The four divisional rounds of the playoffs went full-go on Tuesday. Somewhere deep in the cavernous depths of MLB headquarters in New York, four executors donned their robes, descended into the subbasement, took their skeleton keys out from around their necks, and they unlocked playoff baseball.
Braves 9- Marlins 5
We finally got a little bit of a back-and-forth, classic postseason slug fest. There were home runs, rallies, some chirping from the dugouts, warnings issued to both sides, big plays from big stars and the biggest play of the game – in classic postseason fashion – from outside our list of usual suspects.
Ronald Acuña Jr. took center stage in this one, homering to lead off the game against Sandy Alcantara. Max Fried looked very sharp in the first, but devolved shortly after. In the third inning, Acuña came up again:
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 6, 2020
That smarts. Was their intention? Let’s ask the man with the bruise. Thoughts, Ron?
They have to hit me , because they don’t get me out 🤫🤫🤫
— Ronald Acuna Jr (@ronaldacunajr24) October 6, 2020
Fair enough. But I’ll eat my shoe if that was intentional. These guys know the stakes, and they’re used to pimped home runs. Alcantara isn’t some old-school granddad shooing young scoundrels off his lawn.
The real story is much less devious: Acuña happens to be friggin’ daunting at the plate, so it’s not shocking when a young guy like Alcantara misses his spot. What’s more, and Jimmy Rollins made this point, he’d rather hit him than leave a heater middle-in. That’s a philosophical approach, and the right approach. Just avoid the head, and if you can, do better? Yeah, do better. You got this, Sandy. Hit the glove, boi.
Of course, after all this hubbub and struttin’, Alcantara might hit him on purpose now.
Regardless, Acuña came around to score on a double by Marcell Ozuna, who then came around to score on a double from Travis d’Arnaud. Alcantara settled in after that: He struck out the side in the 4th, struck out two more in the 5th, and worked a perfect 6th.
In the 7th inning, the tide turned again.
Back-to-back singles to start the inning chased Alcantara after 95 pitches. Yimi Garcia got MVFree to force out Acuña at second, but Ozuna followed that up with another base hit to tie the game 4-4. With two on and one out…who did we say would come up with the biggest play of the night? Did you have d’Arnaud on your bingo card?
NOT TIED ANYMORE. pic.twitter.com/YUksvudVuH
— MLB (@MLB) October 6, 2020
The inning fell apart further from there for the Marlins. Let’s leave this one with two final points:
- The Marlins have to be disheartened to have gotten to Fried, knocking him out after four innings, and still lose. Not only that, but after only 70 pitches, he should be good to go for a potential game 5.
- If there’s a Pyrrhic victory for the Marlins here, it’s that despite losing by four, the Braves still used their top two relievers – Chris Martin and Mark Melancon – for an inning apiece. Overuse is the name of the game in the playoffs – or a name of a game – and the Marlins at least made some progress in that regard.
On the other hand, the Braves got the W and looked darn impressive doing so.
Braves 1, Marlins 0
Astros 5- Athletics 2
George Springer doesn’t care what you think, it turns out. It’s fall, so he rakes. The impending free agent now has 17(!) postseason home runs. This was his first of two on Tuesday:
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 6, 2020
Springer’s second home run of the game was particularly crushing for the A’s, as he went back-to-back with Martin Maldonado despite a pitching change in between. He is engineered, it seems, to make everyone outside of Houston hate baseball.
As good as Springer was, give the game ball to Framber Valdez. The 26-year-old Dominican posted 7 innings, giving up 2 earned runs on 5 hits and 1 walk while striking out 4. Combined with the 5 innings of spotless relief he tossed to close out the Twins in game 1 of the wild card, and Valdez now owns a 1.50 ERA this postseason. Big time.
The Astros went up 5-2 in the 5th inning, and it never felt close after that.
For the A’s, Khris Davis homered for the 2nd time in the series, and Chad Pinder hit an absolute bomb the other way into the right center field bleachers. But those two homers accounted for 2 of their 7 baserunners. The A’s offense has lacked dynamism, and while that’s a tough quality to cultivate and quantify, when it’s not there it, it’s clear.
It’s not there for the A’s.
Astros 2, A’s 0
Rays 7- Yankees 5
I can’t get into Pete Fairbanks‘ head. I don’t know what he was thinking when D.J. LeMahieu singled home a run to bring Aaron Judge to plate as the potential go-ahead run.
But he did not look like a comfortable man.
Regardless, the Rays’ de facto closer held it together, got some help from the umpires, and induced Judge into a game-ending groundout to even this series at a game apiece.
To get them there, Tyler Glasnow set the pace on the hill.
Tyler Glasnow, 99mph ⛽️…and K Strut. pic.twitter.com/ckk2o6b7K8
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 7, 2020
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 7, 2020
As good as Glasnow was, he wasn’t spotless, and the Yankees made the most of their opportunities. Namely, by way of a three-run bomb from Giancarlo Stanton that still hasn’t landed. The Stanton homer brought the Yankees to within one, but the Rays kept adding on. They hit four homers in total, and then used Nick Anderson to shut the door. Anderson was lights out for two innings, bridging the gap to the 9th inning. In total, the Rays struck out 18 Yankees, the most ever in a 9-inning playoff game.
For the Yankees, 21-year-old Deivi Garcia got the start, becoming the youngest starter in Yankee postseason history. But manager Aaron Boone didn’t stick with Garcia long, ultimately using their young phenom as an opener for J.A. Happ.
Everyone loved the move.
What Boone pulled tonight is truly one of the dumbest things I’ve ever even seen from a (highly) competent franchise. Up a game, battle tested vet or electric kid. Nah, let’s hand the ball to a middling 5th starter as soon as possible. Just asinine.
— Brandon Tierney (@BrandonTierney) October 7, 2020
J.A. Happ said he told the Yankees we would have preferred to start tonight's game but that he was ready to pitch. Wouldn't answer when he was asked if he felt like he was put in a position to succeed.
— Brendan Kuty (@BrendanKutyNJ) October 7, 2020
And it totally worked.
No doubt about that one. Mike Zunino puts the Rays back on top. 😱 pic.twitter.com/7BR2pAKDhb
— MLB (@MLB) October 7, 2020
See how I use italics to denote sarcasm there? Everyone loves italics.
Anyway, the Yankees had it going in the 9th, but our man Mr. Fairbanks couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. But he got a little encouragement from home plate umpire CB Bucknor, and he closed out the outing with 11 consecutive “strikes.”
Yankees 1, Rays 1
Dodgers 5- Padres 1
The Padres and Dodgers played an ugly game, but the beginning was defined by one man: Mike Clevinger. The Padres game one starter did not make it out of the second inning due to injury. Normally, this would be a ‘what-a-tough-break’ situation, but in this case, everyone knew he was injured coming into this game. That they started and removed him was either a failure on his part, or on the coaching staff, or both. Can the macho nonsense and do the right thing to help your team win. Now the Padres are backed into a corner. They can’t have a starter go on short rest in game 5, and they have to choose between putting Clevinger on the playoff IL, thus losing him for the NLCS, or playing down a man. Silly silly silly.
Walks are also silly. There was lots of silliness in this game. The Padres walked ten batters in total, helping the Dodgers to get a run across in the 5th inning – before they had a hit. The Dodgers are a great team, and they really don’t need the Padres help. Perhaps the pitching staff was tired, since every guy pitches in every game. The Padres really could have benefited from having a starter work into the, oh I don’t know, 3rd inning?
The Padres bullpen is not going to be able to keep this up for 5 consecutive days, and at some point, they need a starter to give them length. The pressure is on now for Zach Davies and Chris Paddack to pitch the game of their lives against the best team in the league. They can thank Clevinger for the extra pressure. Let’s check in with Jayce Tingler to see how he feels about the whole ordeal. What do you mean he’s not here?
Padres Manager Jayce Tingler has been ejected. pic.twitter.com/ri5wHleiIg
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 7, 2020
The Dodgers didn’t play a great game, but they did enough to get the win. Walker Buehler walked 4 and only lasted through 4 innings, but he gave up just 2 hits and a single run. Dustin May followed him to get the win, and he was roasting.
Dustin May 💯 pic.twitter.com/dITwGyZxjx
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) October 7, 2020
It was a little surprising to see May in this game because the assumption was he’d get the start in one of the final 3 games of the series, if we get there. With these 2 innings, he could still come back to start game 5 on short rest, where the Dodgers might go with a similar formula that they used today: Buehler + May – Padres = Win. Padres took themselves out of this game, but Buehler and May definitely helped.
Dodgers 1, Padres 0
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)