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Saturday Sports: Baseball playoffs; WNBA champions Las Vegas Aces


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: Baseball playoffs titan. Sin City now Sports City. And welcome to the Tyson Bagent era. Michele Steele of ESPN joins us. Michele, thanks so much for being with us.

MICHELE STEELE: You bet. Good morning.

SIMON: (Yelling) Jose Altuve. Sorry. The Houston Astros defeated the Texas Rangers 5-4, go up three games to two in the American League Championship Series. Boy, Jose Altuve comes through when it counts, doesn't he?

STEELE: Oh, yeah. I mean, the 'Stros got their October moment last night, Scott. Altuve hitting that go-ahead three-run homer, top of the ninth. And they take this one. And boy, this series is shaping up a lot like the 2019 Nats-Astros World Series, where the home team just has not won a game yet. But the Astros - you know, they got the momentum now. Justin Verlander said last night they find a way to get the right gear when it's necessary to do so.

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: And they did yesterday. They just haven't played their best baseball at home. And now just one game away from another World Series, they need to find a way to win one at home 'cause the next two are there.

SIMON: Yeah. Let me ask you about Arizona - stunning comeback last night to defeat the Phillies 6-5. And that evens the Championship Series at two games apiece. A lot of fans, including me, wondered if it's a good idea for baseball for a team like the D-backs with, you know, a middlingly successful record during the regular season to be in the playoffs at all. But they've sure proven they belong, haven't they, I guess?

STEELE: Yeah. You know, my colleague Jeff Passan made this point as the Phillies bullpen imploded spectacularly last night. You're right, yeah. The Arizona Diamondbacks do not match up to Philadelphia in talent, in pedigree, in experience. And guess what? That doesn't make a darn bit of difference in October, Scott.

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: The Diamondbacks are capitalizing here on that bullpen collapsing for Philly. And now we're tied up at two games apiece. Now, unlike the ALCS, the home team has won in each of the first four games. Now, they stay in Arizona for one more, and they head back east. And if past precedent is any indication, that's good news, I guess, for Philadelphia.

SIMON: Las Vegas Aces repeated as WNBA champions. You know, pro sports used to shy away from Las Vegas - Sin City, gambling, sports betting. Now they can't get enough of it, can they?

STEELE: No, they can't get enough of it because sports betting is illegal in a lot of states, and that's made Vegas a very attractive destination for leagues looking to expand. And, you know, these Vegas politicians - they're happy to spend public money building these stadiums because they want to give the tourists another thing to do when they're on the strip. Now, to the team's credit and, really, to local fans who are supporting these teams, at least the Golden Knights and the Aces are making the most of the opportunity.


STEELE: They've won three championships in the last two seasons. The Raiders, Scott - it's a little bit of another story. They do have local support, of course, but...

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: ...Season not going great for them so far.

SIMON: However, however, they can look forward to playing the Bears (laughter), which is often all a team needs to have a comeback. But I find myself utterly charmed by the story of the quarterback who's going to be in charge of the Bears offense such as the Bears have an offense this week, Tyson Bagent. You wouldn't guess he'd ever wind up in the NFL, but here he is.

STEELE: No, no, there's a reason we don't know his name. Chicago's starting an unknown at quarterback, Tyson Bagent, just the fourth Division II quarterback to start an NFL game, Scott, in the last 20 years. Now, it could be a storybook tale Sunday if he can lead the Bears to the win. Now, I watched his press conference. He sounded relaxed. He sounded confident. He said the only other person who thought he could make it this far was his dad, good old dad, Travis Bagent. And I'm going to be looking out for him in the stands on Sunday because he's a 17-time arm wrestling champion from West Virginia. And I'm guessing he's going to be easy to spot...

SIMON: (Laughter).

STEELE: ...Just one massive forearm sticking out out there.

SIMON: Yeah. It's a wonderful family story. Wish him best, whatever happens. Michele Steele of ESPN, talk to you soon. Take care.

STEELE: See you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.