October 19, 2020

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves in a hard-fought and exciting Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night, advancing to the World Series for the third time in four years. The Braves won three of the first four games in the seven-game NLCS.

The Dodgers, who have not won a World Series title since 1988, came back from two Braves leads in Game 7, eventually winning by one run, 4-3. Cody Bellinger scored the winning run with a homer in the seventh inning, and Mookie Betts kept the Braves to three runs with an amazing catch in the fifth inning.

The Dodgers will pay the the Tampa Bay Rays, who clinched the American League title on Saturday night, overcoming the Houston Astros 4-2 in the seventh game of the series. It will be the Rays second-ever World Series in their 23-year history, and their first in 12 seasons. The teams will play their first World Series game on Tuesday in Arlington, Texas. The chance of another championship marks a big moment for the city of Tampa Bay, Florida, whose NHL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, won the Stanley Cup in September. The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship last week. Peter Weber

September 27, 2020

It wasn't that long ago that it seemed like the 2020 Major League Baseball season might get cut short because of coronavirus outbreaks within the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals clubhouses. But now, about two months later, baseball is at the regular season finish line. Things are still a bit chaotic as teams prepare to play game 60, but in a much more positive way.

ESPN's Jeff Passan broke down how Sunday's results could affect the expanded postseason picture, and he discovered there are 44 different scenarios in play for the National League alone.

Ultimately, baseball fans will be better served simply by watching Sunday's slate of games, all of which — save for one meaningless game between the eliminated Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers — will start during the 3 p.m. ET hour to increase competitiveness and intrigue, rather than trying to decipher the math. But Passan did the dirty work for his readers, so anyone really curious about how things can shake out can check out his column at ESPN.

The easiest way to understand things, though, is that there are four teams fighting for two spots in the National League: the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers, who will play each other, as well as the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies, who are facing the San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively. The American League, on the other hand, is set in terms of qualified teams, but seeding can still vary wildly. Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

August 17, 2018

The Texas Rangers were so pleased with this triple play at the top of the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night, they put three versions of it in their highlight reel.

It was only the sixth triple play in Rangers team history, USA Today reports, but it's even rarer than that — it was the first triple play without the batter being one of the outs in 106 years, according to the baseball nerds at STATS.

Since the play is a little confusing, this is what happened: Rangers third baseman Jurickson Profar caught a grounder from Angels batter David Fletcher, then tagged out runner Taylor Ward — who didn't run because he thought Profar caught the ball in the air — and forced out the runner on second base, then threw the ball to Rougned Odor at second, who forced out the runner from first base and tagged him for good measure. The Rangers rallied to win the game, 8-6. Peter Weber

October 13, 2017

No Washington, D.C., sports franchise has made it to a championship round since the Capitals played in the Stanley Cup finals in 1998, and that record was left unsullied Thursday night when the Washington Nationals lost to the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. The Cubs' 9-8 win sends them to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers, starting Saturday night, in the National League Championship Series. The Cubs, defending World Series champs, took the lead after a disastrous fifth inning for the Nats.

"In breaking down this particular evening — when the Nationals once held a three-run lead — consider the simplicity of this," writes a despondent Barry Svrluga in The Washington Post: "The Nationals entered the fifth inning with a 4-3 advantage and handed the ball to Max Scherzer, who might well win his third Cy Young Award this year as his league's best pitcher. When Scherzer left the mound at the end of that frame, the Nats trailed 7-4." Scherzer struck out the first two batters, "only to see the frame devolve into a barrage of two-strike hits and sheer ineptitude from the Nationals," USA Today explains. "It turned into a sloppy battle of attrition from there, with equal displays of dismal relief pitching and situational execution on both sides."

In the American League Championship Series, the New York Yankees are facing off against the Houston Astros. Peter Weber

September 14, 2017

With a nail-biting 10th inning 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals at Cleveland's Progressive Park, the Cleveland Indians extended their late-season winning streak to 22 games, passing the 1935 Chicago Cubs and moving to within four games of the 1916 New York Giants, whose major league record 26-game winning streak has the asterisk of a game that was ruled a tie due to weather. Cleveland was down to their last pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning when shortstop Francisco Lindor hit in an RBI double to tie the score at 2-2. Jose Ramirez hit to right field off Kansas City pitcher Brandon Mauer (2-2) then slid into second base to kick off the bottom of the 10th, and after a walk to Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce hit an RBI double to score Ramirez and win the game.

Cleveland's winning streak began on Aug. 24, and most of their victories had been blowouts. Before Thursday's game, the Indians been ahead in all but five of 189 innings. Peter Weber

September 6, 2017

The Boston Red Sox finally won Tuesday night's game at Fenway Park against the Toronto Blue Jays early Wednesday, when Hanley Ramirez batted in Mookie Betts in the bottom of the 19th inning. The final score was 3-2. About 700 fans stayed to watch all six hours of the game, the longest in Major League Baseball since the Cleveland Indians beat the Blue Jays in 19 innings in 2016. It was also the second-longest game at Fenway, which opened in 1912, The Associated Press reports, following only a 20-inning marathon in 1981 that had to be broken into two parts due to American League curfew rules.

Presumably, the Red Sox weren't illicitly stealing the Toronto catcher's pitch signals using an Apple Watch, a practice they reportedly copped to after the New York Yankees caught them in the act two weeks ago. The Red Sox lead in the American League East and will almost certainly make it to the playoffs. Tuesday night's win ended a three-game losing streak. Peter Weber

August 24, 2017

One of the peculiarities of baseball is that in some of the most memorable games, very little happens. So it was in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill pitched eight perfect innings, until Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer got on base on an error in the bottom of the ninth. Hill still had a no-hitter when the 0-0 game went into extra innings, and then Josh Harrison stepped up to plate in the bottom of the 10th.

Harrison's leadoff homer ended the game and Hill's (9-5) no-hitter, giving Pittsburgh the win and Hill the loss.

According to ESPN's statisticians, Hill still walked away with a record of sorts, albeit one he probably didn't want.

The last perfect game — where a pitcher doesn't allow any runner to reach base — in the major leagues was in 2012, when Seattle's Felix Hernandez shut down Tampa Bay. Los Angeles could have retired Hill after nine innings, but according to The Associated Press, "to get official credit for a no-hitter under Major League Baseball rules, a pitcher must complete the game — going nine innings isn't enough if it goes into extras." Still, cold comfort though it may be, Hill isn't alone in coming close and losing it all, AP notes: "Back in 1959, a Pirates pitcher had perhaps the most famous near-miss of all when Harvey Haddix lost his perfect game and the game itself in the 13th at Milwaukee." Peter Weber

May 30, 2017

In the eighth inning of Monday's game between the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants at San Francisco's AT&T Park, Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland slammed a 98-mph fastball into Bryce Harper's hip, in their first matchup since Harper smacked two home runs off of Strickland in the 2014 MLB playoffs. Harper, and almost everyone else watching, viewed the hit as intentional.

"Strickland hit Harper so hard the ball flew into the air and landed halfway up the first base line, so flush that one could not mistake intent, though of course the perpetrators in these cases rarely admit that they had it planned," writes Chelsea Janes at the Nats' hometown paper, The Washington Post. Harper charged Strickland, throwing his helmet and then throwing punches. "In that situation," Harper said after the game, "you see red."

And in slow-motion:

It isn't clear why Strickland would hold a grudge against Harper for three years, or what perceived injury Harper caused him, especially when the Giants went on to win the 2014 World Series. Strickland denied any retaliatory intent, saying his goal was simply "to go inside." After the punches started flying, "it took four of his own teammates to carry him off the field, one grabbing his leg to render him immobile, removing him from the fray like one might a petulant child," the Post's Janes said. The Nats won the game, 3-0. Peter Weber

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