The Opening Pitch: The Brewers needed a return to normalcy, more than anything else. You know ...
— Winning, after that Wild Card-deflating five-game losing streak, giving their new manager his first win. Check.
— Keeping pace with the WC-leading Mets, who finally managed to beat the powerhouse Nats. Check.
— Losing on-again, off-again ace Ben Sheets to some form of shoulder injury? Check.
(Ahh: Now THAT is normalcy for the Brewers and new manager Dale Sveum.)
Check out the remaining schedules below. I suspect that Mets' extra game will somehow come into play:
PHI (10): @ATL (1); @FLA; ATL; WAS
Have to love finale vs. woeful Nats
NYM (11): @WAS (1); @ATL; CHC (4); FLA
Santana could pitch up to 3 more.
MIL (10): @CHC (1); @CIN; PIT; CHC
Spot secure, will Cubs play to win?
A.L. Playoff Push: While I have been saying about the Rays “All that matters is making the playoffs, however they get in,” that doesn't mean that a division title wouldn't be a symbolically sweet moment.
Milestones: A-Rod becomes the first ever to go 35 HRs and 100 RBIs in 12 seasons, topping Ruth. More: Ichiro collected 200 hits for the 8th straight season, tying W.W. Keeler's MLB record. And he'll break it in '09.
Awards Watch: At least one other person agrees with me that Manny-for-MVP is a pretty good idea.
NFL: The Tarvaris Jackson Experiment is over in Minnesota. I find it remarkable that with all the questions they had about Jackson coming into the season, the best they could come up with for a backup was Gus Frerotte. At this rate, Tim Tebow will look good in purple.
Meanwhile, the next time someone tries to argue that being a starting NFL QB is somehow unique or special, please utter "Tyler Thigpen."
Hochuli Scandal, Cont'd: To find out that he feels incredibly badly about his massive blunder makes me feel less hostile toward him. That said, in no way should he be allowed to ref a playoff game this season, and I hope he's the first to volunteer that.
The Wiz proved they can win without him, but they aren't nearly as good as they would be with a completely healthy Agent Zero. The question is: Will he ever be completely healthy? Wasn't that the $111 million bet that the team made this summer?
CFB Thursday Night Football: No. 21 West Virginia gets a chance to repair its limp '08 rep with a tough road game vs. the Big 12 at Colorado.
WVU needs a strong performance alone on the national stage to convince poll voters that the loss to East Carolina was a fluke. (Pick: West Virginia.)
Could Ohio State lose to Troy? Coming off last week's obliteration, playing without Beanie Wells and playing a BCS-tested Troy, I wouldn't put it out of the realm of possibility.
SN's expert panel picks this week's games. As usual, my Top 25 picks will come tomorrow.
CFB: Syracuse may be the worst football program of any BCS conference. But Orange fans have two things to look forward to:
(1) The inevitable firing of Greg Robinson (and hiring of the Raiders' Lane Kiffin?)
(2) The upcoming release of the film "The Express," about Ernie Davis (who, by the way, did NOT wear Nikes).
The Last Word: "Cell phone cameras are not your friend." About the Josh Howard "Anthem" quasi-scandal, this might be the most profound thing Mark Cuban has ever said about the intersection of sports and media. (Here are Shoals' "talking points" on the matter at Free Darko.)
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.