Even as the Houston Astros come closer and closer to completing a historic comeback, it’s still the Tampa Bay Rays who are best positioned to win Game 7 of the ALCS and earn a spot in the World Series.
It might not feel that way after three consecutive Tampa Bay losses, the most recent of which left Game 6 starter Blake Snell ‘disappointed’ that he wasn’t asked to escape a fifth-inning jam on his own. That the normally reliable Rays bullpen allowed five runs only adds to the frustration for Tampa Bay.
For whatever that’s worth, the Astros clearly have the momentum. They now have a legitimate shot at becoming the first team since the 2004 Red Sox to win a series in which they trailed 3-0, and they’re embracing a potential connection with the ‘idiots’ of ’04, watching an ESPN documentary about that team’s epic comeback against the Yankees.
Catch Game 6 of the NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves at 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN Now. Game 7 of the ALCS between the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays follows at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN Now.
But on a more practical level, the Rays have a better chance at winning Game 7 and claiming the AL pennant. While Dusty Baker’s Astros have been operating from a position of desperation these last three days, the Rays have had the luxury of being more cautious, particularly with their pitching staff. On Saturday, that caution could finally pay off.
Lance McCullers Jr. will start for Houston, and if his stuff is as sharp as it was in Game 2 of the ALCS, the Astros will be in a great position. McCullers Jr. struck out 11 over the course of seven innings Monday, allowing four runs on four hits while touching 97 m.p.h. and generating 20 swinging strikes. Another start like that, and the Astros’ offence would be well-positioned to do the rest.
“We’re relentless,” shortstop Carlos Correa told reporters. “When we said we didn’t want to go home, we really meant that. We want to keep playing baseball and we don’t want this to be the end of our season. We took care of these three games and now we’ve got to take care of one more. If we don’t win that game, it all means nothing.”
Here’s the issue for the Astros, though. If, for whatever reason, McCullers Jr. doesn’t pitch well, their relievers aren’t well-positioned to make up for it. Houston’s bullpen is weak to begin with and its most trusted reliever, Ryan Pressly, has now pitched three days in a row.
In theory, the Astros could turn to Pressly again, as he has thrown just 39 total pitches during those three appearances and never more than 17 in any one game. That’s a big ask, though, since warm-up pitches and pre-game work contribute to the toll on pitchers’ arms, too. Managers almost never ask pitchers to go four times in a row, and even if Pressly offers to pitch there’s a chance his stuff won’t be there.
Sometimes teams can overcome thin bullpens by turning to starters in relief, but Framber Valdez, Houston’s best starter, will presumably be unavailable after throwing 101 pitches in Game 6. Whether Game 4 starter Zack Greinke is available remains unclear.
By way of contrast, the Rays’ pitching staff is far better positioned entering Game 7. Diego Castillo, who struggled after replacing Snell Friday, should be available Saturday after throwing just 14 pitches. Meanwhile, Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson will all be rested. Even Tyler Glasnow could be available after throwing 96 pitches Wednesday.
The Rays’ Game 7 starter will be Charlie Morton, who, like McCullers Jr., has plenty of big-game experience. In fact, McCullers Jr. started the Astros’ World Series clincher in 2017 and Morton closed it out.
Three years later, the Rays don’t need nearly as much length from Morton as the Astros do from his counterpart. The last time the Rays played a must-win game, in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Yankees, Rays manager Kevin Cash asked the bullpen trio of Anderson, Fairbanks and Castillo for 20 of 27 total outs. This time, a similar approach could work. So long as Morton gives the Rays two or three effective innings, their bullpen can conceivably do the rest.
“All in all, I think we’re in a pretty good spot,” Morton told reporters. “But there’s no denying this is a frustrating spot to be in.”
Compared to where the Rays were three days ago, this is a precarious spot, to be sure. Compared to the Astros, it’s still a pretty good one.
Steelers dominate early, hold off Titans win – TSN
NASHVILLE — The Pittsburgh Steelers stand alone as the AFC’s last undefeated team thanks to a dominant start and a bit of late luck.
Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson, and the Steelers remained perfect by holding off Tennessee for a 27-24 victory Sunday in a game postponed three weeks after the Titans came down with the NFL’s first COVID-19 outbreak of the season.
In a matchup of the conference’s two remaining unbeaten teams, the Titans rallied by scoring 17 straight after being smothered in the first half.
They failed to complete the comeback when Stephen Gostkowski, who made a 51-yarder earlier, missed wide right from 45 yards with 14 seconds left, sending the Steelers running around the field in celebration and stunning the Titans (5-1). Even Roethlisberger appeared shocked the four-time Pro Bowl kicker missed.
“Oh, man. I mean, I was surprised he missed it,” Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said. “Our idea was to go into overtime. A good kicker. It’s tough. It’s good for us.”
The Steelers improved to 6-0 for their best start since 1978, when Pittsburgh won its first seven on the way to the Super Bowl. This was just the fifth time undefeated teams had met in Week 7 or later, and the winner of the previous four all made the Super Bowl.
“We feel we have a really good football team,” Roethlisberger said. “We feel we can be really special … That’s going to be a short-lived happiness because we know what’s coming next.”
What comes next? A matchup with the rival Ravens.
“We are perfect from a record standpoint, and so we respect that,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “We realize that we’ve got AFC North ball on next week on the road. We’re going to a group that has seven days’ advantage on us, so there’s a lot for us to be urgent about.”
Benny Snell Jr. added a 1-yard TD run, and Ray-Ray McCloud set up a touchdown with a 57-yard punt return. Pittsburgh scored at least 26 points for a sixth straight game to tie a stretch in 2015 for the longest in franchise history.
The Steelers were without cornerback Mike Hilton, one of their best blitzers, not that the NFL’s No. 2 defence in both yards and points allowed missed him much. Pittsburgh outgained Tennessee 362-292 and held the NFL’s second-best scoring offence under 31 points for the first time since the opening week of the season.
But the Titans had won four of their first five by rallying in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime, and they appeared ready to add another.
Ryan Tannehill hit A.J. Brown on a short pass that the receiver took to the end zone for a 73-yard TD in the third quarter. Jayon Brown picked off a batted pass, setting up Gostkowski. Then Derrick Henry capped a 12-play drive with a 1-yard TD with 10:13 left to set up the late drama.
The Titans had the chance for another late win after Amani Hooker intercepted Roethlisberger’s pass to Smith-Schuster in the back of the end zone with 2:35 left. It was Roethlisberger’s third of the game, which Tennessee turned into only a field goal.
Gostkowski had won the first three games this season for Tennessee with late field goals.
“It was a gut punch to see that kick go wide right,” Tannehill said. “Had a ton of confidence going out there that Stephen was going to nail that kick. Unfortunately, obviously, it was a little bit wide.”
Gostkowski said the kick was headed down the middle until it faded right late.
“Just very disappointed to let the team down like that,” Gostkowski said. “I was confident going out there but didn’t get it done.”
Pittsburgh dominated early with a 161-1 edge in total offence before the Titans’ second offensive possession. The Steelers led 24-7 at halftime.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time in 23 games, going 75 yards over 16 plays. Roethlisberger had his 1-yard TD pass to James Conner wiped out by penalty so he hit Johnson for an 11-yard TD and a 7-0 lead.
Snell Jr. capped the Steelers’ second drive for a 14-0 lead.
Steelers defensive end Chris Wormley was hurt early in the fourth. Johnson went to the sideline after a key third-down catch late in the game with what he called a bruised ankle. He missed last week’s game with a back injury.
Titans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney hurt his left knee early in the third quarter but returned. Titans cornerback Kristian Fulton hurt a knee late in the first half.
Pittsburgh came in with an NFL-high 24 sacks and had two more, extending its streak to 63 straight games with at least one sack. That’s the longest active streak in the league and second-longest in NFL history — Tampa Bay went 69 straight games with at least one sack from Oct. 10, 1999, to Nov. 9, 2003. But they did snap a streak of six straight games with at least three or more sacks that dated to the 2019 season finale and had tied for longest in franchise history.
The Titans came in with the NFL’s worst defence on third down, and they allowed Pittsburgh to convert their first seven. The Steelers finished 13 of 18 for a 72% conversion rate.
Steelers: Visit Baltimore in a game rescheduled because of the Titans’ outbreak with the Ravens coming off their bye.
Titans: Visit Cincinnati in their first road game since Sept. 27.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Lions stun Falcons 23-22 after letting Atlanta score late TD – TSN
ATLANTA — Todd Gurley saw a tantalizing path to the end zone and couldn’t help himself.
He tried to fall down, but it was too late.
Gurley landed on the goal line for a touchdown that, as it turned out, led to another stunning loss for the Atlanta Falcons.
Detroit let Gurley score with just over a minute remaining to get the ball back, giving Matthew Stafford enough time to drive the Lions to the winning TD as time expired Sunday.
Stafford connected with T.J. Hockenson on an ad-libbed, 11-yard scoring pass and Matt Prater, pushed back by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, nailed a 48-yard extra point kick to give the Lions a 23-22 victory.
“Just an amazing game,” Detroit coach Matt Patricia said. “Unreal.”
All too real for the Falcons (1-6), who fired coach Dan Quinn on the heels of becoming the first team in NFL history to lose back-to-back games after leading by at least 15 points in the fourth quarter.
This one only added to the misery.
“Usually you have one or two of those games,” Gurley said. “Not multiple games.”
Trailing 16-14, the Falcons were positioned to run down the clock and kick a chip-shot field goal for the win when they picked up a first down at the Lions 10 with just over a minute remaining.
Detroit had used up all its timeouts on the drive, so there was no further way to stop the clock. Knowing their only chance was to allow a quick TD, the Lions made no attempt to stop Gurley after he took a handoff from Matt Ryan.
“It was great situational defence awareness right there,” Patricia said, going on to praise his defensive players for NOT doing what is normally their job.
Gurley burst through an intentionally gaping hole, with only one defensive player, safety Will Harris, even putting a hand on the runner. Gurley realized what the Lions were doing and tried to fall over, but he landed on the goal line with his ball-carrying hand.
The Lions (3-3) held up their hands to celebrate a touchdown.
By the other team.
“I thought it was perfect,” Patricia said. “Give the players credit. They executed it great. It was a great job by them.”
Gurley knew he had messed up.
“I was mad as hell,” he said. “I was trying not to (score), but my momentum took me in. It’s kind of crazy.”
The Falcons converted a 2-point conversion to make it 22-16, but the Lions still had a chance — especially with a quarterback like Stafford who has led so many comebacks in his career.
“I had my helmet on, thinking the game was probably going to be over,” Stafford said. “They let them score and gave us another chance.”
He drove his team 75 yards in eight lightning-quick plays, connecting with Hockenson on a 13-yard pass, Danny Amendola for 22 yards and Kenny Golladay for a 29-yard gain to the Falcons 11. The game was briefly halted to allow the replay booth official to take a look at Golladay’s catch, which the Falcons argued had been trapped against the turf.
But the call was upheld and the Lions lined up quickly, spiking the ball with 2 seconds left to set up the final play. Stafford was pressured in the pocket, rolled to his left and spotted Hockenson breaking free across the end zone.
Touchdown, Lions, who have won two straight games for the first time since early in the 2019 season.
“Hock did a nice job of kind of getting lost,” Stafford said. “I was able to find him.”
Adding one last bit of drama to a bizarre final quarter, Detroit was penalized 15 yards for its raucous celebration. That backed up the extra-point attempt to the 30-yard line, but Prater knocked it through to win the game.
Stafford finished 25 of 36 for 340 yards. Golladay had six catches for 114 yards.
Ryan was 31 of 42 for 338 yards and a touchdown, while Gurley ran for a pair of touchdowns.
He’d love to have that second one back.
“My job is just going down,” Gurley said. “I’m taking all the responsibility.”
Stafford has now led 30 fourth-quarter comebacks and 36 game-winning drives in his career.
He also became the second player in the Super Bowl era to throw two game-winning touchdown passes with no time on the clock.
The other was Tim Couch.
“I love this game. I love competing,” Stafford said. “There’s no more competitive, pressure-packed situation than … no time left.”
Falcons WR Russell Gage appeared to be seriously injured when Detroit’s linebacker Reggie Ragland pinned his left leg making a tackle on a short pass play in the first quarter. Gage had to be helped off the field with a knee injury, but he was able to return to the game in the second half.
Lions: Will be seeking their first win of the year at Ford Field when they host the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday. Detroit is 0-2 at home.
Falcons: Face a short turnaround heading into Thursday night’s game at Carolina. Atlanta lost to the Panthers 23-16 when the NFC South rivals played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Oct. 11.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and find his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Brady's 4 TD passes lead Bucs past Raiders – TSN
LAS VEGAS — Tom Brady dropped back and lofted a pass that just got over the defender’s arms and fell into Scotty Miller’s hands right before he reached the sideline for a 33-yard TD pass.
The 43-year-old Brady is getting back to his Super Bowl-winning form following an early season adjustment to his new team in Tampa Bay.
Brady threw four touchdown passes to move past Drew Brees for the most in NFL history and ran for another to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 45-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
“We’re 5-2, in a decent place, not quite at the halfway point in the year,” Brady said. “We’ve got a lot of football left. We’re going to need everybody, and we’re going to need everybody’s best. And we’re going to expect everybody’s best and we’re going to try to meet the challenge every week.”
Brady finished 33 for 45 for 369 yards, while also running for Tampa Bay’s first score on a 1-yard sneak in the first quarter.
He now has 15 TD passes and one interception the past four games as he has found his rhythm with his new team.
“I think it’s knowing the guys better, knowing the system better, everything that we change each week,” coach Bruce Arians said. “There’s such good communication of what we’re trying to get done, where the ball should be going versus each coverage. It’s just total growth in the offence.”
Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter and then delivered his best pass of the day to Miller in the final minute of the first half. He then helped seal the game with the throw to Chris Godwin that put the Bucs up 31-20 over the Raiders (3-3) midway through the fourth quarter.
Brady added a fourth to rookie Tyler Johnson with 3:08 to play to give him 559 in his career, passing Brees for the most ever. Brees threw two earlier in the day for New Orleans.
Now Brady could be getting even more help when Antonio Brown joins the team following next week’s game.
“He’s a tremendous football player,” Brady said. “I played with him for a brief period of time. I’m looking forward to working with him again and see what role he can come in (and play).”
The 4-yard pass to Godwin was part of a key stretch when it appeared the Raiders were in position for a comeback after cutting the deficit to 24-17 on Derek Carr’s second TD pass of the game.
The Raiders then got a stop and were driving for the potential tying score before coming up 1 yard short of a first down on a third-and-4 pass to Darren Waller. Coach Jon Gruden opted for a field goal to make it 24-20.
Brady then engineered another TD drive to make it an 11-point game and the Bucs (5-2) put it away when Carr threw an interception on Las Vegas’ next play to set up Ronald Jones’ 1-yard run.
Carr went 24 for 36 for 284 yards, two TDs and one interception as the Raiders were unable to build on a big win at Kansas City before the bye after being without their starting offensive line all week in practice.
Starting right tackle Trent Brown tested positive for COVID-19 and four other starting linemen were sent home Wednesday because they had “high-risk” contact with Brown and didn’t rejoin the team until Sunday morning.
“I’m not going to use any excuses, we can’t,” Carr said. “We’re in a production-oriented business. The miscommunication, absolutely, it took place. It’s a game of practice, it really is. You got to be available, not just for Sundays, you got to be available all throughout the week cause there’s so much information that goes into it.”
The Raiders lost guard Gabe Jackson to an ejection in the third quarter after Carr’s 1-yard TD pass to Waller that cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 24-17. The officials determined that Jackson stepped on an opponent’s shoulder during a scrum after the play and he was ejected.
FAVORITE TARGET I
Carr looked for his favourite target on the opening drive, connecting on a 28-yard pass to Agholor and then a 21-yard TD. That made Carr 12 for 13 for 234 yards and four TDs with a perfect 158.3 passer rating when throwing to Agholor. It also gave the Raiders their first opening drive TD since Week 16 of last season vs. the Chargers.
FavourITE TARGET II
Brady connected with Gronkowski for the second straight week with a 5-yard TD pass in the second quarter. That’s the 92nd time those two teamed up on a TD pass in the regular season or playoffs, tying the duo of Steve Young and Jerry Rice for the second most ever. Only Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison have more with 114.
Buccaneers: CB Carlton Davis left in the second half with a chest injury, but returned to the game.
Raiders: T Sam Young left with a knee injury in the second quarter and didn’t return.
Buccaneers: Visit the Giants on Monday, Nov. 2
Raiders: Visit Cleveland on Sunday.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Fitness: Exercise is a golden opportunity for older adults – Sarnia and Lambton County This Week
Parkview Place to test all residents as more than 40% now infected with COVID-19 – CBC.ca
Steelers dominate early, hold off Titans win – TSN
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Galaxy M31 July 2020 security update brings Glance, a content-driven lockscreen wallpaper service
- Economy22 hours ago
Time to Reset Expectations for World Economy With Virus Untamed
- News23 hours ago
Ontario reports record 978 new COVID-19 cases
- Economy23 hours ago
World Economy Gets Temperature Check Before U.S. Vote: Eco Week
- Media23 hours ago
Kelowna woman learns lesson from public shaming on social media
- Tech22 hours ago
MagSafe Chargers Might Leave Imprints on Leather Cases, Warns Apple
- Health22 hours ago
COVID infections in B.C. remain at elevated levels on Friday with 223 new cases
- Sports22 hours ago
Rays walk-off Game 4 to even World Series against Dodgers
- News24 hours ago
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Yorkton This Week