Daily Sports: Central Division Baseball Battles On Thursday

The cameras of the MLB Network go to flyover country today, with big games from the Central Divisions in both leagues keying a day-night doubleheader on the network and highlighting Thursday’s daily sports docket.

At 1:30 PM ET, it’s the finale and rubber match of the big Pittsburgh-St. Louis series from Busch Stadium. The Pirates hold a three-game lead in the division, have gone 5-2 in these rivals’ recent head-to-head games and the Cards can’t keep letting opportunities slip away from them.

Then in prime-time, at 7 PM ET, let’s shift over to Detroit. The Tigers are in command of the AL Central, with a six-game lead and a 7 ½ game cushion on Kansas City. But the Royals have five games in Comerica Park to try and cut into the lead. More important, if you’re a Kansas City fan is that the Royals are 4 ½ back of the wild-card.

Royals’ backers might see this series with dread—they could be knocked off their moorings in the wild-card hunt—or as opportunity, to make one more push at the division title, but however you view, it’s a big series that starts tonight.

In both time slots, the AL East presence will be found. The Yankees have won four in a row, crawled to within five of the wild-card (albeit with four teams to try and pass) and close out a home series with the Angels this afternoon, opposite the Pittsburgh-St. Louis game. And the finale of the Boston-Toronto series up in the Rogers Centre is the alternative to Detroit-Kansas City.

The alternative for those who don’t like baseball is to watch NFL preseason action. Week 2 starts tonight, with the San Diego Chargers visiting the Chicago Bears (8 PM ET, ESPN). The NFL Network will have “whiparound coverage” of the handful of other games. One of them is Atlanta-Baltimore, and TheSportsNotebook previewed the Ravens, along with the rest of the AFC North in yesterday’s NFL analysis.

Today, the focus is back to college football coverage and we’re targeting the midmajors. The Mountain West is now a superconference, split into divisions, but with Boise State still at the head of the class. We’ll take a look at the entire conference here later today.