Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
Will Power takes a test run at Auto Club Speedway on Sept. 6.
IndyCar Racing League: MAV500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Saturday at 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
The year was 2005 when we last saw the IRL doing donuts through Southern California – it was called the Toyota Indy 400, and Dario Franchitti edged Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan by a mere .1117 of a second. There was Ashley Judd happily embracing her husband in the victory circle with Hollywood pals like Patrick Dempsey joining the party. Sooner or later, you knew the IRL would return, and they’ve made this one the final event of the ’12 season, with Will Power able to clinch the title.
Power, whose California successes this year included winning the Long Beach Grand Prix back in April and finishing second at the Grand Prix of Sonoma last month, has a 17-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay heading into this 250-lap event. The field is expected to include reigning Indy 500-winner Franchitti, Kanaan, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves, and Power said during a recent test run that “this track will be great to race on; it is so wide and we’ll have room to drive. I think I have already run three completely different set-ups and we still have lots to learn before we come back (for more test runs) and then qualify and race. During a 500-mile race anything can happen. We want the championship and will work with 100 percent focus to get it. No slowing down.” Qualifying is Friday, and the 50-lap Indy Lights Race is Saturday at 3 p.m. Parking lots open at 7 a.m. with a Franchitti Walk of Fame induction ceremony at 2 p.m.
NFL: Cincinnati at Baltimore, 4 p.m.; ESPN; San Diego at Oakland, 7:15 p.m., ESPN:
The opener of this “MNF” doubleheader has the recent passing of former Ravens owner Art Modell hanging over it. A key matchup for the AFC North rivals are the Ravens’ Ray Lewis against Bengals new running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who scored a TD against the Ravens twice a year ago while with New England, including one in a 23-20 AFC title game last January. The backend has the AFC West rivals with Philip Rivers matching arm strength with Carson Palmer in the Black Hole. These two also meet on the final game of the regular season.
MLB: Angels vs. Oakland, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., FSW:
The Angels’ three-game sweep in Oakland last week may have closed the gap in the AL wildcard, but a four-game sweep here could do even more Grade-A damage. It could hinge on whether Jered Weaver can make a start after being skipped in the rotation with shoulder tendinitis. Weaver is tentatively slotted to pitch Tuesday (7:05 p.m.), as the series continues Wednesday (7:05 p.m.) and Thursday (12:35 p.m.). Oakland hasn’t really figured out how to make up for the loss of pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who needed emergency surgery after taking a line drive to the head off the bat of Erick Aybar last week.
MLB: Detroit at Chicago White Sox, 5 p.m., MLB Network:
The Tigers know what needs to be done: A sweep here, and they could be back leading the AL Central.
Tennis: U.S. Open, men’s final, Andy Murray vs. Novak Djokovic/David Ferrer, 1 p.m., Channel 2:
Tell the gals at “The Talk” they’ve been pre-empted. Same for “Dr. Phil” and “Judge Judy” if things go as long as anticipated.
MLB: Dodgers at Arizona, 6:40 p.m., Channel 9:
We see you probably already know: These are first two of the final 21 games left in the season – with 11 of the next 15 on the road — and the Dodgers can’t afford to squander this opportunity as they did against the D’backs last week, splitting four. With Clayton Kershaw’s setback, the Dodgers haven’t named a pitcher to start this two-game set. Kershaw is the likely candidate, but then again, it’ll be against Ian Kennedy (12-11), who went 6 1/3 scoreless innings of a 2-0 win over the Dodgers on Aug. 30. Meanwhile, Trevor Cahill (10-11), scheduled to start Wednesday (6:40 p.m., Prime), took a no-hitter into the seventh against the Giants in his last start before winning, 6-2 — but that was his first victory since July 30, when he beat the Dodgers, 7-2, giving up one run in six innings.
MLB: N.Y. Yankees at Boston, 4 p.m., MLB Network:
They’re on TV again Wednesday (4 p.m., ESPN) and Thursday (4 p.m., MLB Net), and then play the final three games of the season head-to-head at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1-3, in case it matters to someone.
Soccer: 2014 World Cup qualifier semifinal: U.S. vs. Jamaica, at Columbus, Ohio, 5 p.m., ESPN2:
They’re telling us that Jamaica’s 2-1 upset last Friday over the Americans, who were without the injured Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, makes this one at the Columbus Crew Stadium a somewhat must-win situation, since Jamaica (2-0-1) leads Group A at the halfway point and the U.S. (1-1-1) is tied with Guatemala in a situation where the top three move on.
MLB: Washington at N.Y. Mets, 4:10 p.m.:
John Lannan (2-0, 3.46 ERA in 13 innings) is in, Stephen Strasburg (15-6, 3.16 ERA in 159 1/3 innings) is out in the Nats’ rotation for the first time.
The Associated Press
MLB: Dodgers vs. St. Louis, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:
Somehow, the Cards’ have a real wild-card in the NL wildcard race. Chris Carpenter,, the 37-year-old 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner who has already been the league’s Comeback Player of the Year in ’04 and ’09, had what was called season-ending surgery in July to relieve nerve compression that caused numbness on much of the right side of his body. That included removal of the first rib on that right side. Recovery time was supposed to be six months. But he’s been throwing simulated games in hopes of coming back sooner rather than later. “I’m hesitant to say anything because I don’t want to present it as an absolute. We’ll have to see how it goes,” Carpenter said. The series goes Friday (7:10 p.m.), Saturday (6:10 p.m.) and Sunday (1:05 p.m.).
WNBA: Sparks vs. Chicago, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TWC101:
The Sparks, locked into a playoff spot with the help of a 12-1 record so far at home, end the regular season with four in a row at Staples Center, starting with this one and including a meeting Friday with Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut (8 p.m.).
NFL: Chicago at Green Bay, 5:30 p.m., NFL Network:
The Packers’ offense couldn’t play much more sluggish than it did in its opener at San Francisco.
MLB: Angels at Kansas City, 4:10 p.m., FSW:
Zack Greinke won his ’09 AL Cy Young with a 16-8 record and 2.16 ERA as a member of the Royals, and the latest Angels’ acquisition is set to pitch the opener of this series — his first start in K.C.’s Kaufman Stadium since he left the team after the 2010 season. The series continues Saturday (4:10 p.m.) and Sunday (11:10 a.m.).
MLS: Galaxy vs. Colorado, Home Depot Center, 8 p.m., KDOC:
We wondered if the Galaxy had actually ended their season. Nope. Just had a two-week break, and have six games left in the season. Over their break, they signed up veteran Swede midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson, who could possibly make some public appearances at the Ikea store just down the street from the Home Depot Center.
Tennis: Davis Cup semifinals: U.S. vs. Spain in Gijon, Spain, singles first round, 3-to-9 a.m., Tennis Channel:
The Bryan brothers can hardly toast their record-breaking 12 major doubles victory at the U.S. Open before they’re jetting off with coach Jim Courier, who also picked Thousand Oaks’ Sam Querrey to replace the ailing Mardy Fish and join John Isner as the singles players trying to reign in Spain. David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro are playing singles for Spain — not world No. 3 Rafael Nadal, who missed the Olympics and the U.S. Open with a knee injury – while Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez are the doubles team. Defending Cup champion Spain, going after its fourth finals appearance in five years, has ousted the U.S. in their last two meetings — last year’s quarterfinals (in Austin, Tex.) and the ’08 semifinals (in Madrid). The most recent U.S. Davis title came in 2007. The doubles play on Saturday (5 a.m., Tennis Channel) and reverse singles on Sunday (3-to-9 a.m., Tennis Channel).
MLB: Washington at Atlanta, 4:30 p.m., MLB Network:
Yes, the Dodgers would appreciate some help from the Nats in knocking the Braves down a notch or two.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Stanford head coach David Shaw leads his black-clad Cardinal team onto the field before their game against Duke on Saturday at Stanford last Saturday.
College football: USC at Stanford, 4:30 p.m., Channel 11:
Cardinal defensive tackle Terrence Stephens got his teammates together after a 50-13 win over Duke last Saturday and called out: “Who’s next?” His teammates replied: “Trojans!” Stephens asked again: “Who’s house?” The response: “Our house!” In a rematch of last year’s triple-OT contest at the Coliseum, where Andrew Luck prevailed over Matt Barkley’s team. “The game that we played tonight,” Stanford coach David Shaw said later Saturday, “still wouldn’t be good enough to beat USC.” Stanford junior QB Josh Nunes is 32 of 56 passing for 400 yards and four TDs against one pick in two wins so far.
College football: UCLA vs. Houston, Rose Bowl, 7:30 p.m. Pac-12 Network:
These Bruins start a run of six games where they may not face anyone of Top 25 caliber, yet it starts against an 0-2 Cougars program that claimed a 38-34 win over UCLA a year ago in Houston. Johnathan Franklin, who leads the nation with 431 yards rushing after two games, ran for 128 yards and a touchdown in 16 carries a year against against Houston. Cougars sophomore quarterback David Piland threw for 580 yards in 7 7 attempts during a 56-49 loss against Louisiana Tech.
College football: Cal at Ohio State, 9 a.m., Channel 7; Alabama at Arkansas, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2; Notre Dame at Michigan State, 5 p.m., Channel 7; Florida at Tennessee, 3 p.m., ESPN; Texas at Mississippi, 6:15 p.m., ESPN:
Thanks, Razorbacks. You just damaged Alabama’s strength of schedule.
Boxing: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez, from Las Vegas, 6 p.m., HBO Pay Per View:
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
A question posed by BadLeftHook.com: For quite some time, you took criticism for supposedly building your success on your father’s name. Do you feel any urge to beat Sergio Martinez to quiet your remaining critics? Said the 26-year-old junior, he of the 46-0-1 record with 32 KOs and WBC middleweight title belt, having started as a super feather weight as a 17-year-old: “I will always be criticized for being perceived as riding my father’s coattails and I have learned to live with it. I am proud of my father’s accomplishments. Not only is he a Hall of Fame member but he is also universally acknowledged as the best fighter to ever come out of Mxico — a country that has produced an incredible amount of world champions. I am proud to be his son and I am proud to have his name. Like my father I want to be the best but I want to write my own story. I don’t want to be known only as the son of Julio Csar Chvez, I want to be is the next Julio Csar Chvez. My victory over Sergio Martnez will give me my own level of recognition. Whether that finally satisfies my critics remains to be seen but I know it will be an exciting chapter, with many more to come, in the story of Julio Csar Chvez Jr.”
MLB: Baltimore at Oakland, 6 p.m., MLB Network:
Angels’ scoreboard watching just got easier.
Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.:
It’s not really like Cirque de Sol, except there are U.S. men’s and women’s gymnasts from the recent London Olympics as well as the 2011 World Championship team, in a show with artistic and trampoline competitors that promises to be “a high-flying, dynamic experience that will celebrate the sports’ beauty and skill.” Can’t get much more specific than that. And it comes with this caviat: At Sunday’s performance in Ontario, “Fierce Five” members McKayla Maroney (left knee) of Long Beach and Aly Raisman (both bruised knees) were injured while performing on the uneven bars so their status could be compromised. What do you think of that McKayla? The tour is in San Diego on Thursday and Glendale, Ariz., Friday before coming to L.A., and then goes to Anaheim’s’ Honda Center on Sunday. The 40-stop tour ends in Brooklyn in mid November. More info: http://usagym.org/pages/events/tour/
NFL: Arizona at New England/New Orleans-Carolina/Minnesota at Indianapolis, 10 a.m., Channel 11; Oakland at Miami, 10 a.m., Channel 2; N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh/Tennessee at San Diego, 1:25 p.m., Channel 2; Detroit at San Francisco, 5:15 p.m., Channel 4:
We suddenly like the range of the 49ers’ David Akers from 49 yards and beyond.
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, Joilet, Ill., 10 a.m., ESPN:
The 10-race chase to the finish starts with Jeff Gordon knocking out Kyle Bush to make the final field with top-seed Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth. The rest, including Bush and Carl Edwards, will be racing just to keep it honest.
Soccer: U.S. women vs. Australia, Home Depot Center, 12:30 p.m., Channel 4:
The ladies continue their Olympic post-gold tour by giving you the chance to spend $115 for a front-row seat to this exhibition – or even better, cough up $225 for a seat on the field, and you keep the bright red chair. It’s one of those fold-up deals, but still …