Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE HOUSTON ASTROS
Winning a World Series requires heroes. The old, the new, the unsung, the reliable and the iconic.
The Houston Astros are one win away from a title because of all of those types of heroes after an edge-of-your-seat 3-2 win over the Phillies in Game 5.
- The old: At 39, Justin Verlander has experienced pretty much everything baseball has to offer... except for earning a World Series win. That is, until Thursday. Verlander overcame a leadoff home run from Kyle Schwarber to pitch five innings of one-run ball. Entering Thursday, he had been 0-6 in eight career World Series starts.
- The new: In the span of one season, Jeremy Peña has gone from promising youngster to star rookie to postseason powerhouse. The 25-year-old shortstop had an RBI single in the first inning and a solo home run in the fourth. He leads the Astros in hits, home runs and runs scored this postseason.
- The unsung: Trailing 3-2 with runners on the corners and two outs, Kyle Schwarber ripped a 99-mile-per-hour groundball up the first-base line in the eighth inning, only for Trey Mancini make a deft play to get the out. Mancini was only in the game because Yuli Gurriel left earlier after taking a knee to the head.
- The reliable: With a five-out save, Ryan Pressly has now pitched 10 innings this postseason. His numbers? Zero earned runs, three hits, three walks, 13 strikeouts, five saves. Of course, this latest one might not have happened without...
- The iconic: Chas McCormick grew up a Phillies fan just outside of Philadelphia, but this outrageous catch for the second out of the ninth inning broke many hearts in the City of Brotherly Love. It won't soon be forgotten.
One day after the Astros combined for a no-hitter behind Cristian Javier's strong start, Verlander gave up plenty of hits but worked his way out of jams and gave Houston exactly what it needed, writes MLB reporter Matt Snyder.
- Snyder: "Demons have been exorcised, perhaps. The proverbial monkey is off his back. Justin Verlander has a World Series win. If his team grabs another in the next game or two, he'll have another World Series ring. His Hall of Fame resume is already more than complete, but a glaring negative has been rectified."
The teams have on off day today, but Houston will have a shot to win the World Series at home tomorrow night in Game 6.
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 786th career goal, all with the Capitals. It ties Gordie Howe (Red Wings) for most goals with one team in NHL history.
- Louisville basketball avoided major punishment from the IARP, and that means Kansas could, too.
- The next edition of "The Match" will feature Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth on Dec. 10.
And not such a good morning for...
JAMES HARDEN AND THE PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Just as James Harden was starting to play some of his best basketball of the past few years, his body has let him down again. The 76ers star will be sidelined for a month with a right foot tendon strain.
- Harden is the only player averaging at least 20 points and 10 assists this season.
- Despite his strong play, Philadelphia is just 4-5 this season. Joel Embiid has missed three games and has struggled when on the court. He's had his own injury issues.
- Harden has battled several injuries recently, most notably to his hamstrings. Over the past three seasons, he has played in 118 of a possible 163 games.
Not so honorable mentions
- Ben Simmons will miss time with a knee injury.
- Michael Thomas is likely out for the year.
- Rashod Bateman is out for the year.
Nets suspend Kyrie Irving for at least five games 🏀
The Nets suspended point guard Kyrie Irving for at least five games without pay yesterday. It comes one week after Irving began catching heat for publicizing a film he watched that is full of antisemitic tropes.
- As part of a lengthy statement, the Nets said, "we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets."
- It's also important to note that Irving's suspension is "no less than five games." His return is contingent on him "[satisfying] a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct."
- Irving had several opportunities over the past few days to fully denounce the film -- "Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America" -- or apologize for publicizing it on social media. He had done neither and even doubled down on the film previously.
- That's despite Nets owner Joe Tsai and NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressing disappointment in Irving's unapologetic nature.
- The Nets said Irving's behavior "is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team."
Irving did apologize late Thursday after the suspension had been announced. Our NBA columnist Bill Reiter called the apology an important -- if long overdue -- baby step.
- Reiter: "Forgiveness and second chances matter. But so does not allowing people to promote hate and then refuse to say such hate -- such bigotry -- is wrong. Kyrie Irving has taken the right step, with a statement that apologizes. ... This can't be the last word from Kyrie after all that's happened. Here's hoping his regret is as genuine now as his hurtfulness was over the past week."
I also encourage you to read James Herbert's reporting from Brooklyn as he's followed this situation every step of the way.
Eagles move to 8-0 with win over Texans 🦅
It certainly wasn't the Eagles at their best, but in the NFL, you take wins how you can get them. The Eagles improved to 8-0 for the first time in franchise history with a 29-17 win over the Texans.
- Tied 14-14 at halftime, the Eagles needed a spark. It came in the form of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson's interception. Two plays later, Jalen Hurts found A.J. Brown for a lead Philadelphia would not relinquish.
- Dallas Goedert posted season highs of eight catches for 100 yards and caught a touchdown.
- Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell also found the endzone.
Outside of Hurts' immense improvement, the arrival of Brown and the terrific run game and defense, the Eagles are also the first team to post a positive turnover differential in each of their first eight games since the 1972 Steelers. That's 50 years ago, for those of you keeping track at home. Yeah, this Eagles team is really good.
Week 9 NFL picks: Can Rams, Bucs, or Packers figure it out? 🏈
Last season, the Rams and the Buccaneers treated us to one of the most memorable playoff games of late. With Tom Brady playing against the (expected) specter of retirement, Matthew Stafford trying to finally win a playoff game, Cooper Kupp putting together one of the best receiving seasons ever... nearly 800 combined yards of offense later, Los Angeles won, 30-27.
If we get anything like that this weekend, it'll be a huge surprise. Both Stafford and Brady are struggling, and both teams rank in the bottom 10 in points per game. A win for either side would go a long way. Here's who NFL expert John Breech likes:
- Breech: "Not only are the Rams 0-4 this season when they play a top-10 scoring defense, but they've been outscored in those four games by an average of 16.25 points. ... I don't want to say that the season is over for the team that loses this game, but I kind of feel like the season is over for the team that loses this game and I don't think that Brady is going to let that happen to his team. The pick: Buccaneers 20-17 over Rams"
The Packers are another NFC team that had high expectations but are struggling mightily. The Lions may seem like an ideal get-right opponent, but given Green Bay's four-game losing streak, nothing will come easy, says NFL senior writer Pete Prisco.
For all of our experts' picks:
John Breech | Pete Prisco | Tyler Sullivan
Previewing Tennessee-Georgia and Alabama-LSU on HUGE college football weekend 🏈
They say it just means more in the SEC, and, looking at this weekend at least, they're not wrong. There are not one but two games between top-10 teams from Tuesday's College Football Playoff Rankings: No. 1 Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia and No. 6 Alabama at No. 10 LSU.
I really enjoyed our college football insider Dennis Dodd's look at Tennessee's remarkable turnaround. As for some picks, here's our pal Tom Fornelli's Six Pack of best bets when it comes to Alabama-LSU.
- Fornelli: "Alabama is the more explosive team with the better quarterback, while LSU has been better at staying 'on schedule.' But while Alabama has the better QB, I give LSU the edge at receiver. I see Alabama finding success through the air and running back Jahmyr Gibbs having a big game as a dual-threat weapon. I see LSU, which has scored 90 points in the last two weeks, being able to move the ball better than most anticipate. Alabama 38, LSU 27 | Over 56.5"
As for everything else...
- Games like Tennessee-Georgia rarely disappoint.
- How 2022 Tennessee compared to 2019 LSU
- Who's on Upset Alert?
- SEC picks
- Big Ten picks
- A great feature on TCU head coach Sonny Dykes
What we're watching this weekend 📺
⚽ We're watching Serie A all weekend on Paramount+.
🏀 Bulls at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Bucks at Timberwolves, 10 p.m. on ESPN
🏈 No. 23 Oregon State at Washington, 10:30 p.m. on ESPN2
🏈 Texas Tech at No. 7 TCU, Noon on FOX
🏈 No. 1 Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia, 3:30 p.m. on CBS
⚽ MLS Cup final: LAFC vs. Union, 4 p.m. on FOX
🏈 No. 6 Alabama at No. 10 LSU, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏈 No. 4 Clemson at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. on NBC
🏀 Celtics at Knicks, 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
⚾ Phillies at Astros, 8:03 p.m. on FOX
🏀 Trail Blazers at Suns, 10 p.m. on NBA TV
🏈 Here's the Week 9 NFL schedule.
🏒 Maple Leafs at Hurricanes, 5 p.m. on ESPN
⚾ Phillies at Astros (if nec.), 8:03 p.m. on FOX