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Friday, October 12, 2012

This Week in Sports: October 12, 2012

October is one of the busiest months on the sports calendar.  This week was action-packed.

The Week That Was:  Football and NASCAR had some interesting stories this week, but the baseball playoffs are the premier event in this week's column.

Trash on the field in Atlanta (AP)
MLB:  The playoffs got underway last Friday night with the all-new, wild card, play-in games.  In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Atlanta Braves in a controversial game that was marred by horrendous fan behavior.  After an unusual invocation of the infield fly rule in a pivotal moment in the game, the Braves fans caused a 15-minute delay by throwing bottles and other trash onto the field.  In the American League, the Texas Rangers completed their late-season collapse by losing at home to the Baltimore Orioles.

Due to the addition of the wild card games, the division series had a new format this year.  The team with the home field advantage actually started out with two games on the road.  Then the final three games took place in the higher-seeded team's ballpark.

In the National League, the Giants hosted the Reds to start one division series.  The Giants dropped both of those home games.  But, the Giants stormed back and won all three games in Cincinnati to advance to the NLCS.  In the other NLDS, the Cardinals hosted the Nationals for the first two games.  The teams split those games in St. Louis.  The Cardinals won Game 3 in Washington to take a 2-1 lead in the series.  On Thursday afternoon, the Nationals staved off elimination when Jason Werth hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning.  Game 5 will be played on Friday night in Washington, DC.  That game will be played at 8:30 on TBS.

In the American League, the Detroit Tigers were matched up against the Oakland A's.  The Tigers won both games at home.  But, just as they've done all season, the A's bounced right back and won the next two games in Oakland.  The Tigers closed out the A's dream season late on Thursday night, thanks in large part to the dominant pitching of Justin Verlander.  The other ALDS started off with the Orioles hosting the Yankees for the first two games.  The O's and Yanks split those two games before the series headed back to New York.  Game 3 was a dramatic 12-inning affair in the Bronx.  The Yankees won the game to take a 2-1 lead in the series.  Game 4 was another nail-biter.  The Orioles prevailed in 13 innings to force a fifth and decisive game on Friday afternoon.  That game will be played at 5:00 p.m. EST on TBS.

NASCAR:  Talladega has long been known for "the big one."  And on Sunday, "the big one" caused damage that will extend beyond just one weekend's results.  On the final lap, Tony Stewart attempted to block Michael Waltrip from taking the lead.  Stewart succeeded in crashing Waltrip, himself and a majority of the field, including ten of the twelve drivers eligible to win the championship.  Matt Kenseth escaped the melee and won the race.  Brad Keselowski finished 7th and held on to first place in the Sprint Cup standings.  Stewart ended up skidding on the pavement on his side, but it was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who was the biggest loser in the race.  He officially finished 20th after being collected in the wreck.  But, Junior suffered a concussion in the crash that will keep him out of the next two races in the chase.  That effectively ends Junior's quest for the Cup.

College Football:  With Alabama taking the week off, some other championship hopefuls had a chance to make a statement on the national stage.  In the SEC, #10 Florida defended its home turf and defeated #4 LSU.  Also in the SEC, #6 South Carolina hosted #5 Georgia.  The Gamecocks absolutely dismantled the Bulldogs.  And in the Big 12, West Virginia continued their winning ways in their new conference.  The #8 Mountaineers headed to Austin, TX and defeated the #11 Longhorns.  In the ACC, #3 Florida State's national championship hopes dimmed severely when they were upset at unranked NC State.

The Week Ahead:  The MLB playoffs take center stage again this weekend.  The NLCS and ALCS will both get underway this weekend.  Neither matchup is set yet at this point.  In college football, the SEC takes center stage again when #3 South Carolina travels to #9 LSU.  That game will be shown on ESPN at 8:00 EST.  Earlier in the day, #15 Texas and #13 Oklahoma will renew the Red River Rivalry at high noon (12:00 p.m. EST) on ABC.

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