Yankees vs. Red Sox

Los campeones divisionales reciben en casa a Boston con la oportunidad de dejarlos fuera de la postemporada.

Former Bears, Illini standout J.C. Caroline dies at 84

FILE - In this Dec. 29, 1956, file photo, Chicago Bears' J.C. Caroline runs through falling snow after the weather cancelled NFL football practice at Yankee Stadium in New York. Caroline, a star University of Illinois running back in the 1950s who played for the Chicago Bears for a decade, died Friday at Carle Hospital in Champaign, Ill, officials with Walker Funeral Home said. He was 84. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)

FILE - In this Dec. 29, 1956, file photo, Chicago Bears' J.C. Caroline runs through falling snow after the weather cancelled NFL football practice at Yankee Stadium in New York. Caroline, a star University of Illinois running back in the 1950s who played for the Chicago Bears for a decade, died Friday at Carle Hospital in Champaign, Ill, officials with Walker Funeral Home said. He was 84. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)

FILE - Clockwise from top left are 2017 file photos showing: New York Yankees Aaron Judge watching his fifth-inning solo home run against the Milwaukee Brewers in New York; Fans of New York Yankees' Aaron Judge react from a place in Yankee Stadium's right field dubbed "The Juddge's Chambers," during a game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium in New York; Yankees' Aaron Judge greets teammates in the dugout after hitting a two-run homer during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium; and a 2017 headshot. Houston dynamo Jose Altuve and Yankees slugger Aaron Judge are the favorites for the AL MVP award while Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton is the top candidate for the NL prize, to be announced Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - Clockwise from top left are 2017 file photos showing: New York Yankees Aaron Judge watching his fifth-inning solo home run against the Milwaukee Brewers in New York; Fans of New York Yankees' Aaron Judge react from a place in Yankee Stadium's right field dubbed "The Juddge's Chambers," during a game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium in New York; Yankees' Aaron Judge greets teammates in the dugout after hitting a two-run homer during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium; and a 2017 headshot. Houston dynamo Jose Altuve and Yankees slugger Aaron Judge are the favorites for the AL MVP award while Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton is the top candidate for the NL prize, to be announced Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/File)

Judge, Bellinger unanimous picks as Rookies of the Year

FILE - In this July 31, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Aaron Judge hits a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium in New York. Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers are favored to win Rookie of the Year honors when the votes are announced Monday night, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

FILE - In this July 31, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Aaron Judge hits a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium in New York. Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers are favored to win Rookie of the Year honors when the votes are announced Monday night, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Aaron Judge's Best Moments From His Rookie of the Year-Winning Season

Aaron Judge, the beefy man-tree who plays rightfield for the Yankees, is your American League Rookie of the Year for 2017. If this is a surprise to you, it's probably because you went into a coma in late March and didn't come out of it until just now. Judge wasn't just the best freshman in this year's AL crop; he was arguably the league's best player overall (a debate that will be settled on Thursday when the BBWAA announces its AL MVP from a group of Judge, Jose Altuve and Jose Ramirez).

It was a season beyond belief for Judge, who cranked 52 home runs to go with an absurd .284/.422/.627 line, including an AL-high 127 walks (and an MLB-high 208 strikeouts), and was an integral part of a Yankees team that was supposed to be amid a rebuilding phase but instead won 91 games and came within a game of winning the pennant against the eventual World Series champion Astros. It's nice when things finally go New York's way.

There will likely be far more to come from Judge as his career continues, but let's take this moment to look back on the best moments from the giant metallic demi-god who came down from Mount Olympus and launched baseballs all over these United States (and Toronto). And by "best moments," I mean all the jaw-dropping bombs he blasted. This post is best read while listening to something loud and bombastic—maybe "Immigrant Song," or "The 1812 Overture." Enjoy!

Judge goes very deep in Seattle:

Judge crushes a third-deck homer against the Mets:

Judge goes 495 feet against the Orioles:

Judge's four 500-foot Home Run Derby homers:

Judge reaches the flagpoles in Yankee Stadium's leftfield with a 448-foot homer against the White Sox:

Judge makes a tumbling catch at Fenway (on his birthday, no less):

Judge breaks Mark McGwire's single-season rookie home run record with his 50th of the year:

Judge rips a line-drive homer in the AL wild-card game against the Twins:

Judge robs Francisco Lindor of a homer in ALDS Game 3 and owns Zack Hample in the process:

Judge makes a wall-crashing catch in the ALCS:

So there you have it: the year in Judge. Tune back next year for more of the same, most likely.

Carlos Beltran of the Houston Astros hits a double off Sonny Gray of the New York Yankees during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017

Carlos Beltran of the Houston Astros hits a double off Sonny Gray of the New York Yankees during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017

Carlos Beltran of the Houston Astros hits a double off Sonny Gray of the New York Yankees during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017

Carlos Beltran of the Houston Astros hits a double off Sonny Gray of the New York Yankees during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017 (AFP Photo/AL BELLO)

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-Columbus Crew at New York City FC

FILE PHOTO - Nov 5, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo (21) kicks the ball up the field during the game against Columbus Crew in the 2nd half of the Eastern Conference semifinal at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Heartwarming military surprises

U.S. Army Specialist Daniel Paredes kisses his wife Selena after surprising her on his return from Iraq. Selena threw out the first pitch before game one of a doubleheader between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 14, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Judge, Sabathia, Astros honored by New York baseball writers

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 file photo, New York Yankees' Aaron Judge follows through on a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium in New York. Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is a finalist for AL MVP and Rookie of the Year, giving him a chance to become just the third player to win the awards in the same year. The Baseball Writers Association of America revealed the finalists for its major awards on Monday night, Nov. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 file photo, New York Yankees' Aaron Judge follows through on a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium in New York. Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is a finalist for AL MVP and Rookie of the Year, giving him a chance to become just the third player to win the awards in the same year. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America revealed the finalists for its major awards on Monday night, Nov. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

Roy Halliday

Roy Halladay #32 of the Toronto Blue Jays sits with this kids before the State Farm Home Run Derby at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York on July 14, 2008. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Roy Halliday

Toronto Blue Jays’ starter Roy Halladay delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Halladay took the loss as the Yanks beat the Jays, 5-0. (Photo by Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

The Humility and Ferocity of Roy Halladay

I never heard Roy Halladay raise his voice, never saw him lose even a sliver of his perpetual cool, never once saw doubt or fear in his eyes. His father, Roy Sr., once told me his son grew up in the same earnest manner that we saw from him in the major leagues. “He reminds me of a golden retriever,” the father said.

I once wrote he was the modern Stoic, a Marcus Aurelius on the mound. “Confine yourself to the present,” Aurelius said, and that was Halladay, especially when it came to his craft. He devoted himself totally to the next pitch, damn the money, fame and statistics. So humble was Halladay that he would hand over his pay stub to his wife, Brandy, without ever looking at it.

“We’re probably the only people in the business who think baseball players are paid too much money,” she once told me. “He feels like his job is to do his best every day, and the fact that he’s making so much money is hard on him.”

Just by being himself, Halladay somehow became the best pitcher in baseball with a dearth of attention. When I once asked him about such a rare achievement in this noisy world of sports, he replied, “It’s definitely by choice. For me the satisfaction is always the competition, and the self-gratification knowing you did something to the best of your ability and I think that’s all it will ever be for me. It’s not ever going to be who knows me and what do they think about me. It’s ultimately going to come down to how I went about doing my job.”

Never before or since have I seen ferocity of greatness combined with such humility. Halladay was the genuine article: a gentle, charitable soul with the most aggressive, attacking pitching style you could ever find.

To use the past tense to describe him is painful. Roy Halladay is gone. Just 40 years old. Father, husband, son, friend, coach, volunteer, humanitarian–everything you wish for when a boy becomes a man is what Roy became. He died Tuesday doing what he loved: flying his own airplane. He was an experienced pilot. His Icon A5, a state of the art amphibious aircraft worth about $200,000, barely two months old, crashed into the Gulf of Mexico near his Florida home.

Flying was in his blood. Roy’s dad was a commercial pilot. Roy learned how to fly way back when he was in high school in Colorado and earned his license after his playing career. “He’s a good pilot,” his father once told me, proud that Roy brought to the cockpit that same sense of calm and self-assuredness he took everywhere.

When Roy Sr. went shopping for a new home in Colorado when his son was a boy, he had one requirement: the basement would have to be at least 60 feet, six inches long. They found one. The father built a batting cage in that basement, hung a tire with a mattress behind it, and the boy would practice humming fastballs through the target.

When the father tucked him in at night, and before he would turn out the light, the father and son would talk–almost always about baseball.

“Can you imagine,” the father would say, “what it would be like to be in the major leagues? Can you tell me what that would feel like?”

And the boy would imagine it.

On other nights, the father would ask him what it would be like to pitch in Yankee Stadium, or in the World Series.

It all came true, except for the World Series part. The first time Roy pitched in the postseason, in 2010 with the Philadelphia Phillies, he no-hit the Cincinnati Reds.

At his peak, nobody was better. So driven was Halladay that he had one goal every year: to finish with fewer walks than games started. He actually did it three times (2003, 2005, 2010), including twice while striking out more than 200 batters. Halladay and Cy Young are the only pitchers ever to combine precision and power quite like that.

His story is unique. Halladay pitched to a 10.64 ERA in 2000, and was so bad he was demoted all the way to Class A ball to re-learn how to throw a baseball. With the help of Toronto minor league pitching coach Mel Queen–and a book Brandy bought him about the mental side of pitching, by Harvey Dorfman—Halladay changed from an overhand four-seam fastball/curveball pitcher to a three-quarters sinker/cutter menace. Over the next 11 seasons, and until his arm gave out at age 36, Halladay was 175-78 with a 2.98 ERA. In that span nobody had a better winning percentage (.692), nobody threw more shutouts (19) and nobody came close to throwing so many complete games (64).

Halladay changed pitching. His boring cutters and sinkers–two pitches that appeared the same to the hitter, except one would break late to the left and one to the right–became a new template. Many pitchers copied his style. Nobody was as expert at it as Halladay.

Halladay deserves to go into the Hall of Fame immediately. That may surprise some people. He was that good–the accepted best pitcher in the game for an extended run. But it surprises people because Halladay never sold himself, never wanted the trappings that would have raised his profile.

“I think that’s where he finds a lot of his happiness,” his father once told me. “To stand up and do what he’s been asked to do. He’s expected to perform well and he expects to be there and earn his money and give them what they pay for. I’ve always been proud of him. He’s a delightful young man to hang around with.”

Hard work served him well, fueling his mind and soul as much as his body. He would leave for spring training workouts at 5 a.m.–that is, until somebody else beat him to the Phillies complex one day, so he moved up his commute time to 4:45 in the morning.

I got to know him well in 2005, when I suited up and played for the Toronto Blue Jays for one week of spring training for an SI story. He said very little, and when he spoke he did so in soft, measured tones, and yet everybody in the complex, from teammates to trainers to clubbies, revered him. The pitching coach, Brad Arnsberg, called him T.P.: Total Package.

I’ll never forget stepping into the batting cage to face him. The baseball seemed so heavy and moved so fast I had the impression that he could actually throw it through a brick wall. The boring action was that powerful. The baseball was loud as it passed by me, the seams spinning so fast they whistled as they cut through the air. He made the baseball angrier than anybody else could.

A few years later, during another spring training, this time in Clearwater with the Phillies, Roy sat down with me at a bench near the Phillies’ practice fields. The sun was getting low in the sky. Seeing Halladay in repose like that threw me a bit; the man did not do idle well. It was then that that I asked him what he wanted out of life, having already scored the millions of dollars and the respect of his peers.

“My wife and I talk about it a lot, especially with our sons,” he said. “I really believe if you lead a good life and always try to do the right things I think you’re always impacting someone. That’s what we’ve tried to instill in our kids. For us it’s more important to try to be a good person, all around, especially with other people.

“Our kids go to Christian schools and things, we still have those beliefs but for us it’s really been about we’re going to try to live as quality a life as we can. And hope our kids can do the same and try to be good influences.”

Halladay made good on a life too brief. He went up in that plane, no doubt filled with the joy he always took from flying. He left behind a beautiful family and a beautiful legacy, and for those that knew him, that legacy is more about the man he was, less about the pitcher he became.

And in that last moment, when a life in full ended too soon, the words of Marcus Aurelius from The Meditations never befit him better: “And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last.”

The Humility and Ferocity of Roy Halladay

I never heard Roy Halladay raise his voice, never saw him lose even a sliver of his perpetual cool, never once saw doubt or fear in his eyes. His father, Roy Sr., once told me his son grew up in the same earnest manner that we saw from him in the major leagues. “He reminds me of a golden retriever,” the father said.

I once wrote he was the modern Stoic, a Marcus Aurelius on the mound. “Confine yourself to the present,” Aurelius said, and that was Halladay, especially when it came to his craft. He devoted himself totally to the next pitch, damn the money, fame and statistics. So humble was Halladay that he would hand over his pay stub to his wife, Brandy, without ever looking at it.

“We’re probably the only people in the business who think baseball players are paid too much money,” she once told me. “He feels like his job is to do his best every day, and the fact that he’s making so much money is hard on him.”

Just by being himself, Halladay somehow became the best pitcher in baseball with a dearth of attention. When I once asked him about such a rare achievement in this noisy world of sports, he replied, “It’s definitely by choice. For me the satisfaction is always the competition, and the self-gratification knowing you did something to the best of your ability and I think that’s all it will ever be for me. It’s not ever going to be who knows me and what do they think about me. It’s ultimately going to come down to how I went about doing my job.”

Never before or since have I seen ferocity of greatness combined with such humility. Halladay was the genuine article: a gentle, charitable soul with the most aggressive, attacking pitching style you could ever find.

To use the past tense to describe him is painful. Roy Halladay is gone. Just 40 years old. Father, husband, son, friend, coach, volunteer, humanitarian–everything you wish for when a boy becomes a man is what Roy became. He died Tuesday doing what he loved: flying his own airplane. He was an experienced pilot. His Icon A5, a state of the art amphibious aircraft worth about $200,000, barely two months old, crashed into the Gulf of Mexico near his Florida home.

Flying was in his blood. Roy’s dad was a commercial pilot. Roy learned how to fly way back when he was in high school in Colorado and earned his license after his playing career. “He’s a good pilot,” his father once told me, proud that Roy brought to the cockpit that same sense of calm and self-assuredness he took everywhere.

When Roy Sr. went shopping for a new home in Colorado when his son was a boy, he had one requirement: the basement would have to be at least 60 feet, six inches long. They found one. The father built a batting cage in that basement, hung a tire with a mattress behind it, and the boy would practice humming fastballs through the target.

When the father tucked him in at night, and before he would turn out the light, the father and son would talk–almost always about baseball.

“Can you imagine,” the father would say, “what it would be like to be in the major leagues? Can you tell me what that would feel like?”

And the boy would imagine it.

On other nights, the father would ask him what it would be like to pitch in Yankee Stadium, or in the World Series.

It all came true, except for the World Series part. The first time Roy pitched in the postseason, in 2010 with the Philadelphia Phillies, he no-hit the Cincinnati Reds.

At his peak, nobody was better. So driven was Halladay that he had one goal every year: to finish with fewer walks than games started. He actually did it three times (2003, 2005, 2010), including twice while striking out more than 200 batters. Halladay and Cy Young are the only pitchers ever to combine precision and power quite like that.

His story is unique. Halladay pitched to a 10.64 ERA in 2000, and was so bad he was demoted all the way to Class A ball to re-learn how to throw a baseball. With the help of Toronto minor league pitching coach Mel Queen–and a book Brandy bought him about the mental side of pitching, by Harvey Dorfman—Halladay changed from an overhand four-seam fastball/curveball pitcher to a three-quarters sinker/cutter menace. Over the next 11 seasons, and until his arm gave out at age 36, Halladay was 175-78 with a 2.98 ERA. In that span nobody had a better winning percentage (.692), nobody threw more shutouts (19) and nobody came close to throwing so many complete games (64).

Halladay changed pitching. His boring cutters and sinkers–two pitches that appeared the same to the hitter, except one would break late to the left and one to the right–became a new template. Many pitchers copied his style. Nobody was as expert at it as Halladay.

Halladay deserves to go into the Hall of Fame immediately. That may surprise some people. He was that good–the accepted best pitcher in the game for an extended run. But it surprises people because Halladay never sold himself, never wanted the trappings that would have raised his profile.

“I think that’s where he finds a lot of his happiness,” his father once told me. “To stand up and do what he’s been asked to do. He’s expected to perform well and he expects to be there and earn his money and give them what they pay for. I’ve always been proud of him. He’s a delightful young man to hang around with.”

Hard work served him well, fueling his mind and soul as much as his body. He would leave for spring training workouts at 5 a.m.–that is, until somebody else beat him to the Phillies complex one day, so he moved up his commute time to 4:45 in the morning.

I got to know him well in 2005, when I suited up and played for the Toronto Blue Jays for one week of spring training for an SI story. He said very little, and when he spoke he did so in soft, measured tones, and yet everybody in the complex, from teammates to trainers to clubbies, revered him. The pitching coach, Brad Arnsberg, called him T.P.: Total Package.

I’ll never forget stepping into the batting cage to face him. The baseball seemed so heavy and moved so fast I had the impression that he could actually throw it through a brick wall. The boring action was that powerful. The baseball was loud as it passed by me, the seams spinning so fast they whistled as they cut through the air. He made the baseball angrier than anybody else could.

A few years later, during another spring training, this time in Clearwater with the Phillies, Roy sat down with me at a bench near the Phillies’ practice fields. The sun was getting low in the sky. Seeing Halladay in repose like that threw me a bit; the man did not do idle well. It was then that that I asked him what he wanted out of life, having already scored the millions of dollars and the respect of his peers.

“My wife and I talk about it a lot, especially with our sons,” he said. “I really believe if you lead a good life and always try to do the right things I think you’re always impacting someone. That’s what we’ve tried to instill in our kids. For us it’s more important to try to be a good person, all around, especially with other people.

“Our kids go to Christian schools and things, we still have those beliefs but for us it’s really been about we’re going to try to live as quality a life as we can. And hope our kids can do the same and try to be good influences.”

Halladay made good on a life too brief. He went up in that plane, no doubt filled with the joy he always took from flying. He left behind a beautiful family and a beautiful legacy, and for those that knew him, that legacy is more about the man he was, less about the pitcher he became.

And in that last moment, when a life in full ended too soon, the words of Marcus Aurelius from The Meditations never befit him better: “And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last.”

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NEW YORK - JULY 04: Roy Halladay #32 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the New York Yankees on July 4, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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in action against the at Yankee Stadium on September 30, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 2-1.

Andrea Pirlo formally announces retirement from football

Andrea Pirlo has formally announced his retirement from professional football after a trophy-laden 22-year career. The former Italy international, 38, played his final match on Sunday as New York City FC were knocked out of the MLS Cup play-offs by the Columbus Crew. City needed to overturn a 4-1 deficit from the first leg but, despite a 2-0 victory at Yankee Stadium, their post-season involvement came to an end, and with it Pirlo's career. The former AC Milan and Juventus playmaker revealed earlier this year he was planning to retire at the end of the MLS season, and on Monday he published a farewell message through his Twitter account. It read: "Last match in MLS. As my time in NYFC comes to an end I would like to say a few words. I want to thank everybody for the kindness and support they have shown me in this incredible city. "Thank you to the amazing supporters, thank you to the coaching staff, and everybody that works behind the scenes, thank you to my team-mates. pic.twitter.com/6TY539vB9z— Andrea Pirlo (@Pirlo_official) November 6, 2017 "Not only my adventure in NY comes to an end but my journey as a football player as well. "That is why I would like to take the opportunity to thank my family and my children for the support and love they have always given me, every team that I had the honour to play for, every team-mate I have been pleased to play alongside, all the people that made my career so incredible and last but not least, all the fans around the world that always showed me support. "You will always be on my side and in my heart." Pirlo joined New York City FC in July 2015 as one of the most decorated and respected players in global football. He helped Juve win four successive Serie A titles after joining them in 2011, having previously spent a decade at Milan, with whom he claimed a host of trophies, including winning two Champions Leagues, Serie A twice, the Coppa Italia and the FIFA Club World Cup. He also collected 116 caps for Italy and was a member of their 2006 World Cup-winning squad before retiring from international football in 2015. New York City FC wrote in a statement: "Everyone at New York City FC would like to congratulate Andrea on an incredible career and to thank him for his excellent contribution to NYCFC over the past two and a half years."

'He spoke with his feet': Tributes pour in for retired Pirlo

File - In this Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015 file photo, New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo, of Italy, claps for fans as he is taken out of the game during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Los Angeles Galaxy, in Carson, Calif. Tributes poured in for Andrea Pirlo after Italy's midfield maestro retired. The 38-year-old passing wizard played his final match on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 when New York City FC was beaten 4-3 by the Columbus Crew in the MLS Eastern Conference finals. Pirlo came on in the 90th minute of the match and was greeted with a showering of affection from fans at Yankee Stadium. While Pirlo played his final seasons in the United States, he made his name by helping AC Milan and Juventus win a combined six Serie A titles, two Champions Leagues with Milan and the above all the 2006 World Cup with Italy. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

'He spoke with his feet': Tributes pour in for retired Pirlo

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 4, 2006 filer, Italy's Andrea Pirlo celebrates his side's first goal by teammate Fabio Grosso in the extra time of the semifinal World Cup soccer match between Germany and Italy in Dortmund, Germany. Tributes poured in for Andrea Pirlo after Italy's midfield maestro retired. The 38-year-old passing wizard played his final match on Sunday when New York City FC was beaten 4-3 by the Columbus Crew in the MLS Eastern Conference finals. Pirlo came on in the 90th minute of the match and was greeted with a showering of affection from fans at Yankee Stadium. While Pirlo played his final seasons in the United States, he made his name by helping AC Milan and Juventus win a combined six Serie A titles, two Champions Leagues with Milan and the above all the 2006 World Cup with Italy. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 4, 2006 filer, Italy's Andrea Pirlo celebrates his side's first goal by teammate Fabio Grosso in the extra time of the semifinal World Cup soccer match between Germany and Italy in Dortmund, Germany. Tributes poured in for Andrea Pirlo after Italy's midfield maestro retired. The 38-year-old passing wizard played his final match on Sunday when New York City FC was beaten 4-3 by the Columbus Crew in the MLS Eastern Conference finals. Pirlo came on in the 90th minute of the match and was greeted with a showering of affection from fans at Yankee Stadium. While Pirlo played his final seasons in the United States, he made his name by helping AC Milan and Juventus win a combined six Serie A titles, two Champions Leagues with Milan and the above all the 2006 World Cup with Italy. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

File - In this Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015 file photo, New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo, of Italy, claps for fans as he is taken out of the game during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Los Angeles Galaxy, in Carson, Calif. Tributes poured in for Andrea Pirlo after Italy's midfield maestro retired. The 38-year-old passing wizard played his final match on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 when New York City FC was beaten 4-3 by the Columbus Crew in the MLS Eastern Conference finals. Pirlo came on in the 90th minute of the match and was greeted with a showering of affection from fans at Yankee Stadium. While Pirlo played his final seasons in the United States, he made his name by helping AC Milan and Juventus win a combined six Serie A titles, two Champions Leagues with Milan and the above all the 2006 World Cup with Italy. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-Columbus Crew at New York City FC

Nov 5, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo (21) kicks the ball up the field during the game against Columbus Crew in the 2nd half of the Eastern Conference semifinal at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander and Kate Upton

Kate Upton attends the game against the New York Yankees as Justin Verlander looks on from the bench at Yankee Stadium on August 4, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

43. Curtis Granderson

Position: OF | Age: 37

Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: Yankees

2017 Stats: .212 BA, .775 OPS, 26 HR, 64 RBI, 6 SB

A good (and cheaper) candidate to fill Matt Holliday's elder statesman role in a largely young lineup—and we know how much he loves that rightfield porch at Yankee Stadium. Though he only spent four of his 14 seasons with the Yankees so far, he's hit 22 more homers in their park than anywhere else.

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-Columbus Crew at New York City FC

Nov 5, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC celebrates after their second goal against the Columbus Crew during the second half of the Eastern Conference semifinal at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-Columbus Crew at New York City FC

Nov 5, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Columbus Crew forward Ola Kamara (11) jumps in front of New York City FC defender Andraz Struna (32) to steal the ball during the second half of the Eastern Conference semifinal at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-Columbus Crew at New York City FC

Nov 5, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Columbus Crew defender Lalas Abubakar (17) heads the ball against the New York City FC during the second half of the Eastern Conference semifinal at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

NYCFC comeback falls short as Crew advance to East final

David Villa and Co. earned a 2-0 win at Yankee Stadium but it wasn't enough as Columbus triumphed 4-3 on aggregate

Durkin: "Our guys didn't flinch."

Maryland football coach DJ Durkin talks about his team's comeback win after a terrible start against Indiana, this week's game against Rutgers and the game being moved from Yankee Stadium.

Durkin: "Our guys didn't flinch."

Maryland football coach DJ Durkin talks about his team's comeback win after a terrible start against Indiana, this week's game against Rutgers and the game being moved from Yankee Stadium.

Durkin: "Our guys didn't flinch."

Maryland football coach DJ Durkin talks about his team's comeback win after a terrible start against Indiana, this week's game against Rutgers and the game being moved from Yankee Stadium.

Durkin: "Our guys didn't flinch."

Maryland football coach DJ Durkin talks about his team's comeback win after a terrible start against Indiana, this week's game against Rutgers and the game being moved from Yankee Stadium.

Procès Merah, enquête sur l'ingérence russe, Catalogne... l'essentiel de l'actualité du jour

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 17: Former Donald Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort looks on during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Elsa/Getty Images/AFP

Bombs Away: Astros Escape World Series Game 2 With Dramatic Extra-Innings Win Featuring Eight Home Runs

What a night. In one of the craziest World Series games you’ll ever see, the Astros rallied in the ninth, took a two-run lead in the 10th, gave it up in the bottom-half of the frame, then rallied again with a George Springer two-run homer in the 11th and almost blew it again before finally finishing off the Dodgers, 7–6, in World Series Game 2. It goes down as Houston's first-ever win in the Fall Classic, evening up the series as it moves to Minute Maid Park for the next three.

1. Weird, Wild Stuff

It all looked so simple—and so similar—as the ninth inning began. Just as in Game 1, the two starters dueled. Once again, the Dodgers had solved the unhittable starter in the sixth with a two-out, two-run home run. Once again, Kenley Jansen was in the game, ready to finish it and send the fans home happy from Dodger Stadium and his team to Houston with a 2–0 series lead.

Then everything went supernova. Six homers, two blown saves and a taco-gifting stolen base later, it was the Astros who had stunningly won Game 2 thanks to an unexpected stumble from a Dodgers bullpen that had been nearly untouchable all postseason. And after slumbering through Game 1 and the first eight innings of Game 2, it was the Astros’ fearsome lineup erupting for five runs in the final three frames, with the top and middle of the lineup doing its part.

It all began in the ninth, though, with Marwin Gonzalez. His task was as tough as any imaginable: Get things started against Jansen, who had given up a single run and struck out 13 in nine innings this postseason coming into Game 2. He had blown one save all year. His cutter is maybe the most unhittable pitch in the game. And despite giving up a run in the eighth after being called upon for a six-out save by manager Dave Roberts, he still had a one-run lead, which he makes feel like 10.

No sweat. Down 0–2 in the count, Gonzalez belted a cutter to the opposite field off Jansen for a solo homer to tie the game at three. It’s as impressive a feat as it is unlikely. Jansen had faced 258 batters in the regular season and given up only five homers, and none since Sept. 22. Opposing hitters had posted a mere .189 batting average off of his cutter this year. In his career, batters have hit a microscopic .082/.088/.123 when put in an 0–2 hole.

All of that was no matter to Gonzalez, who spoiled the Dodgers’ best-laid plans. And after Ken Giles successfully navigated the bottom of the ninth, it was the more likely duo of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa who put the Astros ahead. Facing little-used Josh Fields, Altuve started the 10th by blasting a fastball to left-center for his sixth home run of the postseason to make it 4–3. Two pitches later, Correa launched a curveball to the same part of the park to push the lead to two.

But given that advantage, Giles couldn’t close it out. Leading off the bottom of the 10th, Yasiel Puig took him a mile deep to left to cut the lead to 5–4. The Astros’ closer got the next two outs, but he walked pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe with two outs to put the tying run on, then whipped a slider into the dirt that got past Brian McCann and pushed Forsythe into scoring position. NLCS hero Enrique Hernandez cashed him in, slapping a single through the right side of the infield to tie the game at five.

A gut punch like that could crush some teams completely, but the Astros stood strong. Against Brandon McCarthy—the last man in the Dodgers’ bullpen—in the 11th, defensive replacement Cameron Maybin led off with a single, swiped second, and trotted home on Springer’s blast to make it 7–5 Astros. And while Chris Devenski did his best Giles impersonation by giving up a solo homer to Charlie Culberson (!) in the bottom of the inning, he rebounded to strike out Puig and end the madness.

2. Verlander Vanquished but Vindicated

For the first four innings of Game 2, it looked as if the otherworldly force that is Justin Verlander would lay another team low. Making his first World Series start since 2012, the 34-year-old righthander continued his dominant run this postseason by holding Los Angeles hitless into the fifth. With his fastball humming along at 98 mph and his slider dipping like a rollercoaster, Verlander struck out four of the first six batters he faced and allowed only one base runner over his first four innings.

Then came the fifth, and a home run from the unlikeliest source. When he stepped to the plate with two outs and no one—his team down 1–0—Joc Pederson had taken only five at-bats all postseason. Once an integral part of Los Angeles’ brilliant future, his awful 2017 (a .212/.331/.407 line and a brief midseason demotion to Triple A) had made him an odd-man out in the Dodgers’ World Series run. But with a righty on the mound, there was Pederson, starting in left and hitting sixth against Verlander. “I think in this one case, he’s going to put some at-bats together against him,” said Roberts before the game.

Roberts should consider playing the lottery. Pederson struck out looking in his first at-bat against Verlander, but in the fifth, he got a slider that hung in the middle of the plate and launched it to left, where it landed just a few feet past the wall to tie the game.

The toppling blow came an inning later, and it looked awfully familiar. With two out, Chris Taylor worked Verlander for a six-pitch walk, just as he did off Dallas Keuchel in Game 1. On Tuesday night, his free pass was followed by a two-run home run by Justin Turner. This time around, it was Corey Seager who did the deed, taking an outside fastball that flew in at 97 mph and pushing it to the opposite field for the go-ahead blast. A stunned Verlander could only shake his head as Dodger Stadium erupted.

Verlander gave way to a pinch-hitter in the seventh, then watched from the bench as the Astros rallied to save the game. That has to be a relief for Houston, which was all set to waste two strong outings from him and Keuchel. And if the Astros can hold serve at home, that pair will be waiting in Games 5 and 6.

3. Home Is Where Houston’s Heart Is?

For the Astros, the road has been a source of woe all postseason. Despite the Game 2 comeback, they’ve won only two times in seven tries away from Minute Maid Park this postseason. In the ALCS, they lost three straight at Yankee Stadium, looking as lost as a bunch of tourists in Times Square. And in the World Series, they were briefly blinded by the Dodger Stadium lights (or maybe felled by the searing heat), totaling only three runs in the first 17 innings of play.

Home has been a different story, though. The Astros haven’t lost there this postseason, going 6–0, including the do-or-die Games 6 and 7 in the ALCS, though five of those games were started by Keuchel and Verlander. They won’t get the benefit of either in Games 3 or 4—those belong to Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, the co-heroes of Game 7—but the lineup, at least, will welcome the familiar settings. The difference for Houston’s hitters has been stark: The Astros are batting .276/.346/.495 at Minute Maid Park this postseason as opposed to .196/.273/.291 away (before Game 2, anyway).

It won’t be easy for the Astros to keep that up: For starters, they’ll have to solve former AL West foe Yu Darvish—who has 118 strikeouts in 84 innings and 14 starts against Houston in his career—in Game 3. But at the very least for Houston, home field will be theirs, and that may be the biggest factor as the series heads to Texas.

Bombs Away: Astros Escape World Series Game 2 With Dramatic Extra-Innings Win Featuring Eight Home Runs

What a night. In one of the craziest World Series games you’ll ever see, the Astros rallied in the ninth, took a two-run lead in the 10th, gave it up in the bottom-half of the frame, then rallied again with a George Springer two-run homer in the 11th and almost blew it again before finally finishing off the Dodgers, 7–6, in World Series Game 2. It goes down as Houston's first-ever win in the Fall Classic, evening up the series as it moves to Minute Maid Park for the next three.

1. Weird, Wild Stuff

It all looked so simple—and so similar—as the ninth inning began. Just as in Game 1, the two starters dueled. Once again, the Dodgers had solved the unhittable starter in the sixth with a two-out, two-run home run. Once again, Kenley Jansen was in the game, ready to finish it and send the fans home happy from Dodger Stadium and his team to Houston with a 2–0 series lead.

Then everything went supernova. Six homers, two blown saves and a taco-gifting stolen base later, it was the Astros who had stunningly won Game 2 thanks to an unexpected stumble from a Dodgers bullpen that had been nearly untouchable all postseason. And after slumbering through Game 1 and the first eight innings of Game 2, it was the Astros’ fearsome lineup erupting for five runs in the final three frames, with the top and middle of the lineup doing its part.

It all began in the ninth, though, with Marwin Gonzalez. His task was as tough as any imaginable: Get things started against Jansen, who had given up a single run and struck out 13 in nine innings this postseason coming into Game 2. He had blown one save all year. His cutter is maybe the most unhittable pitch in the game. And despite giving up a run in the eighth after being called upon for a six-out save by manager Dave Roberts, he still had a one-run lead, which he makes feel like 10.

No sweat. Down 0–2 in the count, Gonzalez belted a cutter to the opposite field off Jansen for a solo homer to tie the game at three. It’s as impressive a feat as it is unlikely. Jansen had faced 258 batters in the regular season and given up only five homers, and none since Sept. 22. Opposing hitters had posted a mere .189 batting average off of his cutter this year. In his career, batters have hit a microscopic .082/.088/.123 when put in an 0–2 hole.

All of that was no matter to Gonzalez, who spoiled the Dodgers’ best-laid plans. And after Ken Giles successfully navigated the bottom of the ninth, it was the more likely duo of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa who put the Astros ahead. Facing little-used Josh Fields, Altuve started the 10th by blasting a fastball to left-center for his sixth home run of the postseason to make it 4–3. Two pitches later, Correa launched a curveball to the same part of the park to push the lead to two.

But given that advantage, Giles couldn’t close it out. Leading off the bottom of the 10th, Yasiel Puig took him a mile deep to left to cut the lead to 5–4. The Astros’ closer got the next two outs, but he walked pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe with two outs to put the tying run on, then whipped a slider into the dirt that got past Brian McCann and pushed Forsythe into scoring position. NLCS hero Enrique Hernandez cashed him in, slapping a single through the right side of the infield to tie the game at five.

A gut punch like that could crush some teams completely, but the Astros stood strong. Against Brandon McCarthy—the last man in the Dodgers’ bullpen—in the 11th, defensive replacement Cameron Maybin led off with a single, swiped second, and trotted home on Springer’s blast to make it 7–5 Astros. And while Chris Devenski did his best Giles impersonation by giving up a solo homer to Charlie Culberson (!) in the bottom of the inning, he rebounded to strike out Puig and end the madness.

2. Verlander Vanquished but Vindicated

For the first four innings of Game 2, it looked as if the otherworldly force that is Justin Verlander would lay another team low. Making his first World Series start since 2012, the 34-year-old righthander continued his dominant run this postseason by holding Los Angeles hitless into the fifth. With his fastball humming along at 98 mph and his slider dipping like a rollercoaster, Verlander struck out four of the first six batters he faced and allowed only one base runner over his first four innings.

Then came the fifth, and a home run from the unlikeliest source. When he stepped to the plate with two outs and no one—his team down 1–0—Joc Pederson had taken only five at-bats all postseason. Once an integral part of Los Angeles’ brilliant future, his awful 2017 (a .212/.331/.407 line and a brief midseason demotion to Triple A) had made him an odd-man out in the Dodgers’ World Series run. But with a righty on the mound, there was Pederson, starting in left and hitting sixth against Verlander. “I think in this one case, he’s going to put some at-bats together against him,” said Roberts before the game.

Roberts should consider playing the lottery. Pederson struck out looking in his first at-bat against Verlander, but in the fifth, he got a slider that hung in the middle of the plate and launched it to left, where it landed just a few feet past the wall to tie the game.

The toppling blow came an inning later, and it looked awfully familiar. With two out, Chris Taylor worked Verlander for a six-pitch walk, just as he did off Dallas Keuchel in Game 1. On Tuesday night, his free pass was followed by a two-run home run by Justin Turner. This time around, it was Corey Seager who did the deed, taking an outside fastball that flew in at 97 mph and pushing it to the opposite field for the go-ahead blast. A stunned Verlander could only shake his head as Dodger Stadium erupted.

Verlander gave way to a pinch-hitter in the seventh, then watched from the bench as the Astros rallied to save the game. That has to be a relief for Houston, which was all set to waste two strong outings from him and Keuchel. And if the Astros can hold serve at home, that pair will be waiting in Games 5 and 6.

3. Home Is Where Houston’s Heart Is?

For the Astros, the road has been a source of woe all postseason. Despite the Game 2 comeback, they’ve won only two times in seven tries away from Minute Maid Park this postseason. In the ALCS, they lost three straight at Yankee Stadium, looking as lost as a bunch of tourists in Times Square. And in the World Series, they were briefly blinded by the Dodger Stadium lights (or maybe felled by the searing heat), totaling only three runs in the first 17 innings of play.

Home has been a different story, though. The Astros haven’t lost there this postseason, going 6–0, including the do-or-die Games 6 and 7 in the ALCS, though five of those games were started by Keuchel and Verlander. They won’t get the benefit of either in Games 3 or 4—those belong to Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, the co-heroes of Game 7—but the lineup, at least, will welcome the familiar settings. The difference for Houston’s hitters has been stark: The Astros are batting .276/.346/.495 at Minute Maid Park this postseason as opposed to .196/.273/.291 away (before Game 2, anyway).

It won’t be easy for the Astros to keep that up: For starters, they’ll have to solve former AL West foe Yu Darvish—who has 118 strikeouts in 84 innings and 14 starts against Houston in his career—in Game 3. But at the very least for Houston, home field will be theirs, and that may be the biggest factor as the series heads to Texas.

FILE - In this Oct. 4, 1955, file photo, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres is lifted by catcher Roy Campanella (39) after the final out of the seventh and deciding game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium in New York. Running toward them is third baseman Don Hoak. Four times in the previous eight years, the Dodgers had reached the World Series and lost to the Yankees. In 1955, this beloved group finally brought Brooklyn the title. (AP Photo, File)

The Astros and Dodgers Exemplify Contemporary Baseball. Now, They Meet in the World Series.

In 1894, long before the amphitheater that is Dodger Stadium was carved into the hills below, surveyors climbed almost 6,000 feet to a peak in the San Gabriel Mountains they had identified as the highest in the area. Alas, when they crested the summit they found a point a half mile to the east that reached 167 feet higher. Thus did Mount Disappointment get its name.

Every year 29 baseball teams wind up, like erring 19th-century surveyors, climbing their own Mount Disappointment. This was the Dodgers’ destination for the past 28 years, their longest unrequited run since relocating from Brooklyn in 1958. Even longer in wait are the Astros, who have never won. Their 55-year drought is exceeded only by those of the Indians (69 years) and the Rangers (57).

With this year’s opponents (83 combined years in vain), like those last fall (a record 176 years) and in 2015 (59 years), the baseball gods are showing a soft spot for teams that haven’t won in a generation or three. But the real revelation lies in what Los Angeles and Houston, like the Cubs and the Indians in 2016, did to summit the Series.

While playoff teams are built before the season, pennants now are won in the summer through bold acquisitions. Both the Dodgers and the Astros were cruising to division titles when, like the Cubs (Aroldis Chapman) and the Indians (Andrew Miller) of a year ago, they decided very good wasn’t good enough. L.A. and Houston swung megadeals to make this Series happen. The Dodgers, scalding hot, were wrapping a 20–3 July when they acquired starter Yu Darvish from Texas. The Astros enjoyed an 11 1?2-game lead at the end of August when they traded for Tigers ace Justin Verlander.

“With the two wild cards, it’s easier to get to the postseason,” Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said last Saturday night after his team knocked the Yankees out by allowing one run total in Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS. “But it also means it’s easier to lose in the postseason once you get there. You need a dominant bullpen and two dominant starters. If you don’t have that, you better go get it.”

Just as Darvish complemented three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, Verlander gave Houston a starter to ride shotgun with 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, who also played closer when he called an uncertain Verlander 10 minutes before the Astros would have run out of time to complete the deal.

“No,” Luhnow corrected himself, after watching Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combine on a three-hit ALCS Game 7 shutout that was a festival of curveballs. “We have four dominant starters now. We’re peaking at the right time.”

Entering the Series, Verlander and Darvish had combined to pitch six games this postseason and won them all, with a 1.25 ERA. “Thirty-five is a game-changer,” says Houston third baseman Alex Bregman, referring to Verlander by his uniform number. “When he walked in here, we immediately were a different team. It’s his presence. He’s Justin Verlander! When we got him it was like, O.K., now we know we can win this thing. Man, I’m getting chills just talking about it.”

Says manager A.J. Hinch, “He brought us to the next level. The expectations in this clubhouse went up. As a player you can’t fake it. As a manager you can’t demand it. He made it happen.”

****

Half the teams in baseball have reached the World Series in the past 12 years. But there is a growing chasm between the haves and have-nots. The dramatic rebuilds practiced by teams like the Cubs and the Astros—tear it all the way down to build it back up—has become the preferred practice to throwing cash at mediocre rosters on the lottery-ticket chance of winning 87 games and a wild-card spot.

As more teams go off the competitive grid, those still in pursuit of a title have an even better chance to pile up wins. This boom-or-bust bifurcation helps explain why for the first time since 1970, the World Series has teams with triple-digit victories in L.A. (104) and Houston (101).

The arc of the Dodgers’ moves under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman reflects the growing importance of upgrading for the playoffs. He went from adding Alex Wood (a good starter) in 2015 to Rich Hill (a better one) in ’16 to Darvish (the best). All of them now provide cover for Kershaw, who after 10 seasons made it to his first Fall Classic because he no longer has to deliver wins on short rest—or, with his straggly beard and weary frown, have the look of a guy bearing the weight of a whole team.

After L.A. blitzed an outmanned Cubs team in five games, manager Dave Roberts said, “The first thing that comes to mind is Clayton and how long he’s been a Dodger and how much he’s wanted this opportunity.”

The Dodgers’ acquisition of Darvish was completed in the last minute before the July 31 trade deadline, with L.A. sending three prospects to Texas. (The Dodgers pursued Darvish rather than Verlander because they did not want to take on his future salary; Darvish is a free agent after this season.) The Dodgers immediately indoctrinated Darvish into their analytics-based pitching culture, giving him more rest between starts to save bullets for October, reducing his fastball use to less than 50.0% and, because of their formidable bullpen, cutting his average pitches per start from 100.5 to 90.7. Darvish responded well. In 11 starts, seven of them L.A. wins, he went 6–3 with a 3.09 ERA while his strikeout rate shot up from 9.7 per nine innings to 11.1.

As L.A. snapped up Darvish, Luhnow tried but couldn’t get Verlander from the Tigers in July. “They wanted the kitchen sink,” Houston owner Jim Crane says. The Astros, mopey after a big addition didn’t come, fell into a 10–17 swoon. On Aug. 26, Hurricane Harvey, the wettest recorded atmospheric event in mainland U.S. history, swamped Houston and the surrounding area. The combination of the Astros’ lackluster play and the city’s suffering spurred Luhnow and Crane to get something done before Sept. 1, the deadline for traded players to be eligible for postseason play.

“The problem was that we didn’t know if Verlander was going to waive his no-trade clause,” Crane says. At 10 minutes before the midnight deadline, Verlander’s phone rang. It was Keuchel, saying, “If you come here I guarantee you won’t regret it.”

Verlander knew Houston was rich in young talent and was just opening a window to compete for years. With two seconds to go he completed the paperwork to waive his no-trade provision, and three prospects went to Detroit.

Verlander would soon discover an added benefit to the trade: The Astros were cutting-edge in their use of analytical tools and processes. A 2014 conversation with Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had opened his eyes to the world of information available. He began seeking out pitch data, keeping his own handwritten statistics and notes, and visiting a pitching guru of modern data-based mechanics to learn about spin rates, release points and arm health.

In Houston, Verlander found another tool to improve and modernize his game: a super-high-speed camera that films bullpen sessions. It revealed that after heaving so many high fastballs, in which he pulls his elbow down to launch the pitch higher, his elbow had also dropped slightly when he threw his slider, robbing him of needed tilt.

He fixed the flaw, and the batting average against his slider promptly dropped from .238 with the Tigers to .157 with the Astros. Against New York in Game 2, Verlander threw a career-high 39 sliders among his 124 deliveries. A 2–1 winner, Verlander became the first pitcher in 10,826 consecutive regular-season and postseason starts to throw a complete game with so many pitches. (The last pitcher to do it, in September 2015? Kershaw.)

Verlander’s next start came under more dire circumstances. Houston had lost the middle three games at Yankee Stadium in the manner of the nervous out-of-town tourist with black socks pulled to the knee, craning at skyscrapers. One game from another Mount Disappointment, Verlander took the ball at Minute Maid Park. “This,” he said, “is why I came here.”

Anxiety continued to ooze from the Astros’ at bats in Game 6. They chased 10 pitches out of the zone in four scoreless innings against righty Luis Severino. Finally, in the fifth, Bregman recalibrated the majors’ highest-scoring offense with a leadoff walk. Beginning with that patient at bat, Houston did not swing out of the strike zone at any of Severino’s final 26 pitches. The walk triggered not only three runs, but also a landslide of momentum. The Astros outscored New York 11–1 in the series’ final 14 innings.

Verlander completed seven shutout innings for a franchise that had been 2–10 when facing elimination. No pitcher has ever been better with a team’s season on the line. Verlander has thrown 24 consecutive scoreless innings in elimination games, has the lowest career ERA in such pressure cookers (1.21) and is tied with Curt Schilling for the most wins in those spots (four).

Verlander is 34, yet he is pitching with a young man’s tools. He was one of only seven qualified pitchers that old during the regular season, the rest of whom all threw with below-average velocity (93 mph). Verlander rushed his four-seamer up to the plate at 95.7 mph, the angriest it has been since he won the Cy Young and MVP in 2011. In the ALCS he found even more menace, boosting his average fastball to 96.1 mph. His spin rate on the pitch jumped from 2,541 rpm during the regular season to 2,635 against the Yankees.

“There are still going to be times when I struggle with my mechanics,” says Verlander. “The difference now is here I have the tools and resources with this team to figure out what’s wrong and fix it much quicker.”

****

This World Series is not just verification of the second phase of team-building—building for October—but also how metrics have affected baseball, especially pitching. Since the season ended the three oldest managers—the Mets’ Terry Collins, 68; the Nationals’ Dusty Baker, also 68; and the Phillies’ Pete Mackanin, 66—have been let go. Roberts, 45, and Hinch, 43, are in the vanguard of young skippers who implement the data-based strategies of the front office rather than perpetuate the oral traditions about “the Book” and playing the game “the right way.”

Two years ago no team threw fewer than 50% fastballs. This year five did, including the Astros. The rise of the breaking ball is a key to the pitching revolution, a trend encouraged by the recent collection of data on spin rate, spin axis and how hitters handle specific pitches. This World Series is Spin City. Houston led the AL in throwing breaking balls (34.0%), while L.A. was third in the NL (30.0%). If hitters bat .272 off fastballs and .217 off breaking balls, as they did this year, why wouldn’t you throw more breaking pitches?

The World Series also features six of the top 18 breaking-ball pitchers in the game, as ranked by percentage usage among those who threw at least 2,000 pitches: Kershaw (first, at 50.6%), Hill and Kenta Maeda for the Dodgers, and McCullers, Brad Peacock and Verlander for the Astros, all of whom spin it more than 37% of the time. Among pitchers who threw 500 curveballs, there are also four of the top five in spin rate: Morton, McCullers, Verlander and Hill.

Houston closed out the series by accentuating what it does best: feeding the Yankees 46.0% breaking balls in Games 6 and 7, and holding them to a .111 average on those pitches.

Last Saturday’s display belonged in the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao of contemporary pitching, an unmistakable triumph of technological and artistic modernity. No team had ever thrown a Game 7 shutout with so few hits (three) and so many strikeouts (11). The Astros did so using only Morton, a 33-year-old journeyman they signed in part because of the high spin rate on his curveball (which they then encouraged him to use more often), and -McCullers, a 24-year-old who can throw 98 mph but would rather spin it. Morton and McCullers combined for just 108 pitches—65 of which were curveballs. The Yankees went 1 for 17 against their hooks. McCullers ended the game by throwing 23 consecutive curves.

There’s a bulletin board on a wall next to the wide entrance to Houston’s clubhouse. It is where Hinch posts his lineup each day, in addition to any other important club news. The story of Game 7 remained up as the team celebrated its outcome. Next to the lineup card were two side-by-side pictures of Yankees starter CC Sabathia from Game 3 in New York, one throwing his fastball and one throwing his slider. Sabathia had bedeviled them in Game 3 with six shutout innings built on 38 sliders. But the Astros decoded something in the pitch in Game 7. He tried 27 sliders, but this time he couldn’t get them to chase it (they swung at only three out the zone, one of which Evan Gattis blasted for a homer) or miss it (not once).

Next to the still pictures of Sabathia was a printout that had been posted before the game with the header World Series Itinerary, complete with reporting times and flight information for the trip to Los Angeles. This is the trip for which the Astros planned for six years, dating to when Crane bought a 106-loss team and people in restaurants would stop not to congratulate him but to console him. It was the trip for which Luhnow planned when he handed Crane a 22-page blueprint for rebuilding. It was the trip they had in mind when they turned the curveball from a side dish into their entrée. More than anything, it was the trip they envisioned when they got Verlander.

The World Series returned to Dodger Stadium for the first time since 1988, a very different game back in a timeless and picturesque setting. The sky color-washed in pastels as dusk creeps over the San Gabriels, the tableau is a plein air landscape come to life. About 20 miles beyond centerfield stands Mount Disappointment, a terminus the Dodgers and the Astros know too well. This time, though, one of them will have made the midseason move to take them higher. One of them will go the last 167 feet.