With one of the busiest sports months of the year coming to a close, let’s take the time to look at some of the winners and losers.
Winner: The Justins
Justin Verlander and Justin Turner were instrumental in leading their teams to the fall classic, each winning at least a share of the MVP honors for each of their leagues’ Championship Series.
If not for Verlander, the Houston Astros would likely be headed home for the season, as he was able to shutdown a powerful Yankees lineup not once, but twice in the ALCS. He dominated in Game 2, allowing just one run in a jaw-dropping nine-inning performance. He followed that up by heroically tossing seven shutout innings in Game 6, an elimination game for the Astros. Houston had been spiraling downward after their ace, Dallas Keuchel, faltered against the Yankees’ bats, but Verlander stepped up and shut the door.
Acquired from the Detroit Tigers in August, the former Cy Young award winner was a late acquisition for the AL pennant winners. As the Tigers plummeted over the past few years, Verlander was not the same pitcher he once was. But since becoming an Astro, he has been more reliable than any other pitcher on the staff. In his five regular season starts with his new club, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA. He continued the upward trend in the postseason, as the thirty-four year old righty has been better than any other pitcher this October. Playing for a chance at his first title has revitalized him.
In the National League, the redhead wonder, Justin Turner, propelled the Los Angeles Dodgers to their first pennant since 1988, when the last won the World Series. Turner hit a three-run walk off homer in Game 2 of the NLCS, giving Dodger Stadium its first substantial playoff moment in nearly three decades.
He carried this over to the World Series, as he hit a two-run homer in Game 1 off of Keuchel. It was the difference in a 3-1 victory for Los Angeles.
The third basemen, who was cut by the Mets in 2013, has evolved into an all-star in Los Angeles. His offensive production has been crucial to the Dodgers’ 103-win season and playoff success so far.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
With a Week 7 victory against the rival Washington Redskins on Monday night, the Eagles improved to 6-1 on the season. The win leaves them as the only team in the NFL with just one loss.
Quarterback Carson Wentz has led the way, emerging as an early MVP candidate. His all-around abilities are tough to match throughout the NFL, as he is a strong passer, runner, and playmaker. He has transformed an inconsistent offense into one of the best in the league.They have scored over twenty points in each game this season.
Combined with their defense, which ranks as one of the league’s best, the Eagles are certainly flying high. The preseason favorites to win the NFC East, the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, have been pushed aside as Philadelphia appears to be a top contender this season in the quest for its first championship.
They suffered their only loss during Week 2 against the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs. Since then, they have rolled through opponents, winning five in a row.
Loser: New York Rangers
The Rangers sit in the abyss of the NHL after one of their worst starts in franchise history. They are 2-6-2 through their first ten games of the season, putting them last in the Metropolitan Division.
They lack depth down the middle after trading center Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes in the offseason. While their offense has some solid pieces, they do not have a potent scorer, and are missing the dynamic type of player that will change the game each time he hops over the boards.
Their defense was supposed to make up for the lack of depth among the forwards. They acquired the most coveted free agent of the summer, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Tony DeAngelo from Arizona. Complimenting veterans Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal, they should have had one of the most daunting defenses in the league.
But nothing has gone according to plan for the blueshirts, who have allowed the third most goals in league as of Wednesday. DeAngelo has underperformed and was demoted to the AHL on Tuesday. Their reliable veterans have looked more like fading veterans. And even their star goaltender, the so-called “King” Henrik Lundqvist, looks lost in the crease, both literally and figuratively. In Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks he was caught trying to play the puck behind his net, turning it over to allow an empty net goal. He has posted a dreadful .900 save percentage and concerning 3.11 goals against average.
The Rangers might be in luck though, as they will face the winless Coyotes on Thursday night. Head coach Alain Vigneault is on the hot seat and a loss to this lowly opponent could put an end this tenure.
Loser: Washington Nationals
Another year, another NLDS exit for the Nationals. Despite winning the NL East four out of the last six years, Washington has failed to make it past the Division Series. They have consistently been among the best in the Major Leagues, but can never find any playoff rhythm.
Their failures are mystifying as there are few glaring weaknesses on the team. They simply did not perform in the clutch. Going into the offseason, it is difficult to determine what the team needs in order to take the next step. They fired manager Dusty Baker, but will that really help? There has been a revolving door to the manager’s position in Washington for years, and no one has been able to solve their woes.
The city of Washington has had little to celebrate when it comes to sports and the Nationals seem to have caught the virus since moving to the city in 2005.
Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.