Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Rams to face Chargers in pre-season contest

The third week of the NFL’s preseason is always the most interesting.

It is the week in which we see more of the starting players perform and for a longer stretch of time as coaches try to get their veterans in game shape before shutting them down for the final week of preseason to save them for the long, 17-week schedule.

The third week is also interesting this year because the two local teams, the Rams and the Chargers (it still seems strange to type that), square off at 5 p.m. Aug. 26 in the Coliseum. The teams already have squared off — literally — this preseason. They practiced against each other twice and several fights broke out during the second practice.

The two teams are headed in different directions so far this preseason while getting used to new head coaches and new playbooks.

The Chargers are 0-2 and haven’t looked very good so far. That could be because Philip Rivers has only played one series at quarterback in the two pre-season games. The Chargers scored on that drive, the opening drive of the opening exhibition game against Seattle.

They have scored 17 points in the 113 minutes they have played since that drive. After getting blown out 48-17 in the first pre-season game against Seattle, the Chargers played better defense against New Orleans Aug. 20, losing 13-7.

It’s August, the games are meaningless, but you can be sure that new coach Anthony Lynn will play Rivers more than one series this week and the Chargers will try to pin a defeat on the Rams, who are 2-0 on the pre-season, with wins over two teams that made the playoffs last season, the Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders.

Jared Goff is starting to show signs of becoming an NFL quarterback. The acquisition of wide receiver Sammy Watkins last week gives him a deep threat to stretch opposing defenses, but the Rams are still an unknown quantity two weeks from opening day.

The Rams still need to sign defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has stayed away from camp while trying to negotiate a new contract. The Rams will go as far as their defense takes them this year and they need Donald to anchor the defensive line and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

They also need to get running back Todd Gurley going to take more pressure of Goff.

New coach Sean McVay has done a good job so far, especially when you consider that at 31 he isn’t that much older than his players.

So far he is 2-0 and even if preseason records and stats don’t mean anything, establishing a winning foundation in camp can often lead to winning later in the season when the games do matter.

The Rams seem to be ahead of the game in the “Fight for L.A.” thus far, but a Chargers win this week will change all of that.

Dodger teammates Cody Bellinger left and Joc Pederson give a Gatorade shower to Yasiel Puig after he hit a game-winning double last week to win a game. (Photo by Juan Lainez)

HO, HUM: All of this winning can spoil even the best of fans.

Some Dodgers fans took to social media the other night when Dodger relief pitcher Pedro Baez had the audacity to blow a save.

Baez gave up two runs in the eighth inning Aug. 21, allowing the Pirates to tie the score 5-5. The Dodgers won in 12 innings on Yasiel Puig’s 22nd home run, but the grumbling against Baez continued.

Baez has pitched the second most games for the Dodgers out of the bullpen and has the second best earned run average on the staff, with only closer Kenley Jansen ahead of him.

But fans, spoiled by a team that seemingly loses only one game a week, have to have something to complain about.

The Dodgers continue to be the deepest team in the Major Leagues and the front office juggles the 25-man roster, the 40-man roster and the 10-day disabled list like a masterful circus performer.

Burn out your bullpen in a 12-inning game, call up a fresh reliever (Josh Ravin) for the next game after putting rookie sensation Cory Bellinger on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.

That gives Bellinger a breathing spell and allows Ravin to come into the game in the third inning after starter Brock Stewart unraveled. Ravin gave up a two-run double but that was all the Pirates got from the Dodgers bullpen and the 8-6 victory was the Dodgers 89th of the season against only 35 losses.

How good are the Dodgers? Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on the planet has been on the disabled list for almost a month. The Dodgers are 22-4 in his absence. He should be back next week.

The Dodgers have looked like a team of destiny — as in destined to win the World Series — since after the all-star break.

A lot can happen between now and the end of October, but city officials should start planning for a parade.

MAGIC TAMPERING: The NBA is investigating whether Magic Johnson illegally tampered with Paul George, the former Indiana Pacers forward who was recently traded to Oklahoma City. George can opt out of his contract at the end of this coming season and it is know secret that the Palmdale native wants to play for the Lakers.

Magic went on the Jimmy Kimmell show a few months back and joked about pursuing George when he becomes a free agent. That violates NBA rules.

Players can talk all they want about where they want to play but owners, general managers, head coaches and other team personnel can’t talk about a player who is under contract to another team.

Magic will probably draw a fine. The league could, if it wants to really crack down on tampering, take away a future draft choice.

But if the league really wants to make a statement, it could bar George from signing with the Lakers.

If NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did that to the Lakers he would replace former Commissioner David Stern (who blocked the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers) as the most despised commissioner ever.