LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers rest their hopes of post-season redemption and a shot at advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1988 on the sturdy right arm of Zack Greinke, who faces Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium Oct. 15 in the fifth and final game of the National League Divisional Series.
DeGrom totally shut down the Dodgers, 3-1, in the series opener Oct. 9 . He is pitching on five days rest. Greinke defeated the Mets in game two, 5-2, although it took a late four-run rally sparked by a controversial slide by Chase Utley for the Dodgers to prevail.
Greinke, who was 19-3 in the regular season, wasn’t as dominant in game two as deGrom was in game one. He will be pitching on his normal four days rest.
Unfortunately, the fate of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly could be riding on how his team does in the postseason.
Despite leading the Dodgers to their third straight National League Western Division title, the Dodgers, who have the highest team payroll in professional sports, have yet to make the World Series.
Upper management brought in Andrew Friedman last year as the president of baseball operations. After overhauling much of the roster in the offseason, the Dodgers repeated as Western Division champs, although they had an up-and-down season in which they rarely looked like a dominant team.
While third baseman Justin Turner has been a pleasant surprise and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been is usual steady self, the rest of the offense sputtered most of the year.
With starting pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu sidelined for the season with a shoulder ailment and free-agent signee Brandon McCarthy going down for the season early in the year, the Dodgers have struggled to win consistently when Geinke and Clayton Kershaw aren’t on the mound.
The rebuilt bullpen still as Kenley Jansen as the closer, but getting to Jansen was a problem for much of the season, although Chris Hatcher has stepped up lately as a good set-up man.
It’s hard to believe that Mattingly could pay the ultimate price if the Dodgers fail to at least make the World Series, but stranger things have happened in baseball.
U.S. FALLS TO MEXICO: While on the subject of firing coaches, many fans of the U.S. soccer team are starting to consider that after the U.S. lost to Mexico, 3-2 in the inaugural CONCACAF Cup soccer game at the Rose Bowl Oct. 10.
Paul Aguilar scored late in overtime to win the game for Mexico and send two-thirds of the 93,723 who attended the game home happy.
When the U.S. plays Mexico in soccer, the Rose Bowl is a home field for the Mexican team.
The loss was the latest defeat on coach Jurgen Klinsman’s resumé. The national team has lost five of its last six games. Although the games have all been close, the U.S. has failed to play the type of game Klinsman has been known for in his other coaching stops during a successful career.
Many soccer fans are still angry with the way he treated Landon Donovan during the lead up to the 2014 World Cup.
Donovan, arguably the greatest U.S. male soccer player ever, was left off the 2014 World Cup team by Klinsman after he misses three qualifying games because he was taken a much-deserved sabbatical from the game.
The U.S. offense missed Donovan’s playmaking ability during the cup.
When hired by the U.S. Soccer Federation, Klinsman was expected to coach through both the 2014 and 2018 World Cup cycles. But some would like to see him replaced before the lead up to the 2018 cup begins.
BRUINS ARE BACK: UCLA returns to the field Oct. 15 against Stanford in Palo Alto for the first time since their unbeaten season was tarnished by Arizona State Oct. 3. The Bruins play on back-to-back Thursday nights, facing Cal at the Rose Bowl Oct. 22, and coach Jim Mora is not pleased with the scheduling.
I don’t blame Mora. Thursday games are not good for college students (they are worse for the pros), but the big television contracts that allow Mora to make more than $2 million a year to coach call for Thursday night games.
More so than most sports, football requires more time in preparation — and recovery. The Bruins have had almost two weeks to prepare for Stanford and will have seven days to get ready for Cal, so prepartion shouldn’t be a factor.
How professional teams can play Sunday and then four nights later is beyond me.
MICKENS SHINES: In the University of Washington’s 17-12 win over the USC Trojans Oct. 8, Dorsey High graduate Jaydon Mickens caught six passes for 49 yards in a return to his hometown.
Mickens, a senior, is tied for lead in receptions for the Huskies this year with 19 catches for 170 yards.
He also has carried the ball four times from scrimmage for 10 yards.
Other players from area schools on the Huskies’ roster are defensive back Brandon Beaver out of Compton Dominguez, linebacker DJ Beavers, who played at Crespi but lives in Culver City; linebacker Keishawn Bierria out of Narbonne; wide receiver Marvin Hall, also from Dorsey; and defensive lineman Damion Turpin from Compton Dominguez.
Hall has caught only one pass this year but it was good for a 78-yard touchdown. Beaver has one interception for the Huskies, which he returned for 96 yards, but no score.
WOODEN AWARD: Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith will receive the John R. Wooden Award’s Legends of Coaching honor in April. He will be the first black coach to receive the award, which was first presented to former North Carolina coach Dean Smith in 1999.
Smith will receive the award on April 8 at the second annual ESPN College Basketball Awards Show. The announcement of the award was made by Wooden’s daughter Nan at the annual Wooden Award Tipoff Luncheon at the Los Angeles Athletic Club Oct. 14.
The award recognizes coaches who exemplify the late UCLA coach’s high standards of coaching success and personal integrity.
Smith has 538 victories in his 24-year head coaching career, including winning the 1998 national championship at Kentucky. He also coached at Minnesota, Tulsa and Georgia.
Past recipients include Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, former Arizona coach Lute Olson and former Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt.