Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed until Thursday, MLB has announced.

At the time of the decision shortly before midday (local time) on Wednesday, the weather forecast called for 100 per cent chance of rain in New York.

New York Harbor is under a gale warning and nearby areas are under a flash flood watch and a coastal flood advisory.

The change means Game 5 is pushed back to Friday, previously a scheduled off-day.

If required, the series will return to Houston for Games 6 and 7 on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

The Astros took a 2-1 lead in the series with Tuesday's 4-1 victory in New York, with the winner to face the Washington Nationals, who have closed out a sweep of the St Louis Cardinals.

The World Series is set to begin next Tuesday in either Houston or New York.

Joe Maddon and the Los Angeles Angels have seemed destined for a reunion for weeks and it all became official Wednesday. 

The Angels announced they have hired Maddon to replace Brad Ausmus as manager. ESPN reported Maddon, who turns 66 in February, will receive a three-year deal worth between $4-5 million a year. 

The reunion is no surprise, as Maddon spent his entire professional life in the Angels organisation before moving on to manage Tampa Bay in 2006. 

He signed with the franchise as a minor league catcher in 1975 and held a variety of roles throughout the system before ascending to the major league coaching staff in 1994. Maddon served as interim manager of the Angels in 1996 and 1999 and was Mike Scioscia's right-hand man as the bench coach from 2000-05 before leaving to take over the downtrodden Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Maddon quickly became a star in Tampa Bay, leading the franchise that had never before had a winning record to the World Series in 2008 before eventually moving on to guide the Cubs to their first title in 108 years in 2016. 

He has a 1,252-1,068 career record (.540), and only Terry Francona (1,667) has more wins among active managers. 

"We are thrilled that Joe is coming back home and bringing an exciting brand of baseball to our fans," general manager Billy Eppler said in a statement. 

"Every stop he has made throughout his managerial career he has built a culture that is focused on winning, while also allowing his players to thrive. We believe Joe will be a great asset for our club and look forward to him leading the team to another World Series championship."

The Angels fired Ausmus on September, 30 after just one season in which he went 72-90. USA Today reported Buck Showalter was the other finalist for the position. 

Max Scherzer was delighted to have proven the critics wrong as the Washington Nationals reached the MLB World Series for the first time with a 7-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

The win completed a 4-0 sweep for the Nationals, who face the winner of the Houston Astros and New York Yankees in the showpiece, the former leading 2-1 in the American League Championship Series.

In-form Washington scored seven runs in the first inning with RBIs from Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Yan Gomes, before Patrick Corbin's 12 strikeouts seeing them through.

Remarkably, the Nationals held a 19-31 record in May, prompting speculation around the future of manager Dave Martinez and Scherzer, who was rumoured to be on the trade block, but the veteran pitcher was confident the team's experienced heads would steady the ship.

"We knew we were going to be the oldest team in the league," Scherzer said.

"Everyone said that was a negative. We looked at it as a positive.

"I'm one of the old guys and old guys can still play. I think the older guys bring a lot of value to the clubhouse. The experience we bring, the emotions we bring... all that helps."

The Nationals have been a hard-luck story in playoffs over the years but general manager Mike Rizzo, who has been with the franchise for over a decade, always kept the faith in Washington.

"I think every year we're going to the World Series," he said on the field post-game.

"We've been in the playoffs five times in eight years and have won more games than any team in the majors except the [Los Angeles] Dodgers in that time.

"So, every year we head to spring training expecting to win the World Series. Get to the playoffs and you've got a puncher's chance."

The Washington Nationals will feature in their first MLB World Series after topping the St Louis Cardinals 7-4 in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

Tuesday's victory over the Cardinals secured a NLCS sweep for the high-flying Nationals.

Thanks to an early surge of offense and some excellent work on the mound, the Nationals were able to see off the Cardinals 4-0.

Washington will now await the winner of the Houston Astros-New York Yankees series as they chase their title dreams.

 

Here are three takeaways from the Nationals' win:

Nationals got the ball rolling early

It is no secret that Washington's offense have been on fire lately, but nobody expected them to explode like they did in the first inning of this critical closeout game. The Nationals scored all seven of their runs in the first inning thanks to RBIs from Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Yan Gomes. Then they coasted from there.

Even after amassing so many early runs, Washington kept fighting for more even though they ultimately could not add to their lead. The Nationals only struck out seven times in the contest after forcing St Louis to yank their starter Dakota Hudson after he recorded just one out.

Washington's pitching was on another level

The Nationals' starters have been phenomenal in the postseason as of late, and Patrick Corbin picked up right where Stephen Strasburg left off on Tuesday. Corbin notched 12 strikeouts through five innings just one day after Strasburg tallied 12 of his own against the Cardinals.

Corbin still gave up four runs in his showing, but Tanner Rainey, Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson kept St Louis scoreless for the remainder of the contest. Washington's rotation held the Cardinals to five hits in the game and only allowed them to score 1.5 runs per game in the series. Consistently being able to limit the opponent's offense made Washington's road to the World Series significantly less difficult.

Top of St Louis' order continued to struggle

The Cardinals needed big contributions from their heavy hitters to avoid elimination, and they still did not get that in Game 4 of the NLCS. The first six men in St Louis' batting order combined for three hits and 11 strikeouts. While this group did account for all four of the Cardinals' runs, three of the players were held hitless — including Paul Goldschmidt, who failed to record a hit in either of the last two games.

St Louis' top six did not capitalise on opportunities while generating nearly 70 per cent of the team's at-bats and the rest made the most of what they had. When it is all said and done, big-time players have to make big-time plays. That did not happen for the Cardinals.

Gerrit Cole threw seven shut-out innings as the Houston Astros took a 2-1 American League Championship Series lead over the New York Yankees with a 4-1 win.

The Yankees missed multiple opportunities as the Astros jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 3 on Tuesday, but Cole capitalised when required as he struck out seven on 112 pitches, allowing four hits and five walks.

Houston added two runs at the top of the seventh to seal it, with the Yankees' only response coming in the bottom of the eighth inning when Gleyber Torres scored on a solo shot at Yankee Stadium.

Neither side won on the road when these teams met in the 2017 ALCS, but there have already been two away wins in this series.

 

Three takeaways from the Astros' Game 3 ALCS win over the Yankees

Gary Sanchez's biggest problem resurfaces

Gary Sanchez had a tough time on Tuesday as passed ball issues of 2017 and 2018 resurfaced. With the bases loaded and the Yankees down 2-0 in the top of the seventh, Sanchez did not get in front of a Zack Britton sinker and it looked destined for the backstop and a run for the Astros. The ball hit umpire Kerwin Danley, stopped and looked like it was going to be OK. But Britton threw the exact same pitch on his next delivery and Sanchez was not as lucky. Jose Altuve scored and made the game 3-0.

Juiced ball no more

There are rumours that MLB changed the ball this offseason and we think Didi Gregorius would agree. And so would Martin Maldonado as he hit a ball that likely would have been a home run just one half-inning later. 

Watch either of these fly balls and it is hard to think they do not go out during the regular season. The post-season has changed because of it.

Weather on the 1's

The weather could prove to be a factor for the remainder of this series.

There is currently a 100 percent chance of rain for Wednesday's Game 4 at Yankee Stadium. The Astros have a bullpen day scheduled for this game, but if rain does delay it then they may go with Zack Greinke midweek.

That would move up Justin Verlander to pitch in Game 5 and Gerrit Cole again in Game 6. The Yankees are probably praying for this game not to be rained out because facing a rookie in Jose Urquidy in this one has to feel good for New York.

As of Tuesday night, MLB has yet to announce any changes to this game's schedule.

The Washington Nationals are on the verge of a MLB World Series berth after easing past the St Louis Cardinals 8-1 in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

Washington lead the NLCS 3-0 and are one win away from a trip to the World Series following Monday's victory.

The Cardinals' backs are against the wall, and they have little time to turn things around.

 

Here are three takeaways from Washington's win:

Strasburg was electric

Stephen Strasburg was flat-out dominant against St Louis. The right-handed ace threw a season-high 117 pitches and struck out 12 batters in seven innings of work. He mowed down the Cardinals with his off-speed pitches consistently as they tried to anticipate his choices all night.

St Louis' lone run against Strasburg came after Juan Soto slipped while trying to make a throw from the outfield and missed the cut-off man. This mistake snapped the Nationals starters' streak of more than 20 innings without giving up a score in the series.

The Cardinals tallied seven hits on the night and only one was an extra-base hit. That is what good pitching can do.

Washington's "old guys" made a big difference

The Nationals have a host of seasoned veterans on their roster, including 36-year-old Howie Kendrick and 35-year-old Ryan Zimmerman. Both had impressive performances in Game 3. Kendrick went three for four with three RBIs on three doubles while Zimmerman went two for four with two RBIs. Max Scherzer could not have been more right when he said "old guys can still do it," last week.

Washington's experience could prove to be vital again in Game 4 on Tuesday, and sweeping the Cardinals will give them more recovery time as they prepare for a World Series push.

Cardinals' stars failed to show up

It is easy to see no Cardinals player had a great showing when the box score shows zero RBIs, but too many of their top performers had no impact on the game offensively. Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong and Dexter Fowler went a combined 0 for 12 against the Nationals. 

Goldschmidt and Fowler combined for seven strikeouts in their eight at-bats and unfortunate performances like that will almost always lead to defeat.

The top of the Cardinals' line-up will have to be better and create some momentum if the team hope to put up a fight against Washington.

Carlos Correa's walk-off homer in the 11th inning led the Houston Astros past the New York Yankees 3-2 in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.

Correa broke a tie with the Yankees in extra innings as the Astros levelled the ALCS on Sunday.

 

Here are three takeaways from the Astros' win over the Yankees

Astros found their bats

New York outhit Houston 13-3 in Game 1, but the Astros did a much better job making contact on Sunday. Houston notched seven hits against the Yankees this time. After being held scoreless on Friday, Houston scored two runs, via a George Springer home run and a Carlos Correa RBI through the first nine innings.

But the Astros' biggest hit of the contest came in the 11th inning as Correa drove in the game-winning run with a walk-off solo shot.

Houston only tallied one more hit than the Yankees, but that is a big turnaround from the 10-hit deficit they faced in Game 1.

Verlander bounced back in a big way

Justin Verlander got drilled by the Tampa Bay Rays on three days' rest in the American League Division Series last week. After urging the team to let him start against Tampa Bay, he forked up four runs in 3.6 innings in his team's loss, allowing the Rays to tie the series at 2-2. But he brought much better stuff in Game 2 against the Yankees.

Verlander gave up five hits and two runs in 6.6 innings but had better movement on his pitches, notching seven strikeouts. Only New York's Aaron Judge was able to take him deep with a two-run shot in the fourth inning. The ace's momentum should help his confidence as the postseason progresses. 

Houston could've done a lot more damage

The Astros scored the third-most runs (920) in MLB this season and it is only a matter of time before they capitalise more on their scoring opportunities.

Houston was among the MLB leaders in runners left on base per game in 2019, averaging 7.15 per contest. But they more than tripled that on Sunday, as the Astros left 22 runners on base against New York.

The Astros have consistently struggled to live up to their potential offensively in the postseason, and they cannot afford to continue doing that at this point.

Giancarlo Stanton is considered day-to-day with a strained right quad, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced.

Cameron Maybin will replace Stanton in the starting line-up for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros on Sunday.

Stanton suffered the injury as the Yankees won the ALCS opener 7-0 on Saturday.

"He kind of injured his quad last night … he didn't feel like he was good to start," Boone said. "We hope it's something that with today and the off day, he would be back to play for Game 3."

Stanton, who played only 18 games this MLB season because of injuries, suffered the strain running to first base on his first hit against the Astros.

He later homered off Astros starter Zack Greinke in the Yankees' dominant win over the Astros.

Boone said Stanton would be available as a pinch hitter or in an emergency situation for Game 2.

If the Yankees opt to replace Stanton on their ALCS roster, he would be ineligible for the World Series should the team advance.

The New York Yankees drew first blood after shutting out the Houston Astros 7-0 in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

Masahiro Tanaka dealt, Gleyber Torres dominated and Houston made mistakes in the ALCS opener on Saturday.

Now the Astros turn to Justin Verlander for Game 2 with hopes of stopping the bleeding in the MLB playoffs.

The Yankees counter with James Paxton.

 

Three takeaways from the Yankees' ALCS Game 1 win over the Astros

Inexcusable

Every single out in this series could matter. It may very well be a sweep by the Yankees, but if it goes how everyone thinks it will, this could be a very long and drawn out series. Taking that into account, Alex Bregman cannot make the mistake he made in the fifth inning of Game 1.

And let's make this clear, yes, Aaron Judge produced a great play reeling in a line-drive shot off the bat of Yordan Alvarez, but Bregman was absolutely in the wrong here. On the play in question with Houston down 1-0, Alvarez hit a line drive to right with Bregman on first base. It might have looked like a hit, but it was not a sure thing. Bregman took his lead off first and did not go halfway. He looked like he was trying to get a head start on getting to third, but Judge caught the ball.

Yes, Bregman slipped on his way getting back but he was way too far off the base in the first place. Judge then caught Bregman with relative ease to double him up at first and the Astros' chance was over.

Bregman is an MVP candidate, but that was not an MVP play. And the Yankees did win this game by seven runs, but in a one-run game, that mistake is inexcusable.

Did you hear? Gleyber Torres is 22

We poke a little bit of fun here because it would seem that every single Twitter account has 22 written in massive numbers next to Gleyber Torres' name and it is required to mention it every time he breathes. But what he has done this postseason is incredibly impressive regardless of his age.

Torres drove in five runs in Game 1 and now has nine runs batted in in during the 2019 playoffs. It cannot be ignored how good he has been this postseason and he only has a little way to go before he catches up with Juan Soto who is 20. Get that? He is 20.

Again, we joke. Torres has been awesome and he deserves a ton of credit for the Yankees' success.

We told you this could happen

When Masahiro Tanaka was announced as the Game 1 starter for the Yankees some people were surprised. We were not. Tanaka has been lights out in his postseason career and he has been doubly as good against the Astros.

Coming into Game 1, Tanaka had a 2.00 ERA (four runs in 18 innings) in three career playoff starts against the Astros. He had given up just two runs over his previous 13 innings against them. The Astros struggle against him and it is not surprising at all that he gave up just one hit and no runs in six innings of work in Game 1.

The Astros tend to struggle against men who really know how to pitch. That is why they struggled with Charlie Morton this year and David Price last year, but they got to guys like Tyler Glasnow and Chris Sale. If a pitcher knows how to work the corners and keep guys off balance the Astros can struggle. That is exactly why they had issues with Tanaka and likely will again in a potential Game 5.

Former World Series champion and MVP David Freese announced his retirement from MLB after 11 seasons.

Freese, 36, called it quits on Saturday following the Los Angeles Dodgers' National League Division Series loss to the Washington Nationals.

"Family friends, team-mates, coaches, and fans that handed out support especially when your lives were already full, you helped me more than you know," Freese wrote in a statement via Twitter,

"You took a 23-year-old kid out of college and pushed him to 36 ... As I more forward with the next phase of my life, I am forever grateful to all of you and the game of baseball."

Freese made his debut with the St Louis Cardinals in 2009 and is best known for his dominant performance in the 2011 postseason, where he hit .397 with five homers and a playoff record 21 RBIs.

He won NL Championship Series and World Series MVP for the Cardinals, hitting the game-tying triple and walk-off home run in Game 6 of the World Series to help St Louis capture their 11th championship.

Over the course of his career, Freese played for the Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates and most recently the Dodgers, where he hit .315 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs in 79 games this season.

Freese – an All-Star in 2012 – finishes his career with 113 home runs, 535 RBIs and a slash line of .277/.351/.423.

The Washington Nationals are in control of the National League Championship Series after defeating the St Louis Cardinals 3-1 in Game 2.

Washington will return to the American capital with a 2-0 lead thanks to Saturday's victory in St Louis.

Max Scherzer did not give up a hit until the seventh inning, while Adam Eaton plated two with a double in the top of the eighth to all but put the game away.

Now, the Nationals send another ace to the mound in Stephen Strasburg – who is coming off two great starts against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

The Cardinals will counter with their ace Jack Flaherty in the MLB playoffs.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' Game 2 NLCS win over the Cardinals

Where has all the hitting gone?

The Cardinals have forgotten how to hit. There is no nicer way to put it. It took St Louis 7.6 innings in Game 1 to get a hit and they had just one in nine innings. Then in Game 2 on Saturday, they took six innings to register their first hit once again. But the failures do not stop there. Even in St Louis' 13-1 win against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the NLDS, the Cardinals had their struggles. They failed to tally a single hit over the final five innings of that game.

Now, the question here is, should we have seen this coming? That is a hard declaration to make. However, St Louis were 23rd in MLB in hits and batting average this season and 19th in runs scored. Hitting was not the team's strong suit, so they were bound to have some struggles against a Nationals team that were eighth in baseball in hits allowed and seventh in opponents' on-base percentage.

But one thing the Cardinals can hang their hat on is they are not alone in not being able to hit Scherzer in Anibal Sanchez. While going five innings over the first two games of a postseason series is bad, the Boston Red Sox did the same thing in the 2013 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. What is amazing about that though is it was the same two pitchers in Scherzer and Sanchez. You cannot make this stuff up.

The postseason isn't always about the stars

Bucky Dent, Geoff Blum, Steve Pearce and David Eckstein. Absolutely none of these men are household names but every single one of them had an impact on postseason series, and sometimes World Series as Pearce and Eckstein were named MVPs of the Fall Classic.

Michael A. Taylor was supposed to be the Nationals' next big thing a little more than five years ago, but injuries and poor performance got him passed up by Victor Robles. But with Robles' injury in the NLDS this year, Taylor was thrust into a starting role and boy did he make use of it in Game 2. Taylor smacked a home run off Adam Wainwright in the third inning to open up the scoring and give the Nationals some early confidence on the road.

He went two for four in the game. And yes, he made a defensive mistake in the bottom of the eighth, but it ultimately did not hurt the team too bad.

Taylor also was a mini hero at the end of the NLDS when he made a wonderful diving catch to end the series. Taylor might not be getting paid $200million when he possibly becomes a free agent after the 2020 season, but this performance could earn him a decent payday when he gets his chance.

Turn back the clock

To say Adam Wainwright's performance this postseason has been a revelation is far from hyperbole. After tossing 7.6 innings of shut-out ball in Game 3 of the NLDS, he turned around and worked into the eighth inning again in Game 2 of the NLCS on Saturday.

This is the guy who was throwing 83 mph when coming back from a rash of injuries over the last few years. He is the guy who pitched 28 innings in 2015, 40.3 innings in 2018 and 123.3 innings in 2017. He is 38 years old. And while he was OK this year breaking the 170-inning mark and posting an ERA of 4.19, it is pretty fair to ask where this came from.

But we are not complaining. This was a reminder of the guy who struck out Carlos Beltran to send the Cardinals to the World Series and the man who was on the mound when St Louis beat the Tigers to clinch a championship. This has been fun to watch and we are here to thank Mr. Wainwright because we enjoyed every minute.

Anibal Sanchez threatened to earn a slice of history as the Washington Nationals beat the St Louis Cardinals 2-0 in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Friday.

The Nationals starter tossed 7 2/3 no-hitting innings and came within four outs of recording the third no-hitter in postseason history.

It was not meant to be as Jose Martinez singled to center to break up the no-hit bid, but it was the exact start the Nationals needed to go up 1-0 in the series.

Washington upset the Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the NLCS for the first time in their history and will now send Max Scherzer to the mound for Game 2 on Saturday.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' win over the Cardinals in NLCS Game 1

Anibal Sanchez gave the Nationals what they needed

When thinking about particular pitching matchups in the NLCS, Cardinals fans likely circled Sanchez's name.

The 35-year-old is the one pitcher in the Nationals rotation that can be looked at as a potential weak link. Add the fact Daniel Hudson was on paternity leave for Game 1 and this felt like a chance for St Louis to both get a win and even possibly give the Nationals' bullpen some hell without one of their better relievers back there.

But Sanchez is a wily vet and the perfect example of experience in the postseason. Pitchers like CC Sabathia and Adam Wainwright on paper seem like guys who should be vulnerable in a big spot at an older age, but in actuality, they use their experience to make things happen and get big outs.

Sanchez did that and then some before handing the ball off to Sean Doolittle in the eighth inning.

Andrew Miller vs. the three-batter minimum

Baseball is all about matchups. A good pitching staff against a great lineup, a big-time closer against the heart of the order and a LOOGY against a dominant left-handed bat. These matchups are what make the game great as any one of them can determine the outcome of a game.

In Game 1 of the NLCS, Andrew Miller came in to get one batter out. He was called upon to get left-haded hitting 20-year-old Juan Soto out. What happened next was an intense battle that went to a full count and resulted in Miller giving Soto his absolute best slider and sitting him down on strikes.

But after this year, this will not happen ever again because MLB has instituted a three-batter minimum. No more will be the days of the LOOGY and Miller will never get the chance to take on Soto in a high-intensity at-bat in a critical moment. Baseball is the worse for it.

Yan Gomes trade: Worth it

When the Nationals acquired Yan Gomes for two prospects in the offseason the storyline was more focused on the Cleveland Indians getting rid of payroll than it was on Washington getting a solid player, but Game 1 reminded us that Gomes is not just a trade piece, he is an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and a solid defensive catcher.

While Gomes was not great in his first season with the Nationals, he was thrust into a starting role after Kurt Suzuki was hit by a pitch on the hand and helmet in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Gomes made the most of it, going 2 for 3 with a walk and drove in the first run of the game on a double in the second inning.

If the Nationals are to go on to win this series, that is a big moment for the team. Gomes got them going and made an impact when it mattered even if he had his struggles. Often, success in the postseason can make people forget a player at his worst. Pablo Sandoval got a massive contract almost solely off playoff success.

Gomes made an impact when the Nationals needed him to. So for at least one night, acquiring him was completely worth it.

The New York Yankees are going with Masahiro Tanaka in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros, manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Friday.

Tanaka gets the nod for Saturday's MLB ALCS opener over Cy Young contender Luis Severino and James Paxton, who the Yankees picked up for the postseason.

But Tanaka's call looks appropriate as he has a career 1.54 ERA in six career postseason starts.

Two of those starts came against the Astros in the 2017 ALCS. In that series, Tanaka allowed two runs in 13 innings pitched.

However, the decision not to start Paxton or Severino could be a costly one. Both have great success against the Astros as well along with better fastballs which have given Houston trouble this year.

Severino, however, is just 1-1 against the Astros in the playoffs, allowing four runs in 8.6 innings of work in the ALCS in 2017 and Paxton is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA against Houston in 2019.

Paxton has a lot of past success against the Astros, including a 2018 with the Seattle Mariners in which he went 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA, but that apparently is not enough to earn the series-opening start against the American League West champions.

The Astros will counter with Zack Greinke in Game 1 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The final two matchups of the first three games will be Justin Verlander against James Paxton and Gerrit Cole versus Luis Severino.

 

The Houston Astros have advanced to the ALCS for the third consecutive season after a 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays had forced game five on Tuesday after levelling the series at 2-2, but had no answer to Gerrit Cole's dominant display in the decider.

Cole tossed eight innings of one-run baseball allowing two hits, one walk and striking out 10 for Houston to guide his team to a comfortable win.

The Astros got to Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow early in the first, scoring three runs before Tampa even recorded one out. Houston plated four in the first frame when it was all said and done and never looked back.

Houston moves on to the American League Championship Series for the third straight season where they will host the New York Yankees in game one, as they aim for a second World Series appearance in three years.


Three takeaways from Astros' win over the Rays in ALDS Game 5 Cole is absolutely unreal

Seriously.

Cole has arguably been the best pitcher in MLB all season and is definitely the best in the post-season right now. Over his two starts in the ALDS, Cole pitched 15 2/3 innings allowing one run on six hits all while striking out 25 Rays hitters. His 2019 postseason ERA now clocks in at 0.57. 

The UCLA product also struck out 10+ batters for the 11th straight start, per MLB.com.

Cole's 25 strikeouts are also the most by an Astros pitcher in a single postseason series.


Houston wore down Tampa Bay's pitching

The 2019 Astros aren't just one of best hitting teams in MLB this season, they're one of the best hitting teams ever and while Tampa's pitching was dominant all year, Houston's hitters finally wore it down.

 

After dropping the first two games of the series, the Rays' pitching staff buckled down and allowed just four runs over games three and four. Heading into Thursday's decider, manager Kevin Cash said everybody was available in Tampa's bullpen, including former Cy Young winner Blake Snell.

However, it didn't matter much as the Astros struck early, plating four runs in the first off Glasnow. Houston's hitters even got to Tampa's lights-out bullpen as Emilio Pagan allowed back-to-back home runs to lead off the eighth inning, which all but sealed the game.
 

José Altuve comes up big once again

If it already wasn't evident, Altuve is really, really good.

Houston's second baseman went 2 for 4 at the plate including an RBI single in the first to get the Astros on the board, and a home run in the eighth to help seal the deal.

The 29-year-old's 11 career postseason homers are the most by a second baseman all time and are tied with teammate George Springer for the most in Astros' history, per MLB.com.

Altuve's stellar performance at the plate Thursday not only added to an illustrious postseason career for the Venezuelan native, but helped the Astros' post-season dominance continue.

The MLB season is beyond heating up. It's all full force and drama, including a crazy day on Wednesday in which one game was over before the second out was recorded and another required extra innings.

Not all the focus has been on the action, though, as one coach was fired in MLB on Thursday while another was let go in the NFL on Monday.

And the drama continues with the Cleveland Browns, as it has all year long.

All that and more on this week in US Sports.

 

1. NLCS set

The National League Championship Series is set, and if you managed to work out the teams involved, you either really know your baseball or you took a crazy guess and happened to be right.

The two participants without home-field advantage won both Game 5's on Wednesday; the Cardinals defeated the Braves 13-1 and the Nationals beat the Dodgers 7-3 in extra innings.

In the matchup between the Braves and the Cardinals, St. Louis scored seven runs before Atlanta recorded a second out in the first inning, and when the dust finally settled on the frame, the Cardinals held a 10-0 lead they were never close to letting get away.

As for the Dodgers and the Nationals, Los Angeles opened a 3-0 lead in the early going, but thanks to back-to-back home runs from Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto off Clayton Kershaw in the seventh, Washington tied the game and forced extra innings.

Howie Kendrick then smacked a grand slam off Joe Kelly with no outs in the 10th and the game was over and done with. And now, in an odd playoff scenario, the Cardinals will have home-field advantage over the Nationals despite having a worse record in the regular season. Why? Because they won their division while the Nationals were the wild-card winner.

 

2. Gruden fired by Redskins, Tomlin not thinking about job

Jay Gruden was fired by the Washington Redskins after an 0-5 start to the season and made sure everyone knew on his way out that he did not have the kind of say he wanted with the team.

"At the end of the day, if you're not the GM, you have to accept the fact that you don't get everything you want," Gruden told ESPN. "You accept the players given to you. I had input in some areas, but there are some major issues there. It is that way with most coaches. You don't have that total say. It's something you have to overcome and work with the guys you have."

After that a rumour emerged that Redskins owner Dan Snyder was interested in Mike Tomlin for the open job, but the Pittsburgh Steelers coach did not seem too worried about his current job when questioned by the media.

"I am not worried about that, to be quite honest with you. You're the first person to mention it to me in a public setting," he said.

Tomlin continued: "Guys, look: I'm the head coach of a 1-4 football team that’s going on the road to play a Hall of Fame-calibre quarterback with my third quarterback. You think I'm worried about anything this week other than that?"

 

3. Phillies fire Gabe Kapler

The Phillies technically got better this year, going 81-81 after going 80-82 in manager Gabe Kapler's first season at the helm in 2018, but that improvement was not enough as Philadelphia announced it had fired the skipper on Thursday.

"Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city," owner John Middleton said in a statement. "I will never waver from that commitment.

"During the second half of this season and continuing into this week, I have evaluated our organization extensively, a process that included talking to many people both internally and around the league. Reassuring to me was the endorsement that people outside the Phillies gave to the progress we have made recently, both organizationally and on the field.

"Nevertheless, with the knowledge that I have gained from my evaluation, combined with my personal reflection on the 2019 season, I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective."

It is unclear who is next in line for the Phillies, but the team is reportedly after a manager with previous experience. In that case, a guy like Brad Ausmus could be an option after he was fired by the Angels.

 

4. More drama in Cleveland

Well, it's a day of the week, so that means there is drama with the Cleveland Browns.

After the 49ers crushed the Browns on "Monday Night Football", San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman told NFL Network's Michael Silver he was upset with Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield for not shaking his hand in pre-game warmups.

But upon further review, Mayfield did shake Sherman's hand. The cornerback then said it was a petty handshake that ticked him off and has now said he will apologise to Mayfield.

Just another day in Cleveland.

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