La Velle E. Neal III's 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions every Sunday.
Twins fans, it's safe to watch baseball again.
Their 73-89 season was unfair to all of you. For a team looking to three-peat as AL Central champions, the Twins spent six months unraveling through injuries, viruses, bullpen implosions, starting pitching shortages and lack of clutch hitting that probably sent many of you off to rewatch season one of Ted Lasso.
It's understandable. But you can come out of hiding now.
There is still baseball being played. And pretty good baseball at that. Packed stadiums. Fans hanging on every pitch. Great moments provided from superstars and ordinary players having superstar moments. Like Leury Garcia.
The White Sox have been eliminated by Houston. But they extended their season last Sunday when Garcia — with 31 home runs over his 604-game major league career — blasted a three-run home run off the batter's eye in center field. Nothing like big power from little guys.
You also have missed Boston's takedown of a 100-win Rays team with clutch hitting and another utility player rising to the occasion. Longtime handyman Kike Hernandez went 5-for-6 with a home run and three doubles in Game 2, then finished off the Rays with a walkoff sacrifice fly in Game 4.
Oh, and there was the epic 13-inning Game 3 that Boston won on Christian Vazquez's walkoff homer. Tampa Bay considers the umpires' decision in the top of the 13th to send Yandy Diaz back to third on Kevin Kiermaier's ground-rule double as a series-altering blunder. Extra-inning playoff games are fun viewing. So are controversies. Game 3 had both. Viewers win.
Milwaukee won Game 1 of its NL Division Series against Atlanta, but there were warning signs. Most notably, the 2-1 squeaker signaled the silencing of the Brewers' bats. Milwaukee endured 22 scoreless innings and was vanquished in four games. Atlanta's starting rotation is no joke.
And there was more controversy on Thursday during Game 5 of the Giants-Dodgers series. San Francisco's Wilmer Flores, batting with two outs in the ninth and a runner on first base, checked his swing on a two-strike slider. First-base umpire Gabe Morales incorrectly ruled that he went around, ending the game. Dodgers win 2-1 and advance. There will be robot umpires at every base within five years if more calls like that are made.
So return to baseball, discouraged Twins fans. There's more drama — and controversies — to come. The one thing that might trip you up is seeing Eddie Rosario, Danny Santana, Hansel Robles, Ehire Adrianza, Huascar Ynoa, Brooks Raley, Jason Castro, Jake Odorizzi and Brusdar Graterol — players with past Twins connections — on the teams still chasing a World Series title. But the games are worth a look. Don't miss out.
Gophers have path to 7-2
After defeating Nebraska on Saturday, there's a pathway the Gophers football team can take to having a 7-2 record when theyplay at Iowa on Nov. 13.
It starts with a home game next Saturday against Maryland, which will be coming off a bye week. And coach P.J. Fleck should have all oars on deck for this one. The Gophers gave up 17 fourth-quarter points a year ago in College Park, Md., as the Terrapins forced overtime before winning 45-44 on Minnesota's missed extra-point kick. Maryland then trolled the Gophers with the infamous "Boats Rowed" tweet.
After Maryland, the Gophers travel to Northwestern to face a 3-3 Northwestern team that is not as strong as in past seasons. Then they return home to play host to an extremely beatable Illinois team.
Three winnable games provides the potential for the Gophers to be 7-2 with Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin left on the schedule.
Ben vs. Bob: Let's see it!
Here's a suggestion for the Gophers athletic department to fire up their fanbase: Have hockey coach Bob Motzko challenge basketball coach Ben Johnson to a race.
It wouldn't be the first time.
Long ago, the hockey and basketball teams, who ran into each other frequently during practices, held cross-country races around the campus as part of their preseason conditioning. The winning team received a trophy: a basketball shoe and hockey skate laced together and painted gold.
The teams also held sprint challenges on the basketball court. It was in 1971 that hockey coach Glen Sonmor and basketball coach Bill Musselman raced each other at The Barn.
The hockey team had won the cross-country race handily. Mussleman won the race against Sonmor.
"I couldn't let Bill go home unhappy," Sonmor told the Minneapolis Tribune. "So I raced him at the end and let him beat me."
We want to know what happened to the trophy.
... AND TWO PREDICTIONS ...
Offense wakes up, Vikings win
It won't matter if Dalvin Cook is 100 % or not. Quarterback Kirk Cousins and play-caller Klint Kubiak will answer the challenge to get the Vikings offense moving again. The Vikings will prevail over the Panthers, 27-20.
The other blue team ...
With the Tampa Bay Rays out of the playoffs, this scribe's bracket has been busted. So the revised World Series prediction is Dodgers vs. Astros, with Dusty Baker's former team bringing another title to L.A.