ANOTHER SPORTS-FILLED SATURDAY
God told us to honor to the sabbath and keep it holy (for some this means watching the NFL.) As a result, Saturdays, especially in September when college football is heating up and the wildcard race is coming down to the wire, have to be the most eventful day of the sports week. One week after the OSU/Texas hoopla, the 17th proved to be another day full of bliss and disappointment; here's my take on it.
First of all, I was able to take in my second Indians game in a week, and once again, it was a huge win. After taking an early 5-0 lead, the woeful KC Royals added four runs off Cliff Lee, who was again solid, making it 5-4. Though the Indians offense couldn't push across another run, the bullpen held on for the Tribe's 5-4 victory; Wickman recorded his 43rd save. 30,000+ made it out to the game, and for my second game in a row, the crowd was loud and into the game. The atmosphere is back, the talent is back and I have a feeling that October magic will be back, as well. The White Sox loss earlier in the day makes the Tribe, who were once 15 games behind Chicago, now only 3.5 back. After the Indians finish off Kansas City today, they head to Chi-town for an enormous series with the Sox. If you would've asked me in July if the two series with Chicago in September would have division implications, I would've said, "No way."
People saying "no way" is what has fueled this team's drive for the playoffs.
The way this team has responded so far to the pressure of a playoff push has been astounding. Thanks to my generous roommate, I was able to take in the ballgame from directly beyond home plate, five rows from the protective screen--by far the best seats I have ever had at the Jake. I have some terrific photos that I will post as soon as I get them developed.
At the request of a loyal reader, I will also share my thoughts about the NL wildcard race. My pick all along--the fashionable pick among the experts--has been the Florida Marlins because of their three-headed starting pitching monster of Willis, Beckett and Burnett. However, it's the Astros tribunal of Clemens, Oswalt and Pettite that now has a .5 game lead over the Phillies, and the Marlins have slid back to 2.5 games back. Yesterday, with the Marlins leading 2-0 in the 9th at home, closer Todd Jones blew the save and the rest of the bullpen allowed the Phillies to score ten runs in ninth. The result was a 10-2 loss for the Marlins and a ruined brilliant start by Willis. Today is a must-win for Florida. After blowing the game in a demoralizing fashion like Florida did, they need to bounce back today, or, I feel, the NL will become a two-horse race of Houston and Philly.
...Now for the really bad news for my Capital readers. What do five fumbles and some bad luck get you in a rivalry game on the road? It gets you beat. The Crusaders, who led 14-2 (strange score, I know) at the end of the three quarters in what was a sloppy and bizarre game to that point, blew that 12-point lead to Otterbein and ended up losing 17-14. Paul Stetzler, Ricardo Lenhart and the Otterbein offense took a page out of the Capital playbook. They threw efficient short passes and lulled the Capital defense, who was playing "not to lose," to sleep. With about three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Otterbein made the score 14-9. Capital STILL should've had the game in control at this point, but receiver Kive Kraft fumbled on the Cap 43-yard line on the Capital possession, which put incredible pressure on the Cap defense to hold up again. They couldn't. After Otterbein scored the go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion, Capital didn't have enough time to set up a field goal. Instead, they settled for an unsuccessful hail mary. Then the Otterbein fans commenced their upset ruccous and "over-rated" cheers.
I hope the Crusaders regroup and refocus before their home opener this week, but I have to reiterate what I have been saying from August. Capital is probably not going to beat Mount Union on the road, so for them to make the playoffs as an at-large team, they would need to go 9-1, winning every other game. Unfortunately, that is not possible now. It will be interesting to see how they react.
One team that bounced back was the Ohio State Buckeyes, winning 27-6 yesterday over San Diego State. What was missing from this win was an exclamation point. OSU played sloppy, espcially early. They turned the ball over, were penalized a lot and looked like a team who is still trying to find itself. They have another week to find themselves before another huge game at home: Iowa. Troy Smith's mentally weak performance yesterday results has made me realize one thing: No one can be critical of Tressel's choices regarding his quarterbacks because neither has stood out. They both have been mediocre at best in the past two games. Who will start this Saturday? Who knows. A win against the Hawkeyes might require a blocked punt, a kick return for a touchdown and a defense holding Iowa under ten points. If OSU does all of that, they might have a chance to win.
In the meantime, enjoy the nice weather while we still have it. Cleveland fans, head up to the Jake if you get the chance. Trust me, these guys are special. You won't be disappointed.