Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
MLB World Series Games 1 and 2: Texas at St. Louis, Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. each night, Channel 11:
The Rangers are back for seconds in the 107th Fall Classic, and they appear to be in Cruz control. After an ALDS against Tampa Bay where he went 1-for-15 and five strikeouts in four games, Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz smacked a record six homers and drove in another record 13 runs to earn the ALCS MVP award in the six-game victory over Detroit. And he did it hitting seventh in the lineup.
“It was fun to watch,” said teammate Josh Hamilton, last year’s ALCS MVP. “When Nellie gets in those streaks, they can come at any time. That’s what the funniest part is. Every at-bat when he’s up there, it could be the at-bat where he hits another one.”
The Cardinals, who may be the wildest of wildcards to have made it this far in the postseason, are the last NL team standing in the Rangers’ way, with Chris Carpenter back on the mound. They somehow have a home-field advantage only because of the NL winning the All-Star Game. Seem fair? Games 3 and 4 are Saturday and Sunday in at Arlington, Tex., so if the Rangers steal the first two, this thing could effectively end without venturing into the next work week.
NFL: Miami at N.Y. Jets, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
As to whether Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall (above) plans to somehow get himself ejected by picking a fight with someone, Jets coach Rex Ryan says: “If he wants to get kicked out of the game in the second quarter, I think he should. … I’m just happy that he’s not picking on me to fight him.”
NHL: Kings vs. St. Louis, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
Two weekends after the season started, and after four games played in places far, far away, the home opener. Will the players, who have traveled more than 17,000 miles in the last couple of weeks, have their heads in the correct time zone for this one? We’re also trying to figure out what’ll be louder: The ovation that Kings’ Mike Richards gets when he finally plays at Staples Center, or the reception that “Seinfield’s” Michael Richards gets next time he plays a local comedy club? Unfortunately, Drew Doughty is already on the injured list.
Golf: PGA Grand Slam of Golf, final round, TNT, 4 p.m.:
Charl Schwartzel (Masters), Rory McIlroy (U.S. Open), Darren Clarke (British Open) and Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship) qualified to represent the golf world in this two-day event from the Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda. The first round runs 4-to-7 p.m. (delayed) Tuesday.
Series: “Man V. Food Nation,” 6 p.m., Travel Channel:
A NASCAR eposide taped near Watkins Glenn International in New York features driver Joey Logano taking on the “Atomic Bomb Challenge” – a three-pound bacon double cheeseburger loaded with pulled pork and the meaty Rochester hot sauce over an additional pound of fries — at Sticky Lips BBQ.
College football: UCLA at Arizona, 6 p.m., ESPN:
The Wildcats stooped to firing Mike Stoops before the Bruins could do anything about Rick Neuheisel’s future. And that could make a difference. “I know that team will respond in the way that they should, meaning that they will come out and play and play as hard as they can,” said Neuheisel of Arizona (1-5, 0-4 in the Pac-12) now led by interim coach Tim Kish, previously the defensive coordinator. “Whenever there is a change, whatever the reasons why, there is always kind of a fresh start … They are going to a lot of energy when they step on to the field and we’ve got to match that.”
Soccer: Galaxy at CD Motagua, 7 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel:
Do the Galaxy really need to be focusing on these kind of contests with the MLS Cup playoffs just around the corner? Where are their priorities? Saturday, they finish the MLS season at Houston (4 p.m., FSW).
NHL: Kings at Phoenix, 7 p.m., FSW:
Another reason to pack the bags? OK, if only for Arizona. Can we drive this time?
College football: West Virginia at Syracuse, 5 p.m.; ESPN; Rutgers at Louisville, 5 p.m., ESPN2:
Another look at Mikhal Marinovich, the Syracuse defensive end.
NHL: Ducks vs. Dallas, Honda Center, 7 p.m., Prime:
Jonas Hiller looks like he’s got his vision back. Now he’ll see Stars dancing around him.
College football: USC at Notre Dame, 4:30 p.m., Channel 4:
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick tried to rally the students with a speech last week, asking them to get so rowdy that “I want you guys on that Saturday night at least once to make USC have a false start penalty.” The other thing: Don’t get too rowdy. “We haven’t had a night game here in a long time because people are concerned about … the consequences it will have on our conduct. You can solve that problem. So help us on that Saturday night to make the loudest, most raucous, but safe environment in college football.” So, he wants it both ways? For the 83rd edition of the rivalry, the Trojans face an Irish team that’s rattled off four wins in a row. Sophomore Tommy Rees, who engineered a sloppy 20-16 win at the Coliseum over USC last year when Matt Barkley was injured, has again effectively kept the starting quarterback job once held by senior Dayne Crist (Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks).
NHL: Kings vs. Dallas, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
The Stars have already jumped out to a 4-1 record, with all four wins at home. They’ll play the Ducks the night before this one in Anaheim.
College football: Washington at Stanford, ESPN, 5 p.m.; Auburn at LSU, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2; Oregon at Colorado, 12:30 p.m., FSW:
The Huskies and Cardinal are a combined 11-1 this season, first and second in the Pac-12 North. Washington has scored at least 30 points in each of its first six games.
Rugby World Cup, final game, noon, Channel 4:
The semifinals and quarterfinals were shown live from New Zealand — meaning they were on at about midnight. This time, there’s about a 12-hour delay.
NASCAR: Sprint Cup Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega, Ala., ESPN, 11 a.m.:
Five-time champ Jimmie Johnson, who finished 34th last week after a crash with 19 laps to go at Charlotte, has dropped to eighth place and 35 points behind Carl Edwards in the Chase and looks like it’ll be a huge uphill battle. There’s no SI cover curse?
NFL: Indianapolis at New Orleans, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4:
During a week where Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England, Philadelphia, San Francisco and the N.Y. Giants have a bye, NBC probably should have taken one as well instead of going up against a World Series contest.