THREE DAYS TO THE SERIES
Well, the World Series actually starts Wednesday, but between today and Monday we’ll settle the pennants of both leagues. St. Louis joins Texas in being one win from clinching thanks to a 7-1 win that came through excellent bullpen work and some awful defense from Milwaukee. The Brewers committed four errors, letting in three unearned runs. And while starting pitcher Zack Greinke wasn’t bad, he also would have been beaten even with perfect defense, so while the much-heralded acquisition is a big reason his team is in the position, we also have to point out that he didn’t pitch well in any of his three postseason starts. Now he’s got to rely on his teammates to sweep a pair at home on Sunday and Monday and get another chance in the World Series.
I’m expecting both the Rangers and Cardinals to wrap up their series in the coming Game 6s. For Texas that’s tonight, as they send Derek Holland to the mound against Max Scherzer. It’s less about the pitching matchup then I just have felt Texas is a better team when it comes to power and bullpen depth, and for the most part that has been borne out in the series. Whether it’s tonight or tomorrow, another World Series is coming to Dallas. For the National League, I think it comes down to Sunday. While I have zero confidence that Shawn Marcum can extend the Brewers’ season, I will default to homefield advantage in Game 7 showdown on Monday night between Yovani Gallardo and Chris Carpenter.
EARLY NHL TALK: WEST
The Notebook continues its ease-in to the long NHL season with a snapshot of four top teams in the West. Vancouver, Chicago and Detroit have won the last four conference championship (with the ’08 Red Wings and the ’10 Blackhawks hoisting the Cup) along with consistent contender San Jose.
VANCOUVER: They were the best team in the league a year ago, not just posting the NHL’s best record, but being tops in both goals scored and goals against. They were “only” second in five-on-five play and ended up losing the Finals in seven games to the one team that was ahead of them in Boston. The Canucks get their offensive explosiveness from the Sedin brothers, Hendrick and Daniel. What they need is for goalie Roberto Luongo to be consistent in the biggest games, something that was not true a year ago when he played poorly in the Finals, resulting in Vancouver being routed all four losses to what was considered an inferior Boston team.
CHICAGO: One year after winning it all, Chicago barely snuck into the playoffs last season, although they threw a spirited seven-game series at Vancouver in the first round. If the Blackhawks are to avoid similar regular season problems this time, the penalty kill has got to improve, as they ranked just 25th in the NHL in this area.
DETROIT: Like Chicago, this traditional power didn’t amount to much of a title threat a year ago and it was due to substandard work in stopping the opposition power play. The Red Wings also have some issues at stopping goals period. With a defenseman like Nicklas Lidstrom this shouldn’t happen.
SAN JOSE: Over the last ten years, the Sharks have won six division titles, but never made it to the Finals, marking them the West’s version of Washington—right down to having a name superstar who can score, in this case center Joe Thornton. A continuing pattern in the West shows this team’s biggest weakness from last year the penalty kill, but on the flip side their own special teams were second only to Vancouver in the league overall.
NASCAR’S SPRINT TO THE FINISH
If you’re wondering why there’s no prime-time college football on ABC tonight, it’s because the network has NASCAR action from Charlotte at 7:45 PM ET. There’s six races to go to settle the Sprint Cup series and Carl Edwards holds the lead with Kevin Harwick right behind him. For this particular race, Tony Stewart (in 7th overall) holds the pole, while Edwards has the third position.