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."
The 2020 World Series got underway last night and the Dodgers looked every bit the part of the team with MLB's best record in this COVID-shortened season. Three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw shrugged off his rocky playoff history to give up just ONE run on two hits over six innings with only one walk and eight strikeouts. He retired 13 consecutive batters until Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier hit a solo HR in the fifth. In contrast, the Ray's Tyler Glasnow allowed three hits and SIX walks (three would eventually score) in 4.1 innings of work in which he allowed SIX runs (all earned). Cody Bellinger gave the Dodgers an early lead with a two-run HR (two days after his go-ahead HR in Game 7 of the NLCS) and Mookie Betts hit his first postseason HR for the Dodgers in the sixth to open a 7-1 advantage. Betts, Muncy and Taylor each had two hits. Tampa Bay had just six hits, while LA struck out 10 Rays as opposed to allowing just ONE walk.
Tampa Bay turns to Blake Snell, who won a Cy Young of his own in 2018, in Game 2, while the Dodgers will hand the ball to Tony Gonsolin. Snell was 4-2 in the 2020 regular season with a 3.24 ERA over 11 starts (Rays were 7-4). In four starts during this postseason, Snell is 2-2 with a 3.20 ERA. He enters off an outing in Game 6 of the ALCS in which he gave up two runs on three hits with four walks in four-plus innings and was CLEARLY unhappy about being removed. The Houston Astros won that game 7-4 but the Rays rebounded to win Game 7. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has named Tony Gonsolin as his Game 5 starter. He said after the World Series opener, "We just feel like we like him in this spot," Roberts referenced Gonsolin's recent bullpen experience, seemingly suggesting the 26-year old could be more of an opener Wednesday, pitching the first inning and perhaps a bit more if he is efficient. The Dodgers would turn it over to the bullpen from there. Gonsolin was 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in nine games (eight starts / team was 5-3) during the regular season. However, in his two outings this postseason against Atlanta, he's allowed SEVEN earned runs in 6.1 innings for a 9.95 playoff ERA. LA is favored (-135) and the over/under is 8.
Peeking ahead to the NFL weekend: NFL Week 7 kicks off with another uninspiring contest (way too many already this season), when the 1-5 NY Giants visit the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles. That said, with the 2-4 Cowboys atop the sad-sack NFC East, the winner of this game is "right in the mix" for the division title. More in Thursday Notes about this game and the NFC East. The Game of the Week is the 5-0 Steelers visiting the 5-0 Titans, a contest that was scheduled for Week 4 but was pushed back to Week 7 because of Tennessee's COVID-19 issues. Ironically, the game is even more significant now. SEVEN of last season's eight division winners are NOT in first place as we enter Week 7, as KC is the LONE division winner from 2019 to actually lead its division here in 2020. TWO of those seven teams meet Sunday in Foxboro. The SF 49ers won the NFC West last season at 13-3 (and advanced to the Super Bowl) but their 3-3 record leaves them in last-place in 2020, behind not only the 5-0 Seahawks but also the 4-2 Rams and Cards. The Pats are more than just the defending AFC East champs, as New England entered 2020 having captured the AFC East title the previous 11 years and in 17 of the last 19 seasons (since 2001). The Pats welcome the 49ers to Gillette Stadium on Sunday with a 2-3 record. New England hasn't been under .500 through the fifth game or later in any season since they were 3-4 in 2002, which was the last season the Patriots did not win 10-plus games. SNF features TB 12 visiting Las Vegas (along with the NFL's No. 1 defense) to face the Raiders, who are coached by Jon Gruden. Most should remember that Gruden coached the Bucs to the franchise's lone NFL championship in SB XXXVII, a 48-21 win over the Raiders, the team he now coaches in his second go-around with that franchise. Good stuff!
Thursday's Notes will feature a recap of World Series Game 2 (Thursday will be an off day) plus a 'long' look at the upcoming college football weekend, highlighted by the Big Ten's return to play!