ARI SHAPIRO, Host:
While many of you were asleep, the baseball playoffs got really exciting. The L.A. Angels beat the defending champion Boston Red Sox five to four in an extra-inning thriller that didn't end until the wee hours of this morning. By winning, the Angels avoided elimination in their first-round playoff series with Boston. Earlier Sunday, the Philadelphia Phillies won their series against Milwaukee, and the Chicago White Sox gave their baseball-battered city something to crow about. Maybe that's a bit strong. Something to smile about, anyway. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is here to discuss the playoffs' ups and downs. Good morning, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN: Good morning, Ari.
SHAPIRO: OK, let's start with that Boston-L.A. game that you were actually lucky enough to get to watch until the end since you live in the Pacific time zone.
GOLDMAN: So the Angels' ace relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez - also known as K-Rod - his first two pitches to the Boston batter are balls. Two more pitches out of the strike zone, and he walks the batter, forcing in the winning run. Now that would be totally humiliating, a big pressure moment for him. Most mortals like us would turn to goo. But K-Rod fires a pitch down the middle, he gets the batter to fly out, ending the inning. He storms off the field screaming gleefully, and I'm exhausted just watching.
SHAPIRO: So was this the moment the playoffs really got good for you?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, I think so. Me and many others. The Angels got out of at least one other nerve-jangling situation. They really earned this victory, which came after twelve innings. And the L.A. players exchanged some spirited high fives after it was over. But then they had to get right to bed because the two teams play again tonight. Boston still holds a two games to one advantage. The first team to win three moves on.
SHAPIRO: Well, let's switch to the other American League series for a moment. The Chicago White Sox, like the Angels, they won, staved off elimination. How'd they do it?
GOLDMAN: Well, it wasn't quite the same level of excitement. Now the White Sox, just three years removed from a World Series title, they carved out a workmanlike victory over the Tampa Bay Rays with strong pitching and timely hitting. They won five to three. Now, Tampa Bay still leads that series two games to one and could clinch it today with a win. But for one afternoon, the White Sox, as you said, gave Chicagoans something to smile about in terms of baseball.
SHAPIRO: Which brings us to the other Chicago team, the Cubs, which added another chapter to their sad, tortured history.
GOLDMAN: And Chicago fans loved the symmetry of that, and they loved their dynamic team, which had the best record in the National League this Season. By Sunday, there was not much love. On the Chicago Tribune Web site, hundreds of reader comments about the Cubs. Many were along the lines of this one by Jolly Rodger(ph) who wrote, quote, "Whoever is next in line for season tickets, enjoy mine. I'm through. I cannot and will not do this again. I've had it," end quote.
SHAPIRO: Good talking with you, Tom. Thanks.
GOLDMAN: Good to talk to you.
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