Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at 12:00 AM
THE BASEBALL NOTEBOOK - ARE DODGERS TURNING BACK THE CLOCK TO 2017?
NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM RUNDOWNS: HERE'S THE STEELERS, GIANTS & BEARS
Just a thought ... Are the Los Angeles Dodgers (42-35) right now in the midst of another epic run? Remember last year when the Dodgers surged to a 43-7 record during one 50-game stretch that started back on June 7th of 2017.
Well, the Dodgers exited a weekend sweep of the New York Mets last year when that 43 wins in a 50-game stretch concluded and on Monday night LA began a 10-game homestand fresh off - guess what - another weekend sweep of the Mets at Citi Field. P.S., Dave Roberts' team didn't stumble in the first of a four-game home set against the Chicago Cubs as red-hot SS Kiki Hernandez walloped another home run (he now has six homers and a .773 slugging percentage in his last 13 games) and the National League West gang is now a rollicking 16-5 in the month of June.
Closer Kenley Jansen picked up his 20th save in Monday's one-run win after RHP Kenta Maeda gave LA seven innings of shutout ball and so's here's the Dodgers '18 looking very much like the Dodgers '17 and we all know how that went - a trip to the World Series after a 29-year absence in the Fall Classic before an eventual Game 7 home loss to the Houston Astros.
The thing is who would ever have thought the Dodgers might be mentioned as a possible World Series team this year considering that rotten start - then throw in the most recent injury to ace LHP Clayton Kershaw who has all of one win in nine starts this year and the long absence from the lineup of 2B Justin Turner (see game-winning extra-inning home run against his old Mets team last Sunday) - and you're beginning to get the feeling that Roberts is a modern-day miracle worker (okay, he didn't have the great World Series last year) and that the sum is greater than the parts on this here-and-now Dodgers team.
If the Dodgers wish to thank two players on their roster for keeping the ship afloat then it's RHP Ross Stripling (6-2, 1.99 ERA and 1.04 WHIP) and defensively-challenged but offensively-blessed INF Max Muncy (15 HR, 32 RBI and a team-best .990 OPS) - now who would have counted on those two names to help save the LA season?
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We continue our NFL team-by-team summer accounts right here - and every day at Jim Sez we'll be posting two or three teams as we check out news/notes/reports. Plus, we get you some key pointspread info to boot and note a team's SU (straight-up) record is listed next to the team name. Here's the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Chicago Bears ...
PITTSBURGH (13-4) - There's a good chance that the Steelers will be in the market for some wide receiver help (just as we mentioned with the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers in yesterday's Jim Sez column) as young star JuJu Smith-Schuster is banged up these days with left knee issues. Smith-Schuster caught 58 passes for 917 yards and 7 TDs last year and had overtaken the since-traded Martavis Bryant (now a member of the Oakland Raiders) on the team's depth chart. Look for rookie WR James Washington (Oklahoma State) - he averaged nearly 20 yards a reception last year for the Cowpokes - to get some burn for first-year offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
Pointspread Notes - The Steelers failed to cover six of their final seven games last year including that painful 45-42 loss to 7-point underdog Jacksonville in an AFC Divisional Playoff tilt. Overall, Pittsburgh's an ugly 2-6-1 ATS (against the spread)
NEW YORK GIANTS (3-13) - Let's turn our attention to something other than the on-going (and seemingly never-ending) contract situation with WR Odell Beckham: The Giants surely have other issues when you consider last year the offense ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing (96.8 yards per game) and 18th in passing (217.4 ypg) and the addition of RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State) with the second overall selection in this year's NFL Draft has Big Blue Nation all geeked but better believe new head coach Pat Shurmur has a spread-the-wealth mentality that means Barkley won't get overtaxed (and veteran RB Jonathan Stewart won't be forgotten in the game plan).
Pointspread Notes - Last year's Giants finished 0-3 versus the vig as betting favorites (failed to cover Detroit, the Los Angeles Chargers and at San Francisco) after covering six-of-nine as chalk in 2016. Note that NYG is 3-6 ATS in its last nine season-opening games and this year the G-men will open Sept. 9th at home against Jacksonville.
CHICAGO (5-11) - The Bears' defense wasn't the problem last year as the NFC North club ranked in the top 10 in the league in rushing/passing/total defense and there's a strong belief that first-year head coach Matt Nagy's stop unit will be a strong suit with holdovers Leonard Floyd and Sam Acho and offseason addition Aaron Lynch getting a further boost from Georgia rookie Roquan Smith. The six-foot-one, 225-pound Smith was a driving force on last year's Bulldogs team that lost in overtime to Alabama in the national championship game and he's considered a sure star right off the bat.
Pointspread Notes - Believe it or not, last year's 8-6-2 ATS mark was the Bears' best since 2010 (see 10-7-1) and that included a snazzy 5-2-1 home spread record with covers against Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Note the Bears have failed to cover their road opener the past three years in a row and this year's road-opening game is Week One in Green Bay (and in prime time).
NOTE: NFL team-by-team looks keep coming your way all this week right here at Jim Sez.