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Fenway Park opens for first time in 2020 for early voting



Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is one of more than 50 professional sports stadiums and arenas opening as a polling place this election season. Saturday and Sunday, Boston city residents lined up down the third-base side of the stadium to cast their ballots inside MLB’s oldest ballpark.

“We are thankful to the City and the Election Commission for giving us the opportunity to open our doors to our community for this important undertaking,” Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said in September. “Voting is one of the best ways to support and champion the issues and policies we value and what better way for the Red Sox to help with that effort than to open up our ballpark for Boston residents to cast their early ballots.”

It isn’t a World Series run, but this October weekend at the ballpark isn’t one Boston folks aren’t soon to forget.

Related: Stadium repurposed for coronavirus relief

Related:LeBron James and Michelle Obama team up on voting initiative

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Atlanta Braves bemoan Game 7 baserunning blunder — ‘It was huge’



ARLINGTON, Texas — The Baby Braves still have some growing up to do, although they’re getting closer.

Another baserunning blunder with the lead cost Atlanta dearly, and the Braves‘ bats went cold after that in losing Game 7 of the NL Championship Series 4-3 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night.

A year after imploding in a deciding Game 5 of their Division Series against St. Louis, the Braves fell short in their first NLCS since 2001 with their sixth straight loss in a winner-take-all game. Atlanta couldn’t hold a 3-1 series lead in an NLCS for the first time after winning each of the previous three with that commanding lead.

Dodgers relievers retired 17 of the final 18 Braves batters, all following a baserunning mishap that will haunt Atlanta this offseason.

The Braves went ahead 3-2 in the fourth inning on Austin Riley‘s single and had runners at second and third with no outs before a wild double play just about wiped out the inning.

Dansby Swanson broke for home on Nick Markakis‘ sharp grounder hit right at third baseman Justin Turner, who was playing well off the line. Turner threw to catcher Will Smith to trap Swanson in a rundown as Riley rounded second.

Smith returned the ball to Turner, who dived to tag Swanson midway down the line. Turner quickly got up and threw the ball to shortstop Corey Seager, waiting at third to tag out Riley, who hesitated between second and third.

Even worse, the bizarre 5-2-5-6 double play ended with Markakis still on first.

“It was huge,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s hard to score runs in the postseason. The infield’s back so you see the ball up the middle. That’s where normally we’re a really good baserunning team. We just did the fundamental things wrong.”

Two days after becoming first starter or reliever to strike out seven in three or fewer innings in the postseason, A.J. Minter gave up the lead to his first batter, Enrique Hernandez, leading off the sixth. Chris Martin surrendered Cody Bellinger‘s go-ahead solo shot with two outs an inning later.

“We made some mistakes,” Snitker said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times that really hurt. Games like these, runs are so hard to come by, you pretty much got to play flawless baseball.”

Minter’s 42-pitch outing for three scoreless innings at the start of Atlanta’s 7-3 loss in Game 5 was the left-hander’s longest since May 6, 2015, for Texas A&M, when he tore an elbow ligament.

Starter Ian Anderson couldn’t keep his team in front for the first time in the 22-year-old’s brief postseason career. He extended a scoreless streak to start his postseason career to 17 2/3 innings — the second-longest by a rookie in the past 100 years — before Smith’s tying two-run single in the third.

The right-hander, who won his first two postseason starts, ended up with the third-longest scoreless inning streak to begin a postseason career, behind Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson (1905-11) and Joe Niekro (1980-81).

Anderson was the youngest starter in a winner-take all game since 21-year-old Jaret Wright for Cleveland in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, won 3-2 by Florida.

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MLB playoffs 2020 – Dodgers-Rays World Series matches up baseball’s best



After going through an extra round of playoffs in the expanded 2020 MLB postseason and being pushed to the limit in the league championship series, the top seed in each league has advanced to the World Series.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who had the best record in baseball this year and haven’t won it all since 1988, face the Tampa Bay Rays — who were the best team in the American League and have never won the Fall Classic — in the World Series, which begins Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas.

Here’s what makes this is a series to watch, plus the odds, keys to victory and more.

The odds say …

The Dodgers have a 69.8% chance of winning the series. (Projections from ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle.)

How they got here

Rays: Powered by a dominant pitching staff that features three potential aces in Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay ran away with the AL East race and edged out the Oakland Athletics for the league’s best mark. Brandon Lowe was the only true offensive standout in a lineup that finished 12th in the majors with 289 runs scored and produced a team OPS of .753.

Wild Card Series: Defeated Toronto Blue Jays 2-0

AL Division Series: Defeated New York Yankees 3-2

ALCS: Defeated Houston Astros 4-3

Dodgers: Once L.A. acquired Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox in February, the Dodgers became the odds-on World Series favorite. They did not disappoint, racing to a 43-17 record and posting a plus-136 run differential, both by far the best in baseball.

Wild Card Series: Defeated Milwaukee Brewers 2-0

National League Division Series: Defeated San Diego Padres 3-0

NLCS: Defeated Atlanta Braves 4-3

Series schedule

at Arlington, Texas

Game 1: Tuesday, Fox
Game 2: Wednesday, Fox
Game 3: Friday, Fox
Game 4: Saturday, Fox
Game 5: Sunday, Fox (if necessary)
Game 6: Oct. 27, Fox (if necessary)
Game 7: Oct. 28, Fox (if necessary)

Three reasons the Rays will win the series

1. Their pitching staff is more rested

To state the obvious, winning Game 7 against the Astros was the priority for the Rays. If that had failed, these words would not be necessary, and if Kevin Cash had to use every Rays pitcher from Nick Anderson to Dennis Quaid, he would have done it. But Cash didn’t have to empty his pitching tank. With Charlie Morton, Anderson and Peter Fairbanks combining to shut down Houston on just 114 pitches, the Rays will begin the World Series after two days off with a rejuvenated pitching staff.

The Dodgers, of course, not only had to play on Sunday to finally overcome the Braves but their top two starters (Walker Buehler, blisters and Clayton Kershaw, back) both have physical clouds circling above. There’s no reason to think that will definitely factor in to the World Series, but both are the kind of maladies that can resurface at inopportune times.

2. Rotation setup

Even more important than the rest factor, I just like how the Rays’ probable progression of starters sets up better than the Dodgers’. Cash might have ideas of his own, but if rotation usage during the postseason is any guide, then Tyler Glasnow should start Game 1 on five days’ rest. His career ERA on four or fewer days of rest is 5.21; on five days or more, it’s 3.57.

Game 2 should belong to Blake Snell on normal rest. His career ERA on normal rest is 3.27. Game 3, after an off day, goes to Morton on five days’ rest, and his career ERA with more than normal rest is 3.63. Also, because of the calendar in place for the World Series, Morton not only is lined up for Game 3 but could come back and start a potential Game 7 on normal rest. Morton is the all-time leader in Game 7 wins.

Game 4 goes to Ryan Yarbrough, most likely. By then, Yarbrough would have not pitched since Oct. 13. However, the long down period combined with the sudden influx of off days during the matchup means Cash can use Yarbrough in relief early in the series. And he might want to: The Dodgers’ team OPS against soft pitches thrown by lefties this season is just .659, ranking 17th in the majors. The average pitch thrown by the southpaw Yarbrough this season has been just 81.4 mph.

Then it resets: Glasnow could go on normal rest in Game 5, Snell with five days’ rest in Game 6 and, as mentioned, Morton if it comes down to a winner-take-all contest. Yes, when you get to the playoffs, the best-laid pitching plans usually go awry. But the off days built into the schedule also will benefit Cash’s deep bullpen. He should have little reason to deploy one of his big three starters in anything but a traditional role during the Fall Classic.

3. Bullpens, bullpens, bullpens

There is a lot of intrigue about the Andrew Friedman-built Dodgers coming up against his original team in the Rays, built by an iteration of the front office for which he helped set the template. In some ways, that justifies the heavy favorite’s status Los Angeles is likely to enjoy. After all, you take everything the Rays do to get an edge, transplant it to L.A. and combine it with the massive resources of the Dodgers. Just one example from back when teams got to have fans in attendance: You can take any three recent Rays season attendance totals, add them together and it’s less than the typical one-season attendance count at Dodger Stadium.

You see the difference in resources when it comes to the star power on the Dodgers and the payroll that the likes of Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw command. However, the equalizer in this mismatch of resources can be found in the respective bullpens.

Think of the issues the Dodgers have had lately when it comes to sketching out the end of their games, as the closer/non-closer status of Kenley Jansen has taken on soap operatic proportions. The Rays, on the other hand, have several closers, and all of them are comfortable getting more than three outs, if needed. And they have that plethora of options not because Fairbanks or Anderson or Diego Castillo aren’t good enough to be a ninth-inning saves guy. It’s because they all are.

So in Game 7 against the Astros, Cash could summon Anderson — one of the handful of best relievers in the game right now — to take the ball from Morton in the sixth inning. Cash could do that because he had Castillo and Fairbanks, among others, in his hip pocket. And he didn’t even have to use Castillo. — Bradford Doolittle

Three reasons the Dodgers will win the series

1. They have the better offense

The Dodgers averaged 5.82 runs per game in the regular season to the Rays’ 4.82. The Dodgers have star hitters up and down the lineup with no easy outs, in addition to good hitters on the bench. What they do better than any other team is wait for their pitch. Only the Yankees had a lower chase rate, and only the Astros struck out less often. This approach was best exemplified by the big home run Will Smith hit off Braves reliever Will Smith in Game 5 of the NLCS. Smith didn’t swing at the first five pitches. On the sixth pitch, a fastball, he hit a three-run home run.

Meanwhile, the Rays led the majors in strikeouts and relied heavily on the red-hot Randy Arozarena in the ALCS. Arozarena hit .321 while the rest of the Rays hit .183. The Rays have relied very heavily on homers in the postseason to score their runs, with 71.9% coming via the home run as compared to 41.5% in the regular season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you hit a lot of home runs; but that’s going to be a tough approach against a Dodgers pitching staff that had the second-lowest rate of home runs allowed in the regular season. Then you have to factor in that all seven games will be staged at Globe Life Field, which has played as a tough home run park.

2. They have the better bullpen

Wait … what? OK, I know the Dodgers’ bullpen wasn’t completely lockdown in the NLCS, but here’s a reminder that they had a 2.74 bullpen ERA as compared to 3.37 for the Rays. Maybe the Dodgers don’t have one pitcher as statistically dominant as Nick Anderson, but Anderson has been scored upon in four of his seven postseason appearances. Plus, Kevin Cash mostly relies on three relievers — Anderson, Diego Castillo and Peter Fairbanks — in the biggest moments. The second tier of relievers — Ryan Thompson, John Curtiss, Aaron Loup — don’t throw as hard and are vulnerable.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, go seven or eight deep in quality relievers, and that’s before factoring in that they might use just four starters with the two off days, so they could move Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin to the pen. With the Rays’ mix-and-match lineup, it’s also a big key that the Dodgers have two power lefties in Jake McGee and Victor Gonzalez, so Dave Roberts will be able to match up depending on where the Rays are in the lineup. Perhaps most importantly, it appears that Kenley Jansen has regained his mojo, allowing Roberts to plan on him for the ninth inning and use the relievers accordingly.

3. They’re due

No, nothing scientific in this analysis. The Dodgers have been a great team for a long time now, with eight straight division titles. You wonder if coming back from that 3-1 deficit against the Braves actually helps remove some of the added pressure. A few days ago, they were down and out, one loss away from another disappointing end to a season. And now they’re in the World Series. It’s almost like bonus baseball.

Clayton Kershaw is lined up to start Game 1, and here’s a little suggestion: Don’t start him on regular rest in Game 5. That’s been a problem game for him in his two previous World Series. In 2017, he was great in Game 1, then allowed six runs in Game 5 (Astros cheating noted). In 2018, he wasn’t great in either start but allowed three home runs in Game 5 to the Red Sox. The Dodgers have the luxury of five good starters, a deep bullpen and two off days. Throw in Kershaw’s back issue that forced him to move a start back in the NLCS and giving him a couple of extra rest days before a potential Game 6 start makes sense. That would still allow Walker Buehler to go in Game 3 and then Game 7 on regular rest. — David Schoenfield

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Cody Bellinger’s go-ahead HR in Game 7 completes Los Angeles Dodgers’ comeback to reach World Series



ARLINGTON, Texas — Comebacks complete, crises averted, the Los Angeles Dodgers are back in the World Series, determined to do what they couldn’t the last two times they tried: end a championship drought of more than three decades.

Cody Bellingers mammoth seventh-inning home run unknotted a tense, tied game, and Julio Urias vanquished the vaunted Atlanta Braves lineup for the final nine outs in the Dodgers’ 4-3 win in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night.

Once trailing 3-1 in the series — and down for the first five innings of Game 7 — the Dodgers clawed back with their not-so-secret weapon: the home run. Los Angeles hit 16 in the series, tying an LCS record, and rode Kiké Hernandez‘s pinch-hit shot in the sixth, followed by Bellinger’s an inning later, to hand Atlanta its latest sporting gut punch. Urias, typically a starter but pitching in a fireman role, was dynamic over the final three innings and secured the win.

Corey Seager, who dominated the series with five home runs and 11 RBIs, was named MVP of the NLCS.

Now comes the hard part for the Dodgers: four more wins — four wins that proved elusive in 2018 against Boston, were just out of their grasp in 2017 against Houston and last were theirs in 1988, the year Kirk Gibson hit his famous walk-off home run in Game 1 of the World Series.

Since then, the Dodgers have habitually flirted with greatness, winning the last eight NL West division championships and teetering on the precipice of a title. To do so this time, they’ll need to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, who nearly blew a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series before holding on against the Astros in Game 7 on Saturday.

The Dodgers foisted on Atlanta another heartbreak courtesy of Bellinger, the reigning NL MVP whose struggles this season relegated him to the No. 6 spot in the lineup this postseason. Reliever Chris Martin, who had carved through the three previous hitters he faced, peppered the outside corner against Bellinger, who spoiled pitches to stay alive with two strikes. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Martin left a fastball over the heart of the plate, and Bellinger hammered it 417 feet to right-center field, a majestic shot that left a pro-Dodgers crowd of 10,920 at Globe Life Field screaming with joy.

The Braves had three cracks at one win and their best starters, Max Fried and Ian Anderson, lined up on full rest for Games 6 and 7. They proceeded to lose all three and still have not been to the World Series since 1999.

Atlanta had its opportunities, too. The Braves scored in the first inning on two walks and a Marcell Ozuna single, then in the second on a Dansby Swanson home run. A two-run single from Dodgers catcher Will Smith off Anderson in the third tied the game. Atlanta followed its first-inning formula, with Austin Riley providing the single to regain the lead, 3-2.

Already there had been chaos. The Braves giving away two outs on a boneheaded baserunning play by Riley and Swanson in the top of the fourth. The Dodgers stranding eight runners in the first four innings, including the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth. And that madness didn’t relent as the game continued, either.

In the top of the fifth, Freddie Freeman, who would have been series MVP had the Braves won, launched a towering shot off Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen. For the second consecutive day, his back against the right-field wall, his legs splayed in the air, Mookie Betts leapt for an incredible catch, this one saving a home run.

After trading for Betts in February and signing him to a $365 million contract extension, the Dodgers believed they had assembled a roster talented enough to end their 31-year championship drought. That hope lives on, and among Betts and Seager, starter Walker Buehler and the array of live arms — and even Hernandez, the utilityman whose pinch-hit home run off A.J. Minter was the Dodgers’ first to tie a playoff game or put them ahead since Gibson in ’88.

It’s an opportunity for redemption, too. The Dodgers remain chapped about 2017, when they dropped the seventh game to an Astros team that eventually was exposed for cheating with a sign-stealing scheme. While the 2018 Red Sox that beat the Dodgers didn’t participate in nearly as elaborate a system, they likewise were disciplined by Major League Baseball for running afoul of technology-use rules.

These Dodgers’ aspirations have been bigger than the NL pennant since they returned from the pandemic- and labor-induced delay to play a 60-game season. The Dodgers clearly were the best team in baseball during the regular season, going 43-17 and outscoring opponents by 136 runs. Both Los Angeles and Atlanta cruised through their wild card and division series matchups and entered the NLCS undefeated.

From there unfolded a series that until the seventh game hadn’t seen a close, back-and-forth tussle, despite both teams playing well at times. Game 7, on the other hand, won’t be easy to forget.

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