The Wild Card round of the MLB playoffs rolls on. And while we won’t recapture the magical eight-games-in-one-day schedule that yesterday brought us, there are still five playoff games today, which would be unheard of in a typical season.
Yesterday, three AL teams punched their tickets to the Division Series, and the only one of them that doesn’t make us want to flip a table is the Rays, who looked every bit the part of the No. 1 seed in steamrolling the Blue Jays. Tampa Bay outscored Toronto 11-3 in the two-game sweep and thrashed the Jays’ best pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu, for seven runs.
The other two teams to advance so far are (heavy sigh) the Yankees and Astros, because of course. It’s always the Yankees and Astros. It’s worth mentioning that neither of those teams would’ve even made the playoffs if it were still the usual, 10-team postseason field instead of 16. The Yanks outlasted Cleveland, 10-9, in a 4-hour, 50-minute slog, the longest nine-inning game — postseason or otherwise — in MLB history. That, coupled with over an hour of rain delays, surely made for some grumpy fans in Cleveland, who had to stay up past 1 AM just to watch their team lose again. The Yanks will now play the Rays, who went 8-2 against them during the regular season. Let’s hope for more of that.
Meanwhile, the postseason curse continued for the poor Minnesota Twins, who lost their 18th consecutive playoff game, the longest in the history of professional sports. They were taken out by the Astros, a sub-.500 team who have lost many of their stars to injury. What’s worse, making the playoffs every year only to embarrass yourself on a national stage, or not making the playoffs at all? The Astros will await the winner of the Athletics/White Sox series.
Cincinnati Reds at Atlanta Braves, Game 2 (Braves lead, 1-0)
12:08 PM, ESPN
What a barnburner these two teams played yesterday — if your idea of a barnburner is a game in which both sides are completely unable to score runs. It was the first postseason game in MLB history that was scoreless through 11 innings. I’m not sure which lineup was more embarrassing: the Braves, who managed only three hits in the first 12 innings and struck out 21 times, or the Reds, who produced zero runs on 11 hits and went 1-for-12 with men in scoring position, stranding 13 runners. Kudos to former Orioles fave Nick Markakis for setting up the game-winning rally with a leadoff hit in the 13th, with Freddie Freeman finally ending the 4.5-hour contest with a walkoff single.
Now with both clubs’ bullpens taxed — they combined to use 12 relievers yesterday — they’re right back at it for another noon contest today. The Reds will send former All-Star Luis Castillo (4-6, 3.21 ERA this year) against rookie righty Ian Anderson, who has made just six big league starts but was 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA.
Miami Marlins at Chicago Cubs, Game 2 (Marlins lead, 1-0)
2:08 PM, ABC
The upstart Marlins, who defied the odds by withstanding a COVID-19 outbreak and rebuilding their roster from scratch in the middle of the season, continued to shock the baseball world by stealing Game 1 at Wrigley Field yesterday, powered by Corey Dickerson and Jesus Aguilar home runs. And Richard Bleier made his postseason debut by retiring a batter in the seventh inning. To think I felt bad for the guy when the O’s traded him to the Fish in the middle of their outbreak. Look at him now!
On paper, today is an outstanding pitching matchup. The Cubs’ Yu Darvish is a legitimate Cy Young contender after an outstanding season in which he posted the second-best ERA in the National League (2.01), led in wins (eight), and struck out 11 batters per nine innings. This will be his seventh career postseason start and first since the Astros tore him to shreds in the 2017 World Series, which we now know they had some illicit help with. Meanwhile, the Marlins have some firepower of their own in dazzling rookie Sixto Sanchez, who went 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA in seven regular season starts and can pump 100 mph in the zone with regularity. This should be fun.
Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics, Game 3 (series tied, 1-1)
3:10 PM, ESPN
While the Twins’ stretch of postseason futility continued, another notorious playoff choker exorcised its demons, at least temporarily. The Athletics snapped a six-game postseason losing streak, dating back to 2013, with a 5-3 victory yesterday, though they almost blew it in the late innings when Bob Melvin brought in his closer in a five-run game the eighth and let him throw 49 grueling pitches. That’s certainly...a choice. It sets up a win-or-go-home finale this afternoon, where the Athletics will try to actually win a postseason series, something they haven’t done since 2006.
As of this writing, neither team has announced its starting pitcher, so we could see some cobbled-together bullpen games today.
St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres, Game 2 (Cardinals lead, 1-0)
5:08 PM, ESPN2
The Padres, polled as Camden Chat’s favorite National League team, got off to a disappointing start in their first postseason game since 2006, with a 7-4 loss in the series opener. A Cardinals team that played 11 doubleheaders this season, including seven in September, didn’t look as fatigued as you’d imagine when they attacked starter Chris Paddack for four first-inning runs and never looked back. Now the Padres’ postseason run is in danger of ending barely after it began.
The Pads had the bad luck of seeing their two best starters, Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, go down with injuries just before the playoffs. They’ll be counting on former O’s farmhand Zach Davies, foolishly traded by Dan Duquette for Gerardo Parra in 2015, to keep their hopes alive this evening. He was 7-3 with a 2.74 ERA this year, but his only playoff experience consists of one relief inning for the 2018 Brewers. St. Louis will counter with grizzled October veteran Adam Wainwright, who has pitched in the postseason in seven different years for the Cardinals — including their 2006 championship club — amassing an all-time 2.81 ERA in 27 games (14 starts).
Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers, Game 2 (Dodgers lead, 1-0)
10:08 PM, ESPN
Conventional wisdom is that the Dodgers, the best team in baseball, should thoroughly trounce the Brewers, a 29-31 team that didn’t spend a day over .500 all season. And the Dodgers did take care of business in Game 1, though it was a little bit closer than expected. Brewers starter Brent Suter, who had walked only five batters all season, walked five in this game alone (including two bases-loaded free passes in the first) to give the Dodgers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Clayton Kershaw, whose postseason struggles are well documented, has a chance to win the clincher for L.A. tonight. It’ll be his 33rd career playoff appearance. The Brewers, whose best starter Corbin Burnes is out with injury, counter with Brandon Woodruff, who has a 1.65 ERA in five career postseason games.