For the first time ever we get eight MLB playoff matchups in a single day! Whether you are a National League fan waiting for your series to start or an American League fan seeing if your team can move on (or stay alive) — or just a baseball fan ready to sit back and enjoy the madness — Wednesday has something for everyone.
Here’s your guide to every game, stats to know while you watch, a hot take sure to get your blood boiling and a look back at the best from Tuesday’s action.
What’s on tap
All times Eastern; all series best-of-three played entirely in higher seed’s home park
The Braves’ offense comes in red-hot after averaging an MLB-best 6.65 runs per game in September, but Atlanta faces the National League’s likely Cy Young winner in Bauer, who led the league in ERA (1.73) and WHIP (0.795) and the majors with two complete-game shutouts. But that isn’t the only unstoppable force/immovable object confrontation in this game — Fried’s 0.9% rate of home runs allowed would have been the NL’s lowest had he qualified, and the Reds’ homer-happy lineup ranked fifth in MLB in home-run rate.
Can Berrios snap the Twins’ postseason losing streak at 17 as Minnesota faces an early elimination game? In two postseason starts, he’s allowed six runs in seven innings, which might make for an early hook. But the Game 1 meltdown of the Twins’ bullpen — seen as a strength coming into the series — was far from reassuring. Despite the Astros’ arrival in this postseason as underdogs after a losing season on top of losing Justin Verlander for the year, they’re a team with plenty of playoff experience.
The most recent time the Marlins went to Wrigley Field in the postseason was in 2003, down 3-2 in the National League Championship Series. They won the infamous “Bartman Game” in Game 6, and then put the Cubs away in Game 7. The Cubs have already beaten the famous “Curse of the Billy Goat” with their World Series win in 2016 — will they also avenge that infamous upset by beating a plucky Marlins team that has bounced back from early-season problems with COVID-19?
Keuchel comes into the game having delivered a sharp season for the Sox, while the A’s lineup has struggled against left-handed starters all year, hitting just .220/.312/.372 against them. The hope for the A’s is that Bassitt keeps the game close after earning AL pitcher of the month honors for four consecutive quality starts in September, and has a little extra in him facing the team that traded him to Oakland to help the A’s win what could be a low-scoring game.
Among pitchers with 40 or more innings pitched in 2020, Glasnow’s 38.2% strikeout rate was third in the majors behind two guys named Bieber and deGrom. But perhaps strangely considering this year’s heavily intradivision schedule, this will be his first start against the Blue Jays. Ryu made two nondescript early-season starts against the Rays before heating up down the stretch with five quality starts in his final six turns, with Toronto winning all five. Can he help the Blue Jays force a Game 3?
Jeff Passan asked Tuesday about the scheduled absence of the Cardinals’ ace, “where’s Jack Flaherty?”, noting that the Padres’ big-inning offense has feasted on lower-velocity fastballs. But the Padres’ dynamic lineup also has also performed less well against lefty starters than right-handers (.322 wOBA vs. .341), and the Cardinals won five of Kim’s seven starts — and Kim allowed just one unearned run over 13 innings in the two turns the Birds didn’t win.
After experiencing the massive disappointment of witnessing its ace getting crushed in the series’ first game, Cleveland faces the tough challenge of facing Tanaka, whose 1.76 ERA in eight postseason starts with the Yankees presents a daunting prospect in an elimination game. Though Carrasco has pitched well in the postseason in the past, the Indians have lost both of his starts.
Brewers skipper Craig Counsell is likely to pull out all the stops in trying to eke out a win in Game 1 with staff-best starter Brandon Woodruff lined up for Game 2, so while Suter starts, don’t be surprised to see a quick move to Milwaukee’s fearsome pen. Buehler is probably the best starter in baseball’s best rotation, so expect him to keep the Brewers in check. The challenge will be for the Dodgers’ lineup to keep pace with Counsell’s machinations.
If you watch only one game today it should be …
All of them! It could not possibly get any better for baseball fans than eight MLB playoff games on the same day, so take them all in any way you can. But that’s sort of a cop-out for this question, so we’ll put it this way instead: Which game should you put on the big TV while you juggle all the rest?
Reds-Braves. Cincinnati has been a trendy upset pick going into the matchup and the first game of the series will go a long way toward determining if that comes true. The Reds send NL Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer to the mound against a Braves lineup that can absolutely mash. Grab some popcorn and start your Wednesday in baseball heaven with this matchup. — Dan Mullen
Hot take of the day
That’s it. I’ve picked the A’s too many times. I picked them in last year’s wild-card game, figuring they were due to win something. I had picked them in the 2018 wild-card game in an upset over the Yankees, figuring Bob Melvin’s bullpen game was a stroke of genius. It wasn’t. I still can’t believe they blew that 2014 wild-card game to the Royals. Please, don’t bring up the 2002 American League Division Series, when Cy Young winner Barry Zito didn’t start until Game 3. He won, but the A’s lost Games 4 and 5.
So, naturally, I picked the A’s to beat the White Sox, paying too much attention to Chicago’s late-season fade and not enough to Oakland winning a weak AL West — they played just six games all season against teams that finished with a winning record. Despite that weak schedule, the A’s hit just .225. Let’s just say the Mariners, Angels and Rangers weren’t exactly throwing Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz out there. Yes, Lucas Giolito was terrific on Tuesday, but I have a feeling Dallas Keuchel will be terrific in Game 2. The A’s will be done early. Again. And don’t get me going on the Twins … — David Schoenfield
Stat of the day
Inside the Twins’ 17-game postseason losing streak — the longest in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL history:
• They scored first and had a lead in 11 of those 17 games — and led 1-0 on Tuesday.
• They were outscored 42-14 in seventh inning or later, including getting outscored 4-0 by the Astros in their first game.
• 27 MLB teams have won a playoff game since the Twins most recently won one. The Mariners and Marlins are the others who haven’t, but neither has played a playoff game since. Of course, the Marlins and Twins both play Wednesday afternoon. Will that number go up to 28, or can the Twins finally win a postseason game?
About last night …
Lucas Giolito flirted with perfection for the White Sox, not allowing an A’s baserunner until the seventh inning in his postseason debut. Backed by three home runs, that was more than enough to stymie Oakland in a 4-1 victory and put the Sox a win away from their first postseason series win since their World Series title in 2005. … The Twins and Astros were knotted up 1-1 going into the ninth before Houston exploded for a trio of runs against Minnesota’s bullpen to extend the Twin Cities’ streak of postseason misfortune to a record 17 consecutive losses. … The Rays jumped out to an early advantage over the Blue Jays with 3-1 victory keyed by Blake Snell taking a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, with Manuel Margot sealing the win with his two-run home run in the seventh inning. … The duel of aces expected between Shane Bieber and Gerrit Cole didn’t live up to its billing, as the Yankees crushed Bieber in a 12-3 rout while Cole struck out 13 batters to set a Yankees record for whiffs in a pinstriped postseason debut.
Social media post of the day
Shane Bieber pitches: 4
New York Yankees runs: 2
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 29, 2020
Best moment of the MLB playoffs to date
After all of the buildup over a billed duel between the ace starters on the Indians and the Yankees, Aaron Judge clearly had other ideas about what to do with this Shane Bieber offering in the first inning, proving yet again Judge is everything MLB should want in a superstar:
Aaron Judge blasts a two-run homer to right-center to put the Yankees up 2-0 over the Indians.
And the running MLB playoffs MVP is …
Right now, it has to be Lucas Giolito. After spinning the season’s first no-hitter back in August, we knew he’d be fearsome in October. But his dominance in Game 1 for the White Sox, daring to go where only Don Larsen has gone before in postseason history, that’s the stuff of series-defining excellence that could mean a lot more than just torching the flammable A’s in one series. It could set up the sort of terrorized drama of anticipation we haven’t seen since Madison Bumgarner in 2014, or Mike Scott in 1986, where the knowledge that you’re going to have to face that guy occasions desperation in opponents in October.
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