games and the Yankees do the same. They'd both finish with 95 victories.

If the Indians take 2 of three from the Sox but all 5 of their non-White Sox games, they'd finish with 95 victories. If the Sox lost four of their six non-Indians games, they too would finish with 95 victories.

Imagine the White Sox at Indians and Red Sox at Yankees on the day-after-the-last-day of the season, winners take all then necessitating a loser-take-all game what, the following day to determine the AL Wildcard.

How crazy would that be?


Meanwhile, for the second weekend night in a row, the Phillies stormed back from a deficit to gain a massive come-from-behind victory.

David Bell his the winnah, a two-run bomb

Last night they trailed the Reds by four before erupting for five ninth inning runs to beat the Reds 11-10 nearly one week after scoring 10 runs in the 9th to beat the Marlins.

The Astros meanwhile, lost to the Cubs. Trailing 5-1 after four innings, the Astros rallied tied it on an RBI double by Craig Biggio, an RBI single by Lance Berkman, an error by center fielder Corey Patterson that let a run score and Jeff Bagwell's RBI when he was hit with a pitch with the bases loaded. But it wasn't enough as they ended up falling anwyay, 5-4 to see their NL Wildcard lead over the Phillies drop to a single game.

The Astros will play no one but the Cubs and Cardinals the rest of the season.

The Phillies still have to face two more against the Reds, three at home versus the Mets and then close out the season at the Washington Nats.

In the event the Phillies and Astros finished tied for the NL Wildcard, the Phillies will host the Astros in what would likely be the biggest baseball game in Philadelphia since winning Game 5 of the 1993 World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Curt Schilling got that win for the Phillies by the way, a five-hitter that kept their hopes alive for one more game before Joe Carter's infamous homerun.

11 years before the Bloody Sox Game


Sports Amnesia Top Ten

1. USC (2-0) at Oregon (3-0)
2. Florida State (2-0) idle.
3. Texas (3-0) idle.
4. Florida (3-0) at Kentucky (1-2)
5. Miami (1-1) host Colorado (2-0)
6. Georgia Tech (3-0) at #7 VA Tech (3-0)
7. VA Tech (3-0) see above
8. Ohio State (2-1) host Iowa (2-1)
9. Michigan (2-1) at Wisconsin (3-0)
10. UCLA (3-0) idle.

Notable: California (4-0) defeated New Mexico State 41-13, Notre Dame (2-1) at Washington (1-2), Alabama (3-0) host Arkansas, Michigan State (3-0) at Illinois (2-1).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Christ, you'd think they won the World Series...

Bubby Crosby's game-winning blast leading off the bottom of the ninth inning last night was perhaps the biggest hit the $200 million Yanks have received to date. It lifted them to an exhilarating 3-2 victory over Baltimore - and, more importantly, within a half-game of first-place Boston in the AL East.

Of course, as dramatic as the victory was, it doesn't ensure even a playoff spot yet. Thirteen days and twelve games to go and the Yankees will close out the season with a three game series in Boston.

The Yankees so far have still only spent two days of the whole season alone in first place in the American League East. Opening Night against the Red Sox. Then July 18. So far, that is it. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no Yankee team in history has ever spent so little time in first place during the regular season and still finished in first place at the end.


Former Jet Santana Moss takes it home on a 70 yard TD with 2:44 left.

Meanwhile, a little further south and in another sport, the Washington Redskins stunned the Dallas Cowboys last night with a sudden and unexpected comeback for a 14-13 victory.

Washington had not scored a touchdown for the first 116 minutes of the season, then, shockingly, produced two huge strikes in 71 seconds. After losing 14 of their last 15 against the Cowboys, the Redskins (2-0) had finally snatched a victory from Dallas.

How psyched was Joe Gibbs about this unexpected turn of events?

"That's one of the great moments for me," he stammered. "I can tell you that."

Hmmm. How bad is it when the man who has won three Super Bowls and two NASCAR championships, when this little game, only the second of the season, has him spinning with joy?

No, it's not the Super Bowl but Gibbs will take a Gatorade shower happily

Of course, even at 2-0, it's only the beginning - there's likely alot less joy down the road for the Redskins because even this victory can't hide the impotence of their offence.

Choking Sox

Do I mean the White Sox of Chicago or the Red Sox of Boston?

Well let's see, the Red Sox, having lost seven of 12 as they come down to the nitty gritty games of September, have seen their once majestic lead of 5 1/2 games dwindle, dwindle, dwindle as the pressure mounts.

This is the team who have been in first place in the American League East for 62 straight days and 86 out of the last 87, every day but one since June 24 and now they are just barely hanging on. And as if last year never happened (well, there isn't a Curse of Ruth hanging over their heads any more), the Red Sox are once again being accused of choking down the stretch.

The Fat Man Sweats Out Another Loss

Wells, only slightly more effective than Matt Clement a day earlier, lasted a mere 2 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs on 10 hits in a crushing 8-7 loss to the Devil Rays last night. The issue? An inflamed right knee that is likely to be injected with cortisone between now and Wells's next start, Sunday at Baltimore.


Safe Even Away From Home!

Over in Chicago, the choking is more like gagging.

Last night, facing the suddenly invincible Cleveland Indians, the White Sox blinked and Cleveland rallied in the eighth inning on a two-run single by Aaron Boone and won Game 1 against the Sox 7-5 in a battle that ultimately could decide who wins the American League Central.

Just four outs from pushing their lead to 41/2 games and their magic number to nine, the Sox now lead by 2-1/2 with five games remaining against the Indians. The Sox' lead is the lowest it has been since May 1.

The Indians trailed the White Sox by 15 games after Chicago swept a four-game series at Jacobs Field from July 14-17, and were still 14 behind in early August.

The Indians have now won six consecutive games and 14 of their last 15. They are 41-21 since the All-Star break and 76-44 over their last 120 games.

The White Sox meanwhile, have lost 8 of their last 11.

Jay Mariotti calls it Choke Job Theatre

Chances are, these whoops of joy will turn to tears before this series is over.

Chicago Tribune writer Mike Downey said it best:

...Nevertheless, the collective psyche of South Side fans has taken a beating of late. And for a few rocky innings Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field, things got so quiet you could hear a pennant drop."

And you want to hear a guy talking out loud in a dark room, afraid of monsters?

""If you're going to be nervous, all of a sudden you're going to lose what you have," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said as he stands aboard this rapidly sinking ship.

A good review of homestretch chokes in baseball.

Tonights matchups which COULD see the Yankees regain first and the Indians move inches closer to the White Sox:

Aaron Small (8-0 3.28) takes the mound for the Yankees against the Orioles' John Maine (2-1 3.27).

Curt Schilling goes for the Sox against the Devil Rays tonight - you'd think this would be a gimme almost as the Devil Rays will toss out Seth McClung (6-10 6.61). At home, McClung is 3-7 with a 5.53 this season.

And finally, Jake Westbrook (15-14 4.56) will take pitch for the Indians against former White Sox ace Mark Buehrle, LHP (15-8, 3.21), whose fall from grace almost mirrors that of his team. After appearing to be one of the frontrunners in the American League Cy Young race, Buehrle has lost four of his last six decisions. The left-hander has allowed 19 hits and nine earned runs over his last 12 1/3 innings against the Angels and the Royals. Buehrle stands at 7-7 with a 4.28 ERA against the Indians lifetime and has a 2-0 record with a 2.11 ERA in 2005 when facing the Indians.

However, beware: Buehrle is a far better pitcher at U.S. Cellular Field, with a 9-2 record and 2.41 ERA over 15 starts.

NL Wildcard Race All But Forgotten

Oh yeah, we've nearly forgotten to mention the other league where the Houston Astros cling to a game's lead over the Phillies, two over the Marlins and four over the Nats.

Last night, in getting crushed 7-0 by the Pirates even with Roger Clemens on the mound, the Astros lost a game in the standings to the idle Phillies, Marlins and Nats. Not quite choking but even their relatively soft schedule doesn't help them at this point.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback

1. Which was more shocking, the Patriots looking enfeebled by the ferocious Carolina Panther defence or the Cincinnati Bengals ripping Minnesota a new one? The Patriots aren't likely to fall apart after this week's loss but the pain won't be eased at all going to face Pittsburgh. As for the Bengals, let's reserve judgement on their Super Bowl juggernaut for a few more weeks. Beating the Vikings, it is beginning to appear, is no big feat. Last year, QB Duante Culpepper had 11 interceptions. After throwing five in the loss to the Bengals, this year he already has eight. And let's not forget, the Bengals committed 17 penalties in that game which against a mightier foe, would have spellt disaster.

2. Did someone wipe the smirk off the faces of Fish fans? How badly are they rooting for a Ricky Williams return? Their ground game is pathetic and let's face it, Gus F is not anyone's answer.

3. Undefeated after two weeks: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, KC, NY Giants, Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay. Of these seven teams, Sports Amensia predicts only four will be around for the playoffs: Pittsburgh, Indy, KC and Tampa Bay.

4. Preseason hopefuls for the playoffs -- Arizona, Baltimore, Green Bay, Minnesota and San Diego -- are a combined 0-10.

5. Joining the Vikes in the Who Stinks More contest are the Green Bay Packers who did the unthinkable this week in getting humiliated by the Cleveland Browns, everyone's favourite pick for worst team in the NFL. In fact, the entire NFC North stinks and it's up to Da Bears to hold the old black and blue division up. Sports Amnesia's Upset Pick of the Week: Bears knock Bengals from the unbeatens.

6. Our preseason pick for the Super Bowl, Carolina Panthers, are ready to go on a roll after beating the Pats this week. Carolina's next four opponents are a combined 2-6, and its toughest game in that stretch is this week at Miami. Not so tough after all.

7. The other preseason pick for the Super Bowl, the Jets, have not proven they belong yet. The only way they are going to get anywhere this season is by playing the kind of perfect-sort-of mistake-free football that frankly, every team needs to contend. But let's face it, this isn't a fancy team, this isn't even really a loveable team.

8. Is there anyone outside of Baltimore who isn't secretly happy at the Ravens 0-2 start? Arrogant prick of a coach, two nearly-convicted felons starring on the defence and offence and the worst QB this side of Anthony Wright?

9. Clearly, the San Diego Chargers are the best 0-2 team in the league. This week they face the unbeaten Giants in the Peyton Manning Bowl. Guess here is that the Chargers win this one, 17-13.

10. Predictions:

Buffalo 20 Atlanta 14
Carolina 28 Miami 6
Chicago 19 Cincinnati 17
Indy 45 Cleveland 10
Jets 17 Jacksonville 13
Minnesota 31 New Orleans 20
Philly 34 Oakland 24
Green Bay 23 Tampa Bay 21
St Louis 28 Tennessee 24
Arizona 17 Seattle 16
Dallas 31 SF 16
NE 20 Pittsburgh 17
SanDiego 27 Giants 21
KC 21 Denver 17

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Patriots Finally Lose A Game

It's been a long time since you could say that. Longer still since you could say the Patriots didn't even look very good in doing so. But true enough, they were thrashed 27-17 by the Carolina Panthers, the very team they beat in the Super Bowl two years ago.

Patriots lost because of Tom Brady, who had two of New England's three turnovers and couldn't carry the offensive load when the running game stalled.

Super Boy takes a bit of a beating.

Brady finished 23 of 44 for 270 yards, one interception and one fumble. He did throw a 1-yard TD pass to Daniel Graham early in the first quarter, the 100th passing touchdown of his career, but struggled from there.

New England was also uncharacteristically sloppy, committing 12 penalties for 86 yards.

Panthers TE Kris Mangum and Patriots CB Asante Samuel have a go at it.

Although Panthers QB Jack Delhomme was less than tantalising, (11 of 26 for 146 yards), running back Stephen Davis scored three touchdowns whilst gaining 77 hard-earned yards. Davis became the first running back to score three TDs against the Patriots since Curtis Martin did it in 2000.

It can be said that a Patriot loss, indeed a Patriot failure to defend their championship was perhaps inevitable both because modern sports do not allow for this kind of dynasty, because they are now weak in the interior linebacking corps and because they lost their offensive and defensive coordinators making Bill Bellichick to it himself for a change.

Things won't get any better on the Patriot opponent Revenge tour as next week they travel to Pittsburgh to face the unbeaten Steelers.

Sports Amnesia predicts the Pats will win, 17-13.

Jets Return To Form

After last week's miserable 27-7 loss to the KC Chiefs made them look like they were starting their season a week early, the Jets defence managed to contain the upstart Miami Dolphins at home, 17-10.

So, the wheels haven't fallen off their Super Bowl run just yet although the offence is still struggling under the new Hummerdinger regime to score points.

In fact, after promising not to fumble at all after opening week's six fumble debacle, what does Chad Pennington do on the first play from scrimmage? Why, fumble the snap of course.

But the Jets defence held the Dolphins in check for most of the game and after the Dolphins scored to close it to withing 10-7 and making everyone jumpy in New York, Pennington put together a fantastic drive to save the game. On the drive, Pennington went 7 of 7 for 74 yards. He finished 19 of 30 for 190 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Jerard Sowell scores the winnah

The Jets played efficient, nearly-mistake-free football, the kind of disciplined performance necessary if they intend on making it through this season into the post season. They had no turnovers, ran for 98 yards, held Miami to 66 on the ground, and committed five penalties for 40 yards.

Vilma and Coleman gang up on Welker

But the Dolphins ganged up on themselves in a way as well. Following their impressive opening season victory over the Denver Broncos despite embarassing moments of undisciplined penalty-mongering, they had 10 penalties for 88 yards. And the Jets defence (or Dolphin offence - who is more at fault?) allowed the Dolphins to convert only 4 of 14 third-down opportunities. All the key ingredients to losing.

As if that weren't enough, everybody's hero last week, QB Gus Frerotte was off, finishing 20 of 43 for 177 yards with a touchdown and an interception and coming crashing back down to the real wold. The Dolphins also failed to muster much of a running attack. Rookie Ronnie Brown, who came into the game with a slight shoulder injury, had 35 yards on 12 carries.

But it isn't all to blame on the Dolphins. The Jets bounced back virulently, blue collar football, mistake-free football. January football.

Next week they host the Jacksonville Jaguars and Sports Amnesia is predicting a tough 10-9 victory for the Jets.


Meanwhile, another early season favourite to knock the Pats from their Perch has been the Indianapolis Colts.

Unhappy Jags leave the field with a hard-fought loss

Yesterday in a AFC South defensive battle that saw the Colts shutout in the first half and Peyton Manning looking out of sorts with wildly overthrown passes and an assorted of miscues, the Colts had the final say with a monsterously hard-fought 10-3 victory over their rival Jaguars.

Manning, looking out of sync as the Jaguars pressured him, finished 13-for-28 for ZERO touchdown passes and a career-low 122 yards passing with one interception and a passer rating of 44.0 -- his worst regular-season rating since December 2001.

Unfortunately for the Jags, the Colt defence, hyped often as improved, held the Jags at bay as well. Jags QB Byron Leftwich, sacked six times, was injured on the next-to-last series when Raheem Brock sacked him from behind and he was bent him over awkwardly. Leftwich lay on the ground reaching for his knee before limping off the field. He was X-rayed after the game inconclusively.

The defense also allowed Jacksonville only 303 total yards and one field goal, and has yielded just 10 points in two games, the lowest two-game total by a Colts defense since 1992.

But in the second half the Colts wised up, abandoned the useless passing attack on a day Manning was looking less than stellar, and went instead to Edgerrin James who carried the offensive load, relentlessly and powerfully, and finished with 128 yards, his first 100-yard outing in his eighth start against the Jaguars’ stout defense.

With a 3-0 lead, the Jags looked poised to score the upset until James and Indianapolis used a 17-play drive that consumed nearly nine minutes before Carthon's late TD run finally gave the Colts the lead with 8:27 left.

Monster truck fullback Greg Jones feels the heat of the Indy defence

The Colts will host the Browns next week and should continue their unbeaten streak with an easy 34-10 victory over the Browns.


Vikings Take Another On The Chin

Well, so much for all that annoying hoo-haa, preseason rubbish about the Vikings mystical takeoff into the realm of the Super Bowl. They'll spend the rest of the week wondering if they are as bad as they have looked in going 0-2 in the first two weeks of the season, yesterday humiliated by the previously porous and pathetic Cincinnati Bengals by a shocking 38-7 margin.

Seven turnovers and a series of defensive miscues doomed the Vikings in a 37-8 debacle at Cincinnati, the second-worst defeat of coach Mike Tice's tenure and a humbling blow to those who considered last week's loss to Tampa Bay an anomaly - worse still, QB Daunte Culpepper continued to humiliate himself as though he'd forgotten how to play and threw a career-high five interceptions to join running back Michael Bennett, who fumbled twice in the first half as offensive stooges. The Vikings did not score until 3 minutes, 17 seconds remained in the game.

Someone please help me: Duante looks somewhere for help

And this defence of the Vikings which was supposed to be so new-and-improved and leading them to the Super Bowl, was absolutely abhorrent as they gave up 504 yards and 26 first downs to the Bengals. Free safety Darren Sharper suffered what might be a serious left knee injury, and frighteningly, the score could have been worse. The Bengals committed a team-record 17 penalties, wiping out one touchdown and two Culpepper fumbles deep in Vikings territory.

Bengals receiver Chad Johnson on the end of a 75 yard touchdown.

Carson Palmer completed his first nine passes against a dazed defense. Palmer went 27-for-40 for 337 yards overall with touchdown passes to three different receivers. The one to Johnson set the tone.

The Bengals will face a stiff test to keep their unbeaten season on the rails when they travel to Chicago next week. Prediction here is that the Bears will take them down where it hurts and beat the Bengals 17-13 to stop the bandwagon.

Meanwhile, the Vikings will host the New Orleans Saints and although the Saints are everybody's sweathearts at the moment, they will be on a short week following their necessary postponement to Monday night. Vikes 31 Saints 17.


Rams Regain Footing, Barely

A week after the humiliating, disturbing and confounding upset loss to the nobody 49ers, the St Louis Rams had alot to prove away in Arizona facing a team that had stumbled sourly against the NY Giants, a team no one is mistaking for playoff-bound.

Playing against the team with which he'd experienced all his former glory, Cardinals QB Kurt Warner nearly upended his former mates but fell a few yards shy, though, doomed by Adam Archuleta 's sack and a false start penalty as time ran out in the Rams' 17-12 victory Sunday.

Warner goes down

Warner, 28 for 41 for 327 yards in his first game against the St. Louis franchise he directed to two Super Bowls and one NFL crown, drove the Cardinals to the St. Louis 5 in the final seconds, all for naught.

The man who replaced Warner eventually at St Louis, Marc Bulger completed 18 of 29 passes for 216 yards, with one touchdown pass, one interception, and a passer rating of 82 but directed touchdown drives on St. Louis' first possession of each half and the Cardinals advanced inside the Rams 12 four times without a touchdown. Sacks spoiled three of the threats.

Jax on the move: Steven Jackson rushed for 93 yards on 18 carries, including a 7-yard TD that was the difference in the game.

The Cardinals fell to 0-2 whilst losing their home opener and next week they will travel to Seattle to face the dodgy Seahawks with no killer instinct. Look for the Cardinals to take this game 24-17.

And the Rams, spared an 0-2 start to their season will now finally get to play at home against Tennessee. The Rams might well lose this one as well but the home field advantage will be the difference, faster pitch, higher score. Prediction, St Louis 26 Tennessee 16.


Broncos Stop Slide, Prolong San Diego's

Small surprise that after getting bagged by the Dolphins last week the Denver Broncos were returning home with a bit of a chip on their shoulder when they faced the Chargers.

The Chargers are not a team to take 0-2 lightly of course and it took a come-from-behind victory by the Broncos to show they aren't going to take a slow start lightly either.

Elam nails the game-winner

The long and almost-forgotten ex-Giant Ron Dayne came off the bench and ran six times for 38 yards in the drive that set up Jason Elam's game-winning 41-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.

Bailey, meanwhile, opened the third quarter with a 25-yard interception return for a score that started the rally, cutting Denver's 11-point halftime deficit to 14-10.

"Champ Bailey won the game. Let's call it like it is," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "It shows how one play can make such a big difference."

Champ is the real Champ of the Day


Chiefs Stay Unbeaten

Raider Family Roots Hard

In an effort to prove their beating of the Jets was no flash-in-the-pan sort of phony miracle, the KC Chiefs travelled to Oakland to face the damned and dooming Raiders in an AFC West battle.

Kansas City's defense came through for a second straight week, stopping Oakland at the 10-yard line in the final minutes of a 23-17 victory.

Trent Green offset Randy Moss' massive 64-yard touchdown catch early in the third quarter with two long field goal drives for the Chiefs (2-0) in the second half. Moss had only one catch after the touchdown and was nowhere to be found on Oakland's final drive.

Trent Green, rehearsing alone.

Moss was the last player introduced before the game and received the loudest cheers. He caught an 18-yard pass to set up Oakland's first score, a 1-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter by LaMont Jordan.

Moss got louder cheers when he appeared to catch a 6-yard touchdown throw early in the second quarter. But those quickly ended when the play was called back by a pass interference on Moss and Oakland settled for a 29-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski

Raiders QB and former Giant Kery Collins was 21-for-35 for 263 yards, but was booed frequently as he often threw the ball short on third downs.

This week it was a Chief in the Black Hole but next week, it might be Kerry Collins.

Most Suprising?

We can look at the idling bandwagons of the Cincinnati Bengals and perhaps even of the 2-0 Tampa Bay Bucs who trounced the Bills, but the Chiefs, after beating Oakland, are also 2-0 and looking to build up fan interest.

Next week, the Chiefs play a Monday Night game at Denver and the prediction is, they will not stay unbeaten for another week - Denver 23 KC 21 in a rare Monday night thriller.

The Bucs will travel to Green Bay to face the suddenly weak Packers but they too, are predicted to go down as the Pack won't start 0-3. Green Bay 20 Tampa Bay 10.

In fact, by the time the dust clears next week, mark this down, only the Indiapolis Colts and the Dallas Cowboys will be 3-0.