The Sports Report: Dodgers lower their magic number to one

Dodgers catcher Will Smith and reliever Phil Bickford celebrate.
Dodgers catcher Will Smith and reliever Phil Bickford celebrate after the Dodgers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Austin Knoblauch, filling in for Houston Mitchell, who’s probably bingeing “Cobra Kai” and practicing karate moves in front of a mirror. Let’s get right to the news.

From Jack Harris: The Dodgers clinched a playoff berth Monday night.

For real, this time.

A day after the team believed it had locked up a postseason spot, Major League Baseball had to backtrack Monday morning, determining that there remained far-fetched yet technically possible three-way and four-way tiebreaker scenarios in which the Dodgers could miss the playoffs — if they lost all 23 remaining games on their schedule.

“I’m pretty confident we’re not going to lose the rest of the way, 23 in a row,” manager Dave Roberts said before Monday’s game.

He was right.

With a 6-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers officially secured their October ticket while lowering their magic number to win the National League West crown to one, setting up an opportunity for them to clinch the division title with a win (or San Diego Padres loss) Tuesday night.

Before Sunday’s game at San Diego, the Dodgers had been told that all they needed was one more win to clinch a playoff spot — which is why they celebrated their victory in style that day.


They had a champagne toast in the clubhouse. They were given hats with a playoff patch on the side. An “X” appeared next to their name in the standings on MLB’s website.

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On Monday morning, though, the “X” was gone. MLB’s daily playoff-clinching scenarios news release included the Dodgers once again. And a graphic tweeted out from MLB’s official account Sunday congratulating the Dodgers was nowhere to be found.

Apparently, a previously overlooked scenario had come to light — one in which the Dodgers would have had to lose out, the Milwaukee Brewers would have had to win out, the Padres would have had to go at least 20-1, and the St.Louis Cardinals would have had to go exactly 13-8.

“I don’t see that happening,” Roberts said.


Angels slugger Mike Trout celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run.
Angels slugger Mike Trout celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run against the Cleveland Guardians on Monday.
(David Dermer / Associated Press)

From the Associated Press: Angels star Mike Trout homered in his seventh consecutive game, one shy of the major league record, but the American League Central-leading Cleveland Guardians prevailed 5-4 on Monday night.


Trout’s 35th homer of the season came in the fifth inning. The three-time AL MVP connected off Konnor Pilkington for a two-run, 422-foot drive to dead center at Progressive Field.

Pittsburgh’s Dale Long established the MLB record of eight straight games with a home run in 1956. Don Mattingly of the Yankees matched it in 1987, as did Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. in 1993.

“That’s good company to be in,” Trout said. “I’m just putting a good swing on the ball and they’re going out.”


Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) warms up before facing the Bills
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford warms up before a loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

From Gary Klein: Matthew Stafford experienced worse.

In 2018, while playing for the Detroit Lions, Stafford was sacked a career-high 10 times — and hit 17 times — during a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

So the seven sacks the Rams quarterback took in the season-opening, 31-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills should not faze the 34-year-old as he prepares to play against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

But Stafford’s rebound attempt will come behind a reconfigured offensive line.

With Brian Allen recovering from knee surgery that was performed Friday, Coleman Shelton moves from right guard to center and Tremayne Anchrum will play right guard in his first career start.

Stafford also could have a new left tackle protecting his blind side.

Joe Noteboom is nursing a sprained knee ligament. Coach Sean McVay has said he expects Noteboom to recover in time to play against the Falcons, but if Noteboom is sidelined, second-year pro Alaric Jackson will start.

Not an ideal situation for the defending Super Bowl champion Rams after they suffered a beatdown against the Bills.


Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. celebrates on the SoFi Stadium field.
Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. celebrates after a win over the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

From Jeff Miller: He finished Sunday with six tackles, half as many as another safety who played in the game, Las Vegas’ Johnathan Abram.

The effect Derwin James Jr. had for the Chargers in their 24-19 victory went well beyond simple numbers.

“You may not see the impact that he has on a stat sheet,” coach Brandon Staley said. “But what you do when you watch the game, you’ll see the impact that he makes. Then, if you’re watching the game live, you feel the impact that he makes too.”

James sacked Derek Carr on the Raiders’ second offensive play. He helped take away wide receiver Davante Adams on the Raiders’ final offensive play. In between, James did just about everything else.

He played all 58 of the Chargers’ defensive snaps and lined up at five different positions, according to Pro Football Focus.


UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson warms up.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson warms up before the Bruins’ game against Alabama State on Saturday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

From Ben Bolch: Chip Kelly apparently believes in load management.

Two days after the UCLA coach did not play star running back Zach Charbonnet and pulled quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the middle of a series, there were strong indications that both players’ workload had been intentionally limited against Alabama State.

Thompson-Robinson revealed that he was removed early in the second quarter because Kelly wanted his backups to play the balance of the game against an overmatched Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

“Garbs got his call, it was his time,” Thompson-Robinson said Monday, referring to backup Ethan Garbers, “so I just had to get out of the game and be the best teammate I can be.”


USC offensive lineman Brett Neilon talks with reporters during media day.
USC lineman Brett Neilon has been a steady and reliable leader for the Trojans.
(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Win or lose — and, in recent years, it’s mostly been the latter — Brett Neilon never wavered. The offensive lineman dutifully and consistently met with reporters after each game, absorbing questions about the latest blowout and trying to make sense of the inexplicable fall of Trojans football.

Frustrations mounted. His mother, Cora, noticed how deflated he got. But Neilon still nodded in appreciation after each game.

There’s a reason offensive line coach Josh Henson calls the four-year starting center “Mr. Steady.”

In his final season with the Trojans, Neilon hopes to make the last turn of his roller-coaster college career a great one.

Neilon redshirted on USC’s Pac-12 championship-winning team in 2017, then played on the first USC team to have a losing record in 18 years.

Last year, he tried to steady the ship when a coaching change tanked the Trojans’ chances of a winning season by September. After experiencing almost every triumph and heartbreak in college football, Neilon knows how he wants to leave USC.

“As a champion,” he said.


1930 — Tommy Armour beats Gene Sarazen 1 up to win the PGA Championship.

1964 — Roy Emerson beats fellow Australian Fred Stolle to win the men’s title in the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association championships. Brazil’s Maria Bueno wins the women’s title. Emerson wins in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 and Bueno easily wins 6-1, 6-0.

1970 — Only 55 of 126 finish the first New York City Marathon, with Gary Muhrcke winning in 2 hours, 31 minutes, 38.2 seconds. The race is run counterclockwise on a 26.22-mile course in Central Park.

1981 — The Atlanta Falcons, trailing 17-0 with 13 minutes remaining in the game, score 31 points to beat the Green Bay Packers 31-17. The Falcons score touchdowns on a punt return, two by passes, an interception return and a fumble return.

1981 — John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg to win his third straight men’s singles title in the U.S. Open.

1989 — Pat Day breaks the record for most winners in one day when he scored with eight of his nine mounts at Arlington Racecourse in Illinois. It was the best day for one program in North American thoroughbred racing history. In his only loss, Day finishes second.

1992 — Buffalo’s Jim Kelly and San Francisco’s Steve Young throw for more than 400 yards and neither team punts, the first time in NFL history, as the Bills beat the 49ers 34-31.

1997 — Cade McNown throws a school-record five touchdown passes as UCLA routs No. 11 Texas 66-3. It’s the second-worst loss for Texas, which lost 68-0 to Chicago in 1904, and the biggest defeat of a ranked team in The Associated Press college football poll.

2003 — Tonya Butler makes a field goal and three extra points for Division II West Alabama. Butler, a 5-foot-5, 140-pound senior, kicks a 27-yarder in the first quarter to help the Tigers beat Stillman College 24-17. It could not be confirmed whether Butler was the first woman to kick a field goal because NCAA statistics do not differentiate between sexes.

2008 — Brigham Young quarterback Max Hall ties a school record with seven touchdown passes as the 18th-ranked Cougars hands UCLA its worst loss in nearly 80 years, 59-0.

2009 — Brandon Stokley only catches one pass — but it is a big one. He grabs a deflection and runs 87 yards with 11 seconds left to give Denver a 12-7 win over Cincinnati. Stokley even burns a few extra seconds by taking his time going into the end zone.

2010 — Rafael Nadal wins his first U.S. Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, beating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.

2013 — Jim Furyk becomes the sixth player in PGA Tour history to shoot a 59 to give him a share of the lead at the BMW Championship.

2015 — Lydia Ko becomes the youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history winning the Evian Championship. The South Korean-born New Zealander closes with an 8-under 63 for a six-stroke victory over Lexi Thompson. Ko, at 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old, eclipses the previous record of American Morgan Pressel, who was 18 years, 10 months and nine days old when she won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

2020 — Alec Mills of the Chicago Cubs no-hit the Milwaukee Brewers 12-0 at Miller Park, Milwaukee.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

There’s a reason why the USC-Oregon State football game will be on the Pac-12 Network instead of ESPN or Fox. Staff writer J. Brady McCollough explains why a lot of folks probably won’t be able to watch the game.

Until next time...

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