Oct 10, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Lots to watch on the telly this evening.

  • ⚾️ 7pm ET (FS1): Gerrit Cole and the Astros host Tyler Glasnow and the Rays in the 5th and final game of the ALDS.
  • 🏀 8pm ET (ESPN2): The WNBA will crown a first-time champion, with the Sun and Mystics playing a decisive Game 5 in the nation's capital.
  • 🏈 8:20pm ET (FOX/NFL): Daniel Jones and the depleted Giants travel to Foxborough to take on Tom Brady and the undefeated Patriots.

Today's word count: 1,312 words (5 minutes)

1 big thing: ⚾️ The Nationals stay in the fight

Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Dodgers cruised through 7 innings at home against the Nationals last night. Then Dave Roberts handed the ball to generational left-hander — and noted postseason choke artist — Clayton Kershaw.

  • Trailing 3-1 in the 8th, Nationals studs Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto homered on consecutive pitches from Kershaw, knotting the game at 3.
  • Then, in the 10th, Howie Kendrick came to the plate against Joe Kelly and hit a grand slam over the wall in dead center. Biggest hit in franchise history. Final score: Nationals 7, Dodgers 4.

Why it matters: For the first time since their move to D.C. in 2005, the Washington Nationals have won a playoff series.

Game notes:

  • The comeback kids: The Nationals are the first team in MLB history to rally from 3 or more runs down twice in elimination games during the same postseason.
  • The hero: "You couldn't dream of something like that," said Kendrick. "It was electric. Probably the best moment of my career. We never gave up. The city had faith in us. The fans had faith in us. We believed in ourselves, everybody came through."
  • The manager: "I don't even know what day it is right now," said Davey Martinez.

P.S. ... Kershaw is taking a beating, which comes with the territory. Personally, I just wish I could give him a hug.

  • "Two hours after the greatest pitcher of his generation again cost his team a chance at a championship, the only pitching coach he has ever known found him," writes SI's Stephanie Apstein.
  • "'I love you,' said Rick Honeycutt, who has guided Kershaw since he debuted at 20 in 2008. 'You always give everything you've got. Sometimes it don't work out.'"
  • "Kershaw burst into tears. He carries each of his playoff failures with him, a sharp pain that occasionally catches him off-guard on the golf course or in the weight room."

Go deeper:

2. ⚾️ The Cardinals bash the Braves

Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Cardinals made history against the Braves yesterday, becoming the first team to score 10 runs in the first inning of a playoff game en route to a 13-1 victory that earned them a spot in the NLCS.

  • First-inning breakdown: Walk, sacrifice bunt, single, single, fielder's choice, walk, double, intentional walk, walk, double, double, fly out, strikeout (reached on wild pitch), groundout. Relive it, Cards fans.

Game notes:

  • Wild stat: The Braves have now lost 10 straight playoff series (2001 NLCS, 8 NLDS and 2012 WC Game), matching the Cubs (10 straight from 1910-1998) for the longest such streak in MLB history.
  • McCann retires: Braves catcher Brian McCann, 35, announced his retirement after the game. "This is it for me," the 7-time All-Star told reporters. "I'm going to go home and be a dad and play with those kids."
Bonus: 📸 More photos
Clayton Kershaw. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

Extremely sad photo, but it immediately brings to mind what the great Theodore Roosevelt once said...

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. ... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena ... who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming."
Sean Doolittle. Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Sean Doolittle pitched a 1-2-3 10th inning to send the Nationals to their first-ever NLCS … then proceeded to jump approximately 100 feet into the air.

Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson. Photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Question … What's a worse way to lose: The anticlimactic way in which the Braves lost? Or the heartbreaking way in which the Dodgers lost?

3. 🏀 An update from China
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
  • The latest: Today's game between the Lakers and Nets proceeded as scheduled (tipped off at 7:30am ET), but the Chinese government will not allow players or coaches to talk to the media before or after the game. Also, Adam Silver's pre-game press conference was canceled.
  • The salary cap effect: Some NBA teams are doing scenario planning for the $116 million salary cap for 2020-21 to drop by as much as 15% due to the China situation, per Yahoo Sports. "I haven't really been in this spot before. The cap has only gone up in recent years," said one team's cap expert.
  • Chinese partners cut ties: Of the 25 official partners listed on the NBA China website, 13 are Chinese businesses. So far, 11 have distanced themselves from the league. This comes after tech giant Tencent and smartphone-maker Vivo did the same earlier this week.
  • Congress gets involved: 8 members of Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ted Cruz, wrote a letter to Adam Silver yesterday, calling on him to "Suspend NBA activities in China until government-controlled broadcasters and government-controlled commercial sponsors end their boycott."

This just in: Looks like fans are showing up to the Lakers-Nets game. More than expected, at least.

Screenshot: @paulmozer (Twitter)
4. 🏈 The Group of 5 is closing the gap

Boise State and the Mountain West Conference are off to an impressive start. Photo: Loren Orr/Getty Images

In college football, Power 5 schools (upper tier of FBS) lose to Group of 5 schools (lower tier) all the time.

  • In fact, over the past 15 years — among schools that were Power 5 members that whole time — Ohio State, USC, Florida and Texas are the only ones that haven't been upset by one.

Yes, but: "[T]his year, the damage has been particularly consistent," writes FiveThirtyEight's Jake Lourim. Power 5 schools are just 69-18 (.793) against Group of 5 opponents this season, their lowest winning percentage since 2008.

  • The backdrop: "And this is after a wave of conference realignment earlier this decade, when the major conferences snatched up some of the lower ranks' most consistent winners, such as Utah, Louisville and Texas Christian," writes Lourim.
  • Giant killers: The Mountain West is responsible for 8 of the Group of 5's 18 wins, and they've come from 7 different teams, meaning more than half the league has knocked off a Power 5 foe.

Go deeper: The AAC really, really wants you to think of the Power 5 as a Power 6 (SB Nation)

5. 📊 By the numbers
Giphy
🏈 16.7 million viewers

Through Week 5, over 142 million people have tuned into an NFL game, with each game averaging 16.7 million viewers across TV and digital, a 6% increase over last year.

  • More good news: Streaming is up 51%, "which almost seems impossible," writes The Big Lead's Bobby Burack, and all 20 of the top 20 highest-rated TV programs this season are NFL games.
🎾 No. 94 in the world

15-year-old Coco Gauff is set to break into the world's top 100 for the first time in her young career after reaching her first WTA tour quarterfinal at the Linz Open in Austria yesterday.

  • Why it matters: Gauff will provisionally climb to world No. 94 when the rankings are released next week, inching closer to automatically qualifying for January's Australian Open.
⛳️ $7 million prize pool

When it comes to men's golf, the 4 major championships and the PGA Tour draw so much attention that it's easy to forget just how many more tournaments are played outside of that bubble.

  • Driving the news: The Italian Open, one of the most prominent events on the European Tour, begins tomorrow at Olgiata Golf Club in Rome. Prize pool: $7 million.
6. Oct. 10, 1964: 🇯🇵 Olympics open in Tokyo
Yoshinori Sakai carrying the Olympic torch. Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

55 years ago today, the 1964 Summer Olympics opened in Tokyo — the same place the 2020 Summer Olympics will open in 288 days.

Why it matters: The Games, which took place in mid-October to avoid the city's midsummer heat and September typhoon season, were the first ever held in Asia, as well as the first to be broadcast live internationally.

The backdrop: World War II had ended just 19 years earlier, so the Tokyo Olympics represented the conclusion of a long, bleak period for many Japanese and offered an opportunity to celebrate the country's reemergence.

  • To symbolize Japan's recovery, the Olympic torch was carried by Yoshinori Sakai (above), born in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, the day the atomic bomb devastated the city.

Headline this morning: Tokyo braces for the hottest Olympics ever (NYT)

7. 🏈 NFL trivia

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey leads the NFL in rushing yards with 587, while Vikings RB Dalvin Cook is right on his heels with 542.

  • Question: Who is 3rd with 512?
  • Hint: He was taken 4 picks ahead of McCaffrey in the 2017 draft.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🏉 Speaking of Japan...
Screenshot: NASA

With a "super typhoon" barreling toward Japan and threatening to wreak havoc, Rugby World Cup organizers have canceled 2 upcoming matches originally scheduled to be played on Saturday. Flights are being grounded, as well.

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Happy for Nats fans, they deserve it" Baker

Trivia answer: Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette