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Saturday Sports: Trailblazers Win Over Lakers In High Stakes Showdown

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And what better to follow Nina Totenberg than sports?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Yawn. Another night, another no-hitter. The Blazers burn, or is it douse? The Lakers, the WNBA 25th season. Say Hey - Willie Mays turns 90. Tom Goldman joins us. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Wade Miley, as I don't have to tell you, of the Cincinnati Reds pitched the fourth no-hitter of the season last night against Cleveland. First, congratulations, Wade Miley and the Reds. But then, why so many no-hitters so early in the season?

GOLDMAN: And according to ESPN stats, it's the most this early since 1917. Great pitching, obviously. But if I may get technical on you, Scott, hitting is pretty yucky right now.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: And that does worry MLB 'cause a lot of fans like hitting and offensive action. And it's one of the reasons why later this season, MLB's experimenting in the independent Atlantic League by moving the pitching rubber back a foot to see if that gives batters enough extra time - you know, we're talking a few milliseconds...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...To unleash more hits. We'll see how that works. Meantime, we'll watch for more no-hitters.

SIMON: They could just make the pitchers, like, throw beach balls, too, right?

GOLDMAN: Or underhand (laughter).

SIMON: Yeah, underhand, yeah. The Blazers, as I don't have to tell you, beat the Lakers 106-101 last night. This is not - it is a loss for the Lakers, but not just one loss potentially - right? - a couple of weeks from the playoffs.

GOLDMAN: Well, it stings a little bit because both teams are trying to avoid the Play-In Tournament, and the team with the better record will most likely do that, so advantage Portland for now, at least.

The Play-In Tournament, you may be wondering - what the heck is that? It's going to be a three-day event before the playoffs where a group of teams in the middle to lower-middle of the standings play one or two games. The winners of those games advance to the playoffs. Losers are done for the year. It's basically giving a few more teams a chance to make it to the playoffs. These all-or-nothing games, similar to baseball's wild card games - they're awesome for the fans, very exciting with the stakes so high. But some teams don't like the idea of working all season to position themselves for the playoffs and then have it determined by...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...One or two games.

SIMON: Some teams - LeBron doesn't like it.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Yeah, that's right.

SIMON: WNBA kicks off its 25th season. What are you looking forward to?

GOLDMAN: Getting to see New York's Sabrina Ionescu, for one. She's the No. 1 WNBA draft pick. We barely got to see her. Her rookie season last year ended after just a couple of games with a bad ankle injury. Looking forward to Sue Bird in Seattle - at 40, the WNBA's oldest active player. See if she can help the Storm defend their title. And the two-time MVP, Candace Parker, signed with Chicago.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: She gives the Sky a bona fide chance at a title.

SIMON: A couple of shoutouts I'm going to just lightly breeze over. Say Hey - Willie Mays just turned 90. A year in which we lost so many greats, it's great to see one of the very greatest still with us. And, Tom, tell us about Amy Bockerstette.

GOLDMAN: Amy Bockerstette - fantastic...

SIMON: First person with Down syndrome to play in a national collegiate athletic championship, right?

GOLDMAN: Right, next week. You know, a lot of people became aware of Amy in 2019 when she played a practice hole with a couple of PGA Tour players, including Gary Woodland, in front of a cheering golf gallery in Phoenix. She was nerveless, hitting out of the sand, draining an 8-foot putt, and saying, I got this, before each shot. That became her mantra. In fact, Woodland said he said that to himself over a key shot when he won the U.S. Open later that year. So best of luck to Amy and her community college teammates in the National Junior College event this week in Florida.

SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much. Talk to you soon.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.