The setting was the big winner

THE RAMS’ 2021 DEBUT at SoFi Stadium on Saturday was dull but the setting was a big winner (Jeff Lewis/LA Rams).

The star of Saturday’s 2021 pre-season opener between the Rams and the Chargers was not a player – and certainly not the quality of play – but the setting itself.

After years of playing at the venerable but relatively average Coliseum, and one season of no fans in the stands, SoFi Stadium in Inglewood came alive with a near-capacity crowd cheering not only the return of football season but also of the revival of the collective experience of being there.

The resurgence of the coronavirus may eventually put a damper on the scene – fingers crossed that it does not – but for the time being the nearly new Taj Mahal in Inglewood is the best thing to cheer about for fans in the Southern California area.

Less interesting was the game, in which the Chargers won 13-6. Or, to put it more accurately, the Chargers’ second- and third-string players won over a similar Rams’ lineup. It’s long been a practice to leave starters out of pre-season contests, and for good reason: no one wants to lose a quarterback or key runner in a contest that doesn’t count for anything except the number of hot dogs and beers sold.

Another kind of Calorie Bowl will be held on Saturday when the Rams host the Las Vegas Raiders in a 7 p.m. game. The Chargers will host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in a 4:30 p.m. contest.

Dodgers and Angels still on treadmill

There’s a line from “Alice in Wonderland” that goes something like this: “You have to run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place.”

That’s certainly the case with the Dodgers. They have won seven of eight games and eight of 10, but remain where they were last Monday: four games back of the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants.

Max Muncy hit two homers and Max Scherzer struck out seven batters in six innings as the Blue Crew gave a Max-imum effort in defeating the New York Mets on Sunday, but it didn’t make a dent in the race as the Giants have paced them win for win.

Dodgers schedule: Host Pittsburgh Pirates Monday through Wednesday, and New York Mets Thursday through Sunday.

Of course, as frustrating as the Dodgers’ pursuit remains, the Angels’ efforts appear even more desperate. They’ve fallen to 59-60 after losing six of 10 games and are now 9.5 games back of an American League wild card spot.

All things considered, there’s a lot to be said for letting Mike Trout remain in rehab for the rest of 2021 and be back whole for 2022. One thing to cheer about is that the Halos still have another strong MVP candidate in Shohei Ohtani.

His credentials are gold: 39 home runs, 86 RBIs, 17 stolen bases at bat and a 7-1 mark on the pitchers’ mound with a 2.93 ERA. The Bambino would be proud.

Angels schedule: There’s a makeup game today (Monday) at Yankee Stadium, then a three-game series in Detroit Tuesday through Thursday, then a three-game set in Cleveland (Friday through Sunday). The Halos have a 10-game road trip ahead of them, and won’t be back in Anaheim until Aug. 27 when they host the San Diego Padres.

Back to school for area preps

School starts earlier these days, and so do high school sports. Local teams will kick off football games on Friday. Check out our Prep Sports Spotlight on Tuesday. The top games we’ll be watching are Edison at Venice and Fullerton at Pacifica.

Pete Zarustica writes “Sports Monday.”



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