LA Lakers 116 Miami 98
Houston 3 Minnesota 1
Oakland 5 Chicago White Sox 3
Tampa Bay 8 Toronto 2
Atlanta 1 Cincinnati 0 (13)
Miami 5 Chicago 1
St. Louis 7 San Diego 4
LA Dodgers 4 Milwaukee 2
NY Yankees 10 Cleveland 9
BOYS TENNIS SECTIONALS
Richmond 5 Hagerstown 0
BOYS HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER
Indy Attucks 2 Knightstown 0
Delta 4 Muncie Central 1
HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
McCutcheon 3 Lafayette Jeff 0
Wes-Del 3 Randolph Southern 0
New Castle 3 New Pal 0
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL THIS WEEK
Friday, Oct. 2
Tech at Anderson 7 pm
Kokomo at Logansport 7 pm
Marion at Muncie Central 7 pm
McCutcheon at Harrison 7 pm
Richmond at Lafayette Jeff 7:30 pm
Knightstown at Tri 7 pm
Northeastern at Shenandoah 7 pm
Union City at Lincoln 7 pm
Union County at Centerville 7 pm
Winchester at Hagerstown 7 pm
East Central at Connersville 7 pm
Greensburg at Batesville 7 pm
Rushville at Lawrenceburg 7 pm
South Dearborn at Franklin County 7 pm
New Castle at Mount Vernon 7:30 pm
New Palestine at Shelbyville 7:30 pm
Pendleton Heights at Delta 7:30 pm
Yorktown at Greenfield 7:30 pm
Eastern Hancock at Monroe Central 7 pm
Tindley at Wes-Del 7 pm
Monroe at Madison 7pm
Franklin at Brookville 7pm
Northridge at Waynesville 7pm
Miami East at Mississinawa Valley 7pm
Talawanda at Northwest 7pm
Dixie at Milton-Union 7pm
Oakwood at Bellbrook 7pm
National Trail at Ansonia 7pm
Preble Shawnee at Carlisle 7pm
Eaton at Valley View 7pm
Ansonia at Tri-County North 7pm
Tri-Village at Ft. Loramie 7pm
COLLEGE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
Friday, October 2
Campbell at Wake Forest, 7 p.m., ACC
Louisiana Tech at BYU, 9 p.m., ESPN2
Saturday, October 3
Baylor at West Virginia, Noon, ABC
South Carolina at Florida, Noon, ESPN
Arkansas State at Coastal Carolina, Noon, ESPN2
East Carolina at Georgia State, Noon, ESPNU
Missouri at Tennessee, Noon, SEC
NC State at Pitt, Noon, ACC
UTSA at UAB, 12:30 p.m., Stadium
Abilene Christian at Army, 1:30 p.m., CBSSN
Rice at Marshall, 2 p.m.
Texas A&M at Alabama, 3:30 p.m., CBS
North Carolina at Boston College, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Oklahoma State at Kansas, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Memphis at SMU, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
Texas Tech at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., FS1
South Florida at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+
Ole Miss at Kentucky, 4 p.m., SEC
Virginia Tech at Duke, 4 p.m., ACC
Charlotte at Florida Atlantic, 4 p.m., ESPNU
Jacksonville State at Florida State, 4 p.m.
Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee, 5 p.m.
Navy at Air Force, 6 p.m., CBSSN
North Alabama at Liberty, 6 p.m.
Georgia Southern at Louisiana Monroe, 7 p.m.
Auburn at Georgia, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
LSU at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m., SEC
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m., SEC
Tulsa at UCF, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
Southern Miss at North Texas, 7:30 p.m., Stadium
Virginia at Clemson, 8 p.m., ACC
Troy at South Alabama, 8 p.m., ESPNU
Oklahoma at Iowa State, Noon, FOX or 7:30 p.m., ABC
TCU at Texas, Noon, FOX or 7:30 p.m., ABC
Thursday, October 01, 2020
Denver Broncos at New York Jets (Thu) 8:20p (ET) 8:20p NFLN
Sunday, October 04, 2020
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers 1:00p (ET) 1:00p FOX
Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears 12:00p (CT) 1:00p CBS
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals 1:00p (ET) 1:00p CBS
Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys 12:00p (CT) 1:00p FOX
New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions 1:00p (ET) 1:00p FOX
Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans 12:00p (CT) 1:00p FOX
Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins 1:00p (ET) 1:00p FOX
Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00p (ET) 1:00p CBS
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans (Moved to Monday or Tuesday)
Baltimore Ravens at Washington Redskins 1:00p (ET) 1:00p CBS
New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams 1:05p (PT) 4:05p FOX
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs 3:25p (CT) 4:25p CBS
Buffalo Bills at Las Vegas Raiders 1:25p (PT) 4:25p CBS
Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers 5:20p (PT) 8:20p NBC
Monday, October 05, 2020
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers (Mon) 7:15p (CT) 8:15p ESPN
TOP AP HEADLINES
LAKERS DOMINATE GAME 1
LeBron James finally got an easy Game 1 in the NBA Finals.
A very easy one, at that.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points, James had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists and the Los Angeles Lakers rolled past the Miami Heat 116-98 on Wednesday night.
“The bigger the moment, he’s just raising his play,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said about Davis, who was making his finals debut and made it look easy.
The Heat left beaten and battered. Point guard Goran Dragic left in the second quarter and, a person with knowledge of the situation, said he was diagnosed with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot – which obviously jeopardizes his availability for the rest of the finals. And All-Star center Bam Adebayo left in the third quarter after apparently aggravating a left shoulder strain.
“We’re much better than we showed tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have to credit the Lakers, and we’ll get to work for the next one.”
Game 2 is Friday night.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 13 points, Danny Green had 11 and Alex Caruso finished with 10 for the Lakers. They returned to the finals for the first time in a decade and sent a very clear message. James’ teams had been 1-8 in Game 1 of past finals, with losses in each of the last seven openers.
Not this one.
“We kind of picked it up on both ends of the floor,” Davis said.
Jimmy Butler fought through a twisted left ankle to score 23 points for Miami. Kendrick Nunn scored 18 points for the Heat, Tyler Herro had 14 and Jae Crowder 12.
“I, and we, are here for him,” Butler said about Dragic. “We know how much he wants to win, how much he wants to go to war and battle with us. And obviously, we love him for that and we want him out there with us. But whatever the docs tell him to do, that’s what he’s got to do. … He’s got to take care of himself first.”
Adebayo was held to eight points in 21 minutes, and Miami went with subs for a fourth-quarter burst that turned a total rout into something only slightly more palatable in terms of final margin.
The Lakers did whatever they wanted. They outrebounded Miami 54-36, led by as many as 32 points, and made 15 3-pointers – a big number for a team that doesn’t necessarily count on piling up that many points from beyond the arc. They’re 21-3 this season when making at least 14 3s.
The only stretch that provided hope for Miami came in the first six minutes. The Heat scored on six consecutive possessions in what became a 13-0 run to take a 23-10 lead midway through the opening period.
So, the first six minutes were fine for Miami.
Everything else was all Lakers.
“You have to get a feel for how hard Miami plays,” James said. “They smacked us in the mouth and we got a sense of that. … From that moment when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities.”
The simplest way to sum up what happened over the rest of the opening half is this: Lakers 55, Heat 25. The Lakers came into Game 1 ranked 21st out of the 22 teams that spent time in the bubble from 3-point range, making only 33.6% of their tries from deep at Disney. They were the only team in the postseason to have two games shooting less than 25% on 3s.
Perhaps they were due. The Lakers went 9-for-11 on 3’s in the final 16 minutes of the first half. Of the nine Lakers who played in the first two quarters, eight tried a 3-pointer – and all eight made at least one.
They closed the first quarter on a 19-3 run. Herro banked in a 3 from a sharp angle for a 43-41 Miami lead with 7:33 left in the half, and then the Lakers took off again, this time on a 24-5 burst to go into the break with a 65-48 lead.
The Lakers started the third on another run, this one 18-3, and the rout was officially underway.
“You can learn so much more from a win than you can in a loss,” James said. “I can’t wait for tomorrow for us to get back together and watch the film and see ways we can be better.”
REDS LOSE GAME 1
The scoreless innings kept piling up, along with the strikeouts. The shadows began to creep across the infield, and when the lights came on in a mostly empty stadium for a postseason game that began a little past noon, it seemed like this might go on forever.
Finally, Freddie Freeman had seen enough.
The MVP candidate who warded off a frightening bout with the coronavirus at the beginning of this most unusual season fittingly delivered the winning hit in the 13th inning, ending the longest scoreless duel in postseason history as the Atlanta Braves defeated the Cincinnati Reds 1-0 in the opener of their NL wild-card series Wednesday.
“That was a very stressful 4 1/2 hours,” Freeman said with a chuckle.
The East champion Braves won a postseason opener for the first time since Game 1 of the 2001 NL Division Series. They’ll try to wrap up the best-of-three series Thursday and snap a record-tying streak of 10 straight playoff round losses.
“We’re one away from winning it,” said Atlanta starter Max Fried, who went seven scoreless innings and was just 7 years old the last time the Braves won a playoff series. “I’m feeling really good going into tomorrow.”
What began as a pitching showdown between between Cy Young contenders Fried and Cincinnati ace Trevor Bauer devolved into a strikeout contest played before a handful of family and friends at Truist Park.
The teams combined for a postseason record 37 Ks – 21 by the Braves.
After a couple of hits in the 13th against Archie Bradley, Freeman drove one into center field off Amir Garrett against a five-man infield with one out to end a game that dragged on for more than 4 1/2 hours.
A four-time All-Star, Freeman produced another big year in a pandemic-shortened season after a battle with COVID-19 in July so severe that he said he prayed: “Please don’t take me.”
In the 13th, he came up in a situation he relishes.
“That’s the guy we want up there,” manager Brian Snitker said.
A.J. Minter escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the 13th for the win – the third straight inning the Reds pushed a runner to third but couldn’t get him another 90 feet.
“These guys take so much pride in coming through in those situations,” Reds manager David Bell said “Each and every time we had the opportunity, we believed it was going to happen.”
While there no denying the historic nature of the first postseason game to be scoreless after 11 innings, it hardly qualified as a masterpiece leading off an unprecedented day of eight playoff games.
With the designated runner at second base no longer in play for postseason games, two teams that rely heavily on the long ball took turns just flailing away at the plate, passing on several opportunities to bunt runners along.
Mostly, they stirred up nothing but a stiff breeze.
“We’re a big-swinging team,” Snitker said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t happen.”
Bauer certainly lived up to his billing as one of baseball’s best pitcher. The outspoken right-hander became the first pitcher in big league history to record 12 strikeouts with no walks, no runs and two or fewer hits in a postseason start.
Bauer was lifted after retiring the first two hitters in the eighth, doing the Braves chop on his way to the dugout.
“I brought my `A’ game and everything,” Bauer said. “I was exhausted.”
The Braves’ only real threat against Bauer came in the sixth, when Ronald Acuna Jr. led off with a double to the wall in center and moved to third on Freeman’s groundout. NL home run and RBI king Marcell Ozuna popped out behind home plate and Travis d’Arnaud struck out swinging.
Fried went nearly pitch for pitch with the Cincinnati ace, surrendering six hits while striking out five. He didn’t walk anyone, either.
YANKEES SWEEP INDIANS
It took the New York Yankees nearly five hours on the field, carried them from Wednesday to Thursday and September into October to complete the sweep.
They stumbled into the 2020 postseason. They’re standing tall now.
DJ LeMahieu’s tiebreaking single in the ninth inning off closer Brad Hand sent the Yankees into the AL Division Series – and a matchup with rival Tampa Bay – after a wild 10-9 win over the Cleveland Indians early Thursday in the longest nine-inning game in major league history.
“I’m 47 years old. I’ve watched a lot of baseball. I’ve watched a lot of my dad’s playoff games, been in some really big games, and I don’t know how you top that one – the back and forth, the amount of big plays,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Tonight just had that feeling that these guys weren’t going to be denied.
“They weren’t going to lose.”
At 4 hours, 50 minutes – even without two rain delays totaling another 76 minutes – it was draining. It’s no wonder after Aroldis Chapman got the final out well after 1 a.m. that the Yankees barely celebrated on the field. They observed COVID protocols and shared some fist bumps as they left.
“You don’t have to pour champagne on each other to appreciate what an epic game that was and the fact that we’re moving on,” Boone said.
The Yankees will play the Rays in a best-of-five Division Series next week in San Diego. New York went 2-8 during a testy season series with top-seeded Tampa Bay, which won the AL East by seven games over the second-place Yankees.
“They’ve been the best team in our league all year, so we’re excited to play the best team and hopefully can have our way with them,” Boone said.
LeMahieu, the AL batting champion during the shortened, 60-game regular season, grounded his hit into center field to score Gio Urshela, who hit a go-ahead grand slam earlier and made a huge defensive play at third base.
“That was one of the best games I’ve played in my life,” Urshela said.
Down 9-8, the Yankees tied it in the ninth on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly off Hand, who went 16 of 16 on save tries during the season but was stung by a walk.
The Yankees were staggering last week. But their heavy-hitting lineup got rolling over two nights in chilly, mostly empty Progressive Field. New York pounded Cleveland ace Shane Bieber in the opener and now the Yankees, who hit seven homers in the series, have found their swing as the calendar flips to the month that defines them.
“We probably caught people’s attention,” Boone said. “We haven’t done anything yet. This was just a stepping stone.”
Chapman got the last six outs for the win, aided by a spectacular play from Urshela to begin an inning-ending double play in the eighth that kept it a one-run game. The Indians got the potential tying run to first in the ninth on a strikeout passed ball with two outs before Chapman struck out pinch-hitter Austin Hedges.
For the Indians, a season of adversity ends with more heartache. They twice rallied to tie the Yankees and took the lead in the eighth on Cesar Hernandez’s bloop RBI single off Chapman only to have the reliable Hand give it away.
Cleveland, which hasn’t won the World Series since 1948, has lost eight straight postseason games and dropped 10 consecutive elimination games – a major league record – extending back to the 1997 Series.
“We had many different things and a lot of obstacles,” said acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr., who filled in while Terry Francona dealt with health issues. “But this group stayed together – by any means. We had an eight-game losing streak, they came back.
“Today’s game reflected how much this team grinds and how much they fight.”
Sanchez, benched in Game 1, had a two-run homer and Giancarlo Stanton connected on a solo shot for New York, which was down 4-0 in the first.
The Yankees were two different teams this season as they played much better at home in the Bronx than on the road, going 11-18.
They entered this expanded postseason as a No. 5 seed and not scaring anyone, but now they’ve got momentum.
“When we’re right,” Boone said before Game 2, “it doesn’t matter where we are.”
Down 8-6 and their postseason in jeopardy of a quick ending, the Indians tied it in the seventh on pinch-hitter Jordan Luplow’s two-out, two-run double off right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga following a gutty move by Alomar.
With two on, Alomar sent Luplow to the plate instead of Josh Naylor, who became the first player in major league history to get five hits in his first five postseason plate appearances.
Luplow smoked a ball to center that went over Aaron Hicks’ head and brought in two, sending Cleveland’s bench into a frenzy.
A two-time All-Star, Sanchez was benched for the opener after hitting .147 over 60 games, and he batted ninth for the first time in his career in Game 2.
But he rewarded Boone’s faith by connecting in the sixth inning off Indians rookie Triston McKenzie with a wind-aided shot to right to tie it 6-all.
“He’s shown me a lot the last couple of days,” Boone said of his embattled catcher.
The Indians head into an offseason of uncertainty.
All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor went 1 for 8 in the series and might have played his last game in Cleveland. The Indians have him under control for one more season, but he’s turned down several contract offers and the club may have no choice but to trade him before he becomes a free agent.
DODGERS WIN GAME 1
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ powerful lineup went mostly quiet against the Milwaukee Brewers. Still, baseball’s best team in the regular season generated just enough offense and got plenty of help from the opposing pitcher.
Mookie Betts had two hits and an RBI and Corey Seager homered in the Dodgers’ 4-2 victory in the opener of their NL playoff Wednesday night.
The eight-time NL West champion Dodgers capitalized early in a bullpen game for the Brewers and can wrap up the best-of-three series Thursday. Milwaukee – a playoff entrant despite a losing record – limped into the postseason as the No. 8 seed without its best starter and reliever, who are hurt.
“A walk is just as good as a hit sometimes, which we showed in the first inning,” Seager said. “You don’t always have to have the big hit to score runs.”
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead on a leadoff double by Betts and four walks by left-hander Brent Suter in the first, tying for the most walks by a pitcher in a single inning in postseason history. Betts scored when Will Smith drew a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded. Seager walked and scored on AJ Pollock’s bases-loaded walk.
“We took our walks and scratched out some runs,” said Seager, who hit just behind Betts.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “You’d be hard-pressed to find a better 1-2 in baseball.”
Suter needed 32 pitches to get out of the inning. He gave up three runs and three hits in 1 2/3 innings. He doubled his season total of five walks, and he didn’t record a strikeout.
“Nerves going on, excited to be out there, then Mookie gets that leadoff double. I missed some corners, then all of a sudden snowball effect,” Suter said. “I felt like I let the team down big-time.”
Chris Taylor doubled leading off the second and scored on Betts’ double, making it 3-0. Max Muncy walked with two outs and Ryan Braun caught Smith’s drive to right at the wall to end the inning, potentially saving three runs.
Braun winced as he hit the wall with his right shoulder. He left in the fifth with mid-back discomfort.
“He hurt himself Sunday in St. Louis and we tried to give it a shot today and at some point it was a no-go,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “You could call it day-to-day.”
The Dodgers could have inflicted more damage but were just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position in the first two innings.
Milwaukee pitchers retired 10 straight Dodgers during one stretch.
With the Dodgers clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, Seager went deep to straightaway center off Freddy Peralta, who gave up just two homers during the shortened 60-game season. The Dodgers led the majors with 118 homers.
Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen walked pinch-hitter Jace Peterson with two outs in the ninth. Christian Yelich came to the plate as the potential tying run, but he struck out swinging to end the game. Jansen earned the save.
“Despite pitching about as bad as I’ve ever pitched, we still had a chance to win,” Suter said.
The Brewers closed to 3-2 on Orlando Arcia’s two-strike, two-run homer with two outs in the fourth. Betts made an over-the-shoulder catch to deny Avisail Garcia with a runner on for the second out of the inning.
Milwaukee had the potential tying run on in the seventh with Yelich’s two-out double. Tyrone Taylor popped up to end the inning.
The Brewers also threatened in the sixth. Garcia singled and was safe at second on Muncy’s fielding error at first base. Muncy turned and scrambled into short right, trying to pick up the ball with a swooping motion, but it went off his glove and rolled away.
Julio Urias retired the next two batters to end the inning.
“We gave ourselves a shot,” Counsell said. “We just didn’t come through.”
Urias got the victory, allowing three hits in three innings and striking out five. He had a runner on base in each of his innings, but didn’t allow a run.
Garcia had three hits and Yelich two to lead the Brewers.
Pitching with a blister on his right index finger, Walker Buehler allowed two runs and three hits in four innings for Los Angeles. He struck out eight and walked two.
Roberts pulled Buehler once he got over 20 pitches in the fourth.
“At that point in time is when the blister starts to show itself a little bit,” Roberts said. “We just didn’t know what we were going to get from Walker.”
Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes and reliever Devin Williams are missing this series with injuries that occurred in the last week of the season. Burnes has a strained left oblique and Williams has a sore right shoulder. Starting pitcher Brett Anderson also was left off the roster because of a blister issue.
RAYS SWEEP JAYS
Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam and the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays won a postseason series for the first time in 12 years, overpowering the young Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Wednesday to finish a two-game sweep of their AL wild-card matchup.
Renfroe launched the first playoff grand slam in franchise history during a six-run second inning. Tyler Glasnow kept Tampa Bay ahead from there, allowing two runs – on a pair of homers by Danny Jansen – in six innings.
Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer off Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu during Tampa Bay’s big inning. Manuel Margot and Randy Arozarena also drove in runs as the Rays advanced to the AL Division series against either the New York Yankees or Cleveland Indians.
The next round starts Monday at Petco Park in San Diego. Renfroe is plenty familiar with the stadium – he hit 85 home runs in the previous three years for the Padres before being traded to the Rays last December.
The Rays celebrated with some hugs and handshakes after the final out.
Glasnow, who walked one and struck out eight before a small gathering of family and friends who were allowed to attend the series at Tropicana Field.
Ryu was rocked for a season-high seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, the lefty’s shortest outing of the season for the wild-card Blue Jays.
The Rays, who won Game 1 with a nice mix of pitching, defense and timely hitting, had dropped five consecutive multigame postseason series dating to the 2008 World Series.
A year ago, they beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before losing to Houston in the division round – a five-game setback that nevertheless heightened team expectations heading into this season.
Manager Kevin Cash’s team delivered this year, winning the AL East.
Ryu signed with the Blue Jays in free agency last winter after being an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers and finishing second in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2019.
The 33-year-old lefty had the AL’s fourth-best ERA this season. And, his career mark of .295 is third-best behind Clayton Kershaw (2.43) and Jacob deGrom (2.61) among active pitchers with at least 700 innings pitched.
Ryu’s impressive credentials meant nothing Wednesday.
The Rays began the first inning with three straight hits and scored their first run on Manuel Margot’s one-out single. Ryu escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Willy Adames, however his outing got worse the next inning.
After Zunino’s homer made it 3-0, Tampa Bay loaded the bases again on a double, walk and shortstop Bo Bichette’s second error of the day.
Renfroe, obtained from San Diego in an offseason trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Padres, hit his grand slam into the left field seats to extend the lead to 7-0.
ASTROS SWEEP TWINS
Shaken up by a scandal before the virus outbreak shrunk the season, the Houston Astros barely played well enough to reach the playoffs – with the rest of baseball actively rooting against them.
Well, they’re not ready to leave yet.
Carlos Correa hit a two-out, tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning for the Astros, who produced another stifling pitching performance and swept Minnesota over two games with a 3-1 victory Wednesday that sent the Twins to a record 18th straight postseason loss.
“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?”
Nine months after Houston’s rules-breaking, sign-stealing system was revealed, the Astros advanced to the Division Series in Los Angeles. As the sixth seed, they’ll face the Oakland Athletics or Chicago White Sox in a best-of-five matchup starting Monday at Dodger Stadium.
“I don’t think they necessarily thought that they had anything to prove. They just had to play ball,” said manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs and advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NL Division Series with the Chicago Cubs.
The Twins are 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their Division Series at the New York Yankees on Oct. 5, 2004, a total of seven rounds lost. Since that date, the Astros are 43-35 in postseason play, winning 10 of 15 rounds with three trips to the World Series.
Kyle Tucker hit two RBI singles for the Astros and made a key throw from left field for the inning-ending out in the fifth.
Rookie Cristian Javier worked three hitless innings in relief for the victory in his postseason debut and Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth against his former team, giving the Houston bullpen a total of 9 2/3 scoreless innings in this wild card series with three hits allowed.
“From the very beginning, we envisioned ourselves back in the playoffs and playing real well,” Tucker said. “So we never counted ourselves out at any point.”
Nobody on this Twins team has had a hand in more than six of the playoffs losses, but for the second straight year one of baseball’s most potent lineups limped through a brief postseason cameo. In a three-game division series sweep by the Yankees last year, the Twins totaled seven runs and 22 hits. Against the Astros, they mustered only two runs and seven hits.
“We put a lot of balls in play, it seemed like, but they were up in the air and, yeah, it seemed like we played into their trap,” said Max Kepler, one of four starters who went hitless in the series. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done.”
Nelson Cruz gave the Twins an RBI double for a second straight game, this time in the fourth inning against starter Jose Urquidy. Luis Arraez aggressively tried to score from first base, but Correa took the throw from Tucker and fired home to beat Arraez to the plate to preserve the tie after third base coach Tony Diaz waved him in.
“I don’t know why he sent him,” Correa said.
Then in the seventh against losing pitcher Cody Stashak, Correa drove a 1-0 slider into the tarp-covered seats above right-center field for his 12th home run in 52 playoff games.
After winning 101, 103 and 107 games in the last three regular seasons, winning the 2017 World Series and losing the championship in seven games to the Washington Nationals last year, the Astros stumbled through the 2020 season at 29-31 under Baker and new general manager James Click with a slew of injuries after the COVID-19 pandemic cut the schedule to 60 games.
They had the third-worst road record in the major leagues, too, but none of that mattered this week against the third-seeded Twins, who were out of sorts in their two biggest games this year.
Jose Berrios was one of the few who were locked in with five strong innings to start, with just two hits allowed. His two walks were costly, though, issued right before Tucker’s single in the fourth.
“I don’t think anyone was ready to leave, to end this way,” Cruz said. “That’s life.”
A’S EVEN SERIES
Oakland’s long-reliable regulars Marcus Semien and Khris Davis powered a couple of home runs, Mark Canha made a game-saving catch against the wall and red-hot right-hander Chris Bassitt delivered the start of his life.
Now, the slugging A’s are right back in a familiar fall position: one winner-take-all postseason game with the season on the line.
Semien and Davis connected early and Oakland’s bullpen barely held off Jose Abreu and the Chicago White Sox late for a 5-3 win Wednesday that sent the AL playoff series to a deciding Game 3.
The A’s lost in the AL wild-card game each of the past two seasons, providing added motivation to win the division and earn a longer series.
Game 3 is Thursday at the Coliseum.
“It feels good. We’re hungry for more wins,” Semien said. “Tomorrow, anything can happen. It’s just like Game 7.”
A’s reliever Jake Diekman walked home a run in the ninth, then retired the big-hitting Abreu on a sharp grounder to end it and even the best-of-three wild-card matchup at 1-all.
The White Sox went 14-0 in the regular season against left-handed starters and beat southpaw Jesus Luzardo in the playoff opener. A’s manager Bob Melvin acknowledged it might make him reconsider who to start with the season on the line – perhaps righty Mike Fiers over lefty Sean Manaea.
“I’m pretty sure we’re pretty dang confident in anyone we throw against the White Sox,” Bassitt said. “The numbers don’t mean anything. It’s the postseason. I thought they put absurd at-bats against me, and I’m a righty.”
Bassitt allowed one run on six hits in seven-plus innings during an impressive postseason debut as the AL West champion A’s snapped a six-game postseason losing streak dating to 2013.
The right-hander, drafted by the White Sox before being traded to Oakland in December 2014, came in on a nice roll with an 0.34 ERA in September.
Things got interesting when Bassitt gave way to Liam Hendriks after a leadoff single to Tim Anderson in the eighth with a 5-0 lead. Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run homer one out later.
Hendriks surrendered a pair of two-out singles in the ninth and walked Yoan Moncada to load the bases. Diekman relieved and walked Grandal to bring home a run.
Abreu, a leading candidate for AL MVP, hit a hard grounder to second base as Diekman earned a tough save.
Oakland hit three consecutive one-out singles in the first against Dallas Keuchel, and rookie second baseman Nick Madrigal’s fielding error allowed two runs to score.
Keuchel exited after 3 1/3 innings having allowed five runs – three earned – and six hits.
He couldn’t hold down the slugging A’s as Lucas Giolito did a day earlier taking a perfect game into the seventh inning of Chicago’s 4-1 Game 1 victory.
The White Sox haven’t won back-to-back road playoff games since getting six straight in 2005.
“The biggest thing is carry that momentum from the last inning into tomorrow’s game,” Madrigal said. “Even going into today’s game everyone felt good. We had some good innings just didn’t cash in. No one’s really worried, we know what we can do. We don’t have to overthink it, just go out there and play our game.”
FANS ALLOWED AT WORLD SERIES
Fans can take themselves out to the ball game for the first time this season during the NL Championship Series and World Series at new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Major League Baseball said Wednesday that approximately 11,500 tickets will be available for each game. That is about 28% of the 40,518-capacity, retractable-roof stadium of the Texas Rangers, which opened this year adjacent to old Globe Life Park, the team’s open-air home from 1994 through 2019.
“Any time there’s fans in the stands there’s maybe a heightened sense of, this is a real game and it might raise everybody’s play,” said Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who lives in the Dallas area during the offseason.
The World Series is being played at a neutral site for the first time in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It has not been played at one stadium since the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Browns at Sportsman’s Park in 1944.
Some of the seats will be included in presales for Texas Rangers season ticket holders on Friday and registered users on Monday, and others are set aside for MLB and players. MLB spokesman Matt Bourne said the vast majority are expected to be sold to fans.
Tickets are priced at $40-250 for the NLCS and $75-450 for the World Series, lower than in recent years, and 10,550 seats in the regular sections of the ballpark and 950 in suites will be sold in “pods” of four contiguous seats. Tickets are all digital and will be sold for individual games rather than in series strips.
Each pod will be distanced by at least 6 feet and a checkerboard pattern will be used, with alternating rows of seats in the middle or at the ends. Unsold seats will be tied back.
No seats will be sold in the first six rows within 20 feet of the field, dugouts or bullpen. Fans will not be allowed to the lowest level, which is reserved for MLB’s tier one personnel, such as players and managers.
Masks are mandatory for fans except while they are eating or drinking at their ticketed seats. Concessions and parking will be cashless, and the team’s concessionaire, Delaware North, is planning wrapped items.
The NLCS is scheduled on seven straight days from Oct. 12-18 and the World Series from Oct. 20-28, with traditional off days between Games 2 and 3 and Games 5 and 6, if the Series goes that far. The Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series all will be played at neutral sites because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It would be an adjustment, but it would be so welcomed by everyone,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Teams that get to that situation and have fans, it’s going to be pretty cool.”
After drawing 65.5 million fans during the 2019 regular season, MLB played the pandemic-shortened 2020 regular season entirely without fans. For the first time since spring training was interrupted on March 12, club employees and player families were allowed to attend first-round playoff games this week.
While Texas is allowing up to 50% capacity at venues, MLB did not anticipate having government permission for fans to attend postseason games at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles or Petco Park in San Diego, where AL playoff games are scheduled.
Globe Life Field has been the site of more than 50 graduations, but the Rangers played their home games in an empty ballpark.
“I feel like a 10-year-old boy coming down the stairs Christmas morning, and they’ve got all of the presents wrapped up, and I can’t open a present,” Rangers co-chairman Ray Davis said. “That’s why, frankly, I’m excited about having the Division Series and League Championship and World Series here in our stadium. At least we’ll get a chance to show it off nationally.”
At AT&T Stadium in the same complex, a socially distanced crowd of 21,708 was 27% of 80,000-seat capacity for the Dallas Cowboys’ win over Atlanta in their home opener on Sept. 20. The roof was closed, but large glass walls at both ends were open.
The Texas Department of Health State Services reported 5,335 new coronavirus cases in the state Wednesday, its highest total since Aug. 25.
MLB made the decision not to sell seats for the Division Series. Gates for the LCS and World Series likely will open 90 minutes to two hours before first pitch.
“I would strongly recommend to Major League Baseball and I think they would concur that we try to play as many games as we can with the roof open,” said Rob Matwick, the Rangers’ executive vice president of business operations. “I do think it would be safer and better for air circulation. If we had storms, rain, obviously we would play with the roof closed, and that’s where the masks and distancing and good hygiene practices all come into play.”
Other than 1944, the only times the World Series was held at one site came in 1921 and 1922, when the New York Giants and Yankees both played home games at the Polo Grounds. Yankee Stadium opened in 1923.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WILL NOT EXPAND PLAYOFFS
The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff have decided to stick with a four-team format during the pandemic-altered season after the Pac-12 made a request to consider expansion.
College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said Wednesday that Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott asked the rest of management committee to consider having eight teams play for the national championship this season. ESPN first reported Scott broaching the subject.
The request was made because of disruptions to the season caused by the pandemic. Conferences are not playing the same number of games, are starting play at different times and there are no interconference matchups between Power Five leagues.
Hancock said the committee, with 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, had a “civil and thoughtful discussion.”
“To do it now, it’s such a significant change with so many challenges, especially with the season started, they thought it was best to not make a change,” Hancock said.
Hancock added any decision on expansion would need the approval of the CFP’s presidential oversight committee after a recommendation by commissioners.
The playoff semifinals are scheduled for Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The national championship game is set for Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Scott declined a request for comment through a Pac-12 spokesman.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the AP he was happy to have the discussion, but it became apparent that there was not enough support among the group to move continue to conversation on what he called “a Herculean task” logistically.
“There probably could be multiple motivations. Some probably just like their position and were happy to have it play itself out as originally planned. Others probably saw it as perhaps an opportunity for more slots that weren’t available previously,” Bowlsby said. “Those kinds of things we were never going to do without something close to unanimity. It was obvious from the discussion we weren’t going to get close to that.”
The Pac-12 postponed its fall football season Aug. 11, but changed course last week and decided to have a seven-game season starting Nov. 7.
“(Scott) should have asked for it in their circumstance because they’re going to have fewer games than most everybody else,” Bowlsby said
The Big Ten also decided to conduct a fall season after initially postponing and have set plans to have its teams play as many as nine games, starting Oct. 24.
The Mid-American Athletic Conference (six games) and Mountain West (eight games) are also starting late.
The Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 are already up and running among the Power Five leagues. The SEC is planning to play a 10-game regular season, all in conference. The Big 12 has a 10-game regular season schedule, with one home nonconference game for each team. ACC teams have an 11-game, regular-season schedule with one home nonconference game.
Outside the Power Five, the American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt and Conference USA have permitted their schools to play up to 12 total games.
TITANS-STEELERS GAME MOVED TO MONDAY OR TUESDAY
The Tennessee Titans have at least one more day to see if the team’s coronavirus outbreak is under control before their game with the Steelers is rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday.
Only one new positive test result came back Wednesday, a day after the Titans had three players and five team personnel test positive for COVID-19. More daily test results are upcoming.
The league announced the postponement from Sunday afternoon on Wednesday.
The Titans hope to be allowed back inside their facility Saturday, though coach Mike Vrabel said that could happen before then or later. The Titans are preparing to play as early as Monday. Vrabel said he’s confident the NFL will allow them some time to practice before the game.
“We’ve worked on short weeks before,” Vrabel said. “We’ve played three games in 13 days. I’m sure the other teams that we played before had a few extra days of practice. And so it’ll be important that the time that we do get to spend practicing, we take advantage of it.”
Outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen was the first to test positive, with the Titans learning Saturday of his results. He didn’t make the trip to Minnesota, where Tennessee won 31-30.
On Tuesday, the Titans placed three players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including key players defensive captain and lineman DaQuan Jones and long snapper Beau Brinkley. Outside linebacker Kamalei Correa became the fourth on that list Wednesday.
Vrabel is not identifying the five other personnel who tested positive, saying only that he was not among that group. The Titans coach said some of those who tested positive are experiencing “flu-like symptoms” and he expects they will feel better shortly.
The league’s infectious disease experts have been helping the Titans and the Vikings track down anyone in contact with those who tested positive. The Vikings had no positive test results Wednesday and were preparing to reopen their building Thursday, with a game Sunday at Houston.
The Titans also have evaluated all of the protocols and how they’ve handled meetings and social distancing. Vrabel said he and general manager Jon Robinson already had taken steps Monday to severely limit who had access to the team’s headquarters this week before the NFL decision to close the building.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make the players safe and that this doesn’t happen again,” Vrabel said.
Now the Titans must prepare virtually until they can hit the practice field for a game against the Steelers pitting two of the NFL’s seven undefeated teams.
Vrabel said they held a team meeting virtually Wednesday morning and he showed the Titans video of Pittsburgh. Players had meetings with their position coaches – all through video conference calls.
With only a practice and a walk-through possible before kickoff, the Titans will be preparing virtually for the Steelers to make sure they’re all on the same page. Pittsburgh has a league-high 15 sacks, so paying attention and talking on those Zoom calls will be crucial.
Players with injuries still can receive treatment at the Titans’ facility, with visits to the training room staggered. Other Titans are home hoping no more positive results turn up and that they themselves don’t test positive even as they attempt to keep their family members safe.
Safety Kevin Byard said more positives remain a possibility, with the virus sometimes showing up days after exposure. In the meantime, it’s up to individual players being professionals and finding a way to make up for missed practices.
“If it’s getting on a Peloton bike, just going around your neighborhood, jogging around to making sure that you continue to try to get your blood going, get your blood flowing, do a little bit conditioning on your own, to make sure that when you actually get out there your muscles aren’t just super tight,” Byard said.
The Titans are working to bring in a new long snapper, a crucial position for a team that has won all three games inside the final two minutes on a field goal. That player will have to go through the NFL’s testing protocol first. Replacing Jones also won’t be easy, but defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons is off to a strong start.
NFL PREVIEW WEEK 4: WHAT TO LOOK FOR
30 IN ‘20: Through the first three weeks of the 2020 NFL season, there has been an average of 51.0 points per game scored (both teams combined), the highest total through Week 3 since 1970. Six teams – the GREEN BAY PACKERS (40.7 points per game), SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (37.0), BUFFALO BILLS (31.0), BALTIMORE RAVENS (30.3), KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (30.3) and ATLANTA FALCONS (30.0) – are averaging at least 30 points per game this season, tied for the fourth-most teams in a single season through Week 3 since 1970.
Only two seasons have had six teams average at least 30 points through their first four games of a season, and 2020 has a chance to join or surpass them.
The seasons with the most teams averaging at least 30 points per game through their first four games:
|*Through 3 games|
— NFL —
SLINGING IT IN SEATTLE: Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON enters Week 4 as the league’s leader in touchdown passes (14) and passer rating (139.0). His 14 touchdown passes are the most by a player in his team’s first three games of a season in league annals.
With at least three touchdown passes on Sunday at Miami (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Wilson will surpass PEYTON MANNING (16 touchdown passes in 2013) for the most touchdown passes by a player through his team’s first four games of a season in NFL history. Three of the previous five players with at least 14 touchdown passes through four games went on to win league MVP that season.
The players with the most touchdown passes through their team’s first four games of a season in NFL history:
|PLAYER||TEAM||SEASON||TOUCHDOWN PASSES IN TEAM’S FIRST FOUR GAMES|
|Patrick Mahomes#||Kansas City||2018||14|
|Kurt WarnerHOF#||St. Louis Rams||1999||14|
|*Through three games|
|#Won MVP that season|
Last week, Wilson passed for five touchdowns and zero interceptions in Seattle’s Week 3 victory. Having also passed for four touchdowns in Week 1 and five touchdowns in Week 2, Wilson became the first player with at least four touchdown passes in each of his team’s first three games of a season in NFL history.
With at least four touchdown passes on Sunday, Wilson will become the third player in league annals with at least four touchdown passes in at least four consecutive games, joining PEYTON MANNING (five games in 2004) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (four games in 1984).
The players with the most consecutive games with at least four touchdown passes in NFL history:
|Peyton Manning#||Indianapolis||2004 (Week 8-12)||5|
|Dan MarinoHOF#||Miami||1984 (Weeks 13-16)||4|
|Drew Brees||New Orleans||2011 (Weeks 15-17)||3|
|Patrick Mahomes#||Kansas City||2018 (Weeks 6-8)||3|
|Russell Wilson||Seattle||2020 (Weeks 1-3)||3*|
|#Won MVP that season|
— NFL —
BUFFALO BRILLIANCE: Entering Week 4, Buffalo quarterback JOSH ALLEN ranks second in the NFL in passing yards (1,038), touchdown passes (10) and passer rating (124.8). He is the fourth player with at least 1,000 passing yards, 10 passing touchdowns and a passer rating of 120-or-higher through his team’s first three games of a season in league history.
With at least 300 passing yards and two touchdown passes on Sunday at Las Vegas (4:25 PM ET, CBS), Allen will become the third player with at least 300 passing yards and two touchdown passes in each of his team’s first four games of a season in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer STEVE YOUNG (six games in1998) and PEYTON MANNING (five games in 2013).
The players with the most consecutive games with at least 300 passing yards and two touchdown passes to begin a season in NFL history:
|Steve YoungHOF||San Francisco||1998||6|
Additionally, Allen can become the second quarterback with at least 300 passing yards and a passer rating of 100-or-higher in each of his team’s first four games of a season in NFL history, joining PEYTON MANNING (five season-opening games in 2013).
— NFL —
CATCH MY DRIFT: Indianapolis quarterback PHILIP RIVERS leads all qualified passers with a 78.3 completion percentage this season, the third-highest mark through the first three weeks of a season in league history (minimum 50 attempts).
With a completion percentage of 75-or-higher on Sunday at Chicago (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Rivers will become the sixth quarterback with a completion percentage of 75-or-higher in four consecutive games (minimum 20 attempts) in NFL history.
The quarterbacks with the most consecutive games with a completion percentage of 75-or-higher in NFL history (min. 20 attempts):
|Alex Smith||Kansas City||2016-17||4|
|Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay||2014-15||4|
|Tom Brady||New England||2007||4|
|Kurt WarnerHOF||St. Louis Rams||2001-02||4|
— NFL —
20 YEARS APART: Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY passed for 297 yards and three touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ Week 3 victory, the 286th regular season start of his career, the second-most in NFL history. Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT passed for 330 yards in his second career start last week and became the fifth quarterback with at least 300 passing yards in each of his first two career starts in league annals.
If Herbert (22 years and 209 days old on Sunday) and Brady (43 years and 63 days old on Sunday) meet as starting quarterbacks when the Buccaneers host the Chargers on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), it will mark the first game since at least 1950 featuring an age gap of at least 20 years between opposing starting quarterbacks. The older quarterback won the three most recent meetings featuring the largest age gaps between opposing quarterbacks.
The games with the largest age gaps between opposing starting quarterbacks since 1950:
|QUARTERBACKS (AGES)||AGE GAP||DATE OF GAME|
|Tom Brady (43 years, 63 days) vs. Justin Herbert (22 years, 209 days)||20 years, 219 days||Oct. 4, 2020|
|Tom Brady (42 years, 79 days) vs. Sam Darnold (22 years, 138 days)||19 years, 306 days||Oct. 21, 2019|
|Tom Brady (41 years, 149 days) vs. Sam Darnold (21 years, 208 days)||19 years, 306 days||Dec. 30, 2018|
|Tom Brady (42 years, 68 days) vs. Daniel Jones (22 years, 136 days)||19 years, 297 days||Oct. 10, 2019|
|Warren MoonHOF (44 years, 8 days) vs. Ryan Leaf (24 years, 195 days)||19 years, 179 days||Nov. 26, 2000|
— NFL —
LIGHTS, KAMARA, ACTION: New Orleans running back ALVIN KAMARA leads the league with 438 scrimmage yards and six scrimmage touchdowns (three rushing, three receiving), and has scored two touchdowns in each game this season.
With at least two touchdowns on Sunday at Detroit (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Kamara will become the third player with at least two scrimmage touchdowns in each of his team’s first four games of a season in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer JIM BROWN (five games in 1958) and CALVIN JOHNSON (four games in 2011).
The players with the most consecutive games with at least two touchdowns to begin a season in NFL history:
|Alvin Kamara||New Orleans||2020||3*|
Kamara also scored two touchdowns in his final two regular-season games in 2019. With at least two touchdowns on Sunday, he will become the sixth player with at least two touchdowns in six consecutive games in NFL history.
The players with the most consecutive games with at least two touchdowns in NFL history:
|LaDainian TomlinsonHOF||San Diego Chargers||2006||8|
|Priest Holmes||Kansas City||2003-04||6|
|Larry Johnson||Kansas City||2004-05||6|
|Alvin Kamara||New Orleans||2019-2020||5*|
— NFL —
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE: Cleveland running backs NICK CHUBB (292 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns) and KAREEM HUNT (204 rushing yards and three total touchdowns) are the only pair of running-back teammates each with at least 200 rushing yards this season. The pair has also combined for seven scrimmage touchdowns through three games.
If Hunt scores a touchdown on Sunday at Dallas (1:00 PM ET, FOX), the pair will become the third set of running-back teammates each with at least four scrimmage touchdowns through their team’s first four games of a season in the Super Bowl era.
The running-back teammates each with at least four touchdowns through their team’s first four games of a season in the Super Bowl era:
|James Brooks (5) & Larry Kinnebrew (4)||Cincinnati||1985|
|Jim Braxton (7) & O.J. SimpsonHOF (5)||Buffalo||1975|
|Nick Chubb (4) & Kareem Hunt (3)*||Cleveland||2020|
|*Through three games|
— NFL —
DK MORE THAN OK: Seattle wide receiver DK METCALF ranks third in the league with 297 receiving yards and is one of three players with a touchdown reception in each of the first three weeks of the season.
With at least 90 receiving yards and a touchdown reception on Sunday at Miami (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Metcalf will become the third player with at least 90 receiving yards and a touchdown reception in each of his team’s first four games of a season in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers MARVIN HARRISON (1999) and RANDY MOSS (2007).
The players with the most consecutive games with at least 90 receiving yards and a touchdown reception to begin a season in NFL history:
|Randy MossHOF||New England||2007||4|
SERENA OUT AT FRENCH OPEN
Serena Williams laughed at her own jokes and sounded an upbeat tone – or one as positive, at least, as could be expected from a player whose latest bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title ended because of injury, as did her season, probably.
Williams tried to warm up for her second-round match at Roland Garros on Wednesday but huddled afterward with her coach and determined that if walking on the Achilles tendon she hurt at the U.S. Open nearly three weeks ago was difficult, then trying to run and compete made little sense.
“If it was my knee, that would be more really devastating for me. But this is something that just happened, and it’s super acute. That’s totally different. I feel like my body is actually doing really, really well,” said Williams, who turned 39 on Saturday. “I just ran into, for lack of a better word, bad timing and bad luck, really, in New York.”
Williams withdrew about an hour before she would have played Tsvetana Pironkova at Court Philippe Chatrier, her earliest exit from a major tournament in six years and the most significant development in Paris on Day 4, which also included a straight-set loss by U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka and straightforward wins for Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem over a couple of American men.
“That’s disappointing on many levels, of course,” said John Isner, the 21st-seeded man who was beaten in four sets by 20-year-old American qualifier Sebastian Korda. “It’s disappointing personally for Serena, but it’s disappointing for the tournament and for tennis fans worldwide.”
Williams’ departure, and the 10th-seeded Azarenka’s 6-2, 6-2 dismissal by 161st-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova – someone who lost 13 consecutive Grand Slam matches until defeating Williams’ older sister, Venus, earlier this week – meant zero of the four female semifinalists at Flushing Meadows made it past the second round at Roland Garros.
Champion Naomi Osaka didn’t make the trip to France at all; No. 21 seed Jennifer Brady was upset in her opening match by a 17-year-old qualifier.
The French Open’s start was postponed to September from May because of the coronavirus pandemic, and there were plenty of questions beforehand about what effects there would be from the quick and unusual shift from North America to Europe, from hard courts to red clay.
Azarenka wouldn’t entertain the premise.
“I’m just going to speak only for myself, and I will say that today was not the case of a turnaround, was not the case of the court, was not the case of anything else,” said the former No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion. “This is a lesson for me to learn. I don’t think about what happened in New York, today. So, to me, it doesn’t really matter.”
It was in the third set of Williams’ semifinal against Azarenka at Flushing Meadows that Williams stretched her left Achilles while chasing a shot. Williams took a long pause, clutched at that leg and then took a medical timeout so a trainer could wrap it.
“Didn’t have enough time to properly heal after the Open. I was able to get it somewhat better, but just looking long-term in this tournament, will I be able to get through enough matches? And so, for me, I don’t think I could,” Williams said Wednesday. “I’m struggling to walk, so that’s kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”
She played with a vertical strip of black athletic tape along her Achilles during her first-round match Monday, but there were no other obvious signs of trouble during the 7-6 (2), 6-0 victory over Kristie Ahn.
“I felt like I needed to, like, walk with a limp,” Williams said, “and that was no good.”
This is the second time in her past three appearances in Paris that she pulled out of the French Open before a match because of an injury. It happened in 2018, when she was to face Maria Sharapova in the fourth round; that was Williams’ first Grand Slam tournament in more than a year because she was off the tour while having a baby.