Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. I have a short review of the movie “Hustlers.” Boring. And it has nothing to do with Pete Rose. False advertising.
Hey, remember when we all thought Kenley Jansen might have found his groove? That must have been some sort of mass-induced dream. The Dodgers were leading the Tampa Bay Ray, 6-4 in the ninth inning when Jansen came in to save the game. The inning ended with the score tied, 6-6. The Dodgers ended up losing, 8-7. Josh Sborz, who won’t be anywhere near the playoff roster, gave up the winning runs.
Boos rained down on Jansen as he left the field.
“I didn’t have it today. I sucked,” Jansen said afterward. “They have high standards for me,” he said of Dodger fans. “I do too. I know they’re gonna have my back no matter what.”
The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs is five.
Let’s take a look at the race for best record in baseball and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs:
Houston, 100-53, ---
New York Yankees, 99-54, 1 GB
Dodgers, 98-55, 2 GB
Minnesota, 93-59, 6.5 GB
Atlanta, 93-60, 7 GB
Oakland, 92-61, 8 GB
Spurred by strong pitching performances, the Angels beat the Yankees 3-2 to delay the Yankees’ attempt to clinch the AL East title. The Yankees hunkered down for three hours to see if the Dodgers would beat the Tampa Bay Rays. They went home without partying, their magic number remaining at one after the Rays’ win in 11 innings.
Manager Brad Ausmus would not have scripted it another way.
“It’s not fun to watch” another team celebrate, he said, “so [the win] doesn’t bother me. I’m sure they’ll get their celebration soon enough, but I’d rather not be here.”
With what seems like half the quarterbacks in the NFL injured, Jared Goff is happy to be healthy.
“I feel for them,” Goff said after practice Wednesday as the Rams began preparations for the Sunday night game against the Cleveland Browns. “I don’t want to think about it too often because you always hope for the best, but you never know.”
In two-plus seasons as the starter, Goff has missed snaps only once because of an injury. During his rookie season, cornerback Richard Sherman leveled Goff as he scrambled toward the left sideline in the fourth quarter of a loss against the Seattle Seahawks.
Goff returned to the lineup the next game.
“It’s a lot of different factors,” he said when asked about his durability. “I think it’s a lot of luck and a lot of hard work as well as just kind of being in the right spot and understanding how to move in different situations.
“Then, there is freak stuff that happens all the time. Crazy stuff happens, it’s a physical game and you always hope for the best.”
Quarterback injuries were on the mind of Philip Rivers too. On Sunday, he make his 211th consecutive regular-season start and 222nd in a row counting the playoffs.
“I don’t think you ever take it for granted,” he said Wednesday. “You just realize it doesn’t last forever. Not that I needed a reminder of how fleeting it is and how, on any given play, you can be out. But seeing that this weekend will remind you in a hurry.
“I’ve been blessed to be healthy enough to be out there every week,” said Rivers, who also credited his offensive linemen over the years. “So, thankful for that. There’s probably a little element of toughness in there somewhere.
“That’s one thing I’ve always … sometimes you can’t help it. But, thankfully, I’ve been able to be healthy enough, and [it’s] always been important to me to be ready to go every week.”
The Bruins defense has struggled this season under coordinator Jerry Azzinaro. They struggled last season under him. But this should come as no surprise because every team has struggled under him.
This season, the team has given up 467 yards per game, ranking No. 115 among 130 Football Bowl Championship teams. The Bruins have also given up 31.7 points per game, ranking No. 101.
The last time Azzinaro, 61, ran a defense before coming to UCLA, it was just as bad. He was the co-defensive coordinator at Duke from 2004-06, when the Blue Devils compiled a 3-31 record with defenses that ranked Nos. 100, 89 and 105.
Before that, Azzinaro was the defensive coordinator during two one-year stints at Massachusetts, when the Minutemen featured a standout defense (ranking No. 13 among Football Championship Subdivision teams in 1994) and an awful one (ranking No. 110 in 1997). He had also previously been the defensive coordinator at American International College, a Division II team, for five seasons.
Didn’t coach Chip Kelly look into all this before he hired Azzinaro?
“You don’t hire people on their rankings, you know?” Kelly said. “You hire people because of the type of teachers and the type of scheme [they favor]. … I’ve been around him for a long time, he’s a hell of a football coach, one of the best I’ve ever been around.”
They may not be quite as bad as the Bruins’ defense, but the Trojans’ special-teams unit won’t be winning any awards this season at this rate.
Last week in the loss to BYU, reserve linebacker Juliano Falaniko was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a BYU kickoff, pinning the Trojans at their 13-yard-line, as opposed to the 41. It only got worse from there, as BYU started the ensuing drive at midfield and took just three plays to score a go-ahead touchdown.
“Here’s the deal,” special teams coach John Baxter said when asked about that penalty, “that’s for the head coach to deal with. There’s no place for that.”
Which makes me wonder what exactly the special teams coach’s job is if not to deal with penalties or setback caused by his unit.
Questioned about punter Ben Griffiths and his 38-yards-per-punt average, Baxter said, “Here’s the deal. He’s playing great, for the record. The thing is, you can never look at numbers. I’m not a statistically driven guy.”
Well, we have learned that he likes to say “Here’s the deal” a lot. So here’s the deal, what does coach Clay Helton say?
“It’s not perfect right now,” Helton said, “but Coach Bax has it going in the right direction. There’s been some huge plays. You want your special teams to be special. When you look at the big plays they’ve made, that’s what you want.”
SPARKS PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
All times Pacific. All games on ESPN2
at Connecticut 84, Sparks 75
Game 2: Today at Connecticut, 3:30 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday at Sparks (at Long Beach State), 4 p.m.
Game 4*: Tuesday at Sparks, TBD
Game 5*: Sept. 26 at Connecticut, TBD
YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT
What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what it is and why and it could appear in a future daily sports newsletter or Morning Briefing.
This moment comes from Morris Smilkstein of Upland:
“I was in attendance at the L.A. Coliseum the day the woman’s marathon was held at the 1984 Olympics. Joan Benoit ran a well-planned race and easily won gold. But what I remembered, even to this day, was when Gabriela Andersen-Schiess of Switzerland entered the Coliseum. She was totally exhausted and dehydrated. Her body was half twisted and she was just barely walking a zigzagging path on her final lap. The crowd cheered her every faltering step. Those on the Coliseum floor realized that if they touched or helped her, she would be disqualified. When she did cross the finish line, on her own, the crowd roared as she collapsed. There were very few spectators, including myself, that did not have tears in their eyes. I had witnessed one of the most courageous finishes to any race.”
TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE
All times Pacific
Angels at NY Yankees, 3:30 p.m., FSW, AM 830
Sparks at Connecticut, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
BORN ON THIS DATE
1922: Distance runner Emil Zatopek (d. 2000)
1926: Former Dodger Duke Snider (d. 2011)
1936: Discus thrower Al Oerter (d. 2007)
1943: Baseball player Joe Morgan)
1956: Race car driver Juan Manuel Fangio
1967: Former Angel Jim Abbott
1967: Wrestler Alexander Karelin
1973: Race car driver Cristiano da Matta
DIED ON THIS DATE
2017: Boxer Jake LaMotta, 95
Jim Abbott pitches a no-hitter. Watch it here.
That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at email@example.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.