Isabelle Harrison and the Wings return to the WNBA playoffs for the first time since 2018. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball

What I’m Watching: a Massive Playoff Game, a Fresh Start, a Historic Prediction

The Wings are back on the big stage. FC Dallas hopes to be. And Adolis Garcia could earn a piece of history with one more home run.

Technically, there is no Cowboys game this week, as Dallas suits up again next Monday to host the Philadelphia Eagles. But there is still plenty to keep an eye on around town. Here’s what I’m watching.


Thursday, 9/23: Wings at Sky—7 PM, ESPN2

Dallas plays its first postseason game since 2018 and could be primed to pull an upset over higher-seeded Chicago. The Sky have home court advantage plus a sizable experience edge, but the first two rounds of the WNBA Playoffs are winner take all, single-game elimination, which plays into the hands of a Dallas team that won the regular-season series and boasts perhaps the W’s most lethal scorer in Arike Ogunbowale. All it takes is one big performance from her—or perhaps Satou Sabally, or Marina Mabrey; Dallas has plenty of weapons—to steal the game and send the team to the second round for the first time since 2015, when it was known as the Tulsa Shock. We’ll have plenty more for you on the Wings this week at StrongSide.

Saturday, 9/25: Vancouver at FC Dallas—9 PM, ESPN+ or fcdallas.com/stream

The hammer dropped on Luchi Gonzalez Sunday, as FC Dallas fired the third-year coach after the club slumped to 6-11-9 following back-to-back playoff appearances in 2019 and 2020. Seven points and four teams stand between FCD and the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, making a third consecutive postseason appearance a tall order. Any shot at getting there begins Saturday night against the Whitecaps, who are three points higher in the table. We’ll see what interim coach Marco Ferruzzi can cook up.

Sunday, 9/26: Rangers at Orioles—12 PM, Bally Sports Southwest

As our Jamey Newberg wrote last week, arguably the greatest reason to stick out the rest of what’s been a mostly excruciating Rangers season is the chance to see a genuine bit of history: Adolis Garcia breaking the Rangers rookie record with his 31st home run of the year. Garcia is currently tied with Pete Incaviglia at 30, which means we’re on high alert for when the record could come down.

Now, if you’re genuinely invested in this, chances are you’ve got the mettle to sit through each and every Rangers game left on the docket. But you would be well within your rights to avoid watching a soon-to-be 100-loss team play out the string, so consider this my best stab at saving you time and prognosticating when you should tune in to watch Garcia knock his 31st ball over the fence.

Why? Well, oddly enough for a right-handed hitter, Garcia has hit righties better than southpaws in 2021, batting .252 with a .481 slugging percentage against them compared to .229 and .441 against lefties. Twenty of his 30 homers have been off right-handed pitchers as well, which is mostly due to facing more of them but reaffirms that he’s more comfortable against same-sided pitching this season.

You have to go all the way to Sunday to find a right-hander on the slate who is generally below average and fairly homer-prone, and even then, Orioles righty Chris Ellis’ 2.39 ERA hardly screams “batting-practice pitcher.” But Ellis’ xERA—a measure of what that number should be based on the quality of contact he gives up, the defense behind him, and other peripheral factors—is a ghastly 5.43. More important, his fly-ball rate is a 48%, a sky-high number for someone pitching at Baltomore’s Camden Yards, which is far and away the most homer-prone park in baseball this year.

Mix it all together, and you have a recipe for history. This will almost certainly be wrong, but what the hell, let’s mark it down now: Adolis Garcia sets the Rangers rookie home-run record on Sunday.

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