Two Championship Series diverged in a neutral site bubble, and thankfully I can recap both. Houston suddenly has a pulse, while it looks like LA’s offensive explosion might have just been a speedbump for Atlanta.
Rays 3 – Astros 4
This game was both somehow predictable and very strange. Houston ran out five pitchers in the first seven innings, all of whom still had rookie eligibility. A combo of Luis Garcia, Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb, and Brooks Raley worked together to pitch 6.2 innings while surrendering only two runs to Tampa.
During those opening innings, Houston scored three runs in a more predictable manner, one of them coming from an absolute laser homer run off the bat of George Springer that saw him sending the first pitch of the game from John Curtiss into the Western Metal Building seats. He was backed by a two-run RBI single from Michael Brantley in the third inning off of Tampa “bulk guy” Josh Fleming. This allowed us a look into the Houston dugout which confirmed that Dusty Baker still has no idea how to wear a mask:
For their part, Tampa got to see Brandon Lowe hit a long home run out to dead center, which must be a sight for sore eyes even though he ended the day 1-for-5. The Rays tacked on another run off a Randy Arozarena solo shot in the top of the fifth inning. Paredes tried to sneak a low fastball right across the middle of the plate and well, Rakes All Day Night Year hasn’t let many pitchers get away with that this postseason.
That was it for either team’s scoring until the eighth inning, when Ji-Man Choi proved it’s not just Gerrit Cole fastballs he can park in the seats, sending a Josh James four-seamer arcing majestically into the right-field stands to tie the game, complete with a gorgeous batflip for emphasis.
We'll be watching this bat flip on repeat. pic.twitter.com/SmmN9kG7BV
— MLB (@MLB) October 16, 2020
With the score knotted up, Tampa turned to their shutdown 0.55 regular-season ERA relief ace Nick Anderson, who worked a quick 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Rays were unable to capitalize on a leadoff single by Mike Zunino in the ninth, but Anderson was back on the mound and was able to induce a pop up from Alex Bregman to opening the bottom half. But there would be no extra innings redemption for the Rays, as in a true central casting moment, Carlos Correa hit a huge, 416-foot moonshot past the wall out in center field to walk it off for the Astros.
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 16, 2020
From being up 3-0, Tampa suddenly finds themselves in a fight for the pennant…
Tampa 3, Houston 2
Dodgers 2 – Braves 10
For as bullpenned as the ALCS game was, we were all ready to settle in for what was sure to be a pitching duel between Clayton Kershaw and…Bryse Wilson? Well, at least we could pencil in two real starters for this game.
We did get treated to a true duel for the first five innings of the matchup, as Wilson let up a solo shot to Edwin Rios in the 3rd, only to see that matched an inning later as Marcell Ozuna took Kershaw deep. Things were so tight that Joe Buck lost all command of the English language over a bunt attempt from Cristian Pache:
It was then in the sixth inning that Playoffs Kershaw (always the result of a confluence of decisions and outcomes, and not the fault of any one man) happened and the wheels really came off for LA, with the inning being opened by an error-full display of people falling over:
Once Ronald Acuña Jr. got to second base, the carousel got up to speed. MVFree himself, Freddie Freeman, hit a ground ball that rolled all the way to the RF wall to score Acuña and move Freddie to second. He quickly waved over to his biggest fans in the park:
— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 16, 2020
Before he in turn was then immediately doubled home by Ozuna. That would spell the end of the day for Kershaw, who was replaced on the mound by Brusdar Graterol, whose 100mph sinker is much more hittable than you might assume…
Travis d’Arnaud lined out, but with just one out recorded in the inning, Ozzie Albies singled to put runners on first and third before Dansby Swanson doubled both runners home. An Austin Riley single then scored Swanson and Graterol’s day was done. Victor Gonzalez was brought in and a walk to Johan Carmargo followed by a Cristian Pache single added another Atlanta run to the board before he was able to strike out Acuña and get Freeman to ground out. The inning was mercifully over, but the damage was emphatically done.
Clayton Kershaw: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
Brusdar Graterol: 0.1 IP, 3H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Meanwhile, Bryse Wilson held down the LA offense, cruising to a final line of 6.0 IP, with only a single hit, run, and walk on his ledger to go with five strikeouts and the W. Atlanta worked themselves into some trouble as Will Smith loaded the bases with one out in the seventh before Chris Martin was called in to escape the jam. The pitching change meant we were all robbed of a Will Smith vs Will Smith matchup, but Martin was able to escape the inning giving up only a single run on a sac fly from Rios.
Marcell Ozuna’s wild day continued, however, adding another solo home run in the seventh, and an RBI single in the eighth, setting both a franchise and positional record:
Marcell Ozuna has 11 total bases today, a #Braves postseason record. He’s also the first DH to reach that mark in a playoff game.
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) October 16, 2020
In Texas it was a day for sad narratives to be strengthened, as the Braves move to a commanding lead in the NLCS.
I’ll let Cody Bellinger sum up the mood for LA:
Cody Bellinger's "What" comes with a green screen 👀 pic.twitter.com/KF5M4pP9wJ
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) October 16, 2020
Atlanta 3, Los Angeles 1
Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)