Saturday Sports: Baseball Playoffs NPR's Scott Simon talks with Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine about the American League playoffs in baseball.
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Saturday Sports: Baseball Playoffs

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Saturday Sports: Baseball Playoffs

Saturday Sports: Baseball Playoffs

Saturday Sports: Baseball Playoffs

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NPR's Scott Simon talks with Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine about the American League playoffs in baseball.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You know what we could all use this week? Sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: And imagine; Major League Baseball continues the playoffs even after the Cubs have been defeated. Boy, is my October open now. Yanks, BoSox, Astros, Tribe, Braves, Dodgers, Rocks vs. the Brew Crew. Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com joins us. Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: You know, Scott, this just shows what a professional you are after going through what the Cubs went through - back-to-back days playing home games, losing both of them.

SIMON: You don't have to elaborate. We've got a lot to talk about.

BRYANT: Having another two consecutive teams celebrate on your home field. And yet, you sound great.

SIMON: Oh, thank you. Well, it's all for show. Listen; one of the great rivalries in sports - Yankees-Red Sox. The Sox won last night 5-4, but Boston had to battle, didn't they?

BRYANT: Yeah, they sure did. And this is exactly what this series is going to be. Haven't seen them since 2004 when the Red Sox did the miraculous comeback, coming back from three games down. And obviously, the Red Sox and the Yankees, for the first time in their history, both win a hundred games in the same season.

And last night was a battle. I was there, and it was one of those types of games where it looked like a blowout. The Red Sox are up 5-nothing, and then all of a sudden, here come the Yankees, simply because this is exactly what these teams are.

The Red Sox have the better starting pitching. The Yankees have the better relief pitching. The Red Sox relief pitching, really, almost gave it up. The Yankees had chances in the sixth inning, bases loaded. Bases loaded in the seventh inning. And if this is what it's going to be for the next four games, I think we're in for a classic.

SIMON: Houston Astros put the crunch on Cleveland 7-2. Corey Kluber, a great pitcher, got Klubed (ph), or clubbed.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Yeah, he did.

SIMON: You like the 'Stros a lot.

BRYANT: Yeah. I think the Astros - my motto, Scott, on all of this is that, OK, the Red Sox won 108 games. The Yankees won a hundred games. But the Astros still won a hundred, but they won 103 games. And they're still the defending champions. And to me, you're the champs until somebody beats you.

And I think they're the best team top-to-bottom. They're the best team in the lineup. They're the best team with the best combination of relief pitching and starting pitching, and they're scary. And all of a sudden, they're starting to look like champions again, even though for a lot of the season, they weren't quite into it. But they're that good that they can sort of flip the switch. And they seem to have done that.

SIMON: But what about the Dodgers? They - two straight shutouts against the Atlanta Braves.

BRYANT: Yeah. This is interesting because nobody seemed to be any good in the National League this year. Nobody seemed to really take control. Let's not forget your Cubs, who I had picked to go to the World Series, had the best record in the National League...

SIMON: Yup.

BRYANT: ...On Sunday, and they were out of the playoffs by Tuesday night. And...

SIMON: You won't let me forget that, but go ahead. Yes?

BRYANT: No. I was just saying that it's a crazy year. And we're talking about the Brewers as well. Suddenly, the Brewers got a shutout last night. So all of a sudden, you're starting to see all these teams begin to really play their best baseball.

And let's not forget, we talk about the champs being champs until you knock them out. Well, the Dodgers are the National League champs. They went to the seventh game of the World Series last year, losing to the Astros. So maybe the Dodgers are the team that's going to start getting warm at the right time as well.

But I can tell you one thing, Scott. You may not want to hear this, although maybe not. I don't think you'd have a problem with it. I kind of like what the Milwaukee Brewers are doing.

SIMON: They've got the Rocks already on the ropes.

BRYANT: Yeah. They're up 2-nothing. Maybe you go to Colorado and things change. But I really like Milwaukee and the Dodgers. I think this is just going to be great. All of it's really good.

SIMON: Finally, we need to mention a 20-game suspension in hockey. Tom Wilson of the Caps hit Oskar Sundqvist of the Blues on his blind side.

BRYANT: Yeah.

SIMON: NHL seems to be reacting to head concussion more.

BRYANT: No, they're not reacting. They don't seem to be reacting. They're reacting, and they're essentially sending the message that Tom Wilson's a dirty player. It's not just the fact that he hit Sundqvist and drilled him in the head. It's also that this is his fifth - his fourth suspension in the last 105 games, so they have concluded that this guy, when he gets on the ice, he's out there to hurt people.

And one of the things we always talk about with football is the danger, but the thing we don't talk about is that hockey is just as dangerous, and the guys are coming at a pretty high rate of speed. And when you look at the suspensions now, they're not playing around. And they're concluding this guy does not belong on the ice.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you.

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