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Sports Brief: October 9-13

MLB Playoffs Begin Divisional Rounds

Five teams remain left in the fight for the last World Series team as the MLB playoffs near the championship. 

In the American League Divisional Series, the number two seed Houston Astros beat the Minnesota Twins 3-1 with their red hot offense. 

However, one more matchup still needs to be completed — the fourth-seeded Philadelphia Phillies versus the number one-seeded Atlanta Braves. The Phillies currently lead the series 2-1. 

The next game in the series will be on Thursday, Oct. 12. If they need to play again, their final game will be on Saturday, Oct. 14 in Atlanta. 

Dodgers and Orioles Face the Same Fate

Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Baltimore Orioles lost to the The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Texas Rangers respectively in a three game series. 

Both teams received byes in the wild card round, but the extra rest time proved futile against the Rangers’ and the Diamondbacks’ unblemished 5-0 playoff record. 

The Orioles, one of the youngest teams in the league, may have struggled due to their lack of playoff experience. Many players on the team had never been through postseason pressure before. 

For the Dodgers, injuries took a significant toll, particularly on their starting rotation. Key pitchers like Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and Dustin May have been out for extended periods, with Buehler missing the entire season, Tony Gonsolin out on a season-ending injury and Urias stuck on the restricted list. 

Looking ahead, the Orioles are poised to improve as their youthful roster gains more experience. However, concerns continue to surround the Dodgers given the age of their team and their repeated playoff disappointments.

Bryce Harper and the Phillies

In Game 3 of the National League Championship Series , Bryce Harper’s spectacular performance helped propel the Philadelphia Phillies to a resounding 10-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves. 

Harper hit two home runs, including a pivotal three-run shot, during a remarkable six-run third inning. Through three other games in the series, Harper accumulated five hits in 11 at-bats, including three home runs, three runs and five runs batted in. These performances mirror Harper’s heroics from the previous season, where his impressive October run played a crucial role in securing the National League pennant for the Phillies.

Following each of his home runs, Harper engaged in a double staredown with Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia, making it clear this game was about more than just statistics; it was personal. Game 2 of the series had seen Harper’s fortunes take a turn for the worse when he was picked off first base during a double play that sealed a 5-4 victory for the Atlanta Braves. In the Braves’ locker room after the game, Arcia reveled in Harper’s misfortune, exclaiming, “Ha-ha, atta-boy, Harper!” However, Harper had the last laugh in Game 3. 

With the series hanging in balance, it is clear Harper is ready to lead the Phillies on a playoff journey once more. Can he pull off the last needed win against the Braves?

OU Dominance in Big XII

Several Oklahoma players received accolades in The Associated Press’ midseason poll. 

According to the AP, at the midway point of the season, the Oklahoma Sooners have earned recognition in multiple categories, including Top Coach, Top Offensive Player, Top Defensive Player and Top First-Year Freshman in the Big XII. The recognition follows the Sooners’ perfect 6-0 record and their position at the top of the conference standings, achieved after a thrilling 34-30 victory over then No. 3 Texas. 

After a lackluster debut season at Oklahoma, Brent Venables has led a remarkable turnaround in his second year as head coach. In 2022, the Sooners had the 119th-ranked defense in the nation. However, under Venables’ leadership, Oklahoma has become the top team in the country in terms of turnover margin. Furthermore, the Sooners’ total defense ranking has improved significantly, climbing nearly 70 spots in the NCAA rankings compared to the previous season. Venables has already matched his win total from the previous year and is silencing critics after a 6-7 debut season. If Oklahoma continues its strong performance and finishes the year on a high note, Brent Venables is likely to be a top contender for National Coach of the Year. 

Dillon Gabriel, the Sooners’ quarterback, also received recognition in the AP’s survey as the top offensive player in the league. This honor follows an exceptional performance in the Red River Rivalry, where he became the first Oklahoman quarterback to pass for at least 250 yards and rush for at least 100 yards in a single game against the Longhorns.

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