Friday, October 12, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update- San Francisco Treats Itself to NLCS Berth; Jayson Proves His Werth; Francona Goes Native; Brady, Peyton Go Man to Manning

Reuters photo/Jeff Haynes
MLB- After falling into an 0-2 hole at home, the San Francisco Giants capped off a 3-game rally on Thursday afternoon at Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark.

The Giants broke a scoreless tie in the top of the 5th inning with a Brandon Crawford RBI-triple followed by Crawford coming home on a throwing error by Reds shortstop Zack Cozart to give them a 2-0 lead. Before the Reds could get out of the inning with no further damage, Giants catcher Buster Posey belted a grand slam to put the Giants up 6-0.

Although the Reds would chip away at the San Francisco lead thanks to 2 RBI's each from Brandon Phillips and Ryan Ludwick, Giants reliever Sergio Romo was able to close out the game despite giving up an RBI single to Ludwick.

Despite no starting pitcher for the Giants making it as far as the fifth inning through the first three games, the Giants won three in a row on the road to advance to the NLCS where they'll await the winner of the NLDS matchup between the Cardinals and Nationals.

NLDS- Speaking of the Cardinals and Nationals, one day after St Louis absolutely dominated the Nats in Game 3 by a final of 8-0, the Nationals forced a decicive Game 5 in dramatic fashion.

With the game tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the 9th at Nationals Park, Nats outfielder Jayson Werth led off the inning and fought off a dozen pitches from Lance Lynn before this happened:

For those of you who can't view the embedded video above, you're missing out on Werth belting a solo homer to deep left for the 2-1 win in Game 4 [What is it about hair and the MLB postsseason? There was the '04 Red Sox 'idiots' and now Jayson Werth bearing more than a passing resemblance to the GEICO caveman- NANESB!].

The walk-off win, which ties the series at 2-2, is also notable in that it is the first postseason baseball win in the nation's capital in nearly 79 years. Game five gets underway on Friday night at 8:37 PM ET and will be televised on TBS.

ALDS- One night after the Oakland A's rallied in the bottom of the 9th against Detroit to force a Game 5, Tiger's starter Justin Verlander pitched a complete game 4-hit shutout of the A's to advance to the ALCS. Detroit Center fielder Austin Jackson put the Tigers on the scoreboard in the top of the 3rd with an RBI double before coming home himself on a wild pitch by A's starter Jarrod Parker.

Although that would be all the Tigers needed, they blew the game open in the top of the 7th starting off with another Jackson RBI base hit before getting 3 more runs on a bases-loaded walk, a hit and a throwing error.

Verlander didn't need alot in the way of run support, but he got it anyways in the Tiger's 6-0 win over Oakland. The Tigers will now await the winner of Game 5 between the Yankees and Orioles.

AL EAST- Over in the all-AL East playoff series, Yankees manager Joe Girardi's decision to bench 3B Alex Rodriguez for pinch hitter Raul Ibañez in the bottom of the 9th paid immediate dividends as the outfielder tied Game 3 up at 2-2 before going on to win it in the bottom of the 12th with another solo homer and give the Yankees the 2-1 series edge.

However, Baltimore came back on Thursday night and drew first blood, getting out to a 1-0 lead on a Nate McClouth solo homer in the 5th. The Yankees would eventually tie on a Robinson Cano RBI groundout and the game would head into extra innings where Baltimore's JJ Hardy belted an RBI double to deep center to give the O's the 2-1 lead. Jim Johnson got the Yankees out in order in the bottom of the 13th to preserve the Baltimore win, forcing a decisive Game 5 on Friday which is scheduled to start from Yankee Stadium at 5:07 ET and will be broadcast on TBS.

Girardi has again courted controversey by announcing that he is benching high salaried slugger Alex Rodriguez for Game 5.

CLEVELAND INDIANS- Former Red Sox manager and ESPN analyst Terry Francona was announced as the Tribe's new manager on Monday. Francona and the Indians had agreed to terms on a 4 year contract, although he hinted at staying longer during Monday's press conference where he was formally introduced as Cleveland's newest manager.

After contending for the first four months of the season, the Indians dropped out of contention late and manager Manny Acta was fired on September 27th. Francona was selected over Bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr- whose name has been brought up as a possibility in the Red Sox manager sweepstakes- took over as acting manager for the remainder of the season in Cleveland.

The Francona family has ties with the Indians that go back nearly 50 years. Francona's father, Tito Francona spent 6 seasons of his 15 year baseball career with the Indians, narrowly missing out on the AL Batting title during the 1959 season. After starting out with the Montreal Expos as an outfielder in 1981, son Terry played a single season for the Tribe in 1988. The younger Francona also spent time in the Cleveland front office before arriving in Boston.

AP Photo/Steven Senne
NFL- The New England Patriots got their first look at the post-Indianapolis Peyton Manning over the weekend and one would guess that for three quarters they liked what they saw.

New England headed into the locker rooms at halftime with a 17-7 lead and only added onto that with a productive 3rd quarter including Brady rushing to a TD on 3rd and goal followed immediately by Pats DE Rod Ninkovitch sacking Peyton Manning on the Broncos 14 yard line. The sack resulted in a fumble that was recovered by big Vince Wilfork. On the very next play, Stevan Ridley punched in in for the TD on an 8 yard run to put New England up 31-7.

However, with a little over a quarter to go, Manning appeared to rally his team, starting with a TD pass inside the Patriots Red Zone with just 1:08 to go in the 3rd.

After a sack of Brady mid-field with just over 8 minutes to go in the 4th, the Broncos recovered the ball mid-field and were able to hit paydirt six plays later to make it 10 point game. On the Patriots' next possession Stevan Ridley coughed up the ball on the Broncos 37 yard line. The Broncos were able to get the ball as far as the New England 11 yard line and threatened to make it a three point game with just under four minutes to go, but RB Willis McGahee fumbled and the ball was recovered by Pats linebacker Jermaine Cunningham with 3:42 remaining. The Patriots were then able to get a first down and wind down the clock from there, preserving the 31-21 lead and giving New England a 3-2 record.

This Sunday, the Patriots will travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks- also sporting a 3-2 record. Kickoff is at 4:05 PM ET, 1:05 PM PT, and the game will be televised on CBS.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas knocked the Pittsburgh Steelers into 3rd place in the AFC North thanks to a last-second field goal in the Titans'26-23 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck went 25-44 with 290 yards along with a TD and an interception and was sacked three times while Steelers starting QB Roethlisberger also had 1 TD pass and an itnerception to his name while going 24-40 with 363 yards in the losing effort.

The Titans got the ball back from Pittburgh at mid-field with 48 seconds remaining and the game tied at 23-23 after a missed Shaun Suisham FG attempt from 54 yards. Hasselbeck then completed a pass to TE Jared Cook on 3rd and 5 before Cook tightroped along the sidelines for a total gain of 25 yards, the first down, getting Bironas in FG range and stopping the clock with 39 seconds to go.

Bironas was 4 for 4 on the night while Suisham went 3 for 4 in FG attempts, with the critical miss from mid-field coming late in the 4th and giving the Titans excellent field position.

DETROIT LIONS- Actor and Detroit Lions defensive legend Alex Karras has passed away in a southern California hospice at the age of 77. The son of Greek immigrants, Karras grew up in northwestern Indiana and went to college at Iowa. During the 1956 season, he was on the first Hawkeyes team to earn a berth in the Rose Bowl, going on to beat Oregon State by a 35-19. That same year he was named an All American and was a runner-up in the 1957 Heisman trophy race. Shortly before being drafted by the Detroit Lions, Karras had reportedly declined an offer to play with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.

In his 16 year NFL career, Karras had 4 interceptions and recovered 16 fumbles and was selected to the Pro Bowl 4 times. Sometimes known as 'the angry duck', Karras was suspended for the 1963 season due to his ownership of a Detroit bar known for illegal gambling.

After his NFL career, Karras went on to a reasonably successful acting and broadcast career. In 1972, he hosted a CFL pregame show on the CBC affiliate in Windsor, Ontario- just across the river from Detroit, MI. In 1974, he had a cameo as the burly and dim-witted Mongo in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles. Later on that year he also started a two year stint in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth.

Starting in the 1980's Karras also played sports reporter George Papadopolis on the ABC sitcom Webster. Along with the dimunitive Emmanuel Lewis, Karras also starred alongside real-life wife Susan Clark. In 1991, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Karras' later life was marked by heart disease, dementia and cancer. He passed away on Wednesday, October 12.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS- The New Orleans Saints have earned their first win since news of 'Bountygate' broke and made history in the process.

On their second possession of the night and trailing the visiting San Diego Chargers 7-0, Drew Brees completed a TD pass to WR Devery Henderson to break Johnny Unitas' record of consecutive games with at least 1 TD pass. The record has stood for 52 years until the Sunday night game.

The Saints would go on to win the Sunday night game by a final of 31-24, snapping a 4-game losing strak. Despite being suspended by the NFL over the Bountygate scandal, the league allowed Saints coach Sean Payton to attend the game in anticipation of Brees reaching the milestone.

NCAA FOOTBALL- After week after playing only half a good game against the Clemson Tigers in Chestnut Hill (losing by a 45-31 final), the BC Eagles headed to West Point to take on Army.

The Black Knights were coming off an embarassing 23-3 loss at home to Stony Brook of the FCS and still searching for their first win of the season.

With Boston College leading 31-27 and Army driving the ball late in the 4th quarter, the Black Knights decided to go for it on 4th and goal, but were stopped on the 1 yard line with just over 2 minutes remaining. Although the Eagles got the ball back, they were in the shadow of their own end zone and went 3 and out, burning just over 20 seconds off the game clock.

The ensuing punt gave Army the ball on Boston College's 38 yard line with 1:09 remaining in the game. After the Black Knights advanced the ball as far as the Eagle's 29, Boston College was hoping to come up with a stop on 3rd and 1. Instead, Black Knights QB Trent Steelman rushed 29 yards for paydirt to give Army the late 34-31 lead. Although BC would get the ball back with just under a minute to go, their last posession was more a comedy of errors than anything else and the game ended when Eagles WR Bobby Swigert coughed up the ball at the BC 33 with 11 seconds to go.

Army hangs on for the 34-31 win, their first of the season, while BC drops to 1-4. The Eagles will travel to Talahassee this weekend to take on #12 Florida State, who are coming off a stunning loss of their own, dropping a 17-16 decision to North Carolina State last weekend.

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