Gone are the unwatchable three-hour snoozers. Gone are the primetime battles between off-hour teams. Gone are the baseball games you can afford to miss.
Baseball‚Äôs final four commences this evening with Game 1 of the ALCS between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers. While the Yankees have the sluggers (Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are former Rangers), Cy Young candidate CC Sabathia and history on their side, the Rangers have plenty to boast as well.
The AL West division champs own home-field advantage, a balanced line-up featuring AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton and a literal ace-in-the-hole in Cliff Lee, who is slated to start Game 3 after dominating the ALDS..
But tonight, it will be Sabathia, who is pitching on nine days rest, versus C.J. Wilson, a first-year starter who won 15 games and posted a 3.35 ERA this year. The two teams split their regular-season showdowns 4-4 and this October matchup could go deep into the series if both teams play as expected. SI.com‚Äôs Tom Verudcci looks down the line and predicts both the ALCS and the NLCS coming down to critical pitching matchups in Game 4.
Here‚Äôs the action going on in the sporting world today (all times Eastern):
New York Yankees at Texas Rangers (8:00 p.m., TBS)
The Rangers look to carry momentum from their recent ALDS comeback over the Rays against a well-rested Yankees team. Look for some bats to silence the Year of the Pitcher.
Baseball's last division series wrapped up Tuesday night, as the Texas Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the deciding game, 5-1, and advanced to the American League Championship Series for the first time in franchise history.
Cliff Lee did his best Cliff Lee impression, turning in another masterpiece. Lee pitched a complete game while allowing just one run and striking out 11. It was his second dominant performance of the series and the second win he picked up for the Rangers. Last night, the Texas ace downed the Rays in 120 pitches - 90 of which were strikes.
One day after Roy Halladay tossed just the second no-hitter in postseason history, Tim Lincecum took the mound and delivered a dominant debut of his own.
The San Francisco Giants‚Äô ace ‚Äď known as ‚ÄėThe Freak‚Äô because of his ‚Äúhigh velocity, slight frame and unusual mechanics,‚ÄĚ as SI.com‚Äôs Joe Lemire puts it ‚Äď pitched a two-hitter and struck out 14 batters in his team‚Äôs 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Pitching on seven days rest, the two-time Cy Young winner outdueled Atlanta‚Äôs Derek Lowe and allowed just three men to reach base all game. His most impressive performance of all came in the second inning where he threw nine pitches, all of which Braves batters swung at, and struck out the side.
With the Braves hobbled by injuries and the Giants trotting out another ace tonight in Matt Cain, San Francisco could prove to be too much for Atlanta in this series.
One thing‚Äôs for sure, the Year of the Pitcher is still going strong.
Here is the diamond action going on today (all times Eastern):
Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Phillies (6:07 p.m., TBS)
The Reds look to redeem their hit-less effort from Game 1 and tie the series with the Phillies tonight. While Phils starter Roy Oswalt has been dominant this season, he‚Äôs collected a 6.65 ERA over his last four starts against Cincinnati.
With baseball‚Äôs grueling 162-game schedule thankfully in our rearview mirrors, our pastime‚Äôs finest month commences today and promises the October action we have all been waiting for.
The MLB postseason kicks off with a tripleheader of division series games today with the fourth and final matchup, Braves-Giants, beginning tomorrow. Facing a best-of-five series format, managers tighten rotations, shuffle lineups and attempt to find any advantage imaginable to win these imperative games.
With so many variables affecting the outcome of these win-or-go-home games, SI.com‚Äôs Tom Verducci cuts to the chase and examines the ten most compelling questions surrounding baseball‚Äôs playoffs.
Here‚Äôs the slate of games for the first day of postseason action (all times Eastern):
Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays (1:30 p.m., TBS)
Two of baseball‚Äôs best lefthanders take the mound in a likely pitching duel between Texas‚Äô Cliff Lee and Tampa Bay‚Äôs David Price. SI.com‚Äôs Albert Chen previews the AL battle.
A torrential downpour and a 7.5-hour rain delay were the biggest highlights from the first day of the 2010 Ryder Cup, but then again, what do you expect from a golf tournament played in Wales?
Shortly after all four groups teed off Friday morning, play was suspended due to flooded fairways, bunkers and greens. While the Twenty Ten course ‚Äď a site built specifically for this tournament ‚Äď has a state-of-the-art drainage system, the rain would not subside and rendered squeegees and umbrellas useless. Golf.com‚Äôs Michael Bamberger has more on the Celtic Manor course and its miserable conditions.
The MLB postseason is beginning to take shape following a night of playoff clinchers.
Tuesday evening began with the Tampa Bay Rays and David Price locking up a spot in the AL by shutting out the Baltimore Orioles. Then, the New York Yankees secured a berth of their own by downing the Toronto Blue Jays. And finally, in the most climactic clincher of the night, the Cincinnati Reds won the NL Central in style off Jay Bruce's walk-off shot in the bottom of the 9th.
Only two playoff spots remain up for grabs: the winner of the NL West and the NL wild card. The San Francisco Giants hold a two-game advantage in the West, while the Atlanta Braves hold a slim 1 1/2 game lead in the WC. With baseball's grueling regular season coming to a close on Oct. 3, SI.com‚Äôs Joe Lemire breaks down the final week and the races that remain undecided.
Here are the games to watch on Wednesday (all times Eastern):
Florida Marlins at Atlanta Braves (4:35 p.m. ESPN, SPSO, FS-F) The Braves have a chance to extend their wild card lead when they send Derek Lowe to the mound against the Marlins, who hope to play the role of playoff spoilers against their division foes.
Football became an afterthought this week following the apparent suicide of Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley.
The 23-year-old took his own life Monday about a month after undergoing knee surgery that shelved him for the 2010 season. Details continue to emerge about the second-year player‚Äôs tragic death and hints that the former South Carolina standout might have been suffering from depression.
McKinley is the third Broncos player to die tragically over the last four years and another sobering example of depression‚Äôs influence on sports. SI.com‚Äôs Jon Wertheim examines the growing trend and what exactly causes this level of anxiety amongst the athletes we idolize.
Here is what‚Äôs going on in the sporting world today (all times Eastern):
Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies (7:05 p.m., SPSO, CSN and MLBN)
The race for first place might be over, but these NL East foes still have something to play for. The Braves own a one-game lead in the wild card and hope to increase their advantage against the Phils in the second of a three-game series.
Is Jeter a cheater?
That‚Äôs the question circulating around baseball circles (or diamonds?) after the New York Yankees‚Äô famed shortstop caught some flack for a controversial play Wednesday night.
With the Yankees trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning and Derek Jeter at the plate, Tampa Bay‚Äôs Chad Qualls threw a pitch way inside that appeared to hit something. Jeter wailed in pain and grabbed his wrist, making it seem as if the ball had struck him. But upon further review, the ball clearly hit the knob of his bat. But thanks to Jeter‚Äôs much-acclaimed acting performance, the Yankee was awarded first base and went on to score a pivotal run that helped the Yankees take the lead for while, but they ultimately lost the game.
So much for that supposed Super Bowl hangover.
New Orleans kicked off its 2010 season exactly how it finished its 2009 campaign, with a win. The Drew Brees-led Saints edged Brett Favre and the Vikings last night 14-9 in the NFL‚Äôs season-opener.
There was no offensive explosion, no onside kick to begin the second half and no fourth-quarter comeback by the grizzled Favre, but there was plenty to note. SI.com‚Äôs Don Banks breaks down the many compelling storylines from Thursday‚Äôs opener, including the Saints‚Äô reinforced defense and the Vikings‚Äô potential problems.
With the NFL not rolling out its full slate of games until Sunday, here‚Äôs what else is going on in the sporting world today (all times Eastern):
Venus Williams (3) vs. Kim Clijsters (2) (12:30 p.m. ‚Äď 6:00 p.m., CBS) The women‚Äôs semifinals take centercourt in Flushing Meadows today when two of the game‚Äôs biggest stars square off for a berth to the finals.
The captain‚Äôs picks are in ‚Äď and, for once, Tiger Woods isn‚Äôt the biggest story.
United States Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin announced yesterday his final four selections for the 2010 team, causing a bit of an uproar in the gallery, but not amongst the experts at Golf.com. Tiger Woods was obvious. Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson were experienced favorites. And Rickie Fowler was, well, a bit unexpected.
"It came down to a feeling," Pavin explained yesterday in a press conference at the New York Stock Exchange. "I have a good gut feeling about Rickie."
The four chosen ones will join the eight automatic bids at Celtic Manor, Wales when the U.S. takes on the European side on Oct. 1-3. The quartet has combined for just one win this season ‚Äď Johnson‚Äôs first-place finish at the Crowne Plaza Invitational ‚Äď and will likely be what the Americans‚Äô success hinges on. Fowler, 21, is a PGA Tour rookie and ranked 32nd in the world. If the Ryder Cup itself wasn‚Äôt enough, he‚Äôll have some extra motivation in showing people why Pavin picked him over Anthony Kim (16th) and others.
With the tournament still weeks away, let‚Äôs narrow our focus to the immediate future. Here‚Äôs what is going on today in the sporting world (all times Eastern):
Roger Federer (2) vs. Robin Soderling (5), U.S. Open quarterfinals (7 p.m., ESPN)
Federer looks to avenge his French Open quarterfinals loss to Soderling earlier this year, when the Swede upset Federer‚Äôs streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals.
Order was restored in the universe Thursday as last night marked the return of college football.
While Saturday will serve as this week‚Äôs main pigskin dish, Thursday night provided a savory appetizer to tide us over. No. 2 Ohio State and Heisman candidate Terrelle Pryor looked in top form in their 45-7 victory over Marshall. No. 14 USC outlasted Hawaii in Lane Kiffin‚Äôs debut. And Utah delivered this season‚Äôs first big upset with a 24-21 overtime win over No. 15 Pittsburgh, writes SI.com‚Äôs Andy Staples.
With several must-see games this weekend, including TCU-Oregon St. and North Carolina-LSU, the season is amongst us. SI.com‚Äôs college football experts kick things off with their bold predictions for the 2010 season. With no teams in action today, here‚Äôs what else is going on in the world of sports (all times Eastern):
‚ÄĘ U.S. Open (11 a.m., Tennis Channel, 1 p.m. ESPN): America might have its next sweetheart in 18-year-old Beatrice Capra, who upset No. 18 Aravane Rezai of France on Thursday. Day 5 from Flushing Meadows promises more excitement with Rafael Nadal, Kim Clijsters hitting the courts.
In an attempt to be the Notre Dame of the west, Brigham Young is leaving the Mountain West Conference and taking its football program with it.
With big paydays and nationally televised games widening their eyes, BYU announced Tuesday it would leave the MWC in 2011-12 and join the West Coast Conference with one glaring exception. The school‚Äôs football team is going independent.
The move should increase BYU‚Äôs (43-9 over its last four seasons) exposure and bank account, but could complicate filling out a schedule every year. In addition to BYU holding a Wednesday news conference to explain its decision, here‚Äôs what else is going on in the world of sports (all times Eastern):
– FIBA World Basketball Championships: U.S. versus Iran (noon, ESPN)
After squeaking past Brazil with a 70-68 victory on Sunday, the U.S. is back in action today against an opponent as contrasting as the two countries‚Äô political views. Kevin Durant led Team USA last time out with 27 points and 10 rebounds. SI.com is live blogging all the action.