By Chris Bates

     The newest additions of Vince Carter, Lamar Odom and Delonte West in 72 hours to the 2011-12 Dallas Mavericks roster makes them a contender in the West once again.  Without these additions, I’m not sure if Dallas would have had enough to make the playoffs, let alone repeat and defend their NBA Championship. 

Cuban at it again

       The biggest addition is Lamar Odom, who not only brings a championship pedigree and leadership to the team but he is also one of the most versatile players in the league today.  Odom is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, when he averaged 14.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.  The best part about the trade is the fact that the Mavericks virtually got Odom for nothing, just a trade exception and a first round pick.  News came out this week that Odom had requested a trade from L.A. after they included him in a potential trade that would have landed Chris Paul in Los Angeles had commissioner David Stern not vetoed the trade.  Odom said it wasn’t the fact that they were trading him it was the fact that they didn’t inform him or his agent about the trade.  Odom found out over Twitter that he was being traded.  Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle calls Odom the “most versatile forward in the league”.  Carlisle even hinted at the fact that Odom may be used as a “Point Forward” at points this season as he is one of the best passing big men in the league today.  Click Here  to view Odom’s comments about the trade and his expectations for this season.

Veteran Team

     The newest additon of Delonte West gives the Mavs a servicable, tough point guard to spell Jason Kidd when he needs rest.  West has been up and down in his NBA career, battling a variety of leg injuries but when healthy, he is a very good player.  West could spread the floor and has good range that opponents must respect on a nightly basis.  He will fit in nicely in Rick Carlisle’s system.  Vince Carter, who has averaged 22 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in his career is another scorer the Mavericks organization added.  Known to many as “Half-Man” for his acrobatic dunks, Carter is also an excellent spot-up shooter.  A career 40% 3 point shooter just adds another weapon to this team.  After the trade of Rudy Fernandez to Denver, Carter is in line to be the staring shooting guard when the season opens on Christmas Day. 

     The Mavericks can never have enough veteran players.  These players help you win a championship.  Yes, the anchor in the middle in Tyson Chandler is gone but the Mavs still have plenty of guys who can step in and replace Chandler and the other free agent departures.  Brendan Haywood is a servicable center in this league (Top 10 in the NBA in block per game the last 3 seasons).  I think one signing that has gone under the radar that can turn out to be huge for Dallas is the signing of Brandan Wright.  Wright is only 24 years old and was a lottery pick for the Golden State Warriors (#8 pick out of North Carolina in 2007).  Wright is another long, 6’10” player that the Mavs can play at the 3, 4, or 5.  The last 2 seasons, Wright has been riddled with injuries.  He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2009 and spent all of last season playing not 100% with the shoulder injury.  He is fully healthy now and gives the Mavs another big man to put in when Coach Carlisle needs to go big versus teams like the Lakers.  While at North Carolina, Wright averaged 14.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 1.8 BPG.  He is the type of player that fits nicely in Carlisle’s scheme on defense.  With his ability to block shots, he gives the Mavs another dimension on the defensive end.  If Wright can stay healthy, he could make a run for Comeback Player of the Year.

Trade Rumors

       The potential trade rumors surrounding Dwight Howard have been put to rest right now by the Orlando Magic.  Earlier this afternoon, Magic officials told the Nets, Lakers, and Mavericks that Howard has been removed from the trading block.  Howard’s “wish-list” of teams he would sign long-term deals with include the Mavericks, along with the Nets, Lakers and Magic.  Any Maverick fan envisioning Howard in a Dallas uniform this year will have to wait for the time-being. 

Prediction on this Season

     The shortened NBA season I think benefits the older, more veteran teams in the league.  With a superstar in Dirk Nowitzki and tough-experienced players around him, the Mavs are well-suited for another title run.  I see the Mavs winning 60% of their games (which puts them in the 40 win mark), this is equivalent to 50+ wins in a regular NBA season.  11 straight 50+ win seasons will come to end for Dallas this year which just 66 games being played but I see the Mavs in the Top 3 teams in the Western Conference.  I think the Oklahoma City Thunder followed by the L.A. Lakers will be the 1 and 2 seeds with a rematch of last year’s conference finals between the Mavs and Thunder.  Although it will be hard to repeat as champions, the Mavs have the right players to do it but I just think they will come up a little short.  Still, the Mavs will exceed expectations this year. 

Prediction:  Mavs make it to Western Conference Finals but lose to eventual NBA champion Thunder in 6 games.

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By Chris Bates

     This year’s bowl season provides quite a storyline.  Teams  around the country were invited to different bowls than what they expected.  This year’s BCS race was closer than recent years, especially the race between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Oklahoma State.  Only .824 percentage points separated the two schools.  Voters were asked why they stuck with Alabama at No.2 over Oklahoma State and many of them said because Alabama’s loss was not as significant as Oklahoma State’s loss.  The Crimson Tide lost to No. 1 LSU in overtime, which is not a bad loss.  Oklahoma State on the other hand lost to a 6 win and unranked Iowa State team, a much more significant loss. 

Some strange bowl matchups

Poinsettia Bowl- TCU vs. Louisiana Tech.  The Horned Frogs had hopes of a BCS bowl after recording 10 wins for the 2nd consecutive season.  Instead, they get rewarded with the Poinsettia Bowl and although TCU didn’t get an invite to a BCS bowl, head coach Gary Patterson said his team is not disappointed and will play whatever game they are awarded.  This matchup, in my opinion, will not be close at all.  The Bulldogs did finish the regular season 8-4 and won their first WAC title since 2001.  Louisiana Tech enters the game on a seven game winning streak, their longest since 1973-74.  They have been impressive this season in beating SEC school Ole Miss on the road and shutting out Nevada 44-0.  Louisiana Tech’s defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 10 of their 12 games this season.  Their defense is the strength of this team.  A conference best 20 interceptions were recorded and the Bulldogs ranked 11th nationally in turnover margin.

         On the TCU side, their defense is not as stout as in years past but they have improved in every game this season.  The Horned Frogs also come in on a seven game winning streak, including a thrilling 36-35 victory at Boise State.  They were questions early on in the season if TCU could overcome the loss of quarterback Andy Dalton after losses to Baylor and SMU.  Quarterback Casey Pachall has silenced those critics throwing 24 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. 

Final Score Prediction TCU 35 LA Tech 17.

Allstate Sugar Bowl-Michigan vs. Virginia Tech.  This is a matchup of two teams that did not win their conference, yet they get bids in a BCS bowl.  Michigan coach Brady Hoke is a candidate for Coach of the Year as he has brought Michigan back, but I do not agree with these 2 schools being chosen for this game.  There are better candidates for this BCS game, in my opinion, such as TCU and  Kansas State.  Both the Frogs and Wildcats have more wins than these 2 schools and deserve their chance in a BCS bowl. 

      Boise State is another team that should be in this game as they are one missed field goal away from an undefeated season and a possible berth in the BCS National Championship game.  Instead, they lose by 1 point to TCU and get rewarded with the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas.  The Broncos have proven over the years that they can win the big game against big schools on a neutral field, why not give them that chance this year?  With this being said, fans have to watch the games that were chosen and the advantage in this game goes to Michigan.  I don’t think the Hokies have enough on defense to stop Denard Robinson and company. 

       Michigan’s defense is much improved but Virginia Tech’s run game is the key to this matchup.  Led by star running back David Wilson (1,627 yards and 9 touchdowns), the Hokies have a legitimate chance to win.  Watch out for the special teams play of Va Tech as Frank Beamer’s teams always seem to come up with the big punt block or punt return for touchdown.  Bud Foster is the Special Teams Coordinator, he usually has something up his sleeve in games like this.

Final score prediction however, Mich 31 VT 24.

Capital One Bowl- South Carolina vs. Nebraska.

       Nebraska’s first year in the Big Ten did not go as they had planned.  Expectations before the season was the Big Ten Championship and a BCS bowl, that obviously did not happen.  This is a tough matchup for the Huskers as South Carolina comes in with a stout defense ranked No.4 in the nation.  Down the stretch, the Gamecocks have had to rely on their defense as their star sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a torn ACL. 

        The key to this game will be how does South Carolina’s excellent defensive line led by Jadeveon Clowney stop the powerful rushing attack that Nebraska presents.  Quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead lead the nation’s 14th ranked rushing offense.  Nebraska loves to run the option with Martinez and Burkhead, the defensive line of South Carolina must stay at home and not over commit or it will be a long day in trying to stop the dangerous offensive backfield of Nebraska.

     This game will be closer than people think, going down to the wire.  In the end, I think South Carolina pulls it out.  The series between these two conferences is dead-locked.  In the past 18 bowl games between the conferences, the series is tied 9-9.  This should be another great game.

Final Score Prediction: SCAR: 20 NEB:17.

Tositos Fiesta Bowl- Oklahoma State vs. Stanford.

     This is not the matchup Cowboy fans were hoping for after their dominant 44-10 schlacking of Oklahoma.  But OSU nonetheless still has had a great season.  OSU is led by the dangerous duo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon.  This is a matchup of 2 top 20 offenses in the nation.  The Cowboys come into this game with the nation’s 4th best offense, the Cardinal boosts the nation’s 14th best offense.  Quarterback Andrew Luck is a Heisman Trophy candidate and many scouts feel he will be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.   Both offenses have the ability to make the big play to beat you, 2 0r 3 play drives should not be uncommon. 

      The key to this game is whichever offense wins the time of possession battle wins this game, in my opinion.   The long sustained drives that wear out defenses are always key, but especially in this game.  With both offenses abilities to make the big play, it puts more pressure on the opposing defenses to enforce their will.  OSU’s defense has been brilliant down the stretch.  Cornerback Brodrick Brown leads the Cowboys with 5 interceptions on the season.

     Andrew Luck’s ability to find the open receiver and not make mistakes I think will be the difference in the game.  If OSU’s defense can put pressure on Luck or rattle him, that will bid well for their chances to win the game.  This will be a classic BCS bowl game with OSU continuing their hot streak and coming out with the victory.

Final Score Prediction:  OSU: 34 STAN: 30.

     Now to the game that everyone has been talking about, the BCS National Championship between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama.

      There is a lot of controversy surrounding this game as people around the country have their different takes on who should be No. 2, Alabama or Oklahoma State.  I have heard people asking how can a team that didn’t win its conference be rewarded with the Championship game?  My answer to that is because of the schedules that both teams played.  Alabama had a better strength of schedule than OSU and they played harder games in the SEC than the Cowboys did in the Big 12.  At the end of the day, the voters decision to keep Bama at No. 2 and not jump OSU to that spot is because of the greater impact of the losses both teams had.  If OSU hadn’t lost to an unranked Iowa State team, there would be no debate.  Many people feel that the voters got it right, these are the two best teams in the nation playing for the national title. 

     LSU comes in with the nation’s best defense, led by Heisman Trophy candidate at cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.   Alabama has the nation’s No. 2 defense.  A rematch of the 9-6 overtime victory by LSU is the right matchup, in my opinion.  This game will not be the defensive struggle that the last game was.  Each team will score at least 1 touchdown and each defense will make big plays down the stretch.  Keep an eye on LSU’s punt return game led by Mathieu.  Mathieu has returned punts for touchdowns in each of the last 2 games against Arkansas and Georgia.  Alabama must stick to their lanes and not over commit when covering the punts. 

     This game will live up to the hype and fans won’t be disappointed in this matchup being chosen as it will be decided in the final minutes just like last game.  Although LSU won in Tuscaloosa in the previous matchup, I think the Crimson Tide re-pays the favor to the Tigers and stops LSU’s undefeated season.

Final Score Prediction:  ALA: 16 LSU:13.  The Crimson Tide win the National Championship for the 2nd time in 4 years in LSU’s home state of Louisiana in New Orleans.

For a complete listings on bowl games, click here.

Heisman race heating up!

Posted: November 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

By Chris Bates

        This year’s Heisman race is closer than anyone thought it was going to be early in this season.  Heading into this season, all the talk was about Standford’s Andrew Luck, and rightfully so.  He proved last year how good of a quarterback he is and that he can make all the NFL throws.  Luck has had a great season this year completing 70 percent of his passes with 2,937 yards passing, 31 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions.  Luck has had a great season in leading Stanford to a current 11-1 record but a new Heisman leader has emerged.

New Heisman Leader

      Outside of Texas and the Big 12 conference, coming into the season few people knew about Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, but college football fans all around the country know about him now.  Griffin has led Baylor to a fantastic season and with a win over Texas Tech tomorrow night, Baylor will have their first 8 win season since 1991.  Griffin III has been sensational this year, completing 73 percent of his passes, passing for 3,572 yards with 33 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions.   NFL scouts are raving over Griffin with the athleticism he possesses.  Not only can he pass, but he is a great runner as well (member of the national champion track team).  The best thing about Griffin, scouts say, is that he wants to pass first and then run 2nd.  Against Oklahoma Griffin threw for a school record 497 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He also ran for 97 yards.  There is talk about who will be the Number 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.  Coming into the season, Luck was the clear-cut No. 1 but the emergence of RGIII  is making teams re-consider which quarterback will be better in the long term.  

     Griffin can make all the throws and if he leads Baylor to 10 wins this season, he will have a strong case for the Heisman.  Baylor faces Texas Tech at Cowboys stadium tomorrow night followed by hosting the Texas Longhorns.  A win in Baylor’s bowl game will give them 10 victories.  Currently, Baylor is 4th  in the nation in total offense, Stanford is 10th.

    Griffin is 2nd in the nation in quarterback rating, Luck is 5th.  Although I think Griffin deserves the Heisman more, Luck will most likely be ranked higher on the Heisman watch because he is on the better team.  Heisman voters tend to favorite the player on the better team.

Current Heisman standings:

1.  Trent Richardson- RB, Alabama

2.  Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

4.  Case Keenum, QB, Houston

5.  Matt Barkley, QB, USC.

More updates coming on the Heisman watch as the season winds down.  Heisman Presentation will take place Saturday, Dec. 10 on ESPN.

By Chris Bates

           The Dallas Stars head into tonight’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes as the 2nd best team in the Western Conference through the first 16 games.  What has been really impressive is how the Stars have done it.  Young players like Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder along with veterans Brenden Morrow and Steve Ott, the Stars post an 11-5 record with 22 points so far this season.  Benn has been the Stars’ MVP this season as he leads the team in points with 19 (goals and assists).   Dallas has shown the ability to put the puck in the net this season, something they had a hard time doing last season.      Click Here to see the Stars’ Quest for the Cup (I don not own the rights to this video).

Matchup vs. Phoenix

    The Stars come into tonight’s game leading the Coyotes by 3 points in the standings and although it is still early, every game you play counts, especially division games.  Dallas has been excellent at home (6-1) and Phoenix has one of the best road records in the NHL (4-1-1).   The keys to the game are which goalie can minimize the damage both offenses possess.    Dallas is averaging 3 goals per game while the Coyotes are giving up about 2 and a half goals a game.  If Dallas can reach the 3 goal plateau again tonight, they will be in good shape to pick up their 12th win of the season and gain 3 more points in the standings.  Phoenix must contain Loui Erikkson, who leads the Stars in goals with 9 through the first 16 games. 

     The way the Stars are playing right now reminds me of their championship years with Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour and company.  It is been a long time since the Stars were a relevant legitimate championship contending team but if theses young guys continue winning and learning how to win,  then the sky is the limit.  The Stars have enough veteran players to mentor these young guys on how to close out games, how to play 3 periods and not 2 and half.  The last 2 seasons, I thought the Stars underachieved.  They had plenty of talent both of those years, but they didn’t play 3 periods.  So many late leads got away from Dallas costing them a chance at the playoffs.  2008 was the Stars’ deepest season recently reaching the Western Conference Finals before eventually falling to the rival Detroit Red Wings.

Prediction

    The Stars get back on track tonight after falling to the Red Wings on Friday.  I see a 2-1 final score to widen their lead in the Pacific division.  With a victory tonight, Dallas regains confidence heading into their next game vs. the Colorado Avalanche.  I believe the Stars will have a magical season this year with their mix of young and old talent to go along with their talented goalie, Kari Lehtonen.

Final season prediction: Pacific Division Champs and a berth in the Western Conference Finals where I think they come up just a bit short against the Chicago Blackhawks.

By Chris Bates

     The Dallas Cowboys had their best performance of the season on Sunday when they defeated the Buffalo Bills 44-7 in a rematch of Super Bowl XXVII.  Everything the Cowboys did in the game worked, Tony Romo was very efficient as his 148 passer rating was 2nd in the NFL this season.  Romo completed his first 11 passes in what was his first game without wearing the protective vests for his ribs.  To put into perspective how good Romo’s day was, he set the Cowboys all-time completion percentage record of 88.5 percent passes completed to attempts.  Laurent Robinson made Cowboys fans temporarily forget about Miles Austin as he was wide open on 2 touchdown catches in the first half.  Robinson has always had the talent, he has just dealt with a lot of injuries in his career.  Click Here to view Romo and head coach Jason Garrett’s comments from the press room after the victory. 

Current situation in the NBA

    Over the weekend, the owners proposed a 72 game season to the players because they want the lockout to end.  The fate of the NBA season is now in the hands of the player representatives.  The offer the owners have given the players is a 50 percent revenue sharing in which the players will receive $280 million the first season and $3 billion for the next 10 years after that.  Last year the players received 57 percent of the revenue and the owners are not going to go anywhere near that number for this CBA agreement.  If the playes do accept the owners offer, the NBA could be back by Dec. 15 providing a 72-game season for the NBA and its fans.  Details of the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement are talked about Here.

What the players are doing

     Most of the NBA players today are either playing charity basketball games in New York like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Others players like Kevin Durant are prepared to sign an overseas contract if a deal is not reached by the end of the week. 

“I’m right on the fence with playing overseas and I’m about to jump over,” Durant told Yahoo Sports.  Only two marquee players have signed contracts overseas, Nets guard Deron Williams and Spurs guard Tony Parker.  ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that both sides are showing progress after continuing to talk.  Both sides met for 12 hours on Wednesday and a deal could be reached as early as Tuesday.  Dallas Mavericks representative Jason Terry said on Friday that the players are prepared to walk if the deal is not “up to their liking”.  There have been talks that some players want to “decertify” from the union and create their own league so they can get a deal they want.   Keep updated on this situation as the week goes on.    Click Here  to view the current update on the most recent proposal.

   

By Chris Bates

     This week in college football is one of the best in recent years.  This week will go a long way to deciding what teams will potentially play for the national championship and what team or teams will suffer their first loss.  It all starts with the biggest game of the weekend that takes place in Tuscaloosa.  #1  LSU faces #2 Alabama in a clash of the 2 best teams in the SEC.

LSU vs. Alabama

     This matchup will be all about defense.  Both teams are top 5 nationally in total defense, Alabama ranks 1st and LSU is 4th.  Bama only gives up 180.5 yards per game total, their defense is relentless and loves to get after the quarterback.  The Crimson Tide have given up just 6 touchdowns all season.  LSU gives up 251 yards per game and has allowed just 10 touchdowns all season.  This game will be the best one of the season by far and one of the best games of the decade.  Both teams offenses do an excellent job of not turning the ball over.  Alabama is known for their tough running game.  Bama running back Trent Richardson is just 11 yards shy of 1,000 for the season and quarterback A.J. McCarron has been efficient this year throwing 10 TD’s and only 3 interceptions.  LSU uses 2 quarterbacks, Jarrett Lee (1,250 yards, 13 TD 1 INT.) and Jordan Jefferson (123 yards, 2 TD 0 INT).  Jefferson was suspended for the first 3 games of the season after an off-season incident where he was arrested for stealing campus computers and other supplies. 

Keys to the Game

      Whichever defense can put more pressure on the opponent will have the upper hand.  Obviously with Alabama being at home they have the advantage (5 point favorite) but LSU is a great night road team.  The Tigers are 30-1 in their last 31 road night games, and  21 of those wins were against ranked opponents.  LSU will be ready for Bama, no question about it.  The question is can LSU’s offense do something that no team has done yet this year, score on Alabama’s defense.  This game is the epitome of SEC football, hard-nosed defense and hard-hitting.  For LSU to win this game, they must do what they do best, control the time of possession.  Keeping Alabama’s defense on the field will wear them down making them vulnerable and susceptible to the big play.  Jarrett Lee has been accurate this season and has shown he can be an every down quarterback in the SEC. 

      For Alabama, they must run the football.  Although, LSU ranks 3rd nationally in rushing defense (only allow 60 yards per game) they have the running backs to give the LSU defense fits.  Trent Richardson is a bruising back who will run through you and over you.  Eddie Lacy is the change of pace back for Bama but is also another hard  runner.  The Crimson Tide has been able to score this season because of their running game.  It forces teams to bring their safeties up allowing for play-action passes and big plays on the sidelines by quarterback A.J. McCarron.  Look for this to happen in this game.

Prediction

      Neither quarterback is an NFL quarterback but both are efficient and smart players.  Whichever defense can cause more turnovers will win this game.  I give the edge to Alabama slightly because the game is being played in Tuscaloosa.  I have thought all season that Alabama is the best team in the country and I think they will prove that on Saturday night.  The game will be a defensive struggle but in the end the Crimson Tide will win.

ALA: 16 LSU:13

   Other interesting college football games are on tap for this weekend including Texas vs. Texas Tech and Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma.

    Texas comes in ranked 21st in the country despite not having beaten a ranked team this season.  Texas Tech is coming off their worst loss of the season losing 41-7 at home against Iowa State.  That came a week after they upset the Sooners in Norman 41-38.  Texas is 13th nationally in total defense, but they have not played an offense ranked in the top 50 nationally.  This is the first real test for the Longhorns.

  For Tech, they must get back to playing their no huddle fast-paced offense which they got away from last week.  Texas has struggled against the no-huddle offense this season, losing to both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.  If Tech can run their offense like they should, I see them defeating the Longhorns.  Seth Doege is a great quarterback for the Red Raiders and the Longhorns have a young secondary.

Final Score: TTU: 38 TEX: 24.

OU vs. Texas A&M

    The Aggies are unranked for the first time season after blowing another double digit halftime lead.  The loss to Missouri at home was the 3rd double-digit halftime lead the Aggies have blown this season.  Before the season started, people were circling their calendars for this game as a potential Big 12 championship/national title contender game.  Texas A&M is 2 or 3 plays away from being undefeated but they have had trouble stopping the pass this year which is really somewhat of a mystery considering their secondary is full of seniors.  The Aggies are last in FBS football vs the pass.  OU is coming off a 58-17 thrashing of then undefeated and #8 Kansas State in Manhattan.  The Sooners still have a shot at the National Championship if they can win out.  Their 31 game home winning streak was snapped by Texas Tech in their last game in Norman.  Look for the Sooners to start a new home winning streak this Saturday.

Final Score: OU: 48 A&M: 30

By Chris Bates

    The Texas Rangers are one win away from their first world championship in their 30 years of existence.  Coming off a dramatic 4-2 win over St. Louis in Game 5 on Monday, the Rangers travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals in Game 6 tonight.  Weather should not be an issue in St. Louis as it is supposed to be in the mid 40’s with clear skies.

Matchup

    Colby Lewis, the Rangers best postseason pitcher, takes the mound for Texas.  In his game 2 start, Lewis gave up 1 run in 6 2/3 innings.  He kept the Rangers in the game as their offense could not manage any runs against Jaime Garcia.  Lewis will be ready to go tonight in what is the biggest start of his career and the biggest game in Texas Rangers history.  Rangers first baseman Michael Young said the team is feeling no pressure because of the experience of playing in big games last year.  Josh Hamilton has started to hit, recording a hit in his last 3 games.  C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland are both expected to be ready in the bullpen should Ron Washington call on them.  Lewis is looking to move his record to 5-1 in postseason play in his career with an ERA just under 2.3.  His record in the regular season was 14-10 with a 38-38 career record.

     Jaime Garcia, was brilliant in Game 2 for the Cardinals, giving up just 3 hits and no runs in 7 innings pitched.  Garcia is and has been the Cardinals 2nd best pitcher this season, winning 13 games for St. Louis.  Garcia is 5-5 in his career in interleague play including 2-1 this season.  In his career, Garcia is 27-16 with a 3.27 ERA.  Garcia should have a similar performance tonight as he did in Game 2.

Keys to the Game

    For both teams, the keys to the game are their batters getting ahead in the count.  Both pitchers do an excellent job of putting away hitters that are behind in the count.  Obviously, the Cardinals cannot win if they strand 12 runners on base such as they did in Game 5.  Getting the big hit with runners in scoring position is always a key, but especially is for St. Louis.  The Cardinals have had so many opportunities to close the door on the Rangers by getting that one big hit but havent been able to manage that hit.  The Rangers must continue to pitch well out of the bullpen.  Both teams are now fully rested after having 2 days off and I don’t think either team benefits from it.  The Rangers know what to expect going into a hostile environment being just 27 outs away from their first World Series title.  St. Louis is a veteran team and for them to force a game 7 they just need to play their game and everything else will take care of itself.  Whichever team that has their starter pitch longer I think will win Game 6.

Prediction

     The Rangers know that the game tonight must be treated like a Game 7.  You don’t want to give the Cardinals any hope of winning the series if they win tonight.  I see the Cardinals fighting until the last out and I think it will once again be an excellent-pitching, low-scoring game.  Whichever team comes through in the clutch will win.  Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said the bullpen phone works now so there should not be an issue in relaying to the bullpen coach who he wants to pitch.  In Game 5 La Russa and his bullpen coach were not on the same page in terms of who La Russa wanted to come in and face Mike Napoli with the bases loaded.  He wanted his closer Jason Motte but the bullpen coach did not hear him resulting in the current pitcher on the mound Marc Rzepczynski staying in and pitching to Napoli who crushed the game winning two run double.  The phone appears to be working for Game 6 to solve this issue.  Only a few hours until game time and then all will tell what happens.