Previewing the final day of the 2014 regular season …

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There are still three undecided races heading into the final day of the regular season: the American League Central, the National League Central, and the second American League Wild Card spot. Let’s get weird.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

1:08 p.m. ET: Twins at Tigers

July 31 deadline acquisition David Price can put a bow on Detroit’s fourth consecutive American League Central championship with a win over the Twins and Kyle Gibson. It’s as simple as that for the Tigers.

2:10 p.m. ET: Royals at White Sox

If the Tigers don’t beat the Twins, the Royals can force an AL Central tiebreaker (Game 163) in Detroit on Monday if the Royals beat the White Sox on Sunday behind flame-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura. Chicago is throwing Chris Bassitt. At worst, the Royals will host the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday.

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1:05 p.m. ET: Pirates at Reds

The Pirates can force a Game 163 for the National League Central title if they beat the Reds on Sunday afternoon and the Cardinals lose. The Bucs are facing Johnny Cueto in Cincinnati and the Cardinals are throwing Adam Wainwright at Arizona, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has decided to use Gerrit Cole in Game 162 rather than save him for Wednesday’s National League Wild Card Game. Pittsburgh has already clinched hosting duties for that Wild Card Game. The Giants are locked in as the opponent.

4:10 p.m. ET: Cardinals at Diamondbacks

If the Cardinals win in Arizona, they’ll have their second straight National League Central crown. It’s pretty simple for St. Louis. Wainwright is expected to get the ball no matter what happens in Cincinnati.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD CARD

3:05 p.m. ET: Athletics at Rangers

The A’s can lock up the second American League Wild Card spot with a win behind 24-year-old right-hander Sonny Gray, who rattled off a career-high 12 strikeouts in his last outing. The Rangers could throw left-hander Derek Holland, who was scratched from his start on Saturday night due to a migraine headache.

4:10 p.m. ET: Angels at Mariners

The Mariners kept their hopes alive with a dramatic 11th-inning victory over the Angels on Saturday night at Safeco Field and have ace right-hander Felix Hernandez pitching in Game 162. If the A’s lose on Sunday to the Rangers, the M’s can force a Wild Card tiebreaker on Monday. Seattle would host that game.

 

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.