Masahiro Tanaka and Gleyber Torres lead Yankees to Game 1 win
The ALCS is certainly the more exciting of the two League Championship Series, at least in terms of total talent on the field. That’s not a slight at the National League side of the bracket, but Houston and New York are among the top two or three most talented teams in all of baseball. As a neutral observer, there was a lot to be excited about with a potentially classic series. Except, well, you wouldn’t know that if you watched Game One. Masahiro Tanaka, an underrated big-game performer in his career, was incredible against this scary Houston lineup. He got a little bit of help from the Astros, but Tanaka was undeniably in charge for this entire game. The righty ended up tossing six scoreless innings on just one hit and one walk, with his command impeccable throughout the outing. On the other side, Zack Greinke was solid for much of his outing, but New York got to him a few times for three runs over six innings before smoking the bullpen in the late innings. Gleyber Torres was the star of the Yankees offense, but it was an all-around win for New York in Houston to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Sox Spin: I hated watching this a lot. Sports has a funny way of making you honestly confront how you feel about certain matchups. I came into this series definitely rooting against the Yankees, but I really didn’t think I felt that strongly about it. I’m very much not a fan of the Astros, either. As this game was happening, though, I was getting much more upset than I anticipated with each positive development for the Yankees. I don’t expect many people to relate as most were already rooting hard against New York, but, well, this was my experience. As for a more broad and shared feeling, it was hard to watch this game and not fear the future with Gleyber Torres in this rivalry.
Max Scherzer dominates as Nationals take control of NLCS
The Nationals took the first game of the NLCS on the road in St. Louis thanks to a dominant performance from Aníbal Sánchez in which he flirted with a no-hitter. The Nationals took the second game of the NLCS on the road in St. Louis thanks to a dominant performance from Max Scherzer in which he flirted with a no-hitter. Scherzer’s bid didn’t last as long as Sánchez’s, but he was just as dominant and the Cardinals offense was ultimately just as stagnant. There was no doubt Washington had the starting pitching advantage in this series, and that is coming to fruition here. The Nats didn’t exactly crush Adam Wainwright on the other side of the action, but their three runs were enough to take a 3-1 win. Washington now heads back home with a 2-0 series advantage, and they still haven’t used a guy in Stephen Strasburg who could arguably be their best pitcher. Things are looking good in our nation’s capital.
Sox Spin: This is another one about rooting interest, because I’m not sure how much the Red Sox themselves can gain from this series. Still, if the main takeaway from the LCS matchups is that you clearly want the National League team to ultimately win the World Series (and, if you’re like me, clearly want the Nationals to be that team), then this is about as good a start as you can hope for. The best bet for that is for the NL team to come out of a short series and have time to rest up while the Yankees and Astros drag themselves to seven games. Now, the Astros have to do their part.
Potential major opioid scandal bubbling in L.A. and the league as a whole
For baseball, October is ideally a time for the league to shine and to put their best product into the national consciousness. This October, there looks like another story is going to be sharing the limelight with the playoffs, and it is both bad for the league and one that will last much longer than this month. Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, you may recall, passed away on July 1 of this year. A couple months later, it was learned he died of an overdose. After that came out, his family accused Angels officials of being involved with getting the drugs to Skaggs, and it turns out that was true. A bombshell of a report was dropped on Saturday by ESPN in which senior team employee Eric Kay details his involvement in getting the drugs to Skaggs as well as an accusation that team officials above him — including Tim Mead, his former supervisor as Angels vice president of communications and now the president of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown — knew about Skaggs’ issues and not only did not report them as they are legally required to do as part of the Joint Drug Agreement but also did nothing to stop them. They deny the charges. Kay also names five other players he believes were using opiates with the Angels. This is all very, very serious and we’re only scratching the surface of the news.
Sox Spin: This story is obviously bigger than just being a fan of a team or even baseball. The opioid crisis has hit all walks of life all across the country and it shouldn’t be too surprising it’s making its way into sports. Craig Calcaterra over at NBC Sports has a good outline of why this looks like it could very well be a league-wide issue, not just one specific to the Angels.