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What Juan Soto, Nationals rocking Gerrit Cole means for this World Series

With Max Scherzer facing Gerrit Cole in Game 1 of the World Series, we had grand visions of an epic pitchers’ duel between the three-time Cy Young winner and the hottest pitcher on the planet.

We didn’t get that. We got something better: a reminder that as much as we try to script what will happen in a baseball game, you can never predict what will happen in a baseball game.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

The Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros 5-4 in an action-packed thriller Tuesday night, as the two starters combined to allow seven runs and 13 hits over their 12 innings. Juan Soto and George Springer performed heroic feats of strength, and the Nationals’ bullpen huffed and puffed to the end but managed to prevent Washington’s lead from being blown, immediately flipping the script in a World Series in which the Astros entered as the biggest betting favorites since 2007.6

This game will be remembered for 20-year-old super sophomore Soto twice beating Cole in the matchup of the phenom of phenoms against the ace of aces. Soto crushed a 417-foot home run to the opposite field in the fourth inning, then lined a two-run double with two outs — opposite field again — off the wall below the Crawford Boxes in the fifth inning. The first blow tied the score at 2, and the second capped a three-run rally to give the Nationals a 5-2 lead.

The unbeatable Cole, riding a streak of 19 consecutive winning decisions stretching back to May — the Astros hadn’t lost a game started by Cole since July 12 — proved beatable after all. Soto, who hit .188 with seven strikeouts in the Nationals’ sweep in the National League Championship Series, proved why he is too good to go into any extended slump.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Before the game, Astros manager AJ Hinch discussed facing the Nationals’ lineup with a 12-man pitching staff of all right-handed pitchers. “Soto is going to be a big part of this series,” Hinch said. That’s not particularly prescient — Soto, after all, is Washington’s cleanup hitter — but there is little doubt that the Nationals’ lineup needs Soto to produce. The Nats beat the St. Louis Cardinals without him doing much, but they’re unlikely to beat the Astros if he hits .188 again.

Juan Soto getting to Gerrit Cole turned the World Series upside down

This being Texas, it was only fitting that Game 1 of the World Series boiled down to a duel. On the pitcher’s mound stood Gerrit Cole, who isn’t a Texan but sure could pass for one: tall, strong, bearded, long hair, bit of a snarl, fastball that touches 100. His weapon was a baseball. Standing 60 feet, 6 inches away was Juan Soto, the perfect foil, a baby-faced 20-year-old from out east, a charismatic, charming, hip-swiveling boo magnet. His weapon was a bat.

Three times they faced off Tuesday night, and all three distilled baseball in 2019 to its most delectable essence. Power vs. power, brains vs. brains, excellence vs. excellence. Major League Baseball exists for these moments because these moments are of what great World Series are made.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

And to see the final score — Washington Nationals 5, Houston Astros 4 — was to see a facsimile of Cole vs. Soto: incredibly close, eminently compelling, loads of fun and stoking a burning desire for more, more, more. The Nationals stole home-field advantage from the Astros by doing to Cole what no team had done in five months: hand him a loss. Amid that, Soto did to Cole what it no longer seemed any man could: make him look mortal too.

Inside the Nationals’ clubhouse, players, coaches, executives — everyone really — was one-upping one another to lavish praise on Soto. How young he is, how poised he is, how everything he is. Nobody described Soto quite like Johnny DiPuglia, the Nationals vice president of international operations.5

“You don’t see dogs playing checkers,” DiPuglia said, and he was right not just that paws aren’t nearly dexterous enough to move checkers pieces but that Soto is that rare sort of beast, someone unique. And not unique like, hey, let’s call him unique because he is good at something or kind of interesting. No: unique, as in a literal one of a kind.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Soto is bark, bite and double-jumps all in one. He is the only player ever with two seasons of at least 400 at-bats and an on-base percentage of .400 and slugging percentage of .500 before he turned 21. The five others who did it once: Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Al Kaline, Alex Rodriguez. Hall of Famer, Hall of Famer, Hall of Famer, Hall of Famer, Hall of Fame production.

The first-inning showdown between Cole and Soto, then, was quite the production. Since May 22, Cole had pitched 25 times. In those starts, hitters batted .166, posted a .220 OBP and slugged .300. In other words, over 169⅓ innings, Cole made the average hitter he faced perform like Blake Swihart, who hit .163/.222/.304 this season. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Blake Swiharts.

Juan Soto is no Blake Swihart, though Cole treated him as such in the initial at-bat. First pitch: 97.4 mph, down the middle, up in the zone. Soto swung through it. Next pitch: 98.1 mph, another four-seam fastball, up and on the inside corner. Soto took it. Last pitch: 99.1 mph, paint up and away, at which Soto waved. Three high fastballs, three strikes, see ya next time.

Soto vowed next time would be different. He loves the game and the gamesmanship and everything that goes into the pitcher against the hitter. He harkened back to spring training, where the Nationals and Astros share a complex in West Palm Beach, Florida. He steeled himself for Round 2.

Aaron Hicks returns to Yankees’ lineup; Giancarlo Stanton still out vs. Astros

Aaron Hicks returned to the Yankees’ starting lineup Tuesday for the first time since Aug. 3, and Giancarlo Stanton remained out for the second straight game when the AL Championship Series resumed with New York and Houston tied 1-1.

Hicks took over in center field and hit ninth against Houston’s Gerrit Cole in New York’s 4-1 Game 3 loss. Previously sidelined by an injured flexor near his right elbow, Hicks pinch hit for starting left fielder Cameron Maybin in Game 2 and grounded out leading off the 10th inning. He then moved to center.

Limited by injuries to 18 games during the regular season, Stanton homered in the opener and missed Game 2 because of a strained right quadriceps.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“It’s not the best, but I’m able to hit,” Stanton said Tuesday. “We’re at least that far right now. … Time is not on my side right now. Doing what I can.”6

Manager Aaron Boone said Stanton probably would be on the injured list if this were the regular season.

“Kind of called G in right when he got here and just said we’re going to stay away today,” Boone said. “He’s going to get outside and move around a little bit more today — feel like he would be a hitter-off-the-bench option today. And then we’ll kind of see where we are again moving forward, kind of day by day here.”

Stanton said he was encouraged by his pregame workout.

“I just moved around for the first time right now; it’s really going to be a game-time decision,” he said.

Rain is forecast for Wednesday in New York, which could push Game 4 to Thursday.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Brett Gardner moved from center and replaced Stanton in left. Asked what he expected from Hicks, Boone said “a couple homers, walk” and smiled.

“The big question mark is, he hasn’t played in a couple of months, so that’s the challenge,” Boone said.

First baseman DJ LeMahieu lead off, followed by right fielder Aaron Judge, Gardner, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, second baseman Gleyber Torres, shortstop Didi Gregorius, catcher Gary Sanchez, third baseman Gio Urshela and Hicks in center. Luis Severino was on the mound.

Astros’ Gerrit Cole battles past patient Yankees for Game 3 win

Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole did not have his best stuff against the potent New York Yankees offense in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday. He put up nothing but zeros anyway.

Cole went seven often-laborious innings in Houston’s 4-1 win, striking out seven and walking a career-high-tying five batters. But he held New York to just four hits over his seven scoreless frames, extending his streak of starts without a loss to 25, dating back to May 22. That’s the fifth-longest streak without a loss in big league history. But this one wasn’t easy.

“Intense,” Cole said. “Had to battle tonight. I thought their offense did an excellent job working some counts. Fell behind a few guys in a few of the early innings and put us in a tough position [where] we needed to make some pitches, and fortunately we did. Got away with a few mistakes, obviously.”

The Astros took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and reclaimed the home-field advantage they lost when the Yankees won Game 1 7-0 at Minute Maid Park. Cole improved to 3-0 in the postseason with just one run allowed in 22⅔ innings — a 0.40 ERA. His 32 strikeouts during the playoffs are the third most for a pitcher in his first three outings of a postseason, behind Bob Gibson (35, 1968) and Cliff Lee (34, 2010).cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“I think he’s the best pitcher in baseball right now,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. Then remembering Cole’s co-ace in the Astros rotation — Justin Verlander — Hinch added, “His competition is right next to him in the clubhouse. They’re certainly a good pair.5

“Obviously, I’m biased to my guys. But Gerrit is locked in. And to see him do it on the big stage in a playoff game with the magnitude of this game, it was pretty awesome.”

And yet Cole struggled with his command and pitch count for much of the outing. All five of his walks were issued with two outs. The Yankees got multiple runners on base against him in four of his first five innings, stranding nine runners in the process. The five free passes matched the career high he set on June 18, 2018, against the Tampa Bay Rays.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Cole ended up throwing 112 pitches, tied for his third-highest total this season, before turning the ball over to the Houston bullpen.

“I actually think the beginning of the game he had a hard time finding his stuff and finding his tempo, his rhythm,” Hinch said. “He was still getting through his outing, made some really big pitches, had some pressure on him. Then once he found his curveball, it was pretty lights out.”

Cole got Didi Gregorius on a grounder to second with the bases loaded to end the first. He struck out Aaron Judge with two on to end the second. He retired DJ LeMahieu on a fly ball with two on to end the fourth.

But the closest the Yankees game to finally putting up some runs against Cole came in the bottom of the fifth. With two on and two out, Gregorius lifted a high-arching fly ball to right field that backed Astros outfielder Josh Reddick to the fence. But the ball settled into Reddick’s glove, keeping the Yankees scoreless.

Cardinals set postseason record with 10 runs in first inning, reach NLCS

Fans were barely in their seats for the decisive fifth game of the National League Division Series before the St. Louis Cardinals made history, becoming the first team to score 10 runs in the first inning of a postseason game en route to a 13-1 win.

“I’ve never seen that in the postseason,” Cardinals veteran catcher Yadier Molina said after the blowout. “We put the ball in play. We saw the ball better.”

Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz lasted just one-third of an inning before he was pulled with the bases loaded and the home team trailing 4-0.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

“I knew we had him on the ropes,” third baseman Matt Carpenter said. “I’m just trying to take a good at-bat and extend the inning. It felt like we blinked, and it was 10. It happened so fast.”6

Foltynewicz walked Carpenter with the bases loaded, the first of two walks in the inning with three Cardinals on base. Reliever Max Fried didn’t fare much better than the starter, walking Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty to make it 5-0 before allowing a pair of two-run doubles to Dexter Fowler and Kolten Wong.

“One out, bases loaded, second time up in the inning, I’m just trying to put something in play to the outfield,” Fowler said.

When it looked like the Braves finally had the third out on Marcell Ozuna’s strikeout, the ball got away from catcher Brian McCann, who fell down trying to retrieve it, allowing Ozuna to reach and the 10th run to come home.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

The Braves missed a chance to get out of the inning after allowing one run. Freddie Freeman could not field a hard-hit ball that the first baseman could have turned into an inning-ending double play.

Asked after the game how much blame he thinks he should shoulder for the Braves’ elimination, Freeman said “all of it.”

“I didn’t come through,” said Freeman, who matched his hit total in the first four games by going 2-for-4 in Game 5. “I know everybody is going to say what they want to say, but it’s on me.”

Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson had his teammate’s back, saying the Braves would not have reached the postseason without Freeman.

“Freddie Freeman is one of the best players in baseball,” Donaldson said. “You never expect him to make a mistake. The guy has been on point all season long.”

Brian Snitker says Braves will need time to recover from latest playoff flop

One day later, Brian Snitker had shed his uniform but was still wearing the pain of yet another one-and-done postseason exit for the Atlanta Braves.

“It’s going to take me a while to kind of get over this whole thing,” the manager said Thursday.

Snitker and general manager Alex Anthopoulos had no quick explanations for the Braves’ record-tying 10th straight loss in a postseason round. After splitting the first four games of the National League Division Series, the Braves were bowled over and embarrassed in a 13-1 loss to St. Louis in Wednesday’s Game 5.

“You throw that one away,” Anthopoulos said, while adding that the loss was “a tough pill to swallow. … From my standpoint in the front office, we need to turn the page quick.”cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

The Cardinals’ knockout blow was quick and decisive — 10 runs in the first inning.5

“It happened so quick, I don’t think there was anything we could do,” Snitker said.

The Braves have won two straight NL East titles but haven’t won a postseason series since 2001. Atlanta tied the Chicago Cubs’ record for consecutive losses in playoff rounds.

The inability to end that drought hurt more than one year ago, when Atlanta lost to the Dodgers. Management and players believed this team had the talent to play deep into the postseason.

“We weren’t just glad to be here this year,” Snitker said. “There wasn’t a guy in that room just glad to be here.”

Added third baseman Josh Donaldson, who homered in the loss: “I think what is disappointing about it, I feel like all year we played better than we did today.”cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

There could be significant turnover before spring training.

Catcher Brian McCann announced his retirement after the loss. Anthopoulos said the team will try to re-sign Donaldson, the third baseman who will be a free agent.

The Braves have 2020 team options — and face possibly difficult decisions — with starting pitcher Julio Teheran, outfielder Nick Markakis, catcher Tyler Flowers and others.

Reds fire hitting coach Turner Ward after one season

The Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday fired hitting coach Turner Ward after just one season.

The Reds were a disappointment on offense in 2018, finishing 12th in the National League in runs scored (701), OPS (.736) and on-base percentage (.315) and 10th in slugging percentage (.422).nfl cheap jerseys nike

“Speaking for the organization, I want to thank Turner for the work he put in on our behalf,” Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. “As we reflected on this season, it became clear that we lacked the alignment we were seeking with our offensive approach.”4

The 54-year-old Ward had joined the Reds in 2018 after working as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ hitting coach the previous three seasons.
“Turner is a friend. He worked extremely hard and put in a lot of time and effort working with our hitters. He built relationships here, and he will be missed,” manager David Bell said, according to MLB.com.

Bell said that assistant hitting coach Donnie Ecker will remain on his staff. The team will begin searching for Ward’s replacement, as well as a replacement for minor league hitting coordinator Milt Thompson, who also was not retained.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“We’re putting the process in place of getting all of that working together and aligned,” Bell said, according to MLB.com. “That is something our organization has really identified as important to us. We need it. Of course, players are in a different point in their development between the major leagues and minor leagues. But it just all has to work together.”

The Reds (75-87) finished fourth in the National League Central this season.

Braves’ Dallas Keuchel to face Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas in Game 1

Braves left-hander Dallas Keuchel will face Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday night.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Each team announced its starting pitcher on Tuesday.6

Keuchel, who has nine career postseason starts, went 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 19 starts after signing a one-year deal with Atlanta. He will face the Cardinals for the first time since 2016.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Mikolas was 9-14 with a 4.17 ERA in 32 starts for the Cardinals. He will make his postseason debut.

Brewers seal playoff spot, eliminating Cubs, Mets

The Milwaukee Brewers continued their scorching September with their 19th win of the month Wednesday, clinching a postseason berth and eliminating both the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs in the process.

The Brewers’ 9-2 victory at Cincinnati brought the team to 88-70, a far cry from Sept. 5, when Milwaukee was only three games over .500 — with the same 71-68 record as the Mets and five games behind the Cubs for the National League’s second wild-card spot.

But despite losing MVP candidate Christian Yelich to a fractured kneecap Sept. 10, the Brewers have won 17 of their past 19 games to secure a playoff spot in consecutive years for just the second time in franchise history.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“I’m sure a lot of people wrote us off and said we couldn’t do it for numerous reasons,” he said. “Like I said, we believed the talent in this room, the kind of guys that we have and just the culture we’ve built and continue to build here. Really proud of all these guys. They’ve done an incredible job especially on the run that we have in September.”6

Maddon’s future with the Cubs remains uncertain with his contract set to expire, but pitcher Jon Lester said the manager’s critics should consider his full tenure with the ballclub.

“I can’t say enough positives about what Joe has done, flat out for this organization,” Lester said. “Up until this year we led MLB in wins. That’s a testament to him. We broke a 108-year curse. No matter what happens, if he continues here, it’s gravy. If he doesn’t, he should be revered as a legend in this town for a long, long time.”

The Mets could not keep up the pace that saw them win 15 of 16 games in July and August, and they will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season despite increasing their win total over the past two years, from 70 in 2017 to 77 in 2018 to 83 so far this year.

“It’s tough, but I thought we played pretty good baseball down the stretch to stay in it,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “Obviously, Milwaukee was just off the charts and nobody was catching them.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Mets relievers’ ERA of 5.01 is the sixth-worst in the majors this year, continuing a trend. Since making the World Series in 2015, the Mets have posted the fourth-worst relief ERA in MLB at 4.58, after compiling a 3.40 ERA in 2015.

“I guess now the fat lady’s singing,” said Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who hit his 51st home run Wednesday to pull within one of Aaron Judge’s rookie record. “It’s unfortunate, but we came back so awesome and the way we went about our business is spectacular. So it’s bittersweet, if I had to put it shortly. When we finally put it together for a full 162, it’s going to be scary.”

The Brewers will join the Cardinals, Braves, Nationals and Dodgers in the National League field this year, but they still have a chance to win the division, at just 1½ games behind St. Louis with four games to play.

Maddon: Don’t care if Cubs’ lineup irks Brewers

The Chicago Cubs will have a say in the NL Central race after all — albeit as spoilers only.

The Cubs finish their regular season this weekend in St. Louis, where the first-place Cardinals are holding on to a one-game lead on the surging Milwaukee Brewers.

Already eliminated from the postseason this week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked if he’ll play his regular lineup against the Cards.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“We’re going to put a good team out there, but of course they’re going to bitch,” Maddon said with a laugh. “Of course they are. I get it. But quite frankly, there are certain things I don’t give a s— about. And that would be one of them.”5

Cubs pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish have been shut down, and stars Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez are all nursing injuries. Righty Alec Mills will start Friday’s series opener against Dakota Hudson, and Cole Hamels is slated to pitch a few innings Saturday against Cards starter Miles Mikolas. Hamels has been out with a sore shoulder and is only pitching to prove he’s healthy entering free agency.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“This is the first time I’m going into free agency and I don’t want that in the back of team’s heads,” Hamels said.

The Cubs haven’t announced a starter for Sunday and could just go with a “bullpen game.” Maddon says his team will still compete; it just won’t be with many of the regulars.

“I will put out the guys that I think are the appropriate guys to play based on what’s good for our people, not for their people,” he said. “But we’re going to put a good team out there, regardless.”

The Brewers complete their regular season in Colorado, having already clinched at least a wild-card spot. The Cardinals, who swept a four-game series against the Cubs last weekend, also have locked up at least a wild card.

Entering Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago had lost eight straight.