Hello, everyone. Happy Friday to you. I’m looking forward to being out at Bishop Carroll tonight to watch the Golden Eagles take on Heights in a battle of City League unbeatens. I’m not sure the Falcons can hang in this one, but we’ll see.
* Well, this postseason thing is happening for the Royals, huh? Pretty amazing. Give Kansas City credit for not wilting during these finals weeks of the season. If anything, the Royals have gotten stronger.
* I wonder, though, if all along Royals fans have been getting it wrong for wanting a potential wild-card game to be played at Kauffman Stadium. Don’t get me wrong; KC is still in the American League Central hunt. But the Royals are two down to Detroit with three games to play so the division title seems like a long shot.
* Back to the Royals at home. If the wild-card game was played today, KC would be at home against Oakland, whose slide since the All-Star break is historical. Being home is almost always a good thing. But is it for the Royals?
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* Kansas City finished 42-39 at Kauffman Stadium this season and, going into tonight’s game at U.S. Cellular Field against the Chicago White Sox, the Royals are 45-33 on the road. That’s a big difference. At home, the Royals are batting .255 and are averaging 3.7 runs per game. Away from Kauffman, Kansas City is batting .270 and averaging 4.3 runs per game. The Royals have a .307 on-base percentage at home; it’s .319 on the road. The team’s slugging percentage is .20 higher on the road and the OPS is .705 vs. .673 at home.
* The Royals pitch better away from home, too. At home, the Royals have allowed 750 hits in 740 innings and have a 3.89 ERA. On the road, they’ve given up only 611 hits in 684.2 innings and have a 3.09 ERA.
* Those differences are stark. And the numbers make you wonder if playing a wild-card game at home is a good thing or not. Remember, Kansas City hasn’t been in a postseason game – home or road – since 1985. Would this team be more relaxed playing away from home? It’s an interesting question to ponder, especially given the disparity of how much better the Royals play on the road.
* OK, on to some other things. I’ll be in Lawrence on Saturday for my first live look at the Jayhawks as they take on Texas. At least what’s left of Texas after new coach Charlie Strong’s dismissal of quite a few Longhorns players for disciplinary reasons. I think we all like a coach who puts his stamp on the program. And make no mistake, Strong has made a mark.
* Texas is 1-2, having lost 41-7 to BYU on Sept. 6. A week later, though, the Longhorns hung with No. 12 UCLA before losing, 20-17. If you watched the Bruins dismantle Arizona State on Thursday night, 62-27, you can appreciate Texas holding that offense to 20 points. The Longhorns have had a couple of weeks off and should be ready go to Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
* What to make of the Jayhawks? Well, tomorrow starts a stretch of nine consecutive Big 12 games, and only four of those are at home. The non-conference follies are over. KU coach Charlie Weis and his team have to show improvement. After Saturday, though, five of the Jayhawks’ remaining eight games are on the road. And even with a 24-10 win over Central Michigan last week, has KU proven much of anything?
* I’m picking Texas, 30-17.
* It’s been a strange schedule so far for Kansas State, which takes on UTEP in its final non-conference game Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats had 11 days to prepare for a Thursday night game against Auburn on Sept. 18, and have had nine days to get ready for UTEP. After a home game against Texas Tech next Saturday at BSFS, the Cats will have an off week before what could be a huge game at Oklahoma on Oct. 18.
* I’ll be curious to see how much of an identity the K-State defense picked up in the Auburn game. That unit was really good for most of the game and it was a big question mark at Iowa State. UTEP won’t do much, but Texas Tech scored 35 in a losing effort against Oklahoma State on Thursday night. And we know what that OU power run game has been able to produce so far.
* The St. Louis Cardinals lead Pittsburgh by just a game in the National League Central. The Cardinals finish the regular season with three games at Arizona. The Diamondbacks are terrible. But the Cardinals have been meek on the road all season. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is red hot and finishes up with three games at Cincinnati this weekend. I don’t want to think about it.
* Derek Jeter’s farewall at Yankee Stadium was straight out of a movie. The Yankees take a three-run lead into the top of the ninth inning and have reliable closer David Robertson on the mound. But Robertson gives up a two-run homer to Adam Jones and a solo shot to Steve Pearce and the game is tied. Jeter, who spends the bottom of the ninth wiping away tears as the huge crowd loudly chants his name, is scheduled to bat third in the botth of the ninth.
* Designated-hitter Jose Pirela starts the ninth for the Yankees with a base hit against Baltimore reliever Evan Meek. Pirela, a late-season call-up from the minors, was playing in only his 12th game. Antoan Richardson, also playing in his 12th game since being called up, pinch runs for Pirela and advances to second on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice bunt.
* Under normal circumstances, there’s probably no way Gardner is bunting there, not with the 2014 version of Jeter in the on-deck circle. But in this situation, the bunt is a no-brainer. Get Jeter to the plate with a chance to win the game and create an even bigger aura than already existed.
* Sure enough, Jeter slaps the first pitch he sees from Meek into right field for a hit. Richardson easily scores. The place goes bonkers. The legend of Jeter expands. It was an incredible moment, the kind baseball provides so often.
* I listened to Keith Olbermann’s commentary this week, in which he made the case that Jeter was a vastly overrated player during his career. Olbermann cited some statistics that helped make his case. But all I could think about was why Olbermann chose this time to go on the offensive against Jeter’s career. OK, maybe his season-long retirement celebration has been over the top at times. But how can one question Jeter’s greatness? How can one question his character? I thought Olbermann really blew it on this one and I’m not a fan. For what it’s worth.
* And this comes from some one who has no affinity whatsoever for the New York Yankees. Just so you know.
* Next week in the musings, I’ll break down some of the fall movies I’m most looking forward to. It’ll be October, one of my favorite months. Have a great weekend, everyone.