Thursday Sports in Brief
HOUSTON (AP) — Gerrit Cole pitched another playoff masterpiece and the Houston Astros jumped to a quick lead, turning back the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 Thursday night in Game 5 to set up a titanic showdown with the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series.
After fellow aces Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander were unable to close out the scrappy Rays on the road, Cole made sure Houston moved on. Given a 4-0 cushion in the first inning, he dominated through the eighth in the decisive game of the AL Division Series.
On deck, the heavyweight matchup so many fans wanted to see: Jose Altuve and the 107-win Astros against Aaron Judge and the 103-win Yankees. Game 1 is Saturday night in Houston — the Astros won four of seven meetings this season.
Michael Brantley and Altuve put the finishing touches on this victory, hitting back-to-back home runs in the eighth. The Astros advanced to their third straight ALCS, and are aiming for their second World Series crown in that span.
Houston beat the Yankees in a seven-game ALCS on the way to its first championship in 2017. The Astros also won the 2015 AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Phillies fired Gabe Kapler, nearly two weeks after disappointing finish to a season of big expectations.
Kapler was dismissed Thursday after going 161-163 in two seasons. Philadelphia failed to live up to the hype following an offseason spending spree highlighted by Bryce Harper’s arrival. The team went 81-81, its first nonlosing season since 2012.
The Phillies were only two games behind in the NL wild-card standings after beating Atlanta on Sept. 18 but lost eight of the next nine, including a five-game sweep at Washington. They finished eight games behind Milwaukee for the second wild card and 16 behind the first-place Braves in the NL East.
Last year, the Phillies had a one-game lead in the division on Aug. 11 before going 15-31 the rest of the way.
PHOENIX (AP) — Police arrested San Diego Padres pitcher Jacob Nix after he was accused of breaking into a suburban Phoenix home through a doggie door and was shot with a Taser by the homeowner.
Nix, who is facing two counts of criminal trespassing, was released this week from the Maricopa County jail on $100 bond.
Charging documents indicate the 23-year-old Nix was under the influence of either alcohol or drugs during Sunday’s incident.
Police say Nix tried to crawl through the doggie door of a Peoria home shortly before 4 a.m.
The homeowner discovered Nix and kicked him in the face.
According to the complaint, Thomas Cosgrove, a minor league pitcher for the Padres, was there and pulled Nix out of the door. The homeowner fired his Taser, hitting Nix in the back.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Mystics won their first WNBA championship, getting 22 points from Emma Meesseman and 21 from banged-up league MVP Elena Delle Donne to beat the Connecticut Sun 89-78 in Game 5 of the Finals on Thursday night.
This was the seventh series in league history that had gone to a deciding Game 5, and the home team has won five of them.
Delle Donne, who has been dealing with a herniated disk in her back, scored four points during a decisive 8-0 run that gave the Mystics an 80-72 lead with under three minutes left.
Delle Donne came to Washington three years ago in a trade from Chicago, hoping to get the Mystics their first title. She grew up about an hour from the city in Delaware and wanted to be closer to home. She’s been battling injuries and illnesses all season, breaking her nose early on in the year. She still wears a mask to protect it. Delle Donne also wears a knee brace on her right knee after suffering a bone bruise last year in the WNBA Finals.
The victory gave coach Mike Thibault his first WNBA championship.
STUTTGART, Germany (AP) — Simone Biles won her fifth all-around title at the gymnastics world championships Thursday, underlining her status as the clear favorite for next year’s Olympic gold medal.
The U.S. gymnast scored 58.999 points to finish 2.1 points ahead of China’s Tang Xijing, who was entered as a late replacement for a teammate.
Angelina Melnikova of Russia was third on 56.399.
No other woman has won more than three all-around titles. Biles’ victory makes it seven wins in a row for the United States in the women’s all-around, matching the Soviet Union’s record streak at world championships in the 1970s and 1980s.
Biles’ U.S. teammate Sunisa Lee placed second in qualifying, but her hopes of a medal were dashed when she came off the uneven bars. She finished eighth.
DALLAS (AP) — Welterweight boxing champion Errol Spence crashed a speeding Ferrari in Dallas early Thursday and was badly injured but is expected to survive, police said.
The crash happened just before 3 a.m., when Spence’s Ferrari crossed a median into oncoming traffic and flipped over several times, ejecting Spence, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, police said. Spence was taken to a hospital and placed in the intensive care unit.
“Spence is awake and responding and his condition is listed as stable. He did not sustain any broken bones or fractures but has some facial lacerations. He is expected to make a full recovery,” the Spence family said in a statement Thursday evening.
Police said they’re still investigating the cause of the crash, but they noted that the Ferrari was speeding at the time.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Flag-draped Iranian women watched a FIFA soccer match from inside a Tehran stadium Thursday, the first time they’ve been freely allowed into a stadium in decades.
The 2022 World Cup qualifier between Team Melli and Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium marks a decades-long push by Iranian women to be able to watch matches, something hard-liners in Iran’s Shiite theocracy to this day still oppose.
Iran allocated only 4,000 tickets for women in a stadium that seats about 80,000 people, keeping them separated from men and under the protection of female police officers. That’s even though face-painted Iranian women have cheered for their team abroad for years despite the 1981 ban that followed the country’s Islamic Revolution.