HOUSTON (AP) — Yordan Alvarez smashed a game-ending, three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning off Robbie Ray, wrecking Seattle’s strategy of using a Cy Young Award winner in a rare relief role and vaulting the Houston Astros over the Mariners 8-7 in their playoff opener.

ATLANTA (AP) — Nick Castellanos drove in three runs and made a potentially game-saving catch in the ninth inning, lifting the Philadelphia Phillies over the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves 7-6 in the opener of their NL Division Series. The Phillies have won three straight games to begin these playoffs, hardly looking like a team making its first postseason appearance since 2011.

ATLANTA (AP) — With their postseason curse eradicated, the Atlanta Braves have every reason to believe this could be another stellar October. They aren’t lacking for confidence, that’s for sure, after chasing down the New York Mets in a captivating NL East race. Heading into their NL Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves are playing with the swagger of a playoff-hardened team that won it all a year ago.

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves made another investment in their future by signing rookie right-hander Spencer Strider to a $75 million, six-year contract. The move came one day before the Braves open their NL Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Less than two months ago, the Braves signed another rookie, outfielder Michael Harris II, to a $72 million, eight-year deal.

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have surprised many experts by being competitive in every game this season. If they are to build on their 2-3 start, they may need to add more balance to an offense that has leaned heavily on its running game. Marcus Mariota threw for only 147 yards in a 21-15 loss at Tampa Bay that left the Falcons 2-3.

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Christopher Bell saved his title chances with an overtime win Sunday on the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a stunning finish that knocked reigning NASCAR champion Kyle Larson from the playoffs. Bell entered the race 11th in the standings with four drivers set to be eliminated as NASCAR’s playoff field was trimmed to eight. He took the lead in overtime and drove away as all the drama was further in the field for the final transfer spot into the round of eight.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was on the wrong end of a disputed roughing the passer call after he sacked Tom Brady in the fourth quarter of Atlanta’s 21-15 loss at Tampa Bay. The questionable penalty that benefited Brady and the Buccaneers raised more concerns about interpretations of the rule. It was the second straight week referee Jerome Boger made the critical call late in the game on a play that didn’t seem to warrant a flag.

NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Musgrove brushed off chants of “Cheater!” after a bizarre spot check by umpires on the mound, pitching his hometown San Diego Padres into the next round of the playoffs with seven innings of one-hit ball in a 6-0 victory over the New York Mets. Trent Grisham hit an RBI single and made a terrific catch in center field that helped the Padres take the best-of-three National League wild-card series two games to one. San Diego advanced to face the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five Division Series beginning Tuesday.

Georgia took back the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press college football poll from Alabama on Sunday after being bumped out last week by the Crimson Tide, who slid to No. 3. The Bulldogs received 32 first-place votes and 1,535 points in the Top 25, presented by Regions Bank, to easily reclaim No. 1. They were just two points behind Alabama at No. 2 last week.

Mercer shuts down Western Carolina 49-6

MACON, Ga. (AP) — Fred Payton threw three touchdowns passes and Mercer held the Southern Conference's top-scoring team to a pair of field goals in the Bears' 49-6 win over Western Carolina on …

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