This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."
NFL Week 4 concluded with an unexpected MNF doubleheader. 2-1 New England and 3-0 Kansas City were scheduled to play Sunday but Patriots QB Cam Newton and Chiefs practice squad QB Jordan Ta'amu were added to the COVID-19 reserve list this weekend. The status of the game was "up in the air" but thankfully, further testing showed none of their teammates were infected with the virus. Therefore, the game will be played Monday night 7:05 ET (CBS). The regularly scheduled MNF game featuring 0-3 Atlanta and 3-0 Green Bay has been bumped back 45 minutes and will now kick off at 8:50 on ESPN. The Chiefs are favored by 10 1/2-points (were about a TD favorite against Cam) and the Packers are favored by 6 1/2-points. Complete NFL Week 4 recap with Tuesday's notes.
NBA Finals Update: Do we have a series? The Lakers routed the Heat in Game 1 (116-98) and then took Game 2 by the score of 124-114, as Miami's Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo both sat out with injuries. Dragic and Adebayo did not play in Game 3 either but Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, as the Heat beat the Lakers 115-104 last night to get within 2-1. Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. BTW...LBJ has a Finals-best 10 triple-doubles. Game 4 is set for Tuesday night but unlike in Games 2 (LA closed as a 10 1/2-point favorite) and 3 (LA - 9 1/2), the early line has LA favored by 7 1/2-points. More on the NBA in Tuesday's Notes.
MLB: All SEVEN Central Division teams lost in the wild card round, going a combined 2-14. No team was more disappointing than the Twins, who have now lost an incomprehensible 18 consecutive postseason games with a total of seven rounds lost. However, the Twins weren't alone, as two NL Central teams gave pathetic offensive efforts. The Cubs (NL Central champs) lost 5-1 and 2-0 to the Marlins, batting .145 as a team. Chicago saw Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combine to go 0 for 12 Friday's loss, finishing the series 1 for 24. The trio is 19 for 142 (.134) with 52 strikeouts and six walks in the postseason since the 2016 World Series title as Chicago has lost nine of 13. Not to be 'outdone,' the Reds were swept by the Braves, scoring just ONE run over 22 innings of two games, batting .194 as a team. Good Riddance Central division teams.
All four Division Series feature matchups between division rivals. The AL teams open Monday, with Houston and Oakland playing at Dodgers Stadium (4:07 ET) and the NY Yankees and Tampa Bay playing at Petco Park in San Diego (8:07 ET). The NL 'joins the party' on Tuesday, as Miami and Atlanta hook up in Houston and San Diego and the LA Dodgers meet in Arlington.
AL preview: The Houston Astros opened the 2020 season off three straight seasons of 100-plus wins (101, 103 and 107), making the World Series in 2017 and 2019 (won the first, lost the second). The team's season figured to be marred by criticism of "sign stealing" but COVID-19 pushed all other storylines to the 'back-burner.' The Astros opened 15-10 but would go 14-21 the rest of the way and became one of two teams to make the 2020 postseason field with a losing record (29-31). The Astros drew a great wild card matchup in Minnesota, whose postseason 'nightmare' continued. Houston eliminated the Twins 2-0, as the Twins have now lost an incomprehensible 18 consecutive postseason games with a total of seven rounds lost. Houston manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs with the Astros, advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NLDS with the Chicago Cubs. The Oakland A's won the AL West in 2020 for the first time since 2013. The AL West champions lost the opener of its wild card series 4-1 to the White Sox but then won on consecutive days at home in Games 2 and 3 (5-3 and 6-4), advancing to an ALDS against the rival Houston Astros. Oakland snapped a NINE-game losing streak in winner-take-all postseason games, a major league record that dated to the 1973 World Series. The A's had lost six straight playoff series since sweeping Minnesota in the 2006 ALDS, starting with when Detroit swept Oakland in that year's ALCS. It was a humongous relief for a club that won 97 games each of the past two seasons only to lose the division to Houston and then the AL wild card game both years. The A's got the better of the Astros 7-3 in the season series but it should be noted that they had the advantage of getting eight of the 10 games at home. Lance McCullers (3-3, 3.93 ERA in the regular season) gets the start for Houston and Chris Bassitt (5-2, 2.29 ERA) for Oakland. The A's are -135 and the total is 8.
I don't want to compare the Yankees/Rays rivalry with the Red Sox/Yankees but the disdain the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees share for each other is hardly a secret. Tampa Bay claimed its third-ever division title by winning EIGHT of 10 regular season meetings, outscoring the Yankees 47-34. Tensions boiled over in the ninth inning of New York's 5-3 win back on Sep 1 at Yankee Stadium, when closer Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball up and in at infielder Michael Brosseau's head, nearly prompting a benches-clearing incident. Now, after some hostile moments in the regular season, the stakes are significantly higher in this five-game ALDS. Petco Park has been known as a pitchers' park and it seems only fitting that the team's two aces will square off. Gerrit Cole (7-3, 2.84 ERA in the regular season) takes the mound for New York, while Tampa Bay counters with Blake Snell (4-2, 3.24 ERA). The Yankees are favored in Game 1 (-145) and the total is 7. BetAnySports
has the Yankees as a slight favorite to win the AL pennant (+187), followed by Tampa Bay (+197), Oakland (+375) and Houston (+432). NL preview on Tuesday.
A typical Monday would feature a recap of the CFB weekend but I'll combine that recap with my upcoming CFB weekend preview in Thursday's Notes.