Play It Forward: Oct. 15-21 on your sports calendar

UPDATED: Monday, 2 p.m.

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Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

MLB playoffs:

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National League Championship Series — St. Louis vs. San Francisco:
Game 2: Monday at San Francisco, 5 p.m.
Game 3: Wednesday at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Thursday at St. Louis, 5 p.m.
Game 5*: Friday at St. Louis, 5 p.m.
Game 6*: Sunday at San Francisco, 1:30 p.m.
(all games on Channel 11)
*-if necessary

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American League Championship Series — N.Y. Yankees vs. Detroit:
Game 3: Tuesday at Detroit, 5 p.m.
Game 4: Wednesday at Detroit, 5 p.m.
Game 5*: Thursday at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Game 6*: Saturday at New York, 5 p.m.
Game 7*: Sunday at New York, 5 p.m.
(all games on TBS):
*-if necessary

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Under the category of “stuff Justin Verlander’s grandpa says” — Richard Verlander Sr., was quoted by an entertainment news service called Celebuzz that he approves of Kate Upton dating his grandson. Apparently whenever the Detroit Tigers’ defending AL Cy Young and MVP is seen in the vicinity of the SI swimsuit cover model / actress, everyone feels a need to comment on it. “I heard he has been on dates with a Sports Illustrated girl,” grandpa said. “I saw a photo – she’s beautiful. They make a good looking pair because he’s a good looking man too. I do know he’s on the dating scene. Justin is a fine boy and whoever he ends up with is lucky. He’s not only a great baseball player, he’s a great guy.” Rumors started earlier this year when the 29-year-old Verlander was on the same MLB video game commercial set with the 20-year-old actress, perhaps best known as playing a busty nun in the “Three Stooges” remake or doing “The Dougie” in a video at a Clippers game in April 2011 that went viral.

See it here:

The Michigan native was also spotted in a Comerica Park luxury box with one of Verlander’s friends, and the two were seen during a Tigers’ September roadie in Chicago. Soon, came the “Upton Girl” song parody of Billy Joel’s “Up Town Girl” (linked here): What’s really be eye-popping lately is when Verlander is on the mound. As much neck-craning as there might be for another Upton sightings during Game 3 of the ALCS, enough TV cameras will also be focused on Verlander’s performance against the Yankees, coming off a four-hit, 11-strikeout shutout in the do-or-die Game 5 of the ALDS against Oakland. He’s called the best he’s pitched in a career that includes two no-hitters. “Verlander’s so great right now, he reminds me of a Dave Stewart, Jack Morris, Curt Schilling, Chris Carpenter – guys who in a particular postseason, when he gets the ball, you’re going down,” said Michael Wilbon on a recent episode of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” Added Tony Kornheiser: “He is, at the moment, the beast of beasts.” And the best at what he’s doing can come back for a Game 7 if necessary. As if the Tigers need such an insurance policy with a 2-0 lead over the Yankees going back to Motown. The Detroit starting pitchers have a streak of 29 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run in the post season, just one inning behind breaking a record held by the ’74 Athletics.

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Meanwhile, in the NLCS, the aformentioned Carpenter starts in Monday’s Game 2 for the Cardinals, trying to give them a 2-0 lead against the Giants. In 16 career playoff starts, Carpenter is 10-2 with a 2.88 ERA, part of two World Series titles, including winning Game 7 last year on three days’ rest. That followed his 1-0 complete-game win over the Phillies and Roy Halladay in Game 5 of last year’s NLDS. Carpenter is 1-0 in this post-season, going 5 2/3 innings in an 8-0 win over Washington. This, after posting an 0-2 record and 3.71 ERA during the regular season, when he came back from supposedly season-ending surgery and recovered in time for the playoffs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Carpenter is the third pitcher in major-league history to start a postseason game after not recording a win during the preceding regular season. The first pitcher to do that was the Tigers’ Virgil Trucks in 1945. He started twice in the World Series after coming back from a U.S. Navy discharge in time to pitch the last game of the regular season. The other was Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo in 2008. He missed most of that season due to knee injuries and he pitched in only four games for the Brewers without registering a decision. He started (and lost) the NLDS opener in Philadelphia.

MONDAY

NFL Week 6: Denver at San Diego, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

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For some reason, Chargers coach Norv Turner blasted a bunch of crowd noise during the team’s practices last week as they prepped for the Broncos. That was in addition to fighter jets performing in the Miramar Air Show showering down even more audio distractions on Saturday. “I anticipate our crowd to be loud,” Turner said. “They will be a big part of how we play and they can really affect the game. When you are playing a team that is no huddle and you are asking your crowd to be loud, you have to make calls, too. We have to make our adjustments. I just want them to get that feeling of the no-huddle.” No kidding. But has Turner been to a game in laid-back San Diego recently? A place that’s never a guarantee to be sold out? A key match up to watch is how Denver linebacker Von Miller, who leads the team with five sacks, lines up over Chargers left tackle Mike Harris, the undrafted rookie out of UCLA who will likely play in place of the injured Jared Gaither. “My technique needs to be good every time I go back on my pass protection,” Harris told CBSSports.com. “(Miller) is going to use his eyes to try to make me misdirect him. I just need to focus and fire that punch.” Peyton Manning’s 2-3 Broncos have lost three of four after a season-opening win over Pittsburgh, but that’s not really his problem. “The problem has been getting the ball back to our offense,” Denver coach John Fox said. “It’s something I can promise you will get better, and it will get addressed. In time, hopefully, we get it.” Denver is tied for 28th with a minus-6 turnover differential, and the defense played more than 35 minutes last weekend in a loss at New England.

TUESDAY

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NBA exhibition: Lakers vs. Utah, Honda Center in Anaheim, 7 p.m., TWC SportsNet:

Will Anaheim ever have its own hoops franchise? This would have been a better place for the Lakers to play the Sacramento Kings. You can always try to dazzle the O.C. crowd by having these appearances that don’t count in the standings but at least generate parking revenue.

Soccer: 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying: U.S. vs. Guatemala in Kansas City, Kan., 4:15 p.m., ESPN2:

A victory or draw for the Americans at Livestrong Sporting Park – again, without the injured Landon Donovan — sends them off to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. But there’s still some crazy math that that could presumably occur that knocks the U.S. out of one of the top two spots in this Group A long before many could have expected. These two ended up in a 1-1 tie back in June when Marco Pappa scored on a free kick in the 83rd minute to prevent a probable American victory provided by a Clint Dempsey goal.

College football: Louisiana-Lafayette at North Texas, 6 p.m., ESPN2:

Yup, they’re playing on Tuesday nights now.

WEDNESDAY

NBA exhibition: Clippers vs. Utah, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

The assumption is the Clippers will return in one piece from their trip to China — or, if not, at least Crazy-glued together after that bonding experience.

Golf: Series, “Our Longest Drive,” 7:30 p.m., Golf Channel:

With their friend Mike’s ashes in tow, three Chicago golf buddies named Dan, Jim and Vic take a 5,500-mile journey of self-discovery in an RV, ending up at the Arctic Circle to play one last round of golf together. All are past retirement age, each with health issues and no previous experience traveling in an RV,it’s apparent they’re not ideally suited for this trek. But they’ve turned this into a six-episode series, focused on the wooden box with the remains of the day. More on the series (linked here).

THURSDAY

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NFL Week 7: Seattle at San Francisco, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:

We do enjoy ourselves these twice-annual Pete Carroll vs. Jim Harbaugh matchups. In his first year with the 49ers a year ago, Harbaugh bags both victories, 33-17 on opening day in San Francisco, and 19-17 in Week 16 in Seattle. Their second meeting this season is in Week 16 on Dec. 23. So that’s the deal.

College football: Oregon at Arizona State, 6 p.m., ESPN:

The Ducks and Sun Devils are two of three teams left in the Pac-12 with an undefeated conference record. Just two left after this one.

NBA exhibition: Boston at Brooklyn, 5 p.m., TNT:

Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Mike Fratello and David Aldridge visit the new arena in Brooklyn. The Net effect: If they don’t concentrate too much on the game and show more architecture, we’d be OK.

FRIDAY

NBA exhibition: Lakers vs. Sacramento, Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, 7 p.m., TWC SportsNet:

A Vegas excursion is a gamble for any NBA team. Especially when the Maloof brothers aren’t such hot shots anymore having had to give up all that ownership of the Palms Hotel.

College football: Connecticut at Syracuse, 5 p.m., ESPN:

You think we enjoy listing these games to fill out a date with a hole in it?

SATURDAY

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(Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
USC’s Marqise Lee makes a diving catch in the end zone in front of Colorado defensive back Greg Henderson at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., during the Trojans’ win over the Buffaloes in 2011. And this catch didn’t even count — he landed out of bounds.

College football: USC vs. Colorado, Coliseum, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network:

For some reason, this was declared a 93,607-seat sellout back on Oct. 9. Maybe because those who have DirecTV, Charter Cable, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse knew they’d be blacked out. Since an aberration in the schedule at Washington State allowed Colorado to take an improbable 35-34 victory, the Buffalos have amassed just 31 points in their last two losses while giving up a total of 93 points to UCLA and Arizona State. On a Friday night in November a year ago in Colorado, Matt Barkley threw for 318 yards and six TDs in a 42-17 victory.

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College football:
Stanford at Cal, noon, Channel 11
South Carolina at Florida, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2
Florida State at Miami, 5 p.m., Channel 7
LSU at Texas A&M, 9 a.m., ESPN
Purdue at Ohio State, 9 a.m., Channel 7
Michigan State at Michigan, 12:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
BYU at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m., Channel 4
Kansas State at West Virginia, 4 p.m, Channel 11
Alabama at Tennessee, 4 p.m., ESPN
Kansas at Oklahoma, 4 p.m., FSW
Washington at Arizona, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Utah at Oregon State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2

It’s tough to figure out how the new configuration of the Pac-12 dictates that Cal and Stanford have to play the “Big Game” before November rolls around on the calendar. Here’s the part that really doesn’t add up: UCLA, set to play Stanford on Nov. 24, could have played the Cardinal this week instead of taking a bye. That would have left both the Cardinal and Golden Bears free to play each other on Nov. 24 – a date that Cal has open.

NBA exhibition: Clippers at Utah, 6 p.m., Prime:

Got enough Jazz yet?

SUNDAY

MLS: Galaxy at San Jose, 4 p.m., TWC SportsNet:

The first Galaxy game on the new sports channel is their first game in more than two weeks, with only one left in the regular season. Will Landon Donovan be given a clean bill of health to play? San Jose has clinched first in the Western Conference and could be inspired to win the Supporter’s Shield, which belonged to the Galaxy last season.

NBA exhibition: Lakers vs. Sacramento, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet:

By this point, the Lakers could be 0-5 in the exhibition schedule, and few would have seen it. Unless you paid the top-dollar to attend home games like this. It’s the only time a team named the Kings will see the inside of Staples Center in a while.

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NFL Week 7:
Baltimore at Houston, 10 a.m., Channel 2
Washington at N.Y. Giants or Green Bay at St. Louis, 10 a.m., Channel 11
N.Y. Jets at New England, 1:25 p.m., Channel 2
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4

“We want to be a team no one wants to play,” New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said after his 3-3 team’s 35-9 win over Indianapolis last Sunday. “And, we’re on our way.” Talk to us after this one.

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Hollywood Casino 400, Kansas Speedway, 10 a.m., ESPN:

The first of the last five events of the season will go again without Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will sit this one (as well as last Sunday’s in Charlotte) because of a concussion diagnosis. Clint Bowyer’s win last week in North Carolina puts him back in the Chase hunt, 28 points out of the lead as he comes to his home track.

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