Ness Notes: Wednesday, Sep 30

by Larry Ness

MLB's expanded 16-team postseason opened Tuesday with the lower-seed team winning THREE of the four games. The lone exception was the AL's No. 1 seed, Tampa Bay, beating 8th-seeded Toronto 3-1. It all started when the Astros and Twins entered the 9th-inning tied at one-all. A two-out error by Minnesota shortstop Jorge Polanco kept Houston alive in the top of the inning, before a bases-loaded walk forced in the go-ahead run and a two-run single followed. The Astros beat the Twins 4-1 to open their AL playoff series and stretch Minnesota's all-time postseason record to 17 straight losses, while the Astros became the first team in major league history to win a game after reaching the postseason with a losing record. 

Chicago's Lucas Giolito dazzled in his postseason debut, throwing SIX perfect innings. He didn't allow a baserunner until Tommy La Stella's single up the middle to start the seventh, as the White Sox won 4-1. Tampa Bay's Blake Snell took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Toronto, helped by some splashy defensive plays by shortstop Willy Adames and a two-run HR from Manuel Margot (Rays won 3-1). The nightcap saw Gerrit Cole strike out 13 batters over seven innings (allowed two runs), while the Yankees ripped probable AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber for seven ERs in 4.2 innings of a 12-3 New York rout.

All four AL series continue on Wednesday with the four Game 1 losers in a "win-or-go-home" scenario in their respective Game 2s. The NL 'joins the party' on Wednesday with four Game 1s of their own. Up first it's Cincinnati (in its first postseason since 2013) playing in Atlanta against the Braves, who have won the NL East the last three seasons. However, the Braves have dropped NINE straight postseason series since beating Houston during the 2001 NLDS, not including an additional one-game 2012 NL wild-card loss against St Louis. The Marlins at the Cubs come next. The Marlins are just the second team in MLB history to reach the postseason the year after losing at least 100 games and own the distinction of having been to the playoffs only twice before in franchise history, while winning the World Series both times. Note: There is a Steve Bartman Watch today at Wrigley!<p>
The 30-28 Cardinals open at the 38-23 Padres, who are in the postseason for the first time since 2006. I wonder if San Diego is happy to open with St Louis? Fact is, this is the fourth time the Padres and Cardinals have met in the opening round of the National League playoffs. The bad news for San Diego is, the Cardinals eliminated the Padres in 1996, 2005 and 2006, winning NINE of 10 games. Revenge? Lastly, the Dodgers, who finished with a MLB-best 43-17 record, will host the brewers, who like Houston, made the playoffs with a sub-.500 record (29-31). These two teams met in the 2018 NLCS, when Los Angeles needed SEVEN games to advance to the World Series. This series can't go SEVEN but will it go THREE?

The NBA Finals are finally here and how many thought we'd actually make it this far? The Miami Heat are just the East's No. 5 seed but they are in The Finals against the LA Lakers, the West's No. 1 seed. Miami is the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999. The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West's No. 6 seed. The Lakers cleared enough cap space to lure LeBron James in 2018 free agency and then traded the cache of draft assets they collected in six straight trips to the lottery for Anthony Davis. Owning two of the five best players in the league has the Lakers on the verge of tying the Celtics for the most NBA titles all-time, at 17.

The Lakers cleared enough cap space to lure LeBron James in 2018 free agency and then traded the cache of draft assets they collected in six straight trips to the lottery for Anthony Davis. Owning two of the five best players in the league has the Lakers on the verge of tying the Celtics for the most NBA titles all-time, at 17. A.D. (28.8 & 9.3) and LBJ (26.7-10.3-8.9) don't exactly have the kind of supporting cast you would expect from a dominant playoff team but those two are one "Dynamic Duo." While the Lakers own the two-best players in this series, all five Miami starters are averaging in double figures and Kentucky rookie guard Tyler Herro (16.5 PPG) has become a playoff star coming off the bench.

LBJ is looking for his FOURTH title and the Lakers would be the third team he's won with (twice with Miami and once with Cleveland). As for A.D, it would be his first. Both teams are 12-3 SU this postseason but Miami is 12-3 ATS, while the Lakers are 9-5-1. LA is favored by 4 1/2-points at BetOnline in Game 1 and are about 4-to-1 to win the title.

Good luck...Larry 

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