IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Monday, October 28

Starting Five

The 9th inning image Cardinal fans hoped to see.


“Truth is stranger than Fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

Oh, that’s Missouri native Samuel Clemens, a man who knew his way around a pithy sports lede, even if he wasn’t a sportswriter.

How do you explain the past three days in Missour-uh, as my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Claypool, a Show-Me State native, used to say it? Old-timer baseball fans (are there any other kind) like to tell you that in any given game you can see something that you’ve never before witnessed, that’s part of the game’s charm.

So last night, for the first time in World Series history, a game ends with a pickoff play at first base. Just one night after Game 3 ended in unique fashion, a World Series-first obstruction call at third base. If you’re scoring at home, the Sox have lost two games of this World Series because of a poor –and more importantly, an ill-advised –throw from home (where the tying run had just scored) to third base.

Missouri’s perfect season ends by mere inches, as the game-tying field goal in OT hits the upright.

And, if you’re still scoring at home (resisting urge to usurp Olbermann joke here), that’s two consecutive games that ended with a Cardinal runner being tagged out at a base, although the Cardinals won one of those games.

Both endings were put into motion by a ninth-inning pinch hit by Allen Craig, who was just activated for the Fall Classic after missing a month with an injury that was caused  by an umpire.

In both games the Red Sox scored four runs.

It’s shaping up as a bizarre World Series. Would you want any other kind?

Adding to the misery of the Cards’ 4-2 Game 4 defeat at Busch Stadium? The batter, Carlos Beltran, who represented the tying run, is hitting .300 in the World Series and has been the very definition of clutch this month.

This catch by Ellington means that we still have a chance of Jadeveon Clowney versus the Alabama offense in December.

Meanwhile, in the center of the state, a far more soul-crushing loss for the Missouri Tigers. Mizzou, which had quietly risen to No. 5 in the BCS rankings with a 7-0 record, led South Carolina 17-0 in the fourth quarter. But the Ol’ Ball Coach had put hobbled quarterback Connor Shaw into the game late in the third quarter. Shaw led USC to 17 unanswered fourth-quarter points to force overtime.

In OT, South Carolina trailed 24-17 and faced a fourth-and-goal from its 15-yard line. Shaw connected with Bruce Ellington, who was surprisingly wide open.

In the second OT, after the Gamecocks had settled for a field goal, Mizzou had first-and-goal from the 8 after a 17-yard run by Marcus Murphy right through Jadeveon Clowney’s kitchen. Eight yards from 8-0 and no worse than fifth in the polls. But the Tigers were unable to find paydirt and Andrew Bagget’s 24-yard field goal try struck the upright, though kudos to ESPN’s Joe Tessitore for noticing that the holder failed to spin the laces away from Bagget’s foot.


Whether or not Middlebrooks was trying to obstruct Craig is irrelevant.

Also, that’s consecutive weekends that the Red Sox have won a postseason game with a Hawaiian intimately involved with the outcome. Last Saturday it was Shane Victorino’s grand slam (I know; that feels like two years ago). Last night it was Kolten Wong’s boner, though credit Koji Uehara for a cobra-quick pickoff. Also, as Ed Sherman notes, how can you be that hard on Wong when even Fox missed Uehara’s throw?

Also, for context, it’s not as if the rookie Wong was fooled by the old hidden-ball trick, as the team’s leadoff man, Matt Carpenter, was just one month ago in Denver (timing is everything, Kolten; you’ll learn that).

Memorable weekend for the denizens of the Show Me State. Missouri, misery, mystery.

2. Who Belongs In This Space?

It’s no reach to put Benjamin and the Seminoles at No. 2.

My favorite moment of an overindulged college football Saturday? It was still scoreless during the North Carolina State-Florida State contest (I use that term loosely here), when Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston pitched to (not William) Karlos Williams for a sweep around the right edge. Into my screen comes sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who is six-foot-five inches and 235 pounds of badass, for a crackback block on the hap-deprived Wolfpack linebacker on the edge.

Benjamin buries him as Williams scoots around the edge for an 18-yard TD scamper. But here’s the best part (thanks to Eric Nelson for supplying the video). After the block Benjamin never rotates his head to see if Williams scores. He simply stands over the fallen soldier and is either looking at Winston or the Seminole bench as he nods his head as if to say, “Yup, I’m bad.”

(The Seminole coaching staff rewarded Benjamin on the very next Seminole offensive play by dialing his number for a post route. The result was a 39-yard touchdown catch.)

“Yup, I’m bad” was the day’s theme for the nation’s top four teams. The Seminoles led N.C. State, a team that beat them only a year ago, 35-0 after 13 minutes. No. 1 Alabama, whose game had the same 3:30 p.m. kickoff, was slightly more reserved, waiting until halftime to post a 35-0 score against Tennessee. No. 2 (now No. 3) Oregon found itself deadlocked with an outstanding UCLA squad (at least defensively) at halftime, 14-14 all, but then scored 28 unanswered second-half points.

And No. 4 Ohio State simply buried Penn State, 63-14.

At halftime the respective scores were 42-0, 35-0, 14-14, and 42-7.

And we shouldn’t forget Baylor, which led Kansas 38-0 at the half.

The Bruins lost in Eugene, but linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (here burying Taylor Martinez back in September) was the breakout star.

What does it all mean, besides the fact that you are better off picking these teams to cover their halftime spreads than their game spreads? Nothing yet.

Everyone arguing over whether Oregon or Florida State is No. 2 –as if we can objectively state that Alabama is No. 1 and Ohio State is No. 4 — is just wasting his or her alveoli contractions.

The 10 most important games remaining this season, pre-conference championship games edition:

1) No. 7 Miami at No. 3 Florida State, Nov. 2

Why are the Seminoles favored by 21? Because they should win by 28. And yet this win would give FSU style points due to Hurricanes’ BCS ranking, which is a mirage.

2) No. 2 Oregon at No. 5 Stanford, Nov. 7

Will ESPN’s Thursday night curse befall the Ducks in Palo Alto?

3) No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 8 Baylor, Nov. 7

It’s an uphill climb for the undefeated Bears, but it begins tonight in Waco versus a worthy foe.

In the lowest combined sum race (Scoring Offense + Scoring Defense), Baylor and FSU are tied at 7

4) No. 13 LSU at No. 1 Alabama, Nov. 9

Tigers ruined Tide’s undefeated season in Tuscaloosa –or so we thought–last time they visited.

5) No. 2 Oregon at Arizona, Nov. 23

Wildcats have one of the nation’s top running backs in Kadeem Carey and ruined Ducks’ quest for a national title in Tucson in 2007.

Arizona’s Ka’deem Carey is once again leading the nation in rushing…if not carries.

6) Oregon State at No. 2 Oregon, Nov. 29

Civil War and a quarterback who can match Marcus Mariota score for score. Beavers shouldn’t win, but that’s why we play.

7) No. 4 Ohio State at No. 21 Michigan, Nov. 30

The Game. If Wolverines lose in East Lansing this Saturday, the value of this win diminishes.

8.) Alabama at No. 11 Auburn, Nov. 30

Here’s your last four national champions meeting once again in the Iron Bowl.

9) Florida State at Florida, Nov. 30

Because The Swamp is never an easy place to win (I don’t think the Canes will provide much of a test this weekend).

10) No. 25 Notre Dame at No. 5 Stanford, Nov. 30

Lots of Don Meredith-ian ifs and buts involved here, but Cardinal are currently No. 5. If Irish win out to be 9-2 when they arrive in Palo Alto, if Cardinal are 10-1 (having knocked off Ducks), and if Alabama and either FSU or Ohio St. have lost, then this game has meaning. Besides, it’s a sexy matchup even though Notre Dame last won here in 2007.

Oh, and not that the BCS cares, but 8-1 Ball State visits 8-0 Northern Illinois (No. 17 in the BCS) on November 13. I care, Huskies, I care. And I wouldn’t be surprised if College Gameday heads to Rockford.

3. Boardwalking Dead Empire

Daryl and Carol: Tougher than the rest.

Last night I whined that “The Walking Dead” has morphed into “Lockdown” with a bad cough. Are you a fan of the mystery virus story arc? Are you wondering about the irony of the fact that the Center for Disease Control is located in Atlanta? Do you think that Daryl, whom we’ve dubbed “Ugly Cute Guy” in our abode, might want to pay less attention to what CD is in the glove compartment? How many zombies does it take to cause your tires to spin? Did you see Marilyn Manson on “Talking Dead” and wonder, How come they didn’t book Rob Zombie instead (especially after listening to the nonsense effluent that was falling from Manson’s lips)? Is this entire season a metaphor for us, that we’d rather imprison ourselves and have a false sense of security than risk the great outdoors and unknown (that’s the ghost of Chris McCandless shouting, “YES! YES! YES!”). Why does Herschel button his long-sleeved shirt to the top button when it’s gotta be 100 degrees with 80% humidity in that Georgia heat? Did Carol really send the ridiculously cute little girl into the quarantine area and does that make her the Nick Saban of the survivors?

I’ve got questions! You supply the answers.

4. Robert Durand is a Little Sensitive About His Physique

This happened last week, but I didn’t want it to disappear forever. The Washington Post published a story in which it described a U.S. Navy captain as “thickset”, and apparently someone at the Department of Defense took objection to that adjective.

5. Eye of the Lion?

Stafford and Megatron sent the Cowboys home to Dallas with a .500 record.

So strange to see a native son of Dallas pull a Roger Staubach on the Cowboys yesterday. I’ll let others opine on the Dez Bryant tirade. I just enjoyed watching Stafford drone-strike the Cowboy secondary on that final drive, finding seams in the defense that seemingly did not exist. Stafford was four-for-four for 79 yards, and then he punctuated it with that dive over the top when the ‘boys probably expected him to spike it from the one. Brilliant.

FYI, the Lions scored 24 fourth-quarter points and the Broncos 31.

Oh, and the NFL exiled San Francisco and Jacksonville to London, because if a 28-0 game at halftime won’t induce Brits –who already have a sport of football that they’re passionate about — to switch teams, so to speak, what will?

Remote Patrol

World Series, Game 5

FOX 8 p.m.

Speaking of “rake”….

I’ll watch Greg Kinnear in anything (but especially in “Stuck On You”) so I don’t mind the FOX promos for “Rake.” What will the Fall Classic give us for a bizarre ending tonight? Will Koji Uehara balk in the winning run? Walk-off foul ball fly out caught by Jarrod Saltalamacchia? David Ortiz barreling over Yadier Molina at home plate? Tim McCarver — a former Cardinal catcher of some renown, mind you– slap fighting Joe Buck?

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