MLB world reacts to horrendous call by umpires in critical World Series moment

In an extremely competitive World Series with the Washington Nationals fighting to stay alive, a horrendous call by an umpire could have nearly cost Washington its entire season.

As the Nationals held a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning with Yan Gomes on first, shortstop Trea Turner hit a soft bouncer short of the mound. When Houston Astros pitcher Brad Peacock finally picked it up and fired it to first base, the throw was off the mark and forced Turner into first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s glove.

A play that should have been ruled an error with both runners advancing down the base paths, the umpires called Turner out for interference with the play and made Gomes return to first base.

After Turner and Washington’s skipper Dave Martinez lit into umpire Sam Holbrook for the horrendous call, fans and players watched as the umpires put on headsets as the play was reviewed in New York.

Following an excruciating wait that stalled the game and left everyone feeling restless, the umpires finally took off the headsets and announced the call stood.

Washington’s dugout and the entire baseball world exploded with shock and rage after learning the league’s replay officials stood by the horrendous call.

By: Matt Johnson

Astros, Nationals take very different paths to the 2019 World Series

Well, you guys, this is it. The 2019 World Series is finally set in stone with the Houston Astros taking on the Washington Nationals. Houston will be looking to win its second title in three years, while Washington is looking for its first-ever championship.

Now that we know who will be representing both the American and National Leagues, it’s fun to look at the similarities and differences between each squad. The biggest similarity they share is having star-studded and dominant starting rotations.

Official probable starters haven’t yet been announced, but it’s not inconceivable for the first three games to look like this:

  • Game 1: Gerrit Cole vs. Max Scherzer
  • Game 2: Justin Verlander vs. Stephen Strasburg
  • Game 3: Zack Greinke vs. Patrick Corbin

That in itself is just mouthwatering for any baseball fan. When looking at season-long fWAR produced in 2019, each of these six ranked within the top 15 among qualified starters. Corbin was the only one not in the top 10 with his measly 4.8 fWAR. (Insert sarcasm here.) Interestingly enough, both Houston and Washington looked outside their respective organizations to build these fearsome three-headed monsters — Strasburg is the sole homegrown hurler of the bunch.

If we continue using fWAR as the benchmark, the Nationals (21.4) and Astros (19.4) led the National and American League, respectively, with regard to rotation production. The similarities don’t just stop at fWAR, though.

Houston did lead all of baseball with a 125 team wRC+ throughout the regular season. However, Washington did end up in the top 10 on a season-long basis and within the top-five if when considering just second-half production. So they’re not slouches with the bat, either.

The most striking difference between these two Fall Classic opponents, though, is what they did to reach this point. The Astros spent the majority of regular-season play atop the American League West, while the Nationals’ slow start prevented them from being a first-place team at any point in 2019.

The best way to display the difference in expectations for these clubs is to see their odds of winning their respective league pennants throughout the year (via FanGraphs). As the below graph shows, the Astros are supposed to be here, but not many were expecting the Nats to do the same.

For the Astros, the chances of them becoming American League champs started out just above 25.0 percent and didn’t crest below 40.0 percent after the beginning of August. Washington didn’t start the year much worse, but its odds didn’t even reach 20.0 percent until September 30 — the day after the final regular-season games.

This should be a fun series to watch. The Astros likely have the overall advantage when looking at the entirety of their roster, and they’ve also been a little more battle-tested. The Nats have looked impressive while defeating the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. However, sweeping St. Louis has given Washington a full week off before Game 1 of the World Series. That’s probably good for their pitchers, but who knows what kind of rust needs to get kicked off as they take the field again.

Two teams with some similar strengths, but much different roads taken en route to reaching the same place and chasing after the same goal. This is what baseball is all about.

By: Matt Musico

Great MLB players who struggled in the postseason

For every Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, Madison Bumgarner or Jack Morris, there are a handful of greats throughout MLB history whose regular-season light fails to shine in October. From some of the most notable shortcomings of today, back to legends who came out short decades ago, here is a look at a handful of baseball’s best regular-season performers…who failed to live up to expectations in the postseason. 1 of 25

Jeff Bagwell

Bagwell stands as one of the most decorated Astros of all time, winner of 1991 NL Rookie of the Year and 1994 NL MVP honors. He helped the Astros to the postseason six different times; however he often left his best performances behind by October. Bagwell hit .226 with a .685 OPS over 33 postseason games. In his lone World Series appearance, he went 1-for-8 over 10 plate appearances, only able to DH due to an elbow injury. 2 of 25

Craig Biggio

Biggio spent his entire 20-year career with the Astros, becoming the club’s career leader in seven different categories, including hits, runs scored and games played. Alongside Jeff Bagwell as one of the famed “Killer B’s” of Houston, he played in nine postseason series in his career. But like his Hall of Fame teammate, Biggio struggled in October, hitting only .234 overall for his career and failing to drive in a run or steal a base over his first 14 postseason games. 3 of 25

Barry Bonds

The most decorated player to never capture a championship in his career, Bonds lived on the brink of postseason greatness throughout his career. He reached the National League Championship Series on four different occasions but hit only .203 (16-for-79) once there. He did thrive once finally breaking through to the World Series, hitting .471 with four home runs in 2002, but subpar overall play caused his teams to come up short too many times. 4 of 25

Roy Campanella

Campy was a three-time MVP and helped the Brooklyn Dodgers reach the World Series five times between 1949 and 1956. But after owning a career split of .276/.360/.500 in regular-season play, the Dodger catcher’s performance tailed off in the Fall Classic. Campanella hit .237 with four home runs in 32 World Series games. However, two of those homers came in the 1955 Series, which the Dodgers won. 5 of 25

Robinson Cano

Cano reached the postseason in seven of his nine seasons with the Yankees and even assisted on the final out of the 2009 World Series. Otherwise, his postseason career has featured some craterous performances, including a .133 mark in 2006 and .136 in the 2009 Series. In his most recent postseason appearances to date, Cano hit a combined .075 (3-for-40) over two rounds in 2012 playoff action. 6 of 25

Prince Fielder

Fielder was one of the premier sluggers of his era, averaging 35 homers a season between 2006 and 2015. Yet during that same time span, he suffered some significant power outages by the fall. Fielder hit just five homers over 185 postseason at-bats while hitting just .189. This was lowlighted by three series of averages of .150 or worst. 7 of 25

Tom Glavine

At his best, Glavine produced one of the dominant postseason performances of all time, allowing one hit over eight shutout innings to close out the 1995 World Series. His excellent World Series career — a 2.16 ERA, 4-3 record over eight starts — masks some significant struggles in others. In 1992, he allowed 13 hits and 10 runs over seven innings in two NLCS starts. In four other series, Glavine had an ERA of over 5.00. Overall, his 87 career walks are the most in postseason history. 8 of 25

Dwight Gooden

The “Doctor” was out by the time October rolled around. Over 12 appearances and 59 innings, Gooden went winless in his postseason career, going 0-4. He posted an 8.22 ERA over three ALDS appearances, which came later in his bumpy career, but he didn’t fare much better before his problems with substance abuse derailed his career. At his peak form in 1986, Gooden went 0-2 with a 8.00 ERA against the Red Sox in World Series play, allowing 17 hits and walking four. 9 of 25

Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw has played an irreplaceable role in the Dodgers’ run of success over the decade but has often been at the center of their postseason letdowns as well. He owns a sub-.500 (9-10) postseason record despite owning the third-best winning percentage in regular-season history. He has allowed five or more runs eight times in his playoff career, the most in history, and is also one of two players ever to allow seven runs in consecutive postseason starts (2013-2014). 10 of 25

Willie Mays

Mays made five trips to the postseason during his dazzling career and left without a memorable moment to his credit. He hit just one home run during 99 plate appearances and contributed just six extra-base hits. In 1951, he hit into a record three double plays in Game 4 of the World Series while hitting just .182 in a losing effort against the Yankees. 11 of 25

Mark McGwire

McGwire staked his reputation by hitting tape measure homers for the A’s and Cardinals. However, he didn’t test the dimensions of many ballparks in October, hitting just five postseason homers in 42 games. After hitting .389 in the 1989 ALCS, McGwire hit just .189 over his next seven playoff series (79 at-bats). 12 of 25

Joe Morgan

Morgan was a central part of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” of the 1970s, helping the club to consecutive World Series wins in 1975 and ’76. However, he was often missing in action by the time the playoffs had come around. The two-time MVP hit just .182 over 50 postseason games. In the Cincinnati’s World Series loss in 1972, Morgan hit .125 (3-for-24) and hit underneath .200 in six of his 11 career playoff series. 13 of 25

Jake Peavy

The 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner stands as one of the most horrid postseason hurlers of all time. Over nine playoff starts, Peavy was owned to the tone of a 7.98 ERA and 1-5 record. He worked to a 1.82 WHIP, letting up 53 hits over 38 innings and walking 17 in the process. Over three World Series starts, Peavy had a 9.58 ERA, including a 12.79 showing amid two losses in the 2014 Series with the Giants. 14 of 25

Tony Perez

One of the most feared run producers in history, Perez surprisingly contributed little to the scoreboard in postseason play. Over 47 career playoff games, he drove in 25 runs, most of which came during a three home run, seven RBI effort during 1975 series (in which he still hit just .179). Take away that ’75 showing, and Perez never homered in 26 other World Series games and hit underneath .100 in two separate NLCS appearances. 15 of 25

David Price

Baseball’s first $30 million per year pitcher, Price has performed well south of that in postseason value. Although he won a pair of games in relief, it took Price 10 years to win his first postseason start, which came in the 2018 ALCS. Up to that point, Price had routinely been shellacked in October, owning a 5.44 ERA between 2010 and 2017, offset by a 1-8 record and 11 home runs over 12 games. 16 of 25

Jorge Posada

Posada played in a whopping 125 postseason games in his career, the second most in history. While he played in six World Series and won five, Posada’s playoff performances weren’t particularly memorable on an individual level. Over 492 trips to the plate, he hit just .248 and contributed a -2.33 win probability added. Posada’s average in ALCS play sat at .224 before lowering to .219 lifetime in the World Series. 17 of 25

Jackie Robinson

The Dodgers reached the World Series in six of Robinson’s 10 years with the club, an outcome that was far from happenstance. But while Jackie’s dynamic play regularly launched Brooklyn to the top of the National League, his playoff struggles often were an Achilles’ heel between more titles coming to Ebbets Field. Robinson hit under .200 in three of his six Series appearances and managed just six stolen bases in the process. 18 of 25

Alex Rodriguez

Carrying all of the substantial expectations that come with being $250 million superstar with the New York Yankees, the spotlight was especially bright on A-Rod by October. However more often than not, it was for the wrong reasons. Rodriguez hit under .200 in eight separate Series with the Yankees, tallying 33 strikeouts against just five RBI in those series.

By: Matt Whitener

10 MLB prospects who will make an impact in 2020

It’s fair to say the 2019 MLB season has been the year of the rookie. All around the league, first-year players have burst onto the scene to make immediate impacts, and in some cases have become instant stars. Just look at what some of these guys have done:

The Mets’ Pete Alonso currently leads the majors with 47 home runs.

Before he got hurt, San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. was hitting .317 with 22 homers and 53 RBI in only 84 games.

Houston’s Yordan Alvarez has crushed 22 long balls in only 240 at-bats.

Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hasn’t quite dominated the way he did in AAA, but he’s shown immense power and potential, and the show he put on at the Home Run Derby will be talked about for years.

Atlanta’s Mike Soroka is a legitimate NL Cy Young candidate.

The Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds is hitting .328 and could well win the batting title.

The list goes on and on. Keston Hiura, Christian Walker, Eloy Jimenez, Austin Riley, among others look like cornerstone everyday players in the big leagues.

This unprecedented wave of talented players making their debuts all around the same time got us thinking. Let’s take a look at 10 players who could make a similar rookie impact in 2020.

1. Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox

The White Sox system has been strong for several years now, and while Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and the above-mentioned Jimenez have already thrived in the big leagues, Robert figures to join them in the near future. The native Cuban dominated three separate minor league levels in 2019, hitting .328 with 32 homers and 92 RBI while stealing 36 bases and adding 31 doubles and 11 triples. He was recently named the minor league Player of the Year by USA Today, and it’s a reasonable assumption that he’ll be patrolling center field at Guaranteed Rate Field very early next spring.

2. Gavin Lux, IF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Lux’s status on this list is a bit tenuous, as he was just promoted to the big leagues this week, and it’s likely going to be close whether or not he accumulates 130 at-bats and loses his 2020 rookie status. Provided he doesn’t, he should be the hands-down favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year next season. In the minor leagues this season the 21-year-old slashed an astounding .347/.421/.607 while crushing 26 homers and driving in 76 runs. He’s a natural shortstop who has played second in his early exposure in the big leagues, a position that may become his ultimate home given the presence of Corey Seager. Regardless at what side of the second base bag he lines up defensively, Lux can flat out hit, and it’s no surprise the Dodgers wanted to give him a look down the stretch to see if he can make a push for a postseason roster spot.

3.  Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

Houston has been waiting for the talented left-handed slugger to go from dominant minor leaguer to dangerous middle-of-the-order bat in the big leagues, and it seems fair to assume that transition will finally occur next season. With AAA Round Rock in 2019, Tucker hit .266 with 34 homers and 97 RBI — the third consecutive minor league season he drove in over 90 runs. Perhaps even more impressive is the 30 stolen bases he racked up, as no matter what level you’re playing in, it’s incredibly difficult to produce 30/30 seasons. Tucker’s blend of power and speed have long made him desirable to other teams in trade discussions, but the Astros have consistently hung up the phone before talks could get off the ground. His organization’s belief in him hasn’t been deterred, however, and it’s time for the 22-year-old to reward its patience.

4. Carter Kieboom, IF, Washington Nationals

The Nationals took Kieboom in the first round out of high school three years ago, and he’s done nothing but shoot through their system since. In 412 at-bats in AAA this year, the young infielder hit an impressive .303 with 16 homers and 79 RBI while also tallying 24 doubles and 203 total bases. Injuries necessitated a brief big league promotion in late April, and while he did hit his first two big league homers during that 39 at-bat stint, Washington shipped him back to Fresno when it got some veterans back. Next season, however, the Nats figure to have an opening at second base, as Brian Dozier signed only a one-year free agent pact last winter, and his performance has not warranted Washington doubling down, especially given the presence of Kieboom, who conceivably will team with shortstop Trea Turner to form this team’s long-term double play combination.

5. Casey Mize, SP, Detroit Tigers

Mountcastle is far from a perfect prospect, but his power potential is simply hard to ignore. In a little over 500 at-bats for Baltimore’s AAA affiliate in Norfolk, the 22-year-old hit .312 with 25 long balls and 35 doubles. His .527 SLG percentage finished sixth in the International League, and it’s easy to see why the Orioles are high on his bat. That said, Mountcastle does have things to work on. For starters, he doesn’t really have a defensive position. He played third base in 2018 and predominantly first this season while also mixing in some work in left field. A future as a big league DH could very well be in the cards. Plate discipline is also of some concern as the big right-handed slugger walked only 24 times all year, making his .344 OBP simply remarkable. All told, while Mountcastle is raw, the O’s are in no position to not take a flier, and if he gets consistent at-bats in 2020 it may just become too difficult to get him out of the line-up.

8. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

The son of longtime major league third baseman Charlie Hayes, Ke’Bryan has blossomed into quite the hot corner prospect. In 110 games in AAA this season the Pittsburgh’s first-round pick from back in 2015 hit .261 with 10 homers and 55 RBI, but those numbers only tell some of the story. His 31 doubles, 13 steals and renowned defense at an important position help paint the picture of a solid player who can do just about everything on a baseball diamond. The Bucs have started Colin Moran or Jung-Ho Kang most nights at third base this season, and while Kang is no longer in Pittsburgh, Moran is not someone who should block the team’s best position player prospect. Hayes doesn’t profile as a can’t-miss star, but he should be an above-average everyday third baseman for a long time, potentially beginning as soon as next opening day.

9. Justin Dunn, SP, Seattle Mariners

Dunn came to Seattle in the much-discussed winter trade with the Mets that netted the Mariners outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic, and while that alone would seem to make the deal a heist for the M’s, the righty has the potential to make this one of the most one-sided trades of all time. In 25 starts in AA in ’19, the Boston College product worked to a strong 3.55 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP while punching out 158 hitters in 131.1 innings and limiting the opposition to a .236 batting average. Scouts don’t look at Dunn as a future big league ace or even a No. 2, but a strong showing in spring training would put him in discussion for a rotation spot, and it’s certainly feasible he could become a key cog in Seattle’s starting five sometime in 2020.

10. Nate Pearson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto is a team to buy stock in, as with youngsters Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio already contributing to the parent club, the organization’s farm system has more talent coming. Pearson paces that group. In 25 minor league starts this season the right-hander posted a 2.30 ERA in 101.2 innings while delivering an 0.89 WHIP and a .176 batting average against. He struck out well over a batter/frame while issuing only 27 free passes all season. And on a team with little to be excited about on the mound, particularly after Marcus Stroman was traded for New York, Pearson is quickly going to become a name to know among baseball fans in Canada.

By: Justin W Mears

11 MLB players in contract years who will crush it in 2019

Athletes in any sport wants to perform at their best the year before they’re eligible to hit free agency, and baseball players are certainly no different. This winter alone has shown how much money can be gained or lost in a contract year, with high-profile names standing out on both sides of the spectrum. Manny Machado used the best season of his career to secure a $300 million long-term guarantee from the Padres, while longtime Astros’ lefty Dallas Keuchel struggled in his walk year and finds himself still unsigned with two weeks to go until Opening Day.

Impending free agents on losing teams always deal with a degree of uneasiness around the trade deadline, when clubs hope to bring back something before letting a player leave for nothing, and it takes a certain level of professionalism to block out the noise and perform. In 2019 several players jump off the page as candidates to enjoy a big walk year. Let’s examine the list.

1. Justin Smoak 1B Toronto Blue Jays

Two years ago the switch-hitting Smoak hit .270 with 38 home runs and 90 RBI while adding 29 doubles and making the All-Star Team. Unfortunately he was unable to come close to replicating that success a year ago. In 505 at-bats, the veteran watched his stat line dip to .242 with 25 homers and 77 RBI, still a solid season but not nearly as eye-opening as his prior campaign. Entering 2019 both the Blue Jays and Smoak would benefit from a renaissance, as Toronto is exceedingly unlikely to be in the mix in a difficult AL East and would love to move him to a bat-needy team at the deadline. Smoak understands the monetary difference between his ’17 and ’18 seasons is massive.

2.  Jose Abreu 1B Chicago White Sox

Abreu has spent his entire career in the Windy City after defecting from Cuba prior to the 2014 campaign, and during his first four years in the big leagues he was one of the best run producers in the entire sport. From 2014-17 the right-handed slugger hit over .290 with 25-plus homers and 100-plus RBI in each season, but last year didn’t go nearly as swimmingly. A lower abdominal injury limited the 32-year-old to a career-low 128 games, and his .265 average, 22 homers and 78 RBI were evidence of just how bothered he was by the discomfort. Now back and healthy, Abreu is a prime candidate for a huge year, as he is a proud man who fancies himself as one of the most productive hitters in the American League. A big winter payday is quite the carrot at the end of the proverbial stick.

3. Zack Wheeler SP New York Mets

After spending the majority of his career taking two steps forward and one step back, the right-hander finally arrived in a big way in 2018. In 29 starts, Wheeler dominated for much of the year, turning in a 3.31 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP in 182.1 innings while striking out 179 men and holding the opposition to just a .225 batting average. There had been some minor chatter of New York trying to extend the 28-year-old during camp, but Wheeler spoke candidly about understanding he and Gerrit Cole are the top two free agents to be starting pitchers, and it’s clear he has his eyes on the prize heading into the new season.

4. Gerrit Cole SP Houston Astros

Speaking of Cole, the former Pirates first-round pick landed in Houston as part of an offseason trade prior to last year, and while he often found himself overshadowed by teammate Justin Verlander, he was one of the best pitchers in the American League in his own right. In 32 outings the veteran turned in a 2.88 ERA with a career best 1.03 WHIP while holding the opposition to a sub .200 batting average for the first time and eclipsing the 200 innings pitched plateau for the third time in four years. His 276 strikeouts finished second to only Verlander in the AL, and the UCLA product earned a selection to his second All-Star Team. Entering 2019 Wheeler was 100 percent right that he and Cole will be the two most sought-after pitchers next winter, and provided Cole avoids serious injuries moving forward, his bank account can expect to expand by several zeroes.

5. Josh Donaldson 3B Atlanta Braves

Perhaps no offensive player is more motivated at the outset of 2019 than the 2015 AL MVP, who struggled through a miserable injury-plagued 2018 season and ultimately settled for a high value one-year, prove-it deal in Atlanta. The Braves could be getting themselves a steal as they attempt to win their second consecutive division crown, as from 2015-17 Donaldson launched 111 homers and drove in 300 runs while consistently hitting around .280 and getting on base at close to a .385 clip. Taking the pillow contract was a strategic play for the veteran, as he understood he would be overshadowed by Machado and Bryce Harper on the free-agent market this season. And if he can re-establish himself as a premier run producer in 2019, he just may break the bank next winter.

6. Scooter Gennett 2B Cincinnati Reds

In just two seasons in western Ohio, Gennett has transformed himself from a solid role player in Milwaukee to one of the best offensive second basemen in the league. Last year the 28-year-old hit .310 with 23 homers and 92 RBI while setting a new career high with a .357 OBP and eclipsing 30 doubles for the third time in his career. By all accounts the veteran is someone the Reds should want to keep around for the long haul, but in mid-February he expressed frustration over not receiving a contract extension, a potential rift to pay attention to as the summer unfolds.

7. Marcell Ozuna OF St. Louis Cardinals

When the Marlins were selling off everyone and everything that wasn’t nailed down prior to last season, the Cardinals were happy to swoop in and take the right-handed-hitting Ozuna off their hands. The Dominican Republic native had just completed a season that had watched him hit .313 with 37 homers and 124 RBI while earning a trip to his second straight All-Star Game, taking home his first Silver Slugger award and even winning his first Gold Glove. St. Louis fantasized about adding that type of production to the middle of its lineup, but unfortunately it took the veteran some time to get used to his new surroundings. When all was said and done, Ozuna’s numbers slid to .280 with 23 homers and 88 RBI, still solid but not what the Cardinals were expecting. Entering Year 2 in Missouri, this lineup is now home to slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who will take pressure off Ozuna to be the premier right-handed bat and, in theory, add a substantial amount of RBI opportunities. It should come as no surprise if the 28-year-old delivers a monster season.

Alex Bregman: Astros should be playing in primetime

Alex Bregman is not happy with the seeming disrespect shown towards the defending World Series champs during the ALDS.

Bregman’s Houston Astros were matched up with the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, which ended on Monday thanks to Houston’s series sweep. One issue that stood out was all three games of the series beginning early; they had start times of 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET. The games all started early because they were played the same day as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who got the primetime evening slot. We heard plenty of complaints about that before the series began.

What did Bregman think about the early start times?

“Does Tiger Woods tee off at 8:00 am when he’s going to win a Masters? Does Floyd Mayweather fight the first fight of the night? No, he’s the main event, right? So the ‘Stros need to be playing primetime television, 7:00 pm. We’re looking forward to playing primetime television in the ALCS,” Bregman told MLB Network’s Heidi Watney in an interview.

We love the sales pitch from Bregman, and there is no doubt about how popular the Astros are in Houston. There is also very little doubt about how good they are. They deserve to be in primetime and have earned it by making the ALCS. But when the Yankees and Red Sox are playing a postseason series, that takes the primetime slot over everything else. That’s not disrespect; that’s just common business sense.

By Larry Brown

T-Mobile Home Run Derby tonight

WASHINGTON — Steps from the United States’ seat of power, Major League Baseball will bring the power to Nationals Park tonight in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby. Homer-hitting host Bryce Harper leads a fascinating — and young — field of Derby entrants who will look to beat the clock and each other in the sport’s most swinging showcase at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Harper is the only one among the eight participating sluggers who has done the Derby before, having finished as the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013 at Citi Field. So, Harper has the experience, and he’s got the comfort of competing in his own confines. But he’s also got some of the season’s biggest stars — and biggest surprises — to contend with.

Here are the seedings and first-round matchups for what is the youngest Home Run Derby field ever:

Left side of bracket
1. Jesus Aguilar, Brewers vs. 8. Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
4. Alex Bregman, Astros vs. 5. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs

Right side of bracket
2. Harper, Nationals vs. 7. Freddie Freeman, Braves
3. Max Muncy, Dodgers vs. 6. Javier Baez, Cubs

That’s the field, and the rules and format will be the same as they’ve been since 2015, which is to say the ticking clock and the importance of not just going deep but extra deep — with the dinger distances measured by Statcast™ having an impact on extra time allotments — are in full effect.

The average age of the participants is 26.39. As a matter of fact, this year’s oldest participants, the 28-year-old Freeman and Aguilar, weren’t even born when the Derby was first held in 1985.

• Home Run Derby history

Three of the participants — Hoskins, Schwarber and Muncy — are competing in the Derby despite not being selected for the National League All-Star squad. So we’ve got dingers, and we’ve got ringers.

Given the relative youth and the specific inexperience involved here, it’s difficult to know what to expect from this group. Harper can only hope that the groove he got into five years ago, when at 20 years old he became the youngest player to reach the Derby final, will be replicated.

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By Anthony Castrovince

Astros Win Game 7, Winning First World Series In Franchise History

Written by David Schoenfeld at

he 2017 season ended with Charlie Morton throwing a 96 mph fastball to Corey Seager, Seager hitting a ground ball to Jose Altuve, Altuve throwing the ball to Yuli Gurriel and then all the Houston Astros charging in from the bullpen and the dugout, their orange jerseys swarming the field at Dodger Stadium. It was a beautiful thing to see — a baseball celebration.

The story of Game 7 and the Astros’ 5-1 clinching victory, however, begins in the top of the first inning and with the first batter. George Springer walked up to the plate, said a few words to Austin Barnes as he put a hand on the catcher’s shoulder — words about good luck and admiration for what had been an exhilarating first six games — and then dug in to face Yu Darvish, the hired arm acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers to help them win the World Series.

Eight pitches later, it was a 2-0 game. Springer doubled into the left-field corner on a 1-1 slider and scored when first baseman Cody Bellinger threw away Alex Bregman’s little bouncer. Bregman would steal third and score on another grounder.

When Springer stepped in again in the top of the second, it was 3-0 and Darvish was on the ropes. There were two outs, a runner on, Brandon Morrow warming up in the bullpen. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts let Darvish face Springer.

Springer got ahead in the count with two balls … or Darvish fell behind in the count: I guess the wording depends on how you want this story to read. Springer took a fastball for a strike, a curveball inside and missed at a slider.

The next pitch was Darvish’s 47th of the game — his 96th of the World Series — and almost certainly the last one he’ll throw as a Dodger. It was a 96 mph fastball, low in the zone and middle of the plate. Springer absolutely unloaded, belting a 438-foot laser out to left-center, his record-tying fifth home run of the World Series.

“I remember swinging and hearing the sound of the bat. I knew it was a good sound,” Springer said. “Then I saw the flight of the ball. And I got to first base and I rounded third, and got home and that’s a crazy feeling. It’s a very surreal feeling because this is Game 7.”

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Dodgers Tie World Series, We Got A Game 7

Written by David Schoenfield at

The pitching matchup for the first-ever World Series Game 7 at Dodger Stadium will pit a brash 24-year-old son of a major leaguer versus a veteran trade acquisition who has spent just three months in a Dodgers uniform.

Lance McCullers Jr. will take the mound for the Houston Astros, while the Dodgers will go with Yu Darvish. Both are hoping to rebound from rocky performances earlier in the World Series.

Darvish quickly exited the clubhouse after the Dodgers’ 3-1 win in Game 6 on Tuesday night, before the rest of his teammates had even finished showering; but McCullers went out to right field and played catch, going through his pitches as fans were still exiting the ballpark.

“I was in the bullpen toward the end; that’s why I had to throw on the field postgame,” McCullers said. “Just because I hadn’t thrown yet, because I was hot and ready to go, if the situation came up where they needed me.”

McCullers started Game 3 of the World Series, but he struggled with his command, walking four batters and giving up three runs in 5⅓ innings, before eventually getting credit for the win in Houston’s 5-3 win. He said that experience would help in Game 7.

“I learned I wasn’t very sharp,” he said after Game 6. “I knew that early, though. So I knew it was going to be a grind for me pretty much the whole outing, which it was. This is a very good hitting team. They’re patient, but they’ll make you pay for mistakes. So I have to go out there and just execute my game plan. And I need to execute a little better in certain spots.”

The Astros’ plan is to have everyone available behind McCullers, which means Game 6 starter Justin Verlander could pitch and Game 5 starter Dallas Keuchel will definitely be ready to go in the bullpen.

“I think all of our guys will have the adrenaline on their side,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “They are all going to be ready.”

Verlander will be a game-time decision as to whether he can give the Astros a batter or, maybe in the extreme, an inning. He threw 93 pitches in Game 6 and said he will play catch before Game 7 to evaluate how his right arm feels.

“I think it depends on when I get to the ballpark,” Verlander said. “I’ll throw the ball and see if I’m available or not.”

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Game 5 Of World Series Was Quite Possibly The Best Game In The History of The World Series, Astros Win 13-12

Written by David Schoenfield at

We settled in at 7:21 p.m. local time, expecting a tense, classic World Series pitchers’ duel between Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw.

We ended five hours and 17 minutes later after witnessing a game that was simultaneously an exhilarating baseball adventure and something Caligula invented. If you had a rooting interest in this game, you’re not even reading this column because you’re probably out of energy.

The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in a 10-inning slugfest of epic proportions, during which the Astros hit five home runs. They became just the fifth team in World Series history to rally from three separate deficits and just the second to rally from two three-run deficits — and after all that, they still had to score the winning run off the best closer in baseball.

“Just when I thought I could describe Game 2 as my favorite game of all time, I think Game 5 exceeded that and more,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said after the game. “It’s hard to put into words all the twists and turns in that game, the emotion, doing it at home, in front of our home crowd. Just exactly what you expect to come to the park with Keuchel and Kershaw pitching.”

Did it really happen? Sweet mother of all that’s pure and good, this insanity most definitely did happen, as the 43,000-something fans in attendance at Minute Maid Park will tell their kids and their grandkids and their neighbors and the woman in line at the grocery store and the co-worker at the office they haven’t talked to in two years. Games like this bring us together. The entire city of Houston will be talking baseball on Monday morning.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, ‘This is the craziest game of my life,'” winning pitcher Joe Musgrove said about this postseason. “This was the craziest game of my life.”

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