A GRIP ON SPORTS • Saturdays are for college football. At least in our favorite month. Our birthday month. The World Series’ month.
• We’ll focus on college football mainly in the Washington State section of this column. At the top here, we have to acknowledge the elephant in baseball’s room. The Texas Rangers’ offense.
Funny, isn’t it, Dallas’ team spent millions to bring in free agents the past couple seasons and has been a reclamation project, Adolis Garcia, who occupies the key spot in baseball’s most explosive lineup?
El Bombi – the lightbulb – turned out the Diamondbacks’ lights in the bottom of the 11th inning Friday night, giving Texas a 6-5 win and a leg up in what seems destined to be their first World Series title.
A Cuban defector. A Japanese baseball veteran. Cut by the baseball savants in St. Louis. Cut by the Rangers, actually, a couple years ago. Now the most feared hitter in this postseason. And the most productive.
A lesson in perseverance. Luck too, if you are referring to the Rangers.
Look, their money was well spent, even though Nathan Evoldi struggled in this one. The right-handed pitcher has been lights out in the postseason until Friday, as the pesky Diamondbacks – epitomized by rookie Corbin Carroll – built a 5-3 lead before Bruce Bochy wandered out to the mound.
The Texas bullpen, once the team’s Achilles’ heel, turned in another great postseason outing though, giving the offense a chance to get going.
Turns out all it needed was one swing. A Paul Sewald trademark high fastball was the victim. The perp? One of the free agent signings, Corey Seager. OK, the free agent signing.
The former Dodger shortstop’s long home run in the bottom of the ninth tied the game and gave Garcia a chance to end it.
The Rangers’ winning formula, as designed by general manager Chris Young, isn’t easy to replicate. It takes ownership willing to spend, it takes players willing to come aboard and, most importantly, it takes some luck.
That last one? We all understand. A Game One like this doesn’t come along every year. To be able to watch it was the luckiest part of the month.
• Now we have to endure a Saturday dominated by a Pac-12 showdown. Again. Why can’t this conference just fade away?
We’re kidding, of course, but wouldn’t it be ironic if one of the schools headed elsewhere next season won the national title? And then, over the course of the next decade all 10 relocated teams struggled for footing in their new homes?
What would it take, a year, two years, before fans started pining for the way things used to be? With the freshest memory being a 2023 football season in which the ill-begotten conference dominated the college football landscape.
Ironic, sure. But darn sad.
• There is something about experiencing a piece of Americana. We did that last night. We visited a Waffle House for dinner. On purpose.
It’s one thing to have intellectual knowledge of such places. It’s another to actually live it. If only for an hour.
We saved up our carb count for the experience. Thankfully. We wanted to have a taste of everything, from the eggs to the hash browns to the bacon to coffee. And the waffles, of course.
Other than a mistake with the order, it was … fine? Nothing special. Kind like the McDonald’s of breakfast diners. No, more like Burger King. The best part? As one might expect, the waffle. Sweet. Light. Crispy. Our type of breakfast fare.
And it was available at 7 p.m. On a Friday.
We may never return. But don’t bet on it. Seems like the perfect place to get prepped for an October Saturday filled with college football.
WSU: Will the Cougars snap their three-game losing streak tonight? We’ll watch – somehow – and let you know right after the final ticks of the clock in our TV Take. But Greg Woods has his prediction. He’s all in. And his reasoning is sound. … Greg also has a preview and the keys for Washington State. … As for the Sun Devils, with the Diamondbacks in the World Series (and ASU’s 1-6 record), the coverage in the Phoenix area has been limited. … Former Washington State basketball star Klay Thompson is in the final season of his Warriors’ contract. He’s at peace with what may happen. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner answers questions in the Mercury News about the defectors’ issues with leaving WSU and Oregon State in charge. To which we say, too bad. You knew the consequences. … He also addresses the conundrum that is the Pac-12 Networks’ new production facility. … One other thing. We can pass along Christian Caple’s picks for the weekend. … In basketball news, Colorado has an exhibition game on tap against Metro State. … The NCAA works in strange ways. And slowly. UCLA is waiting to find out if two freshmen are eligible.
Now on to today’s other Pac-12 football games …
• No. 8 Oregon at No. 13 Utah (12:30 p.m., Fox): The game of the week? Certainly. The year? Maybe. Depends on what happens in Salt Lake City. The Ducks are the more complete team. The Utes have been the tougher one for years. Games like this are usually decided by toughness. And home-field advantages. Did we mention GameDay is in town?
• No. 24 USC at California (1, Pac-12 Networks): Weird. The annual visit from a Southern California school has been the Joe Roth Memorial Game for Cal for decades. Not this year. For some reason the Bears decided to end the tradition a year early. More importantly, they have a shot, if only because the Trojans and Caleb Williams seem to be a little off. OK, reeling. But we still think USC wins.
• No. 5 Washington at Stanford (4, FS1): The Huskies are still undefeated. They are still among the handful of schools with an inside track at the playoffs. But are they vulnerable? Seemed like it last week against ASU. But not today. Not against the Cardinal even if it is at Stanford.
• Colorado at No. 23 UCLA (4:30, ABC): It’s homecoming for the Bruins. It’s bounce-back week for the Buffaloes. It’s more than a sellout in the Rose Bowl if you consider UCLA sold all the available seats, then took down its tarps and sold more. It should be fun to watch. Expect to see pictures of a statue of former coach Terry Donahue. It will be unveiled today as well.
• No. 11 Oregon State at Arizona (7:30, ESPN): If the past tells us anything, it tells us a late game in the desert pitting an unranked team against a ranked one is prime fodder for #Pac12AfterDark madness. We’ll be asleep. Tell us how it worked out. If Arizona plays as it did in Pullman before its bye, then the Beavers better watch out.
Gonzaga: The Bulldog women’s soccer program has a shot at winning the WCC title this season. All it will take to keep that a reality is a win Sunday against visiting Santa Clara. That’s happened … (checks records) … once – ever. Justin Reed has this preview. … There will be nine women’s basketball games broadcast this season on SWX.
EWU: The Dam Cup is on the line today when the Eagles travel to Portland State. So is pride, especially for Eastern’s run defense. Dan Thompson previews the game. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Northern Colorado will try for its first win in a tough place, Missoula, against Montana. … The Idaho State defensive line has played a big part in the Bengals’ recent success.
Idaho: The biggest game in the conference today occurs in Moscow. Second-ranked Montana State, holding onto the top spot in the standings, visits, marking the ninth-ranked Vandals’ second home showdown in three weeks. They lost the first, to Montana, but after a bye week, are ready to test the Bobcats. Colton Clark has this preview.
Preps: The regular season ended last night, with Mt. Spokane and Mead battling in their rivalry game. Dave Nichols has this story on the Wildcats’ win. … In the Valley, Central Valley and University held their rivalry game as well. Steve Christilaw has that story, as the Bears earned the second GSL 4A berth with the easy win. … Dave has a roundup of the other games as well. The 2A title went to Clarkston while Rogers, Shadle Park and West Valley will have to play Tuesday to determine the second playoff spot. … University and Mt. Spokane will play for the 3A State slowpitch title today. … We were saddened to hear of the death of Dave Carson, who was the Gonzaga Prep football coach when we ran the S-R’s prep coverage a couple decades ago. Carson, who was 75 when he died, was welcoming to this middle-aged writer in the midst of a career change. We always appreciated his kindness. Dave has this story.
Chiefs: It seems wrong to have a game at the Arena on a Friday night during football season. But the Chiefs had one, and won, 8-5 over visiting Kelowna. Dave has that story too.
Seahawks: Dee Eskridge is back for the Hawks and says he’s a new man. One can root for him and be skeptical at the same time. … The way Devon Witherspoon made a tackle last week is textbook in the new NFL. … Injuries are a problem, as always.
Sounders: We passed along a story yesterday about a couple Seattle players in the running for MLS awards. Stefan Frei was not one of them. Seems like an oversight since, in one way, he was the most successful goalkeeper in the league.
• We’ve been blessed. Our entire trip to the mid-Atlantic has been sun-kissed and warm. The colors have been special. The sites educational. The food, for the most part, has been charming. But, like every time away from home, we’re looking forward to returning to the Inland Northwest. What’s the weather like? (Checks app.) OK, wonder if we can add on a few days here? Until later …