Playoffs Start With Thrills, Chills And Rainouts

The 2011 baseball playoffs have begun, but fans are still reeling from perhaps the single most exciting end to baseball's regular season since Babe Ruth ate 30 hot dogs. Host Scott Simon talks with NPR's Tom Goldman about this week's playoff action and more.

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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Hey, Claudine, anything happen this week in sports?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The 2011 baseball playoffs have begun: thrills, chills, rainouts. Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Rays stung the Texas Rangers, 9-zip. The Yankees and Tigers each scored a run before getting rained out. Play resumes this evening. But fans are still reeling from perhaps the single most exciting end to baseball's regular season since Babe Ruth ate 30 hot dogs. NPR's Sports Correspondent Tom Goldman joins us.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN: Yummy. I think it was 35.

SIMON: I believe it. But who's counting once you're past 30? Let's get to the game they got in yesterday. The Rays seem to be on a roll.

GOLDMAN: They're on something good.

SIMON: I don't mean a hot dog roll. Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: Oh, I mean, my god, Matt Moore, their pitcher. Goodness gracious. He's about 9 years old. What, he gave up two hits in seven innings, six strikeouts. He was terrific.

GOLDMAN: We may have to talk about Matt Moore as a potential series changer, you know, because they had the - they already had - the Rays already had a great pitching rotation. And now this guy in one performance zips to the front.

Twenty-two years old, not nine, called up from the minors on September 12th. Yesterday was his second major league start. In fact, he became the youngest pitcher to start the first game in the postseason since Vita Blue in Oakland in 1971.

And, Scott, he was simply masterful. That silky smooth left-handed delivery, fast ball in the mid to high 90s. You know, as you said, over seven innings. Held the Rangers, ranked third in batting during the regular season, to zero runs and two hits.

And I've got to quote two people. James Shields, another Rays starter said, He was making me nervous. He was so calm. He was treating it like a regular season start."

And then manager Joe Madden, who seems to be making all the right moves, said about him, "You have to have the right pulse or the right heartbeat. He does." So Matt Moore's going to be fun to watch.

SIMON: Look, I want our listeners in St. Louis and Tampa and Detroit and Texas and Milwaukee and other, you know, other cities where they have winning ball clubs to understand we respect you, but we've got to talk about the Boston Red Sox, because 35 days ago I would've called them the most successful franchise in baseball.

But this historic collapse they had. And, of course, blowing a lead to Tampa while the New York Yankees blew a seven run lead to fall to Tampa. So Oliver Stone and other people want to know, did the Yankees dog it?

GOLDMAN: You know, I think that's a bit of a stretch when you consider, as you said, they were up 7-0 in that game, unless the Yanks are the ultimate pool hustlers. I don't think they blew it on purpose. And a lot more people more erudite than me, and there are many, don't think so. They just cared about resting key players, key pitchers. All they care about is their team and not their hated rivals.

And, Scott, how about Terry Francona?

SIMON: How about Terry Francona? Is he coming to the Cubs? Is he coming to the White Sox?

GOLDMAN: Well, as certainly all of Red Sox nation knows, he's out. They say he wasn't fired. They didn't pick up his option. But, you know, will we ever know the real truth, if it was one of those forced kinds of things? But a great run in Boston.

SIMON: What about Theo Epstein, the general manager? Where's he liked? Or does he stay in Boston?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, he, you know, he has said everyone in the Boston organization is up for review in a sense. And we all own our failure. But, you know, at least Terry Francona, that was the first head to roll.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, he did have a great run. And two World Series with that storied franchise. And he's got a lot to show for his nine years there, I guess it was.

NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: Sure thing, Scott.

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