UPDATED: 8 a.m. Wednesday:
Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium, tonight (7:10 p.m., Prime), Tuesday (7:10 p.m., Channel 9) and Wednesday (4:15 p.m., Prime):
Vin Scully once talked about the Dodgers taking a “roll of the dice” when they brought Kirk Gibson off the bench to pinch hit during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The probability of the Dodgers converting a roll into the 2012 playoffs? Maybe it’s no dice. Maybe not. According to the ESPN.com MLB standings that calculates a team’s playoff appearance percentage, St. Louis is a 95.1 percent lock to get the final NL wildcard spot, and the Dodgers are at 4.9. However unrealistic it may seem that they can pull off a sweep against the NL West champion Giants, it is compounded by the Cardinals needing to win only one of three at home against Cincinnati to create a one-game tiebreaker at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night. The winner then goes to Atlanta for another one-and-done on Friday, and the winner of that goes to the NLDS. An even crazier scenario is a Dodgers’ sweep and the Cards lose all three, allowing the Dodgers to waltz right in unaccosted. For the Giants, this is a chance to set their starting rotation up for the playoffs, but they’ll allow Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong to tune up as much as they need. The Dodgers’ last-ditch attempt rests in the arms of Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and, in all likelihood for the 4:15 p.m. finale, Clayton Kershaw. The defending Cy Young Award winner could actually have a shot at repeating (despite what R.A. Dickey supporters may say) if he continues to lead the league again in ERA and strikeouts. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, the NL Central-leading Reds have playoff preps for Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey against the Cards’ Jamie Garcia, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.
MLB: Angels at Seattle, today (7:10 p.m.), Tuesday (7:10 p.m.) and Wednesday (3:40 p.m.), FSW:
A trip to the Emerald City requires the Angels to click their heels three times — and have the Oakland A’s also take a dive in their last three at home against Texas — to create an opportunity for the last AL wild-card spot. The Angels, who won two of three against the Mariners in their last two series, start with C.J. Wilson against Felix Hernandez before Dan Haren and 20-game winner Jered Weaver take their best shots. If it all comes down to the last day, the A’s-Rangers contest on Wednesday starts at 12:35 p.m. and could be done by the time the Angels start their final game. An Angels-A’s tiebreaker Thursday would be played in Oakland. Hey, it could happen.
MLB playoffs: AL and NL wild-card game, Friday at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., TBS:
A year ago, that season-ending crush of do-or-die games all carried on different TV outlets was enough to inspire at least one author to put it into some lyrical pose for the ages. The result was that baseball’s earthly gods decided they needed to try to recreate it with another level of wild-card teams. You’ll never duplicate that magical night of 2011, but these two win-or-go-home contests are apt to set the tone again for the ’12 postseason. Even wilder will be to see if a couple of tiebreakers are needed on a moment’s notice to be played Thursday to see who lives to see Friday. Stay flexable, folks. This could get messy.
MLB playoffs: AL and NL Divisional series Game 1: Saturday at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. TBS:
TBS also has games lined up Sunday at 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., but it’s all dependent on whether a West Coast or East Coast team needs a certain slot locked down. Things will be sorted out as the week goes on. For a look at how things could shape up, go to MLB.com (linked here).
NFL Week 4: Chicago at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
There’s an internet rumor (OK, from TMZ) that former Chicago Blackhawks great Chris Chelios assisted in burning a jersey in effigy of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s jersey at Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap in downtown Chitown. If Cutler flames out again in Dallas, there could be as a big a mess in the Windy City as that night when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow got too frisky.
MLB: N.Y. Mets at Miami, 4:10 p.m.:
AP photo/Steve Mitchell
Florida Marlins catcher Paul Lo Duca comes to the aid of Chicago Cubs rookie Adam Greenberg who gets drilled in the head on first pitch he faces as a major leaguer in 2005.
Adam Greenberg faced just one pitch in his major-league career — a 92-mph fastball that struck him in the head, on July 9, 2005, delivered by Miami pitcher Valerio De Los Santos. The rookie Greenberg didn’t even take first base. Nor was he even credited with an official at bat that day at Wrigley Field, playing for the Cubs. Game, season, career apparently over. Kinda like Moonlight Graham, eh? Only one other player has had the same experience — Fred van Dusen, with Philadelphia in 1955. Greenberg’s attempts to come back have been plagued by concussion symptoms as he’s been given opportunities by the Dodgers, Angels and Royals after the Cubs released him. The last three years, he’s been in the Independent League. A documentary film maker in Chicago has championed his effort to at least get one big-league at bat — prodding the Cubs to come through. But where they haven’t stepped up, the Marlins have. Miami signed him to a one-day contract and plan to use him today against the Mets. “Life’s going to throw you curveballs — or fastballs in the back of your head,” the 31-year-old Greenberg said. “I got hit by one of them. And it knocked me down and I could have stayed there. I had a choice . . . and I chose to get up and get back in the box.” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen says he may have Greenberg lead off and play left field to get his at-bat against Mets scheduled starter R.A. Dickey. Sure, if the knuckleball hits Greenberg, at least it won’t hurt. But he’ll still be missing an AB. Read more by Tyler Kepner in the New York Times (linked here).
MLB: Texas at Oakland, 12:35 p.m., MLB Network; Boston at N.Y. Yankees, 4:05 p.m., ESPN; Baltimore at Tampa Bay, 4:10 p.m., ESPN2:
The Yankees and Orioles will likely take the AL East title down to the wire in this regular-season ender, as both began the week tied at the top, with the loser taking a wildcard spot against either the Angels or A’s. In New York, Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68) faces Hiroki Kuroda (15-11, 3.34). In Tampa, it’s Chris Tillman (9-2, 2.78) against Jeremy Hellickson (9-11, 3.20). MLB Network also has Tuesday’s Red Sox-Yankees game at 4 p.m.
College football: USC at Utah, 6 p.m., ESPN:
The Trojans haven’t been to Salt Lake City to play the Utes in 95 years — you remember that 51-0 triumph back in 1917 where the alums all traveled by covered wagons? Depending on your perspective, the Trojans edged/trounced the Utes in the first Pac-12 game ever played a year ago, escaping with either a 17-14 or 23-14 victory depending on whether you believe a late-game score should be ruled a touchdown. That was when Matt Kalil blocked Utah’s 41-yard field goal attempt on the final play that could have tied it and sent it into OT. Instead, Torin Harris returned it for a score that officially didn’t count until two hours after everyone left. Matt Barkley passed for 264 yards for the Trojans, while sophomore Jordan Wynn threw for 238 yards with a touchdown. Utah (2-2, 0-1 in the Pac-12, coming off a loss to Arizona State) is 53-25-5 in Thursday games; USC is 22-10-3.
NFL Week 5: Arizona at St. Louis, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:
These Cards are 4-0 for the first time since winning their first seven in 1974. Those 2-2 Rams continue to make a rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein from Division II Missouri Western State their offensive MVP.
WNBA Playoffs: Western Conference final Game 1: Sparks at Minnesota, 5 p.m., ESPN2:
The Sparks come home for Game 2 (12:30 p.m., Channel 7). And home means Staples Center for a change. But it’s a best of three, so if they need one more, it’s next week.
College football: Pittsburgh at Syracuse, 5 p.m., ESPN; Utah State at BYU, 7:15 p.m., ESPN:
BYU freshman quarterback Taysom Hill ran for 143 yards and a touchdown and passed for two more scores in his first start as the Cougars cruised 47-0 against Hawaii in their last game.
College football: UCLA at Cal, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Network:
The 4-1 Bruins have wormed their way back into the AP Top 25 coming off a rather expected victory, as the 1-4 Golden Bears continue to be a team few can bear to watch — even on their home field — after another non-surprising loss. Cal QB Zach Maynard, picked off three times by the Bruins’ Tevin McDonald in UCLA’s 31-14 victory a year ago, has just one more TD pass (5) than picks (4) this season, and heard the home fans boo the team off the field as they trailed Arizona State by 10 at halftime last Saturday. It remained a 10-point loss, and it’s just a matter of time before coach Jeff Tedford is updating his Monster.com resume.
College football: Navy at Air Force, 8:30 a.m., Channel 2; Washington State at Oregon State, noon, Pac-12 Network; Arizona at Stanford, noon, Channel 11; LSU at Florida, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2; Georgia at South Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN: West Virginia at Texas, 4 p.m., Channel 11; Miami vs. Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago, 4:30 p.m., Channel 4; Nebraska at Ohio State, 5 p.m., Channel 7; Washington at Oregon, 7:30 p.m., ESPN:
The fashion-conscious Irish are digging up … uh … new … helmets and unis for this game against the Hurricanes at Chicago’s Soldier Field. It’ll be a bit of a cultural shock for some. “If you didn’t like what we had last year, you’re definitely not going to like it this year,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly. “We’ve just resigned to the fact that we’ll have one game a year where we try to appeal to the younger audience.” A Notre Dame win is far more appealing — it means a 5-0 start to the season for the first time in 10 years (Ty Willingham’s first year of 2002 that began the year 8-0) heading into its game next week against Stanford.
MLS: Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
Coming off a lame tie in Colorado, the Herbalifers have three regular season games left, starting here was they try to pass RSL for the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference, and they’re still a point behind.
NBA exhibition: Clippers vs. Denver in Las Vegas, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
At the Mandalay Bay Events Center, it’s not so much a prize fight but a prelude to a trip to Beijing where the Clippers will play the Miami Heat twice and pretend it matters.
NFL Week 5:
San Diego at New Orleans, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4:
Denver at New England, 1:25 p.m., Channel 2:
Green Bay at Indianapolis, 10 a.m., Channel 11:
Cleveland at N.Y. Giants, 10 a.m., Channel 2:
Even if NBC wanted to try to flex out of this one featuring the AFC West-leading Chargers and the winless Saints, it’s not going to happen. Instead, they’re going to promote the heck out of the fact that the only thing New Orleans has going for it these days is Drew Brees throwing at least one touchdown in 47 straight regular-season games, tying the NFL’s all-time mark set by Johnny Unitas. This would have been the week to shoot Peyton Manning into prime time against Tom Brady. Or even have a look at Andrew Luck in Indy against the Packers’ defense.
NASCAR: Sprint Cup Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega, Fla., 10 a.m., ESPN:
Brad Keselowski pulled away from Kyle Bush on the final lap to win at Talladega back on May 6, the 10th stop of the year.
NBA exhibition: Lakers vs. Golden State in Fresno, 7 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
It’s only practice, but at least you get to see how small Steve Nash’s No. 10 looks on him.