Eliud Kipchoge Breaks Two-Hour Marathon Barrier

VIENNA — On a misty Saturday morning in Vienna, on a course specially chosen for speed, in an athletic spectacle of historic proportions, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya ran 26.2 miles in a once-inconceivable time of 1 hour 59 minutes 40 seconds.

In becoming the first person to cover the marathon distance in less than two hours, Kipchoge, 34, achieved a sports milestone granted almost mythical status in the running world, breaking through a temporal barrier that many would have deemed untouchable only a few years ago.

Kipchoge, an eight-time major marathon winner and three-time Olympic medalist, pounded his chest twice as he crossed the finish line in Vienna’s leafy Prater Park, where the majority of the run had unfolded on a long straightaway of recently paved road, with roundabouts on either end.

Cheered on by a thick crowd of spectators, he was lifted into the air by members of his team, including the 41 professional runners who had acted as pacesetters during the run.

For Kipchoge, the feat merely burnished his credentials as the world’s greatest marathoner.

“Together, when we run, we can make this world a beautiful world,” Kipchoge said after finishing.

For all its magnitude, the accomplishment will be regarded largely as a symbolic one. The eye-popping time, which was 10 seconds quicker than the 1:59:50 time Kipchoge and his team had set out to achieve, will not be officially recognized as a world record because it was not run under open marathon conditions and because it featured a dense rotation of professional pacesetters.

What the event lacked in officially sanctioned gravitas, though, it seemed determined to make up for with theater and grandiose proclamations.

The run, organized by the petrochemical company INEOS, featured a cycle of hype and commercial buildup more reminiscent of a heavyweight prizefight than a road race.

Organizers billed the two-hour mark as “the last barrier of modern athletics” and tried to get a hashtag, #nohumanislimited, trending on social media.

Kipchoge repeatedly compared a potential sub-two-hour marathon to humanity’s first journey onto the surface of the moon.

“The pressure was very big on my shoulders,” said Kipchoge, who revealed he had received a call from President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya the night before the run.

Whatever the scope of the achievement, it required a prodigious amount of planning.

Seeking the most welcoming environment for Kipchoge to attempt such a feat, the event’s organizers had settled on Vienna: It was not too warm, not too cold and not at all hilly. The altitude, 540 feet above sea level, was just right, and it was only one time zone away from Kipchoge’s training camp in Kaptagat, Kenya, where he had worked out for the past four months under the guidance of his longtime coach, Patrick Sang.

He had led a monastic existence there, eating, sleeping and exercising for the sole purpose of running fast. To his normal preparations he added workouts focused on core strength in order to lessen the strain on his hamstrings.

On Saturday, Kipchoge showed the subtlest signs of strain on his face in the first half of the run and fell a couple seconds behind his desired pace in a few portions. He ran the final stretches of the marathon with his lips curled into a gentle smile. Afterward, he walked with a barely perceptible limp.

“There are no guarantees in sports,” Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire founder of INEOS, said to Kipchoge after the finish. “You could have had a bad day. But you had a really good day.”

Kipchoge had made an attempt at the two-hour barrier once before. In 2017, in a similar event organized by Nike, he ran a 2:00:25 marathon around an auto racetrack in Monza, Italy. It was by far the fastest marathon ever run, but it was not officially recognized as a world record because it was not run under normal race conditions

Since then, and in officially sanctioned major marathons, Kipchoge produced the two fastest times in history at the time they were run, posting a world-record time of 2:01:39 in Berlin in 2018 and 2:02:37 last April in London.

“Berlin was about running a world record,” Kipchoge said this past week. “Vienna is about running and breaking history, like the first man on the moon.”

He arrived in Austria on Tuesday, but the exact start date for the attempt was not finalized until the following day, and the precise start time was not settled until Friday afternoon.

What materialized on Saturday was perhaps the most finely tuned, carefully orchestrated marathon-length run in history.

Kipchoge got out of his hotel bed at 4:50 a.m. and had oatmeal for breakfast.

At 8:15 a.m., after a three-hour wait that he called “the hardest time ever in my life,” he set out from the Reichsbrücke, a picturesque bridge spanning the Danube, and charged across a stretch of downhill road that led him into the park. There, he ran around a 9.6-kilometer flat circuit, more than 90 percent of which unfurled in a straight line. Portions of the road were painted with lines to highlight the fastest possible path.

Kipchoge — who wore a white singlet, white sneakers (Nikes, as of yet unreleased to the public, built around a carbon-fiber plate) and white sleeves on his arms — had immense support. He ran behind an electric timing car driving 4:34 per mile (with a second car on standby) and with his flock of rotating pacesetters (35 on the course, six on reserve) who happened to include some of the best distance runners in the world, including former world and Olympic gold medalists like Bernard Lagat and Matthew Centrowitz.

Those pacemakers, wearing black jerseys and stern expressions, formed a protective, aerodynamic pocket around Kipchoge, five of them running in front in an open-V formation and two more in the back. They knew exactly where to run thanks to a pattern of thick, green laser beams projected onto the street by the timing car. At predetermined times, the seven pacemakers would make way for another group of seven to slide in and take over.

A team member on a bicycle periodically pedaled into the pack to deliver Kipchoge a carbohydrate-heavy cocktail of gels and fluids.

“Looking at the 1:59:40 time, I got so emotional,” said Lagat, a two-time Olympic medalist.

Down the final stretch, as it was clear that the milestone was easily in reach, the pacesetters, timing car and accompanying cyclists all peeled away, leaving Kipchoge alone to soak in the shouts and applause of the crowd.

After crossing the finish line, Kipchoge jumped into the arms of his wife, Grace, and children. Through all his years of competition, all the victories and medals and records in his career, this was the first time his family had watched him run in person.

For Yankees, Extended Game 2 Showed Limits of Their Bullpen

Before Carlos Correa even stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning to clobber his walk-off homer to end Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros had already gained an upper hand. By taking advantage of Yankees starter James Paxton’s uneven command and forcing his early exit on Sunday, the Astros triggered a chain of events that eventually led to the decisive J.A. Happ-Correa matchup.

Happ was the ninth Yankees pitcher of the game, setting a new franchise postseason record. The Astros, on the other hand, needed only six pitchers because their standout starter, Justin Verlander, held steady long enough to pitch into the seventh inning with the score tied.

“If you can kind of put some pressure on them and you get some matchups in your favor, they’re going to continue to make those moves,” Astros Manager A.J. Hinch said of the Yankees after his team’s 3-2 win to even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

Two games into the A.L.C.S., one theme is already clear: With the Yankees and Astros fielding two of the best offenses in baseball, the margins for error on the mound are extremely thin — and the differences in the two clubs’ pitching staffs only makes the decision-making harder.

The Astros are relying heavily on their rotation aces — Gerrit Cole, who starts Tuesday; Zack Greinke and Verlander. Their ability to pitch not only well but deep into games is a luxury because it minimizes the impact of the weaker links of their pitching staff. The Yankees, on the other hand, are happy to squeeze as much as possible out of their stout bullpen, which is guided by five relievers — Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green.

Until Sunday, the Yankees’ bullpen (and their powerful offense) had successfully mitigated the shortcomings of their starting rotation. And Paxton had been their best starter entering Sunday: Since Aug. 2, he had a 2.74 earned run average and had guided his team to 12 wins, including one in the postseason.

Still, he is not on the same level as Verlander or Cole, both of whom logged over 200 innings and 300 strikeouts during the regular season. So even though the Yankees trailed by only one run with one out in the third inning, Manager Aaron Boone emerged from the dugout and signaled for Green to replace Paxton. The Astros were 4-for-10 with two walks against Paxton, and Boone couldn’t play with fire any longer. With no game on Monday and 10 relievers at his disposal, he felt confident he could get 20 more outs from his bullpen. Problem was, the Yankees would ultimately need more on Sunday as the game went to extra innings.

“You’re playing it to win the game,” Boone said. “You’re not playing it to, ‘What if we go 13, you know?’ You’re playing it to, ‘What gives us the best chance to win here?’ And the bottom line is we end up giving up a third run in the 11th inning. I’d say from a run prevention standpoint it went pretty well.”

It was also a more-aggressive strategy than the one Boone employed last October, when he drew some criticism for leaving pitchers in too long. After Green tossed two innings on Sunday, Ottavino entered in the fifth to face the top of the Astros’ lineup. Ottavino’s wicked slider seemed to be a perfect counter for Astros outfielder George Springer, who is one of the best in baseball at slugging fastballs.

But Ottavino threw a slider over the heart of the plate that Springer blasted to left field for a homer that tied the score at 2-2. “I have a lot of confidence in my slider, obviously, but credit to him: He didn’t miss it when I made the mistake,” Ottavino said of Springer.

As the innings progressed, Boone cycled through his other stout relievers. He pushed Kahnle to two and one-third innings, his longest outing since Game 1 of the 2017 A.L.C.S. After Chapman tossed a scoreless ninth inning, Boone turned to C.C. Sabathia, Jonathan Loaisiga and Happ, all of whom struggled during the season.

Sabathia, a longtime starter who had recently dealt with shoulder soreness, got one out in the 10th inning. But Loaisiga walked both batters he faced. Happ escaped that inherited jam, but faltered himself an inning later on the first pitch he threw to Correa.

It was here that the absences of Dellin Betances (Achilles injury) and Domingo German (administrative leave) were felt acutely. The Astros, thanks to Verlander’s long outing, were able to outlast the Yankees.

“We pitched really well,” Britton said. “It came down to making one more mistake than they did.”

The battle of slim margins could be further complicated by weather: Forecasts were calling for rain on Wednesday before and during Game 4, which is set to start at 8 p.m. If postponed, Games 4 and 5 would be pushed back a day.

That might prove most beneficial for the Astros, since the quality of their starting pitching drops off significantly after Verlander, Cole and Greinke. Wade Miley, the Astros’ fourth starter during the regular season, was left off the A.L.C.S. roster after a rough September. Greinke, who started Game 1, could pitch on Thursday on regular rest.

The Yankees’ plan for Game 4 was, in Boone’s words, for their bullpen to be “unleashed.” They were successful during the regular season with similar nontraditional pitching strategies, going 12-7 when employing an opener. Boone said Happ, a starter during the regular season, could be an option to pitch in some fashion in Game 4. But with a rain postponement, the Yankees could avoid that entirely and have Masahiro Tanaka, an October master, return on regular rest on Thursday in a rematch with Greinke, who he faced in Game 1.

In that game, Tanaka and Greinke each spun six innings, but Tanaka’s were spotless and Greinke allowed three runs. The only Yankees to pitch after Tanaka that day: Ottavino, Britton and, once the lead was large, Loaisiga.

England’s European Championship Qualifier Marred by Racist Abuse

SOFIA, Bulgaria — England’s Football Association called on UEFA to take “very stringent” action after the country’s European Championship qualifier against Bulgaria was stopped twice in the first half because of racist chants and Nazi salutes from the home supporters.

England’s 6-0 win was halted in the 28th minute and again in the 43rd, but the English players opted against leaving the field and the game was quickly resumed after both breaks.

Bulgaria supporters in the crowd were seen directing monkey chants at England players, doing Nazi salutes and holding up shirts with the UEFA logo and the text “No Respect” — a reference to the European governing body’s “Respect” campaign aimed at curbing racism in the sport.

During the first break, the public announcer warned that the match could be called off completely unless the racist abuse stopped — the first step in UEFA’s anti-racism protocol for games. During the second break, dozens of Bulgaria fans involved in the chanting, many of them wearing dark hooded sweatshirts, left the stadium.

“I would like to see a very stringent review by UEFA because I know they take racism very seriously,” English F.A. Chairman Greg Clarke said. “We should join a movement to drive racism out of our game and have zero tolerance for it.”

The F.A. also issued a statement saying the England players “were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting,” which seemed to be aimed mainly at black players like Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings.

“As we are sadly aware, this is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behavior in society, let alone in football. We will be asking UEFA to investigate as a matter of urgency,” the F.A. said.

Mings initially asked one of the assistant referees if he had heard the chants and England Coach Gareth Southgate then held a discussion with the fourth official before the game was halted for the first time.

“It was quite clear to hear on the pitch, but we showed a great response, we showed a good togetherness and ultimately we let the football do the talking,” Mings told ITV. “We made a decision at halftime to come out and play the game which we thought was the right decision and if anything else had happened we would have taken appropriate action.”

The delays led to six minutes of added time, during which Sterling tapped in England’s fourth goal.

Bulgaria’s captain, Ivelin Popov, appeared to have a heated debate with a section of home fans, asking them to stop the chants, as the rest of the players went to the dressing rooms at halftime.

The second half passed without interruption, with Sterling scoring his second goal with a precise finish in the 69th, and Kane completing the rout in the 85th minute, shortly after he was denied by the post.

The Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia was already subject to a partial closure for the match after Bulgaria was sanctioned for racist chanting during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic.

“We have made two statements by winning the game but also we have raised the awareness of everyone of the situation,” Southgate said. “The game was stopped twice. I know for some people that won’t be enough.”

Cardinals’ Hit or Miss Offense Is Missing Again

ST. LOUIS — The baseball schedule is so unforgiving that most teams, by the end, know just who they are. The St. Louis Cardinals are still searching, and they are running out of time.

In the first two games of the National League Championship Series against the Washington Nationals, the Cardinals lost twice and scored just one run. A pinch-hitter, Jose Martinez, was 2 for 2. The rest of the hitters were 2 for 55.

“It’s just pretty obvious,” said Paul Goldschmidt, who singled to break up Max Scherzer’s no-hitter in the seventh inning of Game 2. “You score one run, you’re not going to win many games.”

If you score 10 in the first inning, you have a much better shot. The Cardinals did that in their division series clincher in Atlanta, coasting to a 13-1 victory. But the Nationals have unplugged their offense and hidden the power cord.

“That’s kind of been the story of our season, really,” first baseman Matt Carpenter said. “Our offense, at times, has been hit or miss. We’ve had stretches where we’ve struggled to score and we’ve had stretches where we’ve just poured it on. Hopefully we can get one where we pour it on here in the next couple of days, get some confidence back and get some guys rolling.”

But the Cardinals could not solve the soft-throwing Anibal Sanchez on Friday night, or the hard-throwing Scherzer in the shadows on Saturday afternoon. Now Stephen Strasburg awaits them in Game 3 on Monday at Nationals Park, with Patrick Corbin to follow in Game 4.

Strasburg has 21 strikeouts and one walk in 15 October innings, with a 2.40 earned run average. Corbin, a two-time All-Star, was 8-2 with a 2.40 E.R.A. at home in the regular season.

“I feel like we’re road warriors,” Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong said. “We’ve found our niche on the road; we know how to play on the road. We know the pitchers we’re up against, the odds we’re up against. But that’s what we’re all about. That’s what we love.”

The Cardinals are an unlikely underdog. They are playing in their 10th N.L.C.S. in the last 20 seasons, and their 11 World Series titles are second only to the Yankees’ 27. But they missed the playoffs the last three seasons as the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers took over the N.L. Central, and needed an all-around effort to return.

“This year, we have a complete team that is doing a lot of different things well that we haven’t been doing the last few years,” starter Adam Wainwright said. “This year we played much better defense, this year we ran the bases much better, this year our starting pitching was a little better, this year our bullpen was certainly much better. We have more thump in the middle of our lineup than we’ve had in years.”

The thumpers — Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong and Marcell Ozuna — combined for 94 homers this season. But the Cardinals had only 210 homers over all and 764 runs scored this season, both figures ranking last among teams with winning records.

That sets these Cardinals apart from their last championship team in 2011. Those Cardinals were a wild-card team, but they led the N.L. in runs scored and beat three Philadelphia Phillies aces — Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Roy Halladay — in a first-round upset. They battered another ace, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Zack Greinke, in the N.L.C.S., and ravaged the Texas Rangers’ bullpen in the World Series.

This time, the Nationals’ aces have dispatched the Cardinals with ease, and relievers Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson — who returned to save Game 2 after missing the opener for the birth of his daughter — have been sharp this month.

The Cardinals have hope in Game 3 because of their starter, Jack Flaherty, a 23-year-old right-hander with a 1.13 E.R.A., postseason included, since the All-Star break. The rookie Dakota Hudson, a 16-game winner in the regular season, will start Game 4.

“This series is far from over, and we have a guy going that’s really the best guy in baseball in the second half, undisputed, going for us on Monday,” Manager Mike Shildt said, referring to Flaherty. “I’m very optimistic, still, about this series.”

This is how the Cardinals scripted it, after all, managing their young pitchers’ workloads so they would be available in October. It was a deliberate effort not to repeat the Nationals’ infamous decision to shut down Strasburg before the 2012 playoffs to protect his long-term health. The Cardinals beat Washington in the division series that fall, and it took four more tries for the Nationals to advance to the N.L.C.S.

Now that they have, they seem eager to make it a short stay. They could be just two games away from the World Series, which has not come to Washington since 1933.

“The atmosphere in the playoffs at Nationals Park has been incredible,” Scherzer said. “They come out and they go nuts from the first pitch. So I have a feeling it’s even going to be more crazy given what we have done, and really our first postseason win as an organization. I think it means a lot to everybody in D.C.”

Unless the Cardinals quickly solve Scherzer’s fellow pitchers, the District can start planning the party.

Read the Polls. Debate Them. Definitely Don’t Count on Them.

DALLAS — Around the time the University of Oklahoma’s spirit squad, the Ruf/Neks, fired its shotguns, it was possible to catch the hoarsely hollered words of two men clad in crimson and cream.

“Hey, Georgia lost!” one shouted as he raised his phone and Oklahoma celebrated the No. 6 Sooners’ win over No. 11 Texas in Saturday’s Red River Showdown.

“They did?” came the reply.

Indeed. But what did that mean for Oklahoma and its fans as they left the Cotton Bowl? Nobody really knows, especially with the first batch of College Football Playoff rankings coming on Nov. 5.

Unranked South Carolina’s double-overtime upset of No. 3 Georgia on Saturday showed how quickly a season’s lifelines can come and go. And Oklahoma, which was ranked fifth in the Associated Press Top 25 poll that was released on Sunday afternoon, may well prove to be another case study in the boomeranging nature of media and coaches' rankings — and the limits of their influence, especially when the selection committee that picks the teams for the biggest games only starts speaking two-thirds of the way through the season.

“The rankings and all of that are out of our control; we’re not the ones who pick the rankings,” said Pat Fields, a sophomore safety for Oklahoma. “But what we can do every week is try to be dominant — dominate defensively, offensively, on special teams, play our best game every single week, hit our standards every single week and then however things shake out at the end of the year is how it’s going to shake out.”

Most coaches and players who otherwise deem preplayoff rankings as potentially season-crippling sideshows at least concede that the early polls are handy guides and fabulous fodder for jousting with co-workers, in-laws and fellow sports talk radio callers or barflies.

But Wisconsin, with what fast became the nation’s mightiest defense, had a preseason ranking of No. 19 and has quickly reached No. 6. Michigan did another of its fast fizzling acts, going from No. 7 to as low as 20th and now 16. Georgia, which fell to No. 10, seemed poised for another run for a championship, especially after it outlasted Notre Dame in September. Remember Central Florida?

In interviews across the country, including some in Dallas on Saturday, coaches and players suggested those shifts and the rhythms of rankings during the season increasingly made daily mind-set management at least as crucial as avoiding a false start on fourth-and-short. Daily dissections of polls, they argue, should be left to presidential campaigns, not football teams, even as chatter persists among fans and is amplified on cable television and the internet.

“We’re a team that doesn’t really pay attention to too much outside stuff,” said Creed Humphrey, an offensive lineman for Oklahoma. “Of course, it’s hard — everybody’s got social media and stuff, and they see stuff all the time — but our main focus always has to be on the next opponent.”

With Oklahoma’s most menacing regular-season opponent now defeated, and the buzz around the Sooners certain to grow, the team’s ability to adhere to the philosophy Fields and Humphrey espoused will be tested.

Few programs are as eager for a big breakthrough. Oklahoma, which started this season at No. 4, has reached three semifinal games and lost all of them. It has not played for a national championship since the 2008 season, and it has not won one since the 2000 season. (More broadly, the Big 12 has not had a team win a national title since Texas did it to end the 2005 season.)

This year, Oklahoma’s defense is a far more suffocating unit than its recent predecessors, and it recorded nine sacks on Saturday. The offense, which leads the country at 622 yards per game, is built around Jalen Hurts, the graduate transfer quarterback who played at Alabama and is in contention to become the third straight Sooner to win the Heisman Trophy.

“That’s an extremely talented and well-coached team, led by an exceptional quarterback that had a heck of a day,” Tom Herman, the Texas coach, said, his demeanor mostly downtrodden but maybe also a little awed. “They’re really, really good.”

Up until Saturday afternoon, though, Oklahoma’s résumé looked like that of a formidable team that was also open to castigation for not having faced a serious test. Not one of Oklahoma’s first five opponents was ranked.

For the Sooners, it was just an added bonus that Georgia happened to crumble around the same moment that time expired in Dallas. Fields, the safety, appeared stunned as he learned that the Bulldogs had lost, and he fleetingly weighed how it could change the course of Oklahoma’s season.

“That’s big for us,” he finally said. “But we can’t focus on that too much because we know, realistically, at the end of the day, if we dominate every single game and we win out, we know the likely outcome. We try not to focus on the external too much because it just allows for distractions.”

It was essentially an echo of Noah Burks, an outside linebacker for Wisconsin, late last month.

“There’s been some stuff that we’ve seen on social media that’s kind of added fuel to the fire, but for the most part, we try to be the same team every week,” Burks said.

As the sport prepares for the sixth season of playoff rankings, there is history to show that even surveys conducted around the time of the selection committee’s meetings in suburban Dallas are only so insightful. Consider 2017, when the A.P. poll had Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Wisconsin in the top four at the end of October.

Two days later, the first round of playoff rankings favored Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson. Ohio State was No. 6 and Wisconsin stood at No. 9. By the end of the season, Oklahoma was chosen for a semifinal and Notre Dame was No. 14.

Even after this past weekend’s scrambling of the pecking order, expect more shifts, and perhaps many more.

No. 4 Ohio State could face Wisconsin twice, once in late October and again in the Big Ten’s title game. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Louisiana State will play in November, and both still have dates with No. 11 Auburn. No. 3 Clemson has to contend with South Carolina. Georgia could still wind up playing for a Southeastern Conference title, where Alabama or L.S.U. might be ripe for an upset. There is a distinct possibility that Texas, now No. 15, and Oklahoma will meet again to determine the Big 12 champion.

And not one of those matchups contemplates the almost entirely unforeseen upsets, like the one South Carolina dealt Georgia.

After all, the rankings now don’t matter much.

Nationals Pitching Puts an Old-School Tactic on the Cutting Edge

ST. LOUIS — For all the new wisdom in baseball, some theories stay timeless. One in particular guides Mike Rizzo in building annual contenders for the Washington Nationals.

“I was taught early in my scouting and G.M. career that once you have starting pitching, anything is possible,” said Rizzo, the Nationals’ general manager, “and if you don’t have it, nothing is possible.”

In the first two games of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium, even no-hitters seemed possible from the Nationals’ starters. Anibal Sanchez carried one into the eighth inning of Game 1 and Max Scherzer into the seventh inning of Game 2. After Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nationals headed home with a two-games-to-none lead and a chance to clinch their first trip to the World Series in Washington.

Sanchez blanked the Cardinals for seven and two-thirds innings in Game 1, and Scherzer for seven innings in Game 2. Both allowed only one hit. The Cardinals will not get much of a break in the next two games, when the Nationals will start Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, who combined to go 32-13 this season.

“Starting pitching is absolutely our biggest strength,” reliever Sean Doolittle said on Friday, adding that Sanchez’s aggressive approach had a calming influence on the bullpen. “They absolutely set the tone for this team.”

That is just how Rizzo likes it. He started his professional career as a minor league infielder in 1982, a year in which 90 major leaguers threw the minimum 162 innings required for the earned-run average title. This season — in a league with four more teams — that total had dropped to 61.

But four of those pitchers are members of the Nationals. Another four pitch for the Cardinals and four others for the Houston Astros.

The Yankees had just one qualified pitcher this season (Masahiro Tanaka), but still: With three of the four remaining teams built around sturdy rotations, is it fair to spot a trend? Could durable starters working deep into playoff games be the new — old — way to win in October?

“I don’t know; I think it was just the guys that are doing it,” Scherzer said. “Next year it will be the bullpens. The year after that it will be starters. There’s just so many ways to win baseball games through pitching, and we have seen it over the years.”

We may never again see a series like the 2005 American League Championship Series, when the Chicago White Sox got four complete games and used their bullpen for only two outs in a five-game series en route to a World Series title. But on consecutive days in these playoffs, Walker Buehler threw a career-high 117 pitches for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gerrit Cole worked eight innings for the Astros and Sanchez and Scherzer flirted with no-hitters.

Through two games of the N.L.C.S. — even before the opener of the A.L.C.S. — starters had already lasted at least seven innings 11 times this postseason. That was two more times than the total for the entire 2018 postseason, and one more than in 2017.

“When you’ve got incredible pitchers out on the mound — Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and those guys — if you have an ability like that, you want to get those guys out there as much as you can,” said the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, who lost to Scherzer on Saturday but has worked 15 innings in his two starts this month. “When you’re just looking at one month to live forever, you’re talking about every game as a must-win. That’s kind of how teams are approaching it, and they’re putting their best athletes on the field.”

The Nationals have already used Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin in relief this postseason, as the Red Sox did with all five of their starters in their championship run last October. That can be risky for the long-term — most of those Boston starters fell apart this season — but in the moment, it is probably the smart play, with plenty of historical support.

Using starters as relievers is nothing new in the postseason. Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove and Warren Spahn did it long before baseball added layers of playoffs ahead of the World Series, and many modern starters have done it, from Verlander to Noah Syndergaard to Cole Hamels.

The strategy can backfire — as it did with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in the division series finale against Washington on Wednesday — but the possibility of seeing the best pitchers more often adds extra sizzle to October.

“In the five-game series, you’ve got to get creative and you’ve got to take the ball at every single chance you can get,” Scherzer said. “In the seven-game series, the way you’re set up, this is more like the regular season.”

The Nationals and the Cardinals both plan to use four starters in this series, as most teams do in the best-of-seven format. For Washington, that means three pitchers in Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin whose combined salaries total $525 million — and Sanchez, who signed last December for two years and $19 million.

Sanchez, 35, has been in the majors since 2006, when he threw a no-hitter as a rookie for the Marlins. Friday’s effort was not even the first time he had allowed no hits when starting a L.C.S. opener: He also did it in 2013, for Detroit in Boston, but he lasted only six innings. Sanchez threw 116 pitches that night, and the Tigers’ bullpen lost the no-hitter in the ninth.

This time Sanchez nearly took care of things on his own, baffling the Cardinals with an array of off-speed pitches — including one type of changeup his teammates call “the Butterfly” — and a fastball that rarely tops 91 miles an hour. When first baseman Ryan Zimmerman made a diving catch on a liner to start the eighth, Sanchez expected to finish the gem.

“I think that I had it, for sure,” he said, adding that a similar highlight had preserved his no-hitter for the Marlins. “Zimmerman, he caught that ball and I said: ‘O.K., always behind a no-hitter, a good play has to happen.’ And I said, ‘O.K., I had it.’”

Alas, two batters later, Jose Martinez ruined the script by lining a 1-2 changeup to center for a clean hit. Paul Goldschmidt ended Scherzer’s bid on Saturday with a line-drive single to left to start the seventh. But the games emphatically illustrated why the Nationals invested in Scherzer in free agency in 2015 and in Sanchez last winter.

“When he’s on, he’s carving people up,” Rizzo said of Sanchez. “He’s hitting four quadrants of the strike zone with three or four pitches. He’ll invent a pitch if he has to during the game. His dexterity on the mound, that allows him, with finger pressure, to make different movements on fastballs. I saw him pitch so many times, we knew him intimately. It was a pretty easy choice to go after him when we needed another starter.”

Perhaps veteran starters will command more attention in free agency this winter, after pitchers from last year’s frigid market like Sanchez, Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton, Texas’ Lance Lynn and Houston’s Wade Miley all pitched well on contracts that each totaled $30 million or less.

Rizzo, for his part, only knows that it works for his team, which stood two victories from its first World Series after Sanchez’s magic act.

“My job isn’t to show the industry anything — it’s just to put together the team that fits for us,” Rizzo said. “Over the years we’ve put together quality clubs that compete for championships each year, and starting pitching has been our backbone.”

Coco Gauff, 15, Wins Her First Singles Title

Coco Gauff put her hands on her face in disbelief, then pumped her arms in triumph on Sunday, celebrating the one thing her breakout season had been missing: a singles title.

Gauff, 15, won the Upper Austria Ladies Linz, an indoor WTA tournament, in the penultimate week of the tour’s regular season, beating the 2017 French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.

The title made Gauff the youngest WTA singles champion in 15 years, since Nicole Vaidisova won two WTA titles in 2004, also as a 15-year-old.

“I’ll definitely remember this moment for the rest of my life,” Gauff said on the court as she held her trophy.

After Ostapenko won the second set to even the match, Gauff raced out to a 5-0 lead in the third, then dropped two games, adding intrigue to the finish. With Ostapenko serving and down match point at 2-5, Gauff halted the rally with a shout of “Challenge!” after a deep Ostapenko forehand landed near the line. After several seconds of suspense, the Hawk-Eye review showed that Ostapenko’s shot had landed just long, awarding Gauff the victory.

Gauff celebrated briefly on court before joining her parents and coaches, who were jumping for joy courtside.

Gauff has one tournament remaining in her season: the Luxembourg Open, where she will play her first-round match on Tuesday against 66th-ranked Anna Blinkova. Still, the scene on Sunday in Linz, Austria, is likely to be remembered as the capstone of a year in which she soared more than 800 places up the rankings and had star-making runs: to the fourth round at Wimbledon and to the third round at the United States Open.

Because of an age eligibility rule, Gauff had not played on the tour since the U.S. Open, where her singles run ended with a lopsided defeat at the hands of top-seeded Naomi Osaka, who was praised for comforting her young opponent when the two met at the net.

Gauff had fortune on her side in this tournament. Ranked 110th, she lost in the second round of qualifying to 130th-ranked Tamara Korpatsch last week. But when Maria Sakkari withdrew because of a right wrist injury, Gauff was able to enter the main draw as a so-called lucky loser.

She made the most of her opportunity. In the quarterfinals, she beat top-seeded Kiki Bertens, 7-6 (1), 6-4, the first top-40 player she had ever defeated. Bertens, ranked eighth, was hoping to secure one of the eight spots in the WTA Finals, which begin this month in Shenzhen, China. None of the other players Gauff faced in Linz were ranked inside the top 60, but she still doubled her number of career victories against top-100 players to eight from four.

The title on Sunday also ensures she will be a top-100 player herself, which will give her direct entry to a Grand Slam event for the first time at the Australian Open in January.

Though the achievement is new, she is no stranger to winning, having won the French Open junior title last year. She also won her first WTA doubles title in August, partnering with her fellow teenager Caty McNally, 17, in Washington. With Sunday’s victory, Gauff became only the seventh player to have won both a singles and a doubles title on the tour this year.

Though often curt in defeat, Ostapenko took notice of the moment and her promising opponent during her trophy ceremony remarks.

“You have a very bright future,” she told Gauff, “and I’m really glad to share the court with you.”

42 Beats 22, This Time at Least

It was roughly midway through Thursday night’s game between the Giants and the New England Patriots and the score was tied. Tom Brady, 42, had thrown one interception, and more crucially, had fumbled while being sacked on another play, a mishap that directly led to a Giants touchdown.

Brady, his expression a mixture of irritation and exasperation, sat on the bench cheerlessly shaking his head side to side.

On the Giants’ sideline, the rookie quarterback Daniel Jones was pacing in front of his bench. Jones, 20 years younger than Brady and with 20 fewer years of N.F.L. experience, had thrown two interceptions and at times looked unsettled in the face of the confusing machinations of a Bill Belichick defensive scheme.

Jones found a seat on the bench and stared toward the field, readying himself — if that was possible — for what was to come next.

After the game, after the Brady-led Patriots scored 21 unanswered points to run away from the Giants in a 35-14 victory, Brady said with a thin grin: “When I was a young player, I was just trying to be on time and not forget my playbook anywhere.”

In the second half on Thursday, Brady steadied himself, completing 14 of 17 passes without another turnover. He scored two touchdowns on one of the game’s simplest and most primitive plays, a quarterback sneak. He was efficient, fundamentally sound, mindful not to repeat the mistakes from the first half.

“Just started grinding it out,” he said.

It helps to recall that in his rookie season, Brady played a tiny portion of one game, completing one of three passes for 6 yards.

For Jones, his N.F.L. apprenticeship has already included far more learning on the job, and Thursday it showed in his fourth start in place of Eli Manning.

After the game, Jones, who ended up with three interceptions and completed just 15 of 31 passes, looked as if he was still expecting another Patriots lineman to jump into his field of vision, or another New England defensive back to leap unexpectedly in front of one his passes. Things were out of hand for a little while.

Asked if the game’s environment — all Giants-Patriots games now seem to carry import — coupled with the intricate strategies of the devious Belichick had been a little overwhelming, Jones calmly answered, “I don’t think it was overwhelming, I think it was just bad plays, bad decisions.”

As if the former, recognized or not, does not naturally lead to the latter.

Given the history between the teams, the matchup held plenty of intrigue, and there was an unusual exchange at the game’s conclusion when Brady first approached Manning for a handshake and smile at midfield. They paused for a beat and each knowingly nodded, an acknowledgment that it was a scene that would never again be recreated.

Then Brady found Jones. Their greeting was equally amiable, but not surprisingly, fleeting. It, too, may never be recreated in a regular-season or postseason game.

If Brady and Jones appeared headed in different directions, it was because they almost certainly are — for this season at least. But fans of each team ought to be heartened by what they saw Thursday night.

Brady was banged around in the pocket — it was a Giants game after all — and he was knocked out of rhythm for extended periods, especially early. But his poise and wealth of experience served him well, as it has for decades.

Jones was also out of sync for long periods, badgered as he tried to pass and challenged mentally in nearly every passing situation. But he rose to many occasions, throwing a nifty 64-yard touchdown pass that exhibited his field vision and passing touch. Ultimately, he saw the league’s best, and walked away one more start closer to no longer being a rookie quarterback.

And let’s not forget that Jones had to take the field without the Giants’ star running back, Saquon Barkley; without his team’s best wide receiver, Sterling Shepard; and without one of his favorite targets, the talented pass-catching tight end Evan Engram. All were injured.

In the end, Jones was paying attention to all that went well and all that went wrong. Asked outside his team’s locker room to sum up the chief lesson of the defeat, Jones replied immediately, “To just take care of the ball better.”

Fifty yards down a hallway, Brady, the wise elder, was also keeping it simple.

Asked if the Patriots offense this year has been “good enough,” Brady smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We’re 6-0.”

He paused to add: “So, try to get to 7-0.”

He then bent to pick up a garment bag and walked off into the night.

A Big Step by Coco Gauff, Huge Leaps for a Tennis Youth Movement

Youth ruled tennis on Friday in Shanghai, where Stefanos Tsitsipas upset No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev beat his new mentor, Roger Federer.

It also ruled a continent away in Linz, Austria, where the 15-year-old Coco Gauff added another exclamation point to her breakthrough season by defeating top-seeded Kiki Bertens, 7-6 (1), 6-4, to reach her first WTA tour singles semifinal.

“It’s my biggest win, ever,” said Gauff, sounding like a veteran surveying a long career instead of a teenager who has yet to play a full year on tour.

Her run to the fourth round at Wimbledon, in her Grand Slam singles debut this summer, certainly made a deeper impression; the Linz Open is not even being televised in the United States.

But in statistical terms, this was no doubt Gauff’s most impressive victory. Until Friday, she had never beaten a top-40 player. Bertens, a powerful 27-year-old from the Netherlands, is No. 8.

The victory made Gauff the youngest player to reach the semifinals of a WTA tournament since 2004. More important for her longer-term goals, she is guaranteed to break into the top 100 on Monday and has thus secured a spot in the Australian Open, the next Grand Slam tournament. Gauff will be the only player under 18 in the top 100.

“In some corner of her mind, there was some pressure to do really well here to be able to be sure to be in the main draw in Australia,” Jean-Christophe Faurel, one of her coaches, said in an interview from Linz.

Faurel said that helped explain why the week did not start auspiciously: Gauff, who is restricted to a limited number of pro tournaments because of her age, lost in the second round of the qualifying event in Linz.

But she still found a way into the main tournament — as a “lucky loser” when other players withdrew. As she has done repeatedly since qualifying for Wimbledon, Gauff pounced on the opportunity to get the better of her elders.

She never lost her serve against Bertens.

“Today was really impressive from start to finish, and it needed to be,” Faurel said.

Gauff’s semifinal opponent on Saturday will be Andrea Petkovic of Germany, who is ranked No. 75.

It will be another clash of the generations: Petkovic, 32, is more than twice Gauff’s age. Such duels have been a hallmark of the 2019 tennis season, with Bianca Andreescu, a 19-year-old from Canada, defeating Serena Williams, then 37, in the final of the United States Open last month.

In the men’s game, the elders have continued to hoard the major trophies, with Djokovic, 32, and Rafael Nadal, 33, each winning two of the four Grand Slam titles this year.

The so-called Big Three of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer remain in the top three spots in the rankings.

But signs of insurrection are increasing, particularly in best-of-three-set events. The old guard got locked out of the semifinals at the Shanghai Masters, where Zverev will face Matteo Berrettini, and Tsitsipas will face Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who pushed Nadal to a fifth set before losing their grueling, gripping U.S. Open final last month.

Medvedev and Berrettini are 23. Zverev is 22, and Tsitsipas is 21.

This is the first time since Hamburg in 1999 that four players younger than 24 have reached the final four of a Masters Series event.

Tsitsipas, who defeated Djokovic, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 on Friday, has beaten each member of the Big Three this season.

“They’re knocking on the door big time, the young guys,” said Federer, 38, who has now lost four of his seven matches against Zverev.

They have spent plenty of time together of late. Earlier this season, Zverev signed with Team8, the agency that Federer started with his agent, Tony Godsick.

Last month in Geneva, Federer and Zverev were teammates again in the Laver Cup. Zverev clinched Team Europe’s victory with a win over Milos Raonic after getting a profane and effective pep talk from Federer during an off-court break.

Federer stressed the importance of staying positive under duress and told Zverev he could turn his downbeat season around.

So far so good for Zverev, whose big serve is back to being reliable and who shrugged off the loss of five match points in the second set on Friday, then closed out the victory in the third, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3.

But Federer, despite an extraordinary passage of play late in the second set, was far from the portrait of positivity himself. He hit a ball into the stands in frustration, receiving a warning for ball abuse, and then got a very rare point penalty for a second code violation in the third set, when he hit another ball into the stands after missing a backhand half volley.

“Next question,” Federer said later about the incident.

Along the mood-swinging way, he had several extended discussions on court with the chair umpire, Nacho Forcadell Gil.

But the last word was left to Zverev. “It’s my time,” he screamed after winning the sixth match point.

We’ll see how long his time lasts, but there was no doubt that Friday belonged to the sport’s youth.

Simone Biles Becomes World Championships’ Most Decorated Gymnast

Simone Biles on Sunday became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history, winning gold medals in the balance beam and the floor exercise to increase her career medal total in the championships to 25.

The record medal count — one more than the previous high, held for more than two decades by Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus — strengthened the case of those who already consider Biles, at 22, to be the greatest gymnast of all time. .

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25 WORLD MEDALS @Simone_Biles closes out #Stuttgart2019 on a golden note! ???? pic.twitter.com/Sv4Parre2k

— Team USA (@TeamUSA) October 13, 2019

Her milestone extended a ruthless run of efficiency at the world championships this past week in Stuttgart, Germany. On Tuesday, Biles led the American women to their fifth consecutive gold medal in the team competition, becoming the most decorated woman, with 21 career medals. Two days later, she steamrollered her rivals in the all-around event, cruising to a first-place finish by an impressive margin of 2.1 points. On Saturday, she tied Scherbo by claiming the gold in the vault.

Biles began her senior gymnastics career in 2013. That year, at 16, she earned her first four medals at the world championships in Antwerp, Belgium, including golds in the all-around and the floor exercise.

In 2016, Biles’s four gold medals and generally dominant showing at the 2016 Olympic Games made her an international celebrity. Her profile most likely will only grow next summer in Tokyo, where she is widely expected to add to her collection of five Olympic medals.

Rather than showing signs of slowing down or resting on her laurels, she has continued to innovate and improve, widening the already prodigious gap between her and her competitors.

Before Saturday, Scherbo’s record had been untouched for 23 years. A native of Minsk, he claimed his medals at six world championship meets, from 1991 to 1996, competing for the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States and then Belarus.

Men’s gymnasts compete in up to eight events at the world championships, while their women’s counterparts compete in only six, a fact that — to her supporters and others — has made Biles’s record-setting medal count all the more impressive.

Biles latest accomplishments have emerged against a backdrop of turmoil at U.S.A. Gymnastics, the governing body for the sport in America, which was roiled by the scandal involving Larry G. Nassar, a former team doctor who was accused of molesting hundreds of athletes, including Biles.