Very big week for sports fans

JULIO URIAS is typically an ace starter for the Dodgers, but not so much Sunday in relief against the Atlanta Braves in the second game of the National League Championship Series (Wikipedia)

For Southern California sports fans, this is a huge week. Not only are the Dodgers locked in a desperate battle to claw back from a 2-0 deficit in the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, but also the two major college football teams are facing important tests.

Throw in the opening of the NBA season, etc, and you’ve got a full plate for fans and sports writers. All four major pro sports are going on at the same time, and more.

Dodgers hope to climb up

The Los Angeles Dodgers have spent much of the 2021 season trying to catch up. First it was chasing the San Francisco Giants in the National League West race, and then pursuing those same Giants after losing the first game of their best-of-five division series.

Now, the Blue Crew is down two games to none in the NL Championship Series, after losing twice in Atlanta to the Braves. On Tuesday they will play host in a must win contest at Chavez Ravine because falling behind 3-0 in a seven-game series is almost always a “death” sentence.

The Dodgers – perhaps mainly manager Dave Roberts – are taking some criticism for bringing in Julio Urias to pitch late in Sunday’s game. Urias, normally a starter, yielded two runs as the Braves who went on to win 5-4.

Why not bring in a regular reliever? Well, why not? Can’t you rely on a starting pitcher with a 20-3 record and a 2.96 ERA to do well, nine times out of 10?

“I think in the eighth inning to look at the leverage that it was, Julio in my opinion was the best option we had,” said Roberts. Hmmm. Not clear, but I understand the principle.

OK, well it did not end up that way. But baseball, like most sports, can turn on a difference of inches, if not millimeters. If Urias did well, Roberts would be a genius. If he didn’t, Roberts would be the dumb guy. You can go from hero to zero at this level, at least until the sportswriters need a new story line.

Football: Two up, two down

The UCLA Bruins polished their resumes on Saturday and the Los Angeles Rams did the same on Sunday.

CHIP KELLY, UCLA head football coach.

A 24-17 win over Washington on the road lifted the Westwood clan to a 5-2 record, setting the stage for this Saturday’s home game against 10th-ranked Oregon. If Chip Kelly and Crew can pull this one off, it will A) virtually guarantee a winning season, making it the first plus-.500 campaign in Kelly’s tenure and B) go a long way towards ending the grumbling by alumni over his 15-23 record at the school.

As for the Rams, it was Matthew Stafford’s turn to show how to turn things around. In the first quarter of their game against the hapless New York Giants, he gave a good impression of Jared Goff on an off day. But then he hitched up his guns and passed for 251 yards and four touchdowns, cementing the idea in our minds that this is the QB we’ve been missing since Roman Gabriel.

To further sweeten the deal, the Rams will travel to Detroit to play the winless Lions, quarterbacked by – you guessed it – Jared Goff.

As for USC, they’ve already fired their coach, but if the Trojans (3-3) get thumped by 13th-ranked Notre Dame (5-1), angry fans may track Clay Helton down and fire him again, just on general principles. After the 42-26 loss on Saturday in the Coliseum to Utah, that’s probably the way to bet.

Here’s how we think about Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) and that 34-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens: they’ll do better after a bye this weekend.

Also in sports news:

  • The AP Top 25 for college football has Georgia (7-0) on top, followed by Cincinnati (6-0) in second, Oklahoma (7-0) in third, Alabama (6-1) in fourth, and Ohio State (5-1) in fifth.
  • The pre-season AP Top 25 for men’s college basketball has Gonzaga in first, followed by UCLA in second, Kansas in third, Villanova in fourth and Texas in fifth.

Calendar for the week ahead

  • Los Angeles Dodgers in NLCS: Host Atlanta Braves on Tuesday at 2:08 p.m., then again on Wednesday at 5:08 p.m. If necessary, on Thursday at 5:08 p.m. If needed, games will be played in Atlanta on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Los Angeles Rams: Hosting the Detroit Lions Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
  • UCLA football: Host Oregon, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
  • USC football: Visit Notre Dame, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
  • Anaheim Ducks: at Calgary (Monday), Edmonton (Tuesday), Winnipeg (Thursday, Minnesota (Saturday).
  • Los Angeles Lakers: Host Golden State (Tuesday) and Phoenix (Friday), Memphis (Sunday).
  • Los Angeles Clippers: At Golden State (Thursday), host Memphis (Saturday).

“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.

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