BAD DECISIONS CAUSE SEVERAL WEEKEND SPORTS OUTCOMES
If one scrutinized last weekend’s various sports contests, he or she would have realized how one or two bad decisions could affect the outcomes of these events. Two that really stuck into my craw Sunday involved two of my favorite sports teams—the Houston Astros and the Dallas Cowboys. After overwhelming the Boston Red Sox in the first two games of the American League Divisional Series (ALDS) by striking early and often and posting a pair of 8-2 victories, they got off to another flying start Sunday in Game 3 of the best-of-three series. Houston jumped out to a 3-0 start in the first inning which would have been a 6-0 inning if Boston right fielder Mookie Betts hadn’t reached over the fence to rob Josh Reddick of a three-run homer. But to hand the Astros’ No. 3 starting pitcher Brad Peacock a nice lead before he throws a pitch is a real luxury. Peacock didn’t have his best outing and surrendered only one run after working his way out of a bases-loaded, none out situation. In the third frame, after a pair of hard-hit, two out doubles, Manager A.J. Hinch unceremoniously yanked Peacock in favor of southpaw Francisco Loriano to protect Houston’s 3-2 third-inning lead. Two pitches later Loriano hung a slider to 20-year-old rookie Rafael Devers who sent it soaring out of the park, giving the Red Sox their first lead of the series and making Loriano the losing pitcher. Hinch ran into the same predicament Monday with veteran starting pitcher Charlie Morton, who was in constant trouble, but was still successfully protecting Houston’s 2-1 lead. This time, instead of relieving with the lousiest pitcher on the staff (Loriano) like he did Sunday. Hinch summoned ace Justin Verlander with a runner on first. On Verlander’s third pitch, young Andrew Berintendi lofted a long fly out of the ball park, putting Boston in the lead 3-2. Red Sox ace Chris Sale took the mound for his first relief appearance in more than five years and completely shut down the Astros’ bats UNTIL Alex Bregman came to the plate in the eighth inning. And for the second time against Sale, the former LSU star belted a homer over the Green Monster in left field to tie the score. After George Springer singled, Boston bought in their ace reliever Doug Kimbrel, who threw a wild pitch. Reddick slapped a 100-mph fast ball to left for a single, scoring Springer as Houston regained the lead 4-3. But Devers led off the bottom of the eighth with an inside-the-park home run to tie the score again, 4-4. Astros relief specialist Ken Giles retired the next three hitters. The Astros had one last rally to perform and did it when Marwin Gonzalez was hit by a pitch and Jose Altuve walked. Ageless Carlos Beltran, the 40-year-old designated hitter who was batting for the first time after Hinch made another good move, swung late at a Kimbrel fast ball and banged it off the Green Monster for a double, scoring Gonzalez with what proved to be the winning run. Hinch really redeemed himself from Sunday’s mistakes and made the right managerial moves Monday that gave Houston a 5-4 victory which advanced them to the American League Championship Series. The Dallas Cowboys didn’t fare as well from the decision Head Coach Jason Garrett made late in the game with the Cowboys trailing 28-24 and driving as the clock was winding down. For some unknown reason Garrett called a pass play on second down from the Green Bay 11 that fell incomplete, but more importantly stopped the clock, which helped the Packers immensely because they were out of time outs. On the next play quarterback Dak Prescott fooled everyone by faking to Ezekiel Elliott and trotting into the end zone untouched. The extra point gave Dallas the lead 31-28 with 1:13 left in the game. And that was more time than Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers needed as he marched his team downfield and connected with wide receiver Devante Adams on a 12-yard touchdown pass with only 11 seconds left in the game they won 35-31. If the Cowboys didn’t throw that stupid pass and had run the ball anywhere, they would have eaten up at least 35 more seconds and made it much more difficult for Rodgers to pull off the magic that he’s done so many times before. There was another decision that made a difference in the game’s outcome. LSU, which was the laughingstock of Division I when little Troy upset them 24-21 the week before, ended up beating Florida 17-16 when the Gators’ holder spun the laces on the football which caused kicker Eddie Pineiro to miss the first extra point of his career, which made the difference in the outcome of the game. KWICKIES…The annual Red River Shootout has an added twist for Saturday’s game at the State Fair in Dallas. The Texas Longhorns are sky high after their 40-34 double-overtime win over Kansas State Saturday night in Austin. And just before the Texas win, Oklahoma was being upset by Iowa State 38-31 which could mean one of two things—either the Sooners are mad as hell and will take it out on Texas, or the Longhorns feel real good about the game knowing Oklahoma can be beaten by a team that fell to Texas. And speaking of overtime games, the one between Western Michigan and Buffalo Saturday scored a record-setting 139 points with WMU winning 71-68 in seven overtime periods. It was the fourth game in Football Bowl Subdivision history to go into seven overtimes. The Syracuse-Pittsburgh game on Nov. 26, 2016 had a total of 137 points. Oklahoma was the only team in the top 10 of the Associated Press College Football Poll to lose last week. It really cost the Sooners, too, as they plummeted from No. 3 to No. 12 in this week’s poll, The top two teams, Alabama and Clemson, remained intact while Penn State moved up three places to No. 3, Georgia and Washington each climbed one spot to No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. TCU and Wisconsin each jumped two slots to No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, Washington State came up three places to No. 8, Ohio State moved up one notch to No. 9 and Auburn jumped two places to No. 10. New additions to this week’s poll include Michigan State (21), Stanford (23), Texas Tech (24) and Navy (25). The Houston Texans not only lost the game to undefeated Kansas City Sunday night in NRG Stadium, but also will be without the heart of their defense when both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus went down with what was described as season-ending injuries. JUST BETWEEN US…The Legion of Boom was credited in all of the Seattle area’s media outlets Monday in the Seahawks 16-10 upset victory over the Rams in Los Angeles Sunday afternoon. And the main headlines featured the Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas of Orange who caused a Ram fumble and intercepted a pass. His defensive teammates were responsible for causing three more Ram turnovers while quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 198 yards and a touchdown. The victory elevated Seattle’s record to 3-2 for a first-place tie with the Rams in the NFC West Division.