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Saturday Sports: Baseball Playoffs


I'm Scott Simon. Just when we need it - time for sports.


SIMON: The Major League playoffs have begun. Who are the defending champion of the world? Oh, I remember. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

SIMON: It's a pleasure.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: We'll get to that game last night first. But the AL - the Cleveland Indians have really been handling the New York Yankees so far, haven't they?

GOLDMAN: You know, Cleveland has that look of magic, doesn't it?

SIMON: Sure does.

GOLDMAN: The Indians won a thriller yesterday, 9 to to 8 in 13 innings after trailing 8 to 3. They had that 22-game win streak late in the regular season. But Scott, if you're going to break through and win your first World Series in 69 years, you need luck, too. And Cleveland got that last night in the form of New York manager Joe Girardi making some questionable calls in the Bronx. I'm sure they're using terms other than questionable.

SIMON: They have another way of saying questionable in the Bronx, yes.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. These calls - in one case, a no call where Girardi didn't challenge a play on the field - might have helped swing the game Cleveland's way. You know, in a short series like this, bad decisions mean more. And now the Yanks are one game from elimination.

SIMON: Houston Astros in the AL are two games up on the Boston Red Sox, and a superstar from Venezuela has really broken through, hasn't he?

GOLDMAN: He has. Houston looked so strong offensively - two wins against Boston, both 8 to 2 thumpings. And that superstar, second baseman Jose Altuve, hit three home runs in the first game. He's 5' 6". He's the shortest active player in the majors and a huge - sorry - tiny fan favorite...

SIMON: Oh. He's both.

GOLDMAN: And baseball fans are salivating over what's looking like a Houston versus Cleveland American League Championship Series in the next round. It could be epic if it happens.

SIMON: Yeah. Nats, Cubs opened last night. And by the way - I hope you've seen the video - Representative Steve Scalise threw out the first pitch. It was good to see him. He threw a strike. It was a true pitcher's duel. Stephen Strasburg of the Nats was untouchable, but stats don't win ball games, do they?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Timely hits helped along by opponents mistakes do, which is what happened when the Cubs finally broke through against Strasburg. You know, for all his greatness, it was Chicago pitcher Kyle Hendricks who ultimately was more effective. He held Washington to two hits. He's not a guy who throws with blazing speed, but his placement of the ball was nearly flawless. His catcher said Hendricks didn't miss a spot.

SIMON: Yeah, and not nearly flawless. The opening of the NHL season coincides a terrible crime on the streets of Las Vegas this week. And their first major sports pro team began their history. The Las Vegas Knights had their first game ever against the Dallas Stars in Dallas last night. A sober ceremony on the ice - what a time to step into the story of a city, isn't it?

GOLDMAN: Very dramatic - and the Golden Knights won 2 to 1 in their first ever game. Winger James Neal scored both goals. He said he hoped he could make the people of Las Vegas smile for one night. You know, the Golden Knight, Scott, were always going to be an interesting story. The first major pro sports franchise in Las Vegas after sports leagues had historically avoided the city because of its connections to gambling, you know, bad optics - but now this hockey team is being embraced by the entire league. There have been tributes surrounding the NHL this season opening week. The home opener for the Golden Knights on Tuesday will be quite a meaningful event for sure.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman - thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.