With March Madness in the rearview and one day until The Masters, we’re using the mid-week edition for a professional team sports focus — MLB, NBA, and NHL. From baseball’s opening week to the NBA and NHL playoff pushes, it’s the Pro Day… Olé!
Opening Week Recap
Analyzing New Rules, The Last Unbeaten Team & Who Showed Out in MLB’s Opening Week
Walk-up music, bats cracking, and the sounds of spring are in full swing at ballparks across America. And while much of MLB’s opening week of games has been overshadowed by the Final Four and The Masters, there’s plenty to note from six days of baseball. The league’s new rules have already had a profound impact on the game. There’s a home run leader you never expected. And the Tampa Bay Rays are the league’s last unbeaten team. Let’s round the bases and recap six days of baseball in about 30 seconds, shall we?
1st Base: New MLB Rules & Impact
The biggest rule change implemented this week was the new pitch timer that forces pitchers and batters into a 15-second window per pitch. So far, the average game time has been cut by 26 minutes on average. Padres slugger Manny Machado became the first player ejected for arguing the pitch clock yesterday afternoon. And the shift ban and bigger bases, along with pick-off rules related to the pitch clock, seem to boost the stolen base and on-base percentage for offensive players.
2nd Base: Bryan Reynolds (4) Leads HR Race
Most teams have played five or six games so far, and while a number of players have multiple home runs, Pirates OF Bryan Reynolds stands alone. The 28-year-old center-fielder has four homers on just nine hits in 21 at-bats. That’s a batting average of .429 and a whopping 1.503 OPS. It’s early, but Reynolds has been Mr. Big Bat in Week 1.
3rd Base: Every Team Has At Least 1 Win
The Phillies got their first win last night against the Yankees (4-1), meaning every team in the majors has won at least one game. Their 0-4 start was a bit of a surprise for the team who finished runner-up in last year’s World Series. But as we know with baseball’s 162-game season, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. As for teams who started hot?
Home Plate: The Rays Are Throwing Fire
Tampa Bay (5-0) boasts the only undefeated record after one week of games. The Rays gave up just five runs in their first four games before allowing six in last night’s win over the Nationals (10-6). Through four games, their starting pitchers had a collective ERA of 0.39. They’ve outscored opponents 37-11, and the trio of Randy Arozarena (.333 avg, 1 HR, 5 RBIs), Yandy Diaz (.357 avg, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs), and Wander Franco (.400 avg, 1 HR, 5 RBIs) are demolishing opposing pitchers.
Alcantara’s Complete Game Shutout: Reigning Cy Young winner and Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara tossed a 100-pitch shutout in less than two hours to beat the Twins (1-0).
Crew Rake Scherzer in Blowout: The Brewers buried the Mets (9-0) on Tuesday thanks to a trifecta of home runs off Max Scherzer in the sixth inning. Rowdy Tellez, Brian Anderson, and Garrett Mitchell went back-to-back-to-back. Both Anderson and Mitchell went back-to-back again in the seventh frame. It was the third straight game in which Milwaukee scored at least nine runs.
McCarthy’s Flip-Catch for the Fans: Catch of the day? That nod belongs to Arizona right-fielder Jake McCarthy who went flipping over the fence to snag a foul ball in the D-Backs’ win over the Padres (8-6).
Embiid Slam Dunks MVP Case
Joel Embiid (52 Points) Takes Charge as 76ers Top Celtics in East Showdown (103-101)
A showdown between two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference garnered the eyeballs on Tuesday in the NBA, and Joel Embiid put on a show. The MVP frontrunner put up a 52-13-6 night on 20-for-25 shooting last night in Philadelphia’s meeting with Boston. Neither team led by double digits in the game and a flurry of lead changes ensued down the stretch. The Celtics trailed by seven inside of ten seconds and nearly pulled off a miracle. They hit a layup, and a 3 and got a shot at the game-tying bucket — three possessions in less than ten seconds — but the 76ers escaped (103-101). It was Embiid’s third 50-point game of the season, and he’s now averaging 33 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists for the year.
Updated NBA MVP Odds
Joel Embiid (PHI): -470
Nikola Jokic (DEN): +650
Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL): +750
Other NBA Highlights
LeBron Hits OT Winner: LeBron James put up 37 points last night in a vintage performance to boost the Lakers past the Jazz (135-133, OT). It was a driving layup by LBJ that provided the go-ahead bucket with 27 seconds left in OT.
Spida Goes for 43: Donovan Mitchell went on another shooting clinic for the Cavs last night. Cleveland topped Orlando (117-113), and Mitchell’s 43 points gives him 13 40-point games for the season. Only Damian Lillard (15) and Luka Doncic (14) have more.
Another Ja Jam: Ja Morant seems back to his usual jaw-dropping antics since returning to the Grizzlies. He went for 22 points in Memphis’s win last night against the Blazers (119-109), including a two-for-one poster dunk on Drew Eubanks and Shaedon Sharpe.
Full NBA Scoreboard
Playoff Outlook: Avs Clinch
Avalanche Use MacKinnon’s OT Winner to Clinch Playoff Spot, But Wild Card Races Get Interesting
It’s crunch time! The Stanley Cup Playoffs are just two weeks away, and we officially have 12 of the 16 playoff teams after last night. The Avalanche punched their postseason ticket thanks to a two-goal outing from Nathan MacKinnon that included the overtime winner to beat the Sharks (4-3, OT). And as Colorado joins the postseason party, only the chaotic Wild Card spots have yet to be determined. The top three from each division (12 total) know they’re going to the playoffs, but nine other teams are still vying for the remaining four Wild Card bids.
East Wild Card: The Panthers clinched a crucial win over the Sabres last night (2-1) to gain the top Wild Card spot while the Penguins and Senators suffered losses.
West Wild Card: The Kraken and Predators were big winners while the Flames were struck down by the Blackhawks in a critical blow to their playoff odds.
NHL Playoff Race Highlights
Stanley Cup Playoff Picture
1. Hurricanes (109 pts)*
2. Devils (106 pts)*
3. Rangers (101 pts)*
1. Bruins (125 pts)*
2. Maple Leafs (102 pts)*
3. Lightning (96 pts)*
Wild Card Race
1. Panthers (87 pts)
2. Islanders (87 pts)
3. Penguins (86 pts)
4. Sabres (81 pts)
5. Senators (81 pts)
1. Stars (98 pts)*
2. Wild (98 pts)*
3. Avalanche (96 pts)*
1. Golden Knights (104 pts)*
2. Kings (100 pts)*
3. Oilers (99 pts)*
Wild Card Race
1. Kraken (92 pts)
2. Jets (89 pts)
3. Flames (87 pts)
4. Predators (86 pts)
*Clinched Postseason Berth
With its fifth national title in the books, Connecticut men’s basketball has earned its prominent place on the very short list of the blueblood programs in the sport. (Sports Illustrated)
Jim Nantz served as CBS’s lead play-by-play announcer since 1991, and the finality of his final game was not lost. “Thank you for being my friend.” (Sporting News)
The pairings and tee times have been released for The Masters. A number of star-studded groups will be featured throughout the first two rounds at Augusta National. (CBS Sports)