The Wild Card Series is over after four days filled with exciting postseason baseball. One thing held true across all first-round matchups: the central division teams did not advance. Another thing is true about the upcoming division series: it will only feature intra-division showdowns.
Astros vs. Athletics. Rays vs. Yankees. Padres vs. Dodgers. Marlins vs. Braves.
But before we delve too deep into what could happen this upcoming week, let’s recap what just happened in yesterday’s Wild Card finale.
Miami 2, Chicago 0
This series represented the rematch of the 2003 NLCS, where the Marlins emerged victorious in seven games after forging a dramatic comeback in the infamous Game Six. But this redux was much less dramatic and the Marlins more handily dominated the Cubs thanks to their 1-2 starting pitching punch of Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sánchez.
Sánchez took the mound in Game Two and delivered an excellent postseason debut (5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K). Meanwhile, Garrett Cooper hit the biggest home run of his baseball career in the seventh inning, a solo shot in the seventh to give the Marlins a lead they never relinquished.
Garrett Cooper takes Yu Darvish deep and the Marlins are one step closer to advancing to the NLDS 💪
Catch the finish on ABC! pic.twitter.com/PjKFQtQoTr
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 2, 2020
After Sánchez’s departure in the sixth, the Marlins relieving crew of Brad Boxberger, Richard Bleier, Yimi García and Brandon Kintzler froze the Cubs lineup, allowing just one hit and no walks over the last four innings.
Cubs starter Yu Darvish had a great performance (6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K), but it wasn’t enough to get the win as the Cubs’ offense struggled to get anything going.
After going a combined 4-for-31 with three walks and seven strikeouts in Game One, the Cubs followed this up with a very similar line in Game Two: 5-for-31 with two walks and nine strikeouts. This stat is pretty representative of the offensive woes that have plagued the Cubs since their historic 2016 playoff run:
Baez/Bryant/Rizzo, in the postseason since 2016: 19 for 141. That’s a .134 batting average. 51 K’s. 6 BB.
At least the 2020 Cubs’ offense, who scored just one run in 18 postseason innings, one-upped the Reds (sorry Reds fans).
The best Cubs’ opportunity occurred in the bottom of the fourth, when back-to-back leadoff walks by Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber failed to result in a run thanks to Matt Joyce‘s great assist to nab Contreras at home.
Matt Joyce gunned down Willson Contreras at home. 👀😤
— theScore (@theScore) October 2, 2020
The Marlins are already the second team to make the playoffs after losing 100+ games in the previous season, and now they have advanced to face the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, with Game One scheduled for Tuesday, October 6th. The rest of baseball should fear the Marlins as they have literally been perfect in the postseason in their limited history.
Marlins World Series wins: 2. Playoff series losses: 0.
San Diego 4, St. Louis 0
If you had told Padres fans just one month ago that Craig Stammen would start a pivotal, winner-take-all elimination game, they would assume the worst has happened. That has pretty much been true in the lead-up to the playoffs, where injuries to Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet have put their postseason prospects in limbo. The Padres, hampered by these critical losses, were forced to rely on their bullpen to get 27 outs in this game.
And what a performance it was.
The Padres became the first team in MLB history to throw a nine-inning shutout using nine different relievers.
Their combined line: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K.
The Cardinals didn’t really have much going offensively even though each of their 1-5 hitters reached base at one point or another. They never put together a strong rally, with their best chance coming in a two-out, bases-loaded opportunity in the third inning for Dylan Carlson against Pierce Johnson. But Johnson overcame his initial struggles, recording a crucial swinging strikeout on Carlson with an 87 mph curveball to end the threat.
Meanwhile, the Padres’ offense gradually chipped away at the Cardinals’ young studs Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes. Flaherty still had a great start against a potent Padres offense (6 IP, 1 R, 2 BB, and 8 K). He even pulled off some acrobatic moves while showcasing the stuff that made him a Cy Young candidate last year.
Meanwhile, Fernando Tatís Jr. was submitting his own application to Cirque du Soleil as he had multiple highlight-reel defensive plays while going 1-for-2 at the plate with two walks and one run.
Hosmer broke open a scoreless game in the fifth inning with an RBI double to left field, while Cronenworth essentially iced it with an eighth-inning bomb to dead-center to cap off a three-run rally against Reyes.
And finally, Trevor Rosenthal came into the ninth inning with the opportunity to send the Padres to the NLDS for the first time since 2006. Rosenthal was pure filth, striking out the side looking, winning the first Padres postseason series since 1998.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) October 3, 2020
The Padres hope to have both Clevinger and Lamet back for the NLDS as they will certainly need them to neutralize a Dodgers’ offense that was tied for the highest wRC+ in baseball at 122.
Game One of this extremely intense divisional battle will take place this Tuesday, October 6th.