In a wild day featuring 908 outs of postseason baseball, we saw all sort of history. The Mega-Central division went 1–6, we got a rookie debut, and A-Rod said a lot of indefensibly stupid things about bunting on national TV.
Here’s a rundown of the early slate of things.
Atlanta 1, Cincinnati 0 (F/13)
There was a lot of baseball played in this game, and at the end of it, one team had to lose. For fans of two teams that haven’t won a playoff series since 2001, this game certainly felt like things could just keep going. But any game as long as this was sure to have more than its fair sure of spectacular moments, and this one delivered.
It’s not entirely fair to say that it was a pitching duel. Well, it was a pitching duel: Trevor Bauer (7.2 IP, 0 ER, 12 K, 0 BB, 2 H) made yet another loud statement about whether he’s been the NL’s best starting pitcher this year, and Max Fried (7,0 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 0 BB, 6 H) managed to match him frame-for-frame. He did got some help in that last frame by an all-time great TOOTBLAN incident by Aristedes Aquino.
It's the Reds in a pickle, but with Yakety Sax pic.twitter.com/An2Rk2Knbm
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) September 30, 2020
Neither team put up a run for the first 25 innings, but not for lack of chances. The Reds went 1-for-12 with RISP, and Atlanta was 0-for-9 until Freddie Freeman singled off of Amir Garrett in the bottom of the 13th inning. Garrett was just cleaning up after Archie Bradley left him runners on the corners with just one out.
Bauer followed up his loud statement on the field with an equally loud postgame comment that seemingly blaming his team’s batters for not getting him the win.
Trevor Bauer low-key threw his teammates under the bus in his postgame interview. He’s obviously mad that he and others pitched great and the team didn’t win.
“You can’t fault the pitching.”
— Jason Foster (@ByJasonFoster) September 30, 2020
Houston 3, Minnesota 1
If it seemed like you’d seen this game before, you might not have been wrong. Again, the Astros pulled their starter early only to let another member of their starting rotation go multiple no-hit innings. Again, the Twins took the ball out of their starter’s hands only for their bullpen to give the game away. In the process, the Minnesota Twins lost their 18th straight postseason game despite drawing arguably the most favorable opening-round draw in the AL. I don’t mean to pile on here, and I also don’t think I can capture the hurt that the Twins’ fan base has to feel. At the very least, they got to see a first glimpse of Alex Kiriloff, who made MLB history by being the first player to make their debut as a starter in a playoff game.
José Berríos (5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 K, 2 BB, 2 H) was pegged by a prognosticators (uh, me) to be the Minnesota starter to get blown up in a three-game series win. It was a strange outing for him — he only got one whiff on 75 pitches, but the Astros struggled to generate solid contact against him. His counterpart, Jose Urquidy (4.1 IP, 1 ER, 3 K, 2 BB, 2 H) had an almost identical line — six more whiffs, two fewer outs, just one more pitch — but started to fade in the 4th, giving up several hard hits but still getting away mostly unscathed. Christian Javier (3.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 K, 2 BB, 0 H) was this game’s super-reliever, and while the Twins’ bullpen did give up two runs, the damage came on just five total hits. But once Carlos Correa gave Houston the lead with a goliath shot to centerfield, Minnesota didn’t manage another hit.
— MLB (@MLB) September 30, 2020
Correa piled on after the fact during the postgame conference, going after those who have attacked the team (for cheating) or doubted the team (for entering the playoffs with a losing record). The Astros’ social team doubled down.
Carlos Correa has a message for the haters pic.twitter.com/9Y94ic8cXh
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) September 30, 2020
— Houston Astros (@astros) September 30, 2020
Say what you will about the Astros. No really, just say it. They asked you to.
Houston advances and will face the winner of today’s White Sox–A’s matchup.
Miami 5, Chicago Cubs 1
This game was on track to be yet another pitching duel through six innings. Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks had given up just two hits going into the frame, and he had the league thanks to an Ian Happ home run. But following a 45.6 mph groundout from Jon Berti, Hendricks (6.1 IP, 3 ER, 3 SO, 3 BB, 5 H) gave up three consecutive hits harder than 102 mph. He was arguably lucky to just give up two singles before letting Corey Dickerson rip home run to center. Jeremy Jeffress replaced him and then gave up three more hits on hard hit balls, including a two-run shot to Jesus Aguilar.
#Marlins take game 1 on the back of 2 home runs in the 7th inning.
Corey Dickerson 3 Run HR:
Exit Velo: 105.4 MPH
LA: 18 Deg.
Jesus Aguilar 2 Run Hr#R:
Exit Velo: 97.7 MPH
LA: 35 Deg.
— Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) September 30, 2020
Arguably, the Marlins could have plated more in this game. They went 1-for-13 with RISP in this game, and Dickerson twice ended an inning by stranding runners. On the other side of things, Happ’s home run was really the only good thing to happen for the Cubs lineup – Sandy Alcantara (6.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 SO, 3 BB, 3 H) kept them at bay until his bullpen cleaned things up. While Happ continued a successful year at the plate with two hits, that was half of his team’s total. Kyle Schwarber did draw two walks, but this was yet another disappointing day at the office for the Cubs. Despite winning their division, only Happ and Jason Heyward managed a wRC+ above 110 across at least 50 PAs. Only Cincinnati and Cleveland had worse wRC+ numbers among playoffs teams this year.
That’s not to say that the Cubs can’t turn this around, but the Marlins are no fluke. Their weakness has been team pitching, but with the 1-2-3 punch of Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Sixto Sanchez all healthy for the playoffs, they can certainly do some damage.
They’ll get their chance to eliminate the Cubs in two straight playoff appearances this afternoon at 2 pm ET.
Oakland 5, Chicago White Sox 3
Before Game 1 of this series, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson called out the A’s for starting Jesus Luzardo, a lefty. His team’s 143 wRC+ against lefties leads the MLB this year, and after winning that game, they improved to 14–0 against LHP. So in Game 2, the Oakland A’s started Chris Bassitt (7.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 K, 1 BB, 6 H), who is both good at pitching and right-handed.
You could say that it worked.
If not for those verbal jabs, the bigger story might have been that the A’s got to White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel (3.1 IP, 3 ER, 4 K, 0 BB, 6 H) early in the game. After Nick Madrigal misplayed a Matt Olson ground ball in the first that plated two, a Marcus Semien two-run home run in the second and a Khris Davis solo shot in the fourth gave the A’s five runs on just six hits through ten outs.
How bout them dingers from Marcus Semien and Khris Davis 💣💣 pic.twitter.com/sOEmHdQUlM
— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) September 30, 2020
The bleeding stopped, though. The Pale Hose Bullpen — easily a top-10 unit this season — only gave up one hit over the next 4.2 innings, including a 1-2-3 seventh inning from Dylan Cease. And all that meant that the White Sox just needed to find some runs of their own. After Bassitt was pulled, the A’s bullpen gave them a few chances in the last two innings — Yasmani Grandal homered off Liam Hendriks, plating Anderson and giving Bassitt his only earned run of the game. And then in the 9th, Jake Diekman walked Grandal with two out and the bases loaded to make it 5–3. But a Jose Abreu groundout sealed the win for the A’s and tied up the series.
While all three teams in the AL Central lost yesterday, the White Sox are the sole remaining team with a chance to move on. They’ll face Oakland in Game 3 today at 3 pm ET in a game that could feature any number and combination of regular-season starters.
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire