What’s on Tap: previewing Friday night’s action

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Happy weekend. Here’s hoping you make the most of it. Especially if you’re bribing NBA officials in order to maximize the Game 7 ratings. I really do hope you get your money’s worth. Even if you’re not doing that, have fun anyway.

As for baseball, tonight’s action features Michael Fulmer and the Tigers trying to extend his 28 and a third inning scoreless streak against the Royals. Youth is likewise served in Los Angeles where the young Zach Davies and the Brewers takes on the younger Julio Urias and the Dodgers. Davies, by the way, has won four consecutive starts and five decisions overall since. He has a 1.35 ERA in his last four appearances. Urias is still figuring things out but he has improved in each start and it’s not crazy to think that one of these nights he’s going to give us a flash of the dominance he exhibited at Triple-A.

Trying to right the ship is Jeff Samardzija, who started the season out wonderfully but who has scuffled badly in his past three starts.  Same goes for Jose Quintana. That creep can roll, but he has lost six straight decisions last winning on May 8. His decline has mirrored the White Sox, and they’ll need to have a good series against the Tribe in Cleveland in order to stay in an AL Central race that is up for grabs for anyone but the Twins at this point.

Enjoy tonight’s action.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano) @ Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta), 2:20 PM EDT, Wrigley Field

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Adam Morgan), 7:05 PM EDT, Citizens Bank Park

Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez) @ Baltimore Orioles (Mike Wright), Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Atlanta Braves (John Gant) @ New York Mets (Matt Harvey), 7:10 PM EDT, Citi Field

Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 7:10 PM EDT, Progressive Field

Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT, Marlins Park

San Francisco Giants (Jeff Samardzija) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Chris Archer), 7:10 PM EDT, Tropicana Field

Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma) @ Boston Red Sox (Roenis Elias), 7:10 PM EDT, Fenway Park

Cincinnati Reds (John Lamb) @ Houston Astros (Lance McCullers), 8:10 PM EDT, Minute Maid Park

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Minnesota Twins (Pat Dean), 8:10 PM EDT, Target Field

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Kansas City Royals (Yordano Venutra), 8:15 PM EDT, Kauffman Stadium

Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 8:15 PM EDT, Busch Stadium

Los Angeles Angels (Michael Shoemaker) @ Oakland Athletics (Kendall Graveman), 9:35 PM EDT, Oakland Coliseum

Milwaukee Brewers (Zach Davies) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Julio Urias), 10:10 PM EDT, Dodger Stadium

Washington Nationals (Joe Ross) @ San Diego Padres (Christian Frederich), 10:40 PM EDT, Petco Park

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.