LEADING OFF: Homers fly in playoffs, Atlanta arms dominate
A look at what’s happening around the majors on Thursday:
Maybe it’s the Southern California air or the indoors atmosphere in Texas, but the ball is really flying this postseason.
With Chad Pinder, Travis d’Arnaud and others powering up, there had been 75 home runs in just 26 playoff games this year through Wednesday afternoon. That was before the Yankees-Rays and Padres-Dodgers started their Division Series matchups.
That average of 2.88 homers per postseason game tops the regular-season mark of 2.57.
The Athletics and Astros combined to connect seven times as the A’s avoided a sweep with a 9-7 win. Houston will make another attempt to advance to the ALCS in Game 4 on Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
The Atlanta Braves will try to reach the NL Championship Series for the first time since the days of Chipper Jones, the Big Three and Bobby Cox when they face the Marlins in Game 3.
Kyle Wright will make his postseason debut when he starts against Miami rookie Sixto Sanchez as Atlanta aims to sweep the best-of-five NL Division Series.
The last time the Braves made it to the NLCS was 2001 with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz on the mound.
Ian Anderson, Max Fried and the current Atlanta staff has put on a Hall of Fame performance so far, throwing three shutouts in four games during this postseason.
Miami is on the cusp of losing the first playoff series in franchise history after entering this round 7-0 all-time in the postseason.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona is hoping his serious health concerns are behind him.
The 61-year-old skipper revealed Wednesday that he underwent several surgeries and required an extended stay in intensive care at the Cleveland Clinic this season while dealing with medical issues that sidelined him for all but 14 games.
Francona plans to return in 2021.
After initially undergoing a surgery for a gastrointestinal issue that had bothered him for nearly a year, Francona thought he was recovering when some blood-clotting issues led to more operations and four days in ICU.
“It was kind of a rough time,” he said. “For a couple weeks there I was not just away from the game, I was away from everything. It was getting a little hairy there.”
ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC averaged 1,836,000 viewers for its 16 broadcasts in Major League Baseball’s expanded wild-card round, drawing far more viewers for 16 games but an average down vastly from the single knockout contest in previous years.
The most-watched game was the New York Yankees’ opening 12-3 win over Cleveland on Sept. 29, which averaged 2,642,000 despite taking place partly opposite a presidential debate.
Last year’s ESPN game, Tampa Bay’s 5-1 win over Oakland starting just after 8 p.m. EDT, was seen by an average of 4,615,000 on ESPN, down from 7,130,000 for Colorado’s 2-1, 13-inning win over the Chicago Cubs in the 2018 NL wild-card game at a similar time. ESPN’s wild-card game averaged 5,591,000 to 7,604,000 from 2014-17.
The round was expanded to eight best-of-three series due to the shortened season caused by the new coronavirus pandemic, and games were scheduled from noon EDT until 10 p.m. EDT over a four-day span. The Rays-Blue Jays series was on TBS.
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