Everybody wants life and sports to be easy and worry-free, at least once in a while.
I checked in on the Twins’ score not long after their regular-season home finale started Sunday, and it was already 6-0 Minnesota. “Ah,” I said. “Finally, a game where everyone can relax and coast a little.”
The Vikings were doing just that against the Raiders already. A worry-free day. Two Sunday hops for fans whose nerves have been a little frayed lately.
And of course, next time I checked the Royals had gotten five of those runs back and Martin Perez was being chased after getting just seven outs. A rotation with five solid starters for much of the season has just two right now. Randy Dobnak might be their third-best starter, and he’s definitely their best Uber driver.
The Royals never did get the lead, and suddenly the Twins were up 12-6 heading into the ninth. Cruise control again. Finally everyone can relax for real, I thought, which definitely makes me a candidate for a “fool me once, shame on you … fool me twice, shame on me” scolding.
Fans’ nerves were frayed all over again thanks to five ninth-inning walks. Alex Gordon up as the tying run? One swing away from a nightmare somehow even bigger than Saturday’s final inning?
Gordon, of course, struck out, ending a 5-2 Twins homestand that was absolutely messy but ultimately satisfying in the big picture.
Maybe that’s the just the way life and sports are meant to be?
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Sunday’s game, too, was par for the course against the Royals. The Twins are 12-4 against Kansas City this season (and 36-15 combined against the Royals, Tigers and White Sox), but their run differential against the Royals is just plus-12 in those 16 games. Twins fans wouldn’t mind if the division race was over before the final weekend in Kansas City.
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Kirk Cousins is now 18-8-1 in games following a loss since becoming a full-time starter in 2015 after he and his teammates dispatched the Raiders 34-14 Sunday. And the average of his passer ratings in those 27 games is a robust 107.3 (boosted by his 112.0 mark on Sunday).
That’s an encouraging sign of his resilience. A more challenging item on Cousins’ to-do list: delivering a signature road win against a division opponent. He’ll get that chance next weekend at Chicago.
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Before the season started, most observers and statistical models had the NFC North pegged as a pretty even three-team race between the Vikings, Packers and Bears.
But one site, Football Outsiders, stood out in this case for most certainly being an outsider when it came to predicting the division. FBO had the Lions as the slight favorites in a four-team race, reasoning that Detroit was due for a bounceback against a soft schedule in 2019.
So far? That projection looks pretty good. The Lions are 2-0-1 after going into Philadelphia and emerging with a 27-24 victory Sunday. That was after a tie against the Cardinals and a win over the Chargers, meaning the Lions (6-10 last season) already have wins over two 2018 playoff teams. If anything, it appears there won’t be an easy game in the NFC North this season.
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Minnesota United’s nil-nil tie at Portland on Sunday won’t win over the “nobody scores in soccer” crowd, but it was a good result for the Loons. Banking a point — and keeping a team chasing the Loons in the standings from gaining three — isn’t exciting but it was necessary in a tight playoff race.