*Take 5 is a series where I give my opinions on five recent stories in the world of sports. Today, in a baseball-heavy edition, I’m discussing Scooter Gennett’s monster day, Oklahoma’s Women’s College World Series victory, and the red-hot Astros before finishing with recaps of the World Series of Poker and French Open.
1) Gennett’s Game for the Ages: What might be the greatest offensive performance in MLB history came from an unlikely source last night, as Cincinnati Reds’ second baseman Scooter Gennett blasted not one, not two, not three, but four home runs in a 13-1 win over the Cardinals. Gennett becomes only the 17th player ever to hit four dingers in one game and the first since Josh Hamilton in 2012. Additionally, he became the first to record five hits, four homers, and 10 RBI in a single outing. Gennett entered the game with only three home runs on the year and 38 in his five-year career but was able to more than double his 2017 mark. Gennett is owned in just 2.2% of ESPN Fantasy Baseball leagues, but while it might be tempting to pick him up, it’s unlikely he’ll ever come close to matching this output again. Still, he’s accomplished something no Red ever has before.
2) Sooner Softball Goes Back-to-Back: No game 3 was required for Oklahoma as they used an explosive second inning to take down top-seeded Florida 5-4 and repeat as Women’s College World Series champions, winning the series 2-0. The program has reached dynasty status with their third title in five years, but it was anything but easy. The two sides entered the series evenly matched, and it showed in a breathtaking game 1 that went a full 17 innings and featured four pitchers throwing over 100 pitches each. After Florida rallied to tie the game 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh and send things to extras, they once again answered Oklahoma in the 12th, knotting things up at 4-4. It was Shay Knighten’s three-run homer in the 17th that finally sealed the deal in the 7-5 victory. Then in game 2, pitchers Mariah Lopez and Nicole Mendes were effective in relief before handing things over to closer Paige Lowary, who preserved the 5-4 victory and the National Title.
3) Astros Playing Unstoppable: The Kansas City Royals snapped an 11-game Houston Astros win streak last night, as the Astros fell just one game short of tying their franchise record 12 wins in a row. Despite the loss, it’s been a remarkable opening two months for a team that had long been the laughingstock of the MLB. Now 42-17, Houston leads the AL West by 13 games, the AL as a whole by eight games, and the entire MLB by four and a half games. Dallas Keuchel takes the mound tonight, looking to improve to 10-0 and get revenge on the Royals. The Astros have been a near-perfect example of how to rebuild and as a Houstonian, it’s great to see the team in a position to compete for a World Series title. Back in 2014, I remember receiving the latest copy of Sports Illustrated, and staring at a picture of the Astros on the cover with the title “Your 2017 World Series Champs”. There’s still a long way to go, but how about that for a prediction?
4) Big Names Shine Early in WSOP: We’re a week into the 2017 World Series of Poker, and already we’ve had some great storylines. Following the annual casino employees event was Event #2, the $10,000 Tag Team N0-Limit Championship. The first open event of the World Series featured a strong final table, names such as six-time bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu, 2014 Main Event Champion Martin Jacobson, and Ankush Mandavia. However, European power couple LiGor (Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov) came out on top, giving each their first bracelet.
Event #6, the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop was the most expensive buy-in tournament on the schedule and became the first WSOP tournament streamed on the new subscription service PokerGo. Bertrand “eLKY” Grospellier led the majority of the tournament but fell heads-up to Doug Polk, giving the fan-favorite poker YouTuber his third bracelet. Also notable was Event #9, the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship, where Negreanu fell just short once again, finishing runner-up to Abe Mosseri.
Things move fast at the WSOP, and as I’m writing this, just three players remain in Event #5, the Colossus III, which saw 18,054 entrants. Also starting soon is the highly anticipated $10,000 Heads Up No-Limit Championship, Event #15. 74 events are on the schedule this year, which should provide excitement for the next six weeks.
5) French Open Semifinals Preview: Both the Men’s and Women’s Singles draws are down to the semifinals at the French Open at Roland-Garros. On the men’s side, the first major upset came today when #6 Dominic Thiem took down #2 seed and 12-time Major Champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets to set up a semifinal matchup with #4 Rafael Nadal, who has nine French Open titles and is the greatest clay court player of all-time. The other semifinal will pit #1 Andy Murray up against #3 Stanislas Wawrinka. Of the four remaining players, only Murray has dropped a set thus far in the tournament.
As for the women’s draw, one semifinal has gone completely as planned, pitting #2 Karolina Pliskova against #3 Simona Halep. The other side has been full of upsets, starting in the opening round when #1 seed Angelique Kerber fell to Ekaterina Makarova, a former top-10 player currently ranked #40 by the WTA. Left to compete for a spot in the final are #30 Timea Bacsinszky and unseeded Latvian teenager Jelena Ostapenko. Whoever advances will be the underdog, but each has already proven they are deserving of the big stage.