Hump Daaaay! Welcome to Wednesday, where we all get to the top of the mountain and hope to roll down into the weekend. There are a lot of things going on even though it’s the middle of the week and one of the two days without meaningful football. We had some Fun Belt action to hold us over on Tuesday night and we now have two elimination games in the MLB postseason to follow, as well as a myriad of news and notes for the weekend of football coming our way. Let’s see what’s going on in the world of sports with today’s Daily Six Pack.
Daniel Murphy: English for En Fuego
The New York Mets are one win away from going to the World Series. Between Daniel Murphy and the best starting rotation left in the playoffs, they appear to be on the verge of doing something really special. Murphy homered for the fifth straight game and Jacob deGrom fired seven strong innings as the Mets took a 3-0 series lead over the Chicago Cubs. deGrom gave up two solo home runs, though Kyle Schwarber’s home run hardly came on a mistake pitch. Schwarber hit a pitch that was 10.5 inches off the plate for a home run.
After that, it was the deGrom show and the Mets scratched out enough offense with two off of Kyle Hendricks, one off of Trevor Cahill, and two off of Travis Wood. The Mets bullpen, once again, slammed the door. Everything is working for the Mets right now. In this series, their starters have thrown 20.1 innings with five earned runs allowed on 11 hits with 25 strikeouts and four walks. The Cubs entered the postseason as the team that struck out in the highest percentage of their at bats and that has come to fruition in this series.
Game 4 is on Wednesday night with Jason Hammel against Steven Matz. Hammel hurt his hamstring prior to All-Star Break and was never the same from that point on, posting a 5.10 ERA over the second half of his season, including that one start before the break when he left early. Matz will be the first left-handed starter that the Cubs will see in this series.
Oh, yeah, and then there’s Daniel Murphy. Murphy batted .281/.322/.449 during the regular season and hit 14 home runs. He’s a bat-to-ball contact hitter with a little bit of power, but in the postseason, he’s putting up ridiculous numbers. He’s batting .364/.382/.939 with six home runs out of 12 hits. The Mets, not surprisingly, are 5-1 when Murphy homers in a game this postseason. Everybody knows that this isn’t sustainable, but it only needs to be sustainable for a handful of games. With Yoenis Cespedes breaking out of a 2-for-16 slump with three hits on Tuesday, things could get very interesting for the Mets offense.
A Royal Beating
The Royals obliterated the Blue Jays in Game 4 of the ALCS and now Kansas City is one win away from returning to the World Series. As has been the case throughout the series and throughout both of Kansas City’s last two postseason runs, they were unstoppable with runners in scoring position. Kansas City was 8-for-11 with RISP in Game 4. They are now 27-for-73 with RISP in the postseason and their .370/.424/.466 slash blows away anybody still playing. They hit .294/.375/.412 with RISP last year en route to a Game 7 loss against Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants.
The game hung in the balance for a little while as Toronto had chances to get back in it. Trying to save some of his better relief arms, John Gibbons went to some relievers that hadn’t worked much in the postseason and Kansas City tacked on nine insurance runs over the final three innings to turn a 5-2 game into a complete blowout.
For the fourth time this postseason, the Blue Jays will face an elimination game. They were down 2-0 to the Texas Rangers in the first round and battled back to advance. Their backs are against the wall for Game 5 and it will be Marco Estrada taking the mound. Edinson Volquez, who shut the Jays down in Game 1, will take the hill for the Royals.
Acknowledging a Buckeye Blunder?
Urban Meyer’s depth chart on Tuesday had JT Barrett’s name at the top, meaning that the sophomore quarterback will be the starter for Saturday night’s matchup against Rutgers. As a redshirt freshman last season, Barrett was under attack against Virginia Tech when the Buckeyes lost at home, but he led them through the rest of the schedule unscathed before breaking his ankle against Michigan. Cardale Jones took over and wrote a storybook ending to the season with his performance in the College Football Playoff.
Jones returned to school, even though NFL scouts and talent evaluators were ready to take Jones high in the draft. With Barrett limited in spring and Braxton Miller unable to throw due to his shoulder injury, Jones was the favorite throughout spring camp and right on through into the fall. Whether or not Meyer was “rewarding” Jones for returning or trying to build up his draft stock to help him into the first round, the offense bogged down with Jones at quarterback. He’s nowhere near the runner that Barrett is and he was missing on the deep throws that were supposed to be his strength.
Meyer expects Jones to still be an active part of the offense, but acknowledged that Barrett is the right fit for now. It’s been pretty clear to see in Ohio State games that Barrett should be the guy. The offense runs with better tempo with him and his running ability is going to make it harder to defend Ohio State’s zone-read section of the playbook. He doesn’t have Jones’s arm, but does have more touch on the short-to-intermediate throws that the Buckeyes have to run without a deep threat like Devin Smith.
Barrett will have three games to have the offense in tip-top shape for the visit from Michigan State on November 21.
Chicago Runs on Duncan
Duncan Keith is coming off of one of the most incredible NHL postseason performances in history. Down to essentially four defensemen, Chicago won the Stanley Cup because Keith regularly played almost 35 minutes per game when he was needed most. Now, they will be without their top defenseman for 4-6 weeks following surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Not surprisingly, Keith played through the injury against Columbus over the weekend and then had the procedure on Tuesday.
In other NHL news, the Montreal Canadiens are off to a 7-0 start after besting the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night. Carey Price, who cleaned up at last season’s NHL Awards show, made 38 saves to record a shutout. The seven straight wins to open the season are a franchise record for Montreal, which is pretty impressive, considering that the Habs, an Original Six team, began play in the 1917-18 season. They were 7-0-1 (a tie) to start the 1961-62 season. The NHL record is 10 straight wins to start a season.
With two points in Washington’s 6-2 rout of Calgary, Alex Ovechkin became the 104th player in NHL history to accumulate 900 points. He passed Tony Amonte to move into 103rd place in points scoring and trails active players Shane Doan and Brad Richards by one point and five points, respectively. Jaromir Jagr leads all active players with 1,802 points. Ovechkin should move up about 15 spots by the time the 2015-16 season is finished.
Breaking news right as this article was about to go up. The Columbus Blue Jackets have fired head coach Todd Richards after a 0-7 start and have replaced him with John Tortorella. Tortorella owns a 239-222-36-38 record over a 14-year career that includes stints with Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers, and one season with Vancouver. He won the 2004 Stanley Cup with the Lightning.
Fred Jackson was not hurt when he crashed his car outside of the Seahawks training facility following practice on Tuesday. An early report that Jackson was street racing with teammate Marshawn Lynch was immediately shot down by police that responded to the accident.
Percy Harvin did not accompany the Buffalo Bills to London for this week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills got to town on Monday and the Jaguars will not be making the trip across the pond until Friday. That bears watching and the early week line movement seems to have reflected the respective travel itineraries.
The NFL and Cam Heyward have come to an agreement regarding his eye black tributes to his father, Craig, who died of cancer. His fines have been reduced and Heyward has agreed to honor his father in other ways. Maybe the NFL should worry more about all of its domestic violence issues than a player paying tribute to his father with words on eye black that nobody can really see anyway. Just a thought.
Golf for a Good Cause
The 2015-16 PGA Tour season will continue this week when the players start hitting golf balls at TPC at Summerlin for the Shriners Children’s Hospitals Open. Rickie Fowler is the favorite for this week’s event, but you can read more about the participating players and their odds in our Shriners Open Preview.
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