Rangers has 2-0 lead in ALCS; Phils Power Past D-backs in NLCS Opener
The defending champion Houston Astros are in trouble as they head out on the road against Texas.
Meanwhile, star slugger Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies are off to another powerful start at home in the NL Championship Series.
Harper smashed the first pitch he saw on his 31st birthday into the seats, Kyle Schwarber hit his first homer of this postseason and Nick Castellanos went deep again to lead Philadelphia past the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 in Game 1 on Monday night.
Concocting a suitable celebration on the fly, Harper held up three fingers on his left hand and one on his right and pretended to blow them out like candles on a cake as he crossed the plate. Harper, who also walked, scored twice and knocked in two runs, hit his 10th homer in two postseasons with the Phillies.
Zack Wheeler struck out eight in six innings to help the reigning National League champions win their seventh Game 1 of the last two postseasons.
Arizona was handed its first loss of these playoffs after ripping off five straight wins against the Brewers and Dodgers. Merrill Kelly starts Game 2 for the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night against Aaron Nola.
In Houston, Jonah Heim homered, Nathan Eovaldi pitched six effective innings and the Texas Rangers beat Framber Valdez and the Astros 5-4 for a 2-0 lead in the ALCS.
Adolis García, Mitch Garver and Nathaniel Lowe each hit an RBI single during Texas’ four-run first inning against Valdez. José Leclerc closed it out for the Rangers after Yordan Alvarez powered an Astros rally with two home runs.
The Rangers improved to 7-0 in the playoffs, including six wins on the road. Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in Arlington, with three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer scheduled to start for Texas against Cristian Javier.
Scherzer has been sidelined since Sept. 12 because of a muscle strain in his shoulder.
Despite not feeling well, Alvarez hit two solo homers to become the sixth player in major league history with two multi-homer games in one postseason.
The Rangers are the current betting favorites to win the World Series at +110, followed by the Phillies (+140), Astros (+750) and Diamondbacks (+800), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
RED, WHITE AND BLUE
Before his big performance in the NLCS opener, Harper revealed he'd love to take a swing at the Olympics.
The Phillies slugger said it would be a dream to play for Team USA when baseball returns for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Harper has long been an advocate of Major League Baseball taking a break during the season to let major leaguers play in the Olympics.
“You talk about growing the game, and that’s the way you grow it at the highest peak,” Harper said. “You let guys that are playing in the league take that break just like in the NHL and see what happens. I think it would be really cool. I think it would be a lot of fun. I don’t know if they’ll ever go for it, but I would love to put USA on my chest and represent it at the highest level.”
CHANGE AT THE TOP
After building a playoff team in Miami, general manager Kim Ng is leaving the Marlins.
Ng, 54, became the majors’ highest-ranking woman in baseball operations and the first female GM in the four major North American professional sports leagues in a groundbreaking hire in November 2020. She spent three seasons as Miami's GM.
The Marlins exercised their team option for her to return for the 2024 season, chairman and principal owner Bruce Sherman said in a statement, but Ng declined her mutual option.
“Last week, Bruce and I discussed his plan to reshape the Baseball Operations department. In our discussions, it became apparent that we were not completely aligned on what that should look like,” Ng told the Athletic on Monday. “I felt it best to step away. I wish to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Marlins family and its fans for my time in South Florida. This year was a great step forward for the organization.”
After getting five days off, the top four playoff seeds went a combined 2-6 on their home fields to start the division round.
“We thought we did everything possible during the delay, recreated things the best we could," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know that we could have done anything any better or been more thorough in what we did with our time off to get us ready to play.”
But clearly, the layoff did those clubs little good. Which begs the question: Is it time to say goodbye to the bye?
“It’s not ideal,” Snitker said. “I’m not going to say that’s an excuse for us. I look at the Astros. It didn’t bother them. They kind of kept hitting on all cylinders.
“I never liked two days off as a team or whatever. I think one day is plenty,” he added. “But you know what? It's what it is, and we've got to figure it out.”
Evan Carter is 7 for 20 (.350) with four doubles, one home run and three RBIs in seven playoff games for Texas — all wins. The 21-year-old outfielder has walked seven times and has a .536 on-base percentage and .700 slugging percentage.
Should the Phillies win the World Series, save a spot at the end of the Broad Street parade route for Calum Scott.
The British singer with the pop hit about loneliness and heartbreak insists he’s coming to Philly and wearing the jersey the team sent him last season as a thank you for his part in making “ Dancing On My Own ” a staple of the postseason soundtrack at Citizens Bank Park.
Scott is as amazed as anyone the song has improbably bloomed into a playoff anthem for the Phillies, who won the National League pennant last year before losing to Houston in the World Series.
“They win the World Series, I’m there, man,” Scott said. “I think at that point, you’ll have to hold me back.”
HOW TO WATCH
TBS is broadcasting the NLCS. Fox and FS1 are carrying the ALCS.
League Championship Series: Oct. 15-24
World Series: Oct. 27-Nov. 4