Monday, September 19, 2005

Feature: Monday’s (lopsided) Rivalry Preview. ‘Skins vs. Cowboys, O’s vs. Yanks.

This is it. What you’ve been gnawing on your refresh button for. My deep, insightful, and overly-pessimistic look at tonight’s pair of hate-filled rivalry games. On the gridiron, the Redskins take on the hated Cowboys, and on the diamond, the Orioles start a four-game series against the hated Yankees. Hated. Hated hated hated.

Well, hatred, while fun, has not translated into recent success for the good guys in these battles.

At 9 p.m., Joe Gibbs’ Redskins will take on Bill Parcells’ Dallas Cowboys on ABC’s Monday Night Football (which will include a telethon for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund). But enough about caring and giving! We’re here for hate!

Redskins fan or not, if you are from around this area, you do NOT like the Cowboys. I think it’s in the water.

If you’re a Redskins fan, the recent history of this once-epic rivalry has not been kind to you. The Cowboys have won the last four straight, and 14 of the last 15. To make matters worse, the ‘Skins haven’t won at Texas Stadium in 10 years. Even in the Cowboys’ most dismal seasons, they always seem to save a couple of winning efforts for the games against the Redskins.

Tonight’s match-up in Dallas pits a pair of 1-0 teams against each other, with the Cowboys coming off a 28-24 Week 1 win over the Chargers, who are now 0-2 after a loss to the Broncos. The Redskins are coming off a 9-7 win over the Bears, who then went and ran up 38 points on the Lions.

The ‘Skins will be starting Mark Brunell, who’s old (turned 35 on Saturday). Ramsey replaced Brunell midway through last season and had some solid starts, but this is the here and now, and Ramsey posted a Kyle Boller-esque 49.4 passer rating in the first half against the Bears last week before taking a hard hit and leaving. Brunell filled in for the second half -- and stayed in after Ramsey was cleared to return. Some might say that was a message. Or at least a foreshadowing.

Brunell led all three of the ‘Skins scoring drives. And by “scoring” I mean “field goal.”

The Redskins are six-point underdogs, and despite the line, the doom-and-gloom intro and the recent history, I really do think the ‘Skins have the talent and ability to win this game, and I think there should be some optimism in D.C. But if I’m putting money on it, I’m taking the Cowboys and the points.

In New York at 7:05 p.m., the Orioles will face the Yankees in the first of a four-game set. For the Yankees, now 1.5 games back in both the American League East and the wild card standings, this is a crucial series that could determine the Yanks’ playoff fate. For the Orioles, now 16.5 games out of any playoff spot with 14 games to go (read: mathematically eliminated), this is a chance to play spoiler to a team you despise.

One can only hope that the Orioles will head to the plate with visions of Jeffrey Maier grabbing phantom homeruns in their heads (still bitter ... and sorry for mentioning his name ... not cool).

But there is some reason for optimism here. While the Yankees have won the last two games against the Orioles, the O’s have taken six of ten so far in the season series (granted, at one point they had won five of six). But if the O’s can somehow take three of four in this series, they will guarantee at least a split season series with the Yankees. Obviously, though, I’d much rather see a 14-4 season series with the O’s on the winning end.

Tonight’s pitching match-up is Erik Bedard (6-7, 3.82 ERA, LHP) against Chien-Ming Wang (7-4, 4.18 ERA, RHP), who is 1-1 since coming off the disabled list on September 8, but has given up eight runs in 11.1 innings in that time.

Bedard has struggled also, going 0-3 and posting a 5.91 ERA in his last seven starts. The Orioles have lost all seven of those games.

John Maine (2-1, 3.27 ERA, RHP) will face Aaron Small (8-0, 3.28 ERA, RHP) on Tuesday, Rodrigo Lopez (14-10, 4.86 ERA, RHP) will face Randy Johnson (14-8, 4.01 ERA, LHP) on Wednesday, and Bruce Chen (12-9, 3.51 ERA, LHP) will face Shawn Chacon (6-10, 3.70 ERA, RHP) on Thursday. All of the games start at 7:05 p.m.

With 14 games to go, the Orioles have eight remaining against New York, three against Boston, and three against Tampa Bay.

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