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Baseball

Update on the MLB playoffs

October 08, 2021
Source: Astros/Twitter
Source: Astros/Twitter

The matchups: In the American League (AL), it’s the Houston Astros vs. the Chicago White Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays vs. the Wild Card–winning Boston Red Sox.

  • Over in the National League (NL), the Atlanta Braves are taking on the Milwaukee Brewers while the LA Dodgers — fresh off Wednesday’s thrilling walk-off Wild Card win — will face the San Francisco Giants.

AL update: Behind 6 scoreless innings from starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., the Astros jumped out to an early series lead with yesterday’s 6–1 win over the White Sox. Star Chicago pitcher Lucas Giolito will look to take out the trash even things up in Game 2 today at 2:07 p.m. ET.

  • In Game 1 of the other ALDS, the Rays shut out the Red Sox. Outfielder Randy Arozarena hit a solo home run in the fifth inning and then stole home (!!!) in the seventh to lift Tampa Bay to a 1-0 series lead. First pitch of Game 2 is today at 7:02 p.m. ET.

NL preview: The first NLDS begins today at 4:37 p.m. ET when the Braves take on the Brewers. With NL CY Young candidate Corbin Burnes of the Brewers and Braves ace Charlie Morton set to take the mound, we’re in for an elite pitching battle. Spoiled.

The NLDS Dodgers vs. Giants (two teams with over 100 wins on the season!) nightcap starts at 9:37 p.m. ET. The high-powered Giants offense will look to crack things open vs. Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler. California, here they come.

Wild Card single elimination begins in the MLB

October 06, 2021
Source: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Source: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

American League (AL): Last night’s AL Wild Card game was a battle between two bitter rivals — the Boston Red Sox and the NY Yankees — and the Red Sox prevailed, beating the Yankees 6–2. Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts got things started early with a two-run home run in the first inning and the Sox never looked back.

  • Next up in the AL, Boston will face the Tampa Bay Rays in a five-game divisional series (ALDS) beginning tomorrow at 8:07 p.m. ET.
  • The other ALDS between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros also begins tomorrow, but a bit earlier at 4:07 p.m. ET.

National League (NL): Tonight’s NL Wild Card game features two of the hottest teams in baseball: the defending champion LA Dodgers and the St. Louis “defy the odds” Cardinals. It also features two veteran pitchers in 37-year-old Dodger Max Scherzer and 40-year-old Cardinal Adam Wainwright. Age is but a number.

  • ICYMI: yesterday’s special edition newsletter has everything (else) you need to know about the MLB playoffs. You’re welcome.

MLB Playoff Preview

October 05, 2021
SOURCE: MLB/GIPHY
SOURCE: MLB/GIPHY

HELLO HELLO!

And welcome to the most wonderful time of the year: October baseball. Ten of the MLB’s 30 teams have punched their ticket to the postseason...and it all begins tonight with the first of two single-elimination Wild Card games.

  • Here’s everything you need to know about the MLB playoffs and who we think has the best chance to win it all. Play ball!

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Try not to suck.

— Former Chicago Cubs manager (and current LA Angels manager) Joe Maddon’s rallying cry en route to the Cubs’ 2016 World Series title. Nice and simple.

⚾️ The set-up

SOURCE: CBS SPORTS

The MLB playoffs consist of four rounds: the single-elimination Wild Card round, best-of-five League Division series (LDS), best-of-seven League Championship series (LCS) and, of course, the reason for the season: the best-of-seven World Series. That’s a whole lot of baseball.

  • The single-elimination Wild Card round begins today with an American League (AL) game between the Boston Red Sox and NY Yankees at 8:08 p.m. ET.
  • Then the two National League (NL) Wild Card teams — the LA Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals — square off in a win-or-go-home game tomorrow at 8:10 p.m. ET. Nerves? What nerves?

From there, the AL Wild Card winner will face the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, while the NL winner will take on the SF Giants in the NLDS.

  • Meanwhile, the AL’s Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox, and the NL’s Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers will compete in their own best-of-five League Division series.

🔴 American League

SOURCE: BILLIE WEISS/BOSTON RED SOX/GETTY IMAGES

Wild Card game: Tonight’s do-or-die matchup will add another chapter to the already storied Red Sox vs. Yankees history. The Red Sox had a narrow edge in the season series, winning 10 of their 19 regular-season contests, but the Yankees had the last laugh, sweeping the Sox at home in September.

  • Home field advantage could be the difference maker tonight though, as Yankees ace pitcher Gerrit Cole struggled in Boston’s Fenway Park. We’re so ready for this rivalry battle.

Tampa Bay Rays: We expected last year’s AL champions to impress this season, and despite the loss of star pitcher Tyler Glasnow to injury, they did not disappoint. With young stars like rookie Wander Franco and outfielder Randy Arozarena, watch for the scrappy Rays to make another deep run. Just keep swimming.

Chicago White Sox: From starters Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodón to closer Liam Hendriks, the White Sox’s pitching staff is stacked. As for the offense, Chicago is...also stacked, with shortstop Tim Anderson and first baseman (and 2020 AL MVP) José Abreu leading the way. Watch out, world, it might just be Soxtober.

Houston Astros: The ’Stros have cheated competed their way to a fifth consecutive playoff appearance. Houston is an offensive powerhouse, boasting the best batting average and most RBI in baseball this season. Ready for takeoff.

🔵 National League

SOURCE: TRUE BLUE LA/TWITTER

Wild Card game: Despite finishing the season with the second-best record in the league, the defending champion LA Dodgers still find themselves in a win-or-go-home scenario. LA won the regular-season series against St. Louis, but the Cards are flying high after winning a franchise record 17 straight games in September.

  • With outfielder Mookie Betts and infielder Trea Turner, LA has plenty of Hollywood star power. It’ll be up to the Cardinals’ ace, veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright, to shut them down.

San Francisco Giants: Of the three California-based teams in the NL West, the Giants were the least expected to win the division, but they did just that and posted the best record in baseball this season. We love a Cinderella story.

Milwaukee Brewers: After injuring his hand by punching a wall during the team’s postseason-clinching celebration (yes, seriously), reliever Devin Williams will miss the playoffs, but pitching is still the biggest strength for the Brew Crew.

  • NL Cy Young candidate Corbin Burnes and starter Brandon Woodruff will try to toss Milwaukee to their first-ever World Series title.

Atlanta Braves: It’ll be a battle of defense vs. offense when the Brewers face the Braves, who hit the third-most home runs in baseball this season. As for pitching, los Bravos boast two aces in Charlie Morton and Max Fried. After narrowly missing the World Series last season, Atlanta is determined to go the distance this year.

🔮 Who will win it all?

The most exciting thing about postseason baseball is that truly anything can happen, but we’ll still make a prediction. After falling just short in the World Series last season, our money’s on the Tampa Bay Rays to hoist the trophy this year. Can’t bet against Champa Bay.

  • Tune in all month long to see if our projection holds true. It all begins tonight at 8:10 p.m. ET on ESPN in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada. Let the games begin.

Toronto Blue Jays miss out on MLB postseason

October 04, 2021
Source: Toronto Blue Jays/Twitter
Source: Toronto Blue Jays/Twitter

What happened: Four teams — the Jays, NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners — were fighting for two Wild Card spots heading into yesterday’s final day of the regular season, and the MLB kindly scheduled all four to play at 3 p.m. ET for maximum excitement.

  • The Jays did what they needed to do, winning 12–4 over the Baltimore Orioles, in which George Springer recorded a grand slam and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 48th home run of the season.
  • Unfortunately, the Yankees and Red Sox also did what they needed to do — both teams won their games and, consequently, the Wild Card berths. Pain.

What’s next: The Yankees and Red Sox will renew their age-old rivalry in the American League single-elimination Wild Card game tomorrow at 8 p.m. ET, while the National League’s St. Louis Cardinals and LA Dodgers dance Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.

  • And to help you prepare for the month-long MLB postseason, look out for a special edition newsletter from us tomorrow.
🏀🏒🏆🏈

The biggest trades in sport history

October 03, 2021
SOURCE: GIPHY
SOURCE: GIPHY

Not only is today October 3rd (hi, Aaron Samuels), it’s also the day Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback (QB) Tom Brady makes his highly anticipated return to Foxboro after leaving the New England Patriots for the Bucs...and then winning the Super Bowl with his new team.

  • So today we’re highlighting some of the biggest and most shocking trades and free agency signings that still haunt loyal fanbases to this day. Let’s scroll.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

It’s like when your high school friends meet your college friends 😬

— Brady’s response on Twitter when the NFL announced tonight’s game earlier this year. Yeah, it’ll be something like that...

🏀 The Decision

SOURCE: BLEACHER REPORT

Perhaps the most infamous free agency signing occured back in 2010 when NBA star LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. His announcement was met with fanfare, fury and even flames.

  • In 2003, the Cavs selected the Akron, Ohio native with the No. 1 overall draft pick. James won plenty of hardware in Cleveland (like Rookie of the Year, MVP and NBA All-Star), but never a championship title.
  • So, in 2010 he controversially decided to “take [his] talents to South Beach,” joining forces with superstars Dwyane Wade and (former Toronto Raptor) Chris Bosh to form one of the game’s most elite Big Threes.

The Heat went on to make three NBA Finals appearances in four years, winning back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. But in 2014, after losing in the Finals, James was a free agent once again and decided to move back to Cleveland, bringing one title home to the Cavs in 2016.

  • Of course, James changed teams once again, joining the LA Lakers in 2018 and leading them to the NBA “bubble” title in 2020.
  • And while James turning his 2010 free agency decision into a 75-minute TV spectacle is often made fun of, what’s lost is that he raised over $2 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America during the program. Now that’s why he’s the King.

🏠 Who says you can’t go home?

SOURCE: TERRANCE WILLIAMS/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

There’s been no shortage of blockbuster moves in the WNBA’s 25-year history, and the 2017 trade which sent Elena Delle Donne (EDD) from the Chicago Sky to the Washington Mystics is certainly one of the biggest.

  • The Sky selected EDD No. 2 overall in the 2013 draft. She won Rookie of the Year, three consecutive All-Star nods from 2013 to 2015 and her first MVP award in 2015.
  • But EDD reportedly grew unhappy playing in ChiTown. So, in exchange for Stefanie Dolson, Kahleah Copper and the No. 2 pick in 2017, the Sky sent their star to the Mystics, closer to her home state of Delaware.

In Washington, EDD led the Mystics to their first franchise semifinals appearance in 2017, first finals appearance in 2018 and first title in 2019. Oh yeah, and she was named the league MVP in 2019. What a homecoming.

  • Speaking of, former LA Sparks star Candace Parker’s move to the Sky earlier this year was the latest major W move. A Chicago native, Parker is currently on the hunt for her second WNBA title and first with her hometown team. There’s no place like home.

⚾️ The Curse of the Bambino

SOURCE: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

For baseball’s biggest trade, we have to go all the way back to 1920. Last week, we covered the comeback that broke “the Curse,” so this week, we’re diving into its origin story.

Before LA Angel Shohei Ohtani, Babe Ruth was baseball’s original two-way star. Led by the young Babe, the Boston Red Sox won three World Series titles in four years, hoisting the trophy in 1915, 1916 and 1918. Ruth continued to dazzle during the 1919 season, leading the league in RBI all while pitching for the team, too.

  • Despite their success with Ruth, Red Sox team owner Harry Frazee shockingly announced in January 1920 that the Babe would be traded to Boston’s archrival, the NY Yankees. *gasps*
  • You might be thinking, surely the Sox received a great trade for the superstar. Nope. Boston sold Ruth to NY for a mere $100K (about $1.3 million today), which Frazee reportedly used to finance a Broadway play. How’s that for a curtain call?

The trade’s aftermath still haunts Sox fans to this day. Ruth went on to win four World Series titles with the Yankees and set countless baseball records before retiring as one of the greatest players the game had ever seen.

  • Meanwhile, Boston experienced an 86-year World Series title drought post-Ruth, which is commonly referred to as “the Curse of the Bambino.” Spooky.

🏒 The Trade

SOURCE: OILERS NATION

No list of league-altering sports transactions is complete without the NHL deal known simply as “The Trade,” which sent “the Great One” Wayne Gretzky to the LA Kings just three months after he won the 1988 Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers.

  • Gretzky’s status as a hockey legend was already solidified. He had won the Hart Trophy (NHL’s MVP award) in eight consecutive seasons, the Conn Smythe trophy (playoff MVP) twice and four Stanley Cups.
  • Naturally, LA wanted in. In August 1988, it was announced that Gretzky and two of his Oilers teammates were California-bound in exchange for two Kings players, draft picks and $15 million.

While Kings fans celebrated, Canadians mourned. One member of Parliament proposed that the government pass legislation to block the trade. Ahead of Gretzky’s tearful goodbye press conference, the Oilers owners even offered to call off the trade, but he refused.

  • While he didn’t lift another Stanley Cup, Gretzky did go on to win his unprecedented ninth Hart Trophy in his first year with the Kings. He’s also largely credited with popularizing hockey in California.
  • As for the Oilers, they did win the 1990 Cup without Gretzky, but fans will never forgive GM Peter Pocklington for letting “the Great One” become the one that got away.

🏈 The Return

SOURCE: DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP PHOTO

Of course we have to end things with the man of the hour, GOAT Tom Brady. After being drafted 199th overall (during the second to last round, still shocking) in the 2000 NFL Draft, Brady made his Patriots debut in November 2000.

  • He went on to lead the Pats to nine Super Bowl appearances, winning six times. It was a dynasty.

But after losing in the 2020 AFC Wild Card game, Brady had a marvelous time ruinin’ everything decided it was time for a change. In March 2020, the GOAT signed with the Buccaneers, ending an epic 20-year career with the Pats and breaking the hearts of New Englanders everywhere.

  • Their hearts were further shattered when another former Pat — tight end Rob Gronkowski — came out of retirement to join forces with TB12 in Tampa Bay. The duo poured extra salt in the wound when they won the Super Bowl in February.

So how will New England fans welcome their beloved QB when he makes his first return to Foxboro tonight? Tune in at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC in the U.S. or CTV2, TSN and RDS in Canada to find out. Getcha popcorn (and your tissues) ready.