The could-be Great Race of 2021

CLAYTON KERSHAW (Flickr/David Slaughter).

The expansion of playoffs in nearly all pro sports has lessened the interest in what used to be called “pennant races,” but there’s still some excitement in the battle for first place.

Some of the most historic moments in sports came in the pre-playoff (if you don’t count the World Series as a playoff) era. Baby boomers can remember the 1967 “Great Race” when five teams were bunched together in the American League near the top.

Going into the last week of the season, four teams – the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers. Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox – had a crack at being the American League champs. The Red Sox prevailed on the final day. The Bosox beat the Twins and the Angels defeated the Tigers on the final day to allow the boys from Beantown to perform the unlikely feat of going from ninth place in 1966 to first in 1967. That’s beating 100-1 odds.

We bring this up because the National League West has a pretty good race going now. The San Francisco Giants have a 3.5-game lead over the Dodgers, and lead by 4.5 over San Diego. But the margin has been narrower and likely will be again when those three teams start playing each other again.

The Dodgers – who beat the Chicago Cubs 7-1 on Sunday behind a 13-strikeout performance by Clayton Kershaw – will get a chance to close the gap when they host the Giants Monday (today) and Tuesday.

LAD is coming off a rough patch. Before beating the Cubs on Sunday, they were swept in three by the Padres and were no-hit by Chicago.

“I think the word embarrassment probably sums it up,” said Dodger manager Dave Roberts.

After the Giants’ series, the Dodgers will visit the Nationals in Washington Thursday through Saturday.

Shohei Ohtani is truly super, but …

In the TV show “Scrubs,” the opening song went something like this: “I can’t do it all on my own. I’m no Superman.”

Shohei Ohtani has been having a super season for the Los Angeles Angels, but – with Mike Trout still out – he can’t carry the team on his back all on his own. Although he led the Halos to a 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday with a double, a triple and a home run, that win followed five consecutive losses, dropping the Angels from above .500 to deep below. So far, Ohtani has 25 home runs, 59 RBIs, 10 steals and is hitting .277.

The fourth place Angels will need to find some help and some consistency soon, because – otherwise – they are sinking fast and quiet.

ANGELS SCHEDULE: Monday through Thursday in New York against the Yankees, and then home on Friday to host the Baltimore Orioles through Sunday.

The heat is on in Phoenix for Clips

A lot of people – including this writer – have written off the Los Angeles Clippers in this post-season, so it would be premature to ring down the curtain on what really has been an excellent season for the “other” NBA team in Hollywood.

Still, trailing three games to one with what could be the concluding game of the Western Conference finals in a supercharged atmosphere in Phoenix, the odds are not good.

Our advice is to follow the counsel of a crusty old coach we knew. “There’s only one good play in basketball,” he said. “Put the ball in the basket.”

Since the Clips missed 16 of their last 19 shots in the Game Four loss, it sounds like the smart way to play, doesn’t it?

“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.

Leave a Reply