Ray Jr. on Sports

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  1. Apparently the Pittsburgh Pirates are on a roll. 2 weeks after I basically said that they had zero chance at making the postseason for the 4th straight season, this team has now won 7 of 9-which includes an 8-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks to complete a 3-game sweep.
  2. Hey, what do I know. And it’s a good thing that they don’t play the Chicago Cubs all the time (even though they’re NL Central division rivals) but this team’s pitching isn’t as good as it’s been from 2013-15-but here they are, finding ways to win.
  3. Wednesday night, the Pirates rebounded from a 4-1 deficit (and with Jeff Locke on the mound) to beat the Diamondbacks 5-4 and 8-3 Thursday afternoon. Starting P Gerrit Cole wasn’t too shabby, giving up a run in 7 innings, but it was his 3-run HR that gave the Pirates a 3-1 lead that made the difference. Cole’s 1st career HR was an estimated 490 feet. Wow.
  4. 3B Jung Ho Kang went 3-5 with 2 RBI and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison had a 2-run single to help the Buccos. rookie reliever AJ Schugel (1-1) took over from Cole and won his first-ever MLB game. Good for them.
  5. The Pirates are now a season-high 27-19 and trail the Cubs by 4.5 in the division. If the season ended today, not only would the Pirates play the NY Mets in the Wild Card Game, but it would be a toss-up on who would host that game. What a difference a few weeks make.
  6. The Pirates will now hit the road to take on the Texas Rangers in Arlington. The Rangers are currently 27-20, in second place in the AL West Division. It stuns me that they trail the Seattle Mariners, who finished 76-86 last season. What a difference a year makes.
  7. Starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong watched the Pirates/Diamondbacks game Thursday-and that’s a good thing. The veteran pitcher is recovering from getting hit in the eye by a 92 mph pitch Monday. My continued prates are out to him.
  8. As for the rest of MLB, the Cubs (31-19) still have the best record, but the 30-19 SF Giants are close. In the AL, it’s the surprising Boston Red Sox (29-17) with that league’s best record. I’m not really surprised at their turnaround. It was only a matter of time before they struck back.
  9. As for the worst teams. I can’t believe that the Minnesota Twins are doing this bad. At 12-34, they have the MLB’s worst record. Hard to believe they’ve taken such a tumble. And in the NL, it’s the 12-33 Atlanta Braves, who’re just tanking in my opinion. They are a year away from opening a new ballpark. I bet you they turn it around after that.
  10. And then there’s the NBA, and the self-made theory that sports just don’t make any sense. (ok, sometimes it does) now raise your hands if you thought that the 73-9 Golden State Warriors would just blow through the NBA playoffs. Well, apparently the OKC Thunder are making us eat those thoughts because they have a chance at ending the Warriors season this week and advancing to their first NBA Finals since 2012.
  11. I’m no dummy, I (like you) know that regular-season records have nothing to do with the postseason. Other playoff teams can step up at any time-whether they’re a 1st-or 8th seed. And in this case, it’s the 3rd-seeded Thunder led by Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook who are taking it to Step Curry and Co. And that’s more than just a notion. The Warriors almost look mortal.
  12. Of course the conspiracy folks think that Curry’s still hurt ergo, the Warriors struggles, but HC Steve Kerr disagrees (of course) he states that if Curry was still hurt, then he wouldn’t be playing. But let’s be real: It’s the playoffs. Curry would’ve played on one leg if he had to.
  13. As for the Eastern Conference, many thought the 2nd seeded Toronto Raptors would dominate the top-seed Cleveland Cavaliers after taking a surprising 2-1 lead. But LeBron James and the Cavs squashed that by squashing them 116-78 to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
  14. So, my NBA Finals prediction is that either the Warriors or Thunder will face the Cavs. No way the Raptors will rebound from Wednesday’s loss. It’s over.
  15. As for College Football, apparently the fans who had an absolute fit over the new football uniforms has calmed down-especially after looking a one of the many color combinations that they could wear. My favorite: the all-blue look, which includes those sharp new blue helmets.
  16. Let’s be honest: It doesn’t matter what the Panthers wear. If they end up winning the ACC Costal Division-or even the conference, fans wouldn’t care if they wore clown suits. In fact, I bet Nike would create a clown suit if the Panthers (or any other college team) won in them.
  17. As for the Pitt basketball team, they announced earlier this week that they will play the Maryland Terrapins in this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge November 29th at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland. One of the 3 ESPN Networks will televise the game.
  18. Of course, if this was 2 years ago, this would be an ACC game because Maryland was an ACC stalwart-before departing for the Big Ten. Pitt and Maryland have met nine times previously with the Terrapins holding a slight 5-4 advantage. The Panthers have won three straight in the series, including both games during the 2013-14 season prior to Maryland’s departure from the ACC.
  19. I know he’s been quiet, but I have to assume that new Pitt basketball HC Kevin Stallings will check out the JUCO and graduate-transfer circuit to complete their roster. They still need a dominant center, and apparently they’re not as sold on last year’s JUCO transfer Rozelle Nix. The 7-foot, 300 lbs. player was redshirted last season due to injury. But time will tell.
  20. It’s hard to believe that the NFL actually closes out this segment, but apparently Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation is starting to get attention. He’s recovering from a major knee injury, but he’s just 2 years removed from a dominant All-Pro season. We all know if he’s healthy, he’s one of the best RBs in the game. pay the man Steelers.

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com

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