All four division series were in action yesterday, with the Braves, Dodgers, and Rays all moving within one game of the league championship rounds. Meanwhile, Oakland pulled a game back to hold off Houston’s advance. Couldn’t escape your responsibilities long enough to catch all of it? Here’s the best of what you missed.
Atlanta Braves 2, Miami Marlins 0 (ATL Leads 2–0)
Atlanta’s pitching staff blanked the Marlins to record their third shutout in four games and place them one win from the NLCS. Here’s how it happened.
What changed the game:
Pablo Lopez gave up just three hits, but two of those were solo shots to Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson. Both of those came on pitches thrown to the low inside corner, which looks like a great location if your only focus is on hitting the edges of the strike zone. The fastball thrown to Swanson and the changeup thrown to d’Arnaud both landed in zones where those batters had an xWOBA of at least .495 this year. Not great!
Both starters brought their best. Ian Anderson (5.2 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, 1 BB, 3 H) was about as dominant as he’s been all season, perhaps forgetting that these are the playoffs and that rookies shouldn’t be the best players or something. His curveball wasn’t on — no whiff and just two called strikes on 13 thrown — but his 9 changeup whiffs were a personal best, and batters could barely muster any convincing contact. For the Marlins, Pablo Lopez (5.0 IP, 2 ER, 7 K, 0 BB, 3 H) wasn’t spotless, but his changeup rivaled Anderson’s with 10 whiffs. Two earned runs through five is typically a good night against Atlanta.
What you might have missed:
This is beyond unacceptable in a playoff game.
Umpire Dan Bellino lost track of the count during Adam Duvall's at bat. Instead of drawing a walk, Duvall flied out to end the inning on a 4-2 count.@Marlins @Braves @aduvall123 pic.twitter.com/U7YjbAuz0t
— Umpire Auditor (@UmpireAuditor) October 7, 2020
Duvall should have taken a walk with two outs in the top of the second, but instead flew out to end the inning. It’s possible that this had no effect on the game’s outcome, but it also part of a longer trend of umpires making astonishingly bad calls this postseason.
The Braves’ pitching staff improved its team ERA to a postseason-leading 1.13, and the team has now given up just 5 earned runs in 40 innings, all of them in Game 1. They also lead in WHIP, and have given up the fewest home runs of any remaining teams. Pitching-focused rebuild, huh?
Oakland Athletics 9, Houston Astros 7 (HOU leads 2–1)
Oakland kept itself alive in the postseason by placing the ball over the wall again. And again. And again. Here’s what changed this game.
What Changed Things:
A’s starter Jesus Luzárdo had given up just two earned runs through four before walking Yuli Gurriel and then serving up a home run to Aledmys Díaz. After a bunt lineout from Martín Maldonado (note: if you have footage of this play, please tweet it to me @chase_rate), Yusmeiro Petit took over the frame with none on and the top of the Astros’ order up, and things did not go well: his five PAs ended HBP, single, single, double, IBB before he was pulled. He only recorded an out thanks to Matt Olson throwing Altuvé out stretching to third.
But with both teams relying on their bullpens for more than half the game, the advantage was to the A’s. Josh James kept Houston’s 7–4 lead intact throught the sixth, but when returned to the mound to start the seventh, he gave up singles to Marcus Semien and Tommy La Stella before Chad Pinder‘s home run tied the game. Brooks Raley finished the inning for him only to give up two runs in the 8th, walking two and hitting one batter in the process. It was Pinder who put the final nail in the coffin, driving in Ramón Laureano with a sac fly.
With a two run lead, Liam Hendriks didn’t give Houston a chance. Other than a Carlos Correa single, he didn’t give up a single ball in play with an xBA of more than .150 en route to a three inning win. While it’s felt like Oakland tends to produce a new elite closer every year, the team has relied on Hendriks to be much more than that this postseason.
This might have been a game defined by offense, but Liam Hendriks (3.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 K, 0 BB, 1 H) was arguably the standout. After the Astros put up seven runs in the first five frames, Hendriks took the ball from Jake Diekman in the seventh and didn’t give it up. But it was Chad Pinder (3–4, R, 4 RBI, HR, 2B) whose heroics made Hendriks’ win possible. Pinder’s +33.9 win probability added led all players. On the Astros’ side the performances were also spread out, but José Altuve (3–4, R, RBI, HR) deserves mention if for no other reason than than beauty of his 440 ft bomb.
What You Missed:
Dodger Stadium has more than left its mark on this series. Pinder’s game-tying home run in the seventh had an xBA of just .360 and just barely crept beyond Kyle Tucker over the low wall in the right field corner.
Pinder’s home run was also the team’s only hit with runners in scoring position on the day. Over the past three postseasons, the team is now just 4-for-36 with RISP.
Tampa Bay Rays 8, New York Yankees 4 (TB Leads 2–1)
What Changed Things:
Masahiro Tanaka (4.0 IP, 5 ER, 4 K, 1 BB, 8 H) struggled to stay away from the center of the plate all night, but the consequences got worse as the game went on. In the second, this meant three singles but just one run on the board. In the fourth, it meant a single, a three-run home run to Kevin Kiermaier, and a slew of groundouts to end the inning. And in the fifth, he was only given the opportunity to miss once: a Randy Arozarena solo shot chased him from the game.
From that point on, the Rays didn’t need to score again, but they tacked on three more runs in the sixth to put the game to bed. Chad Green gave up a Kiermaier double and then a Michael Perez home run with none out, then his replacement, Luis Cessa, gave up a double to Ji-Man Choi that plated Arozarena.
Despite the poor effort from the Yankees’ pitching staff, their offense still put four runs on the board. Two of those did come via a Giancarlo Stanton bomb in the 8th with the game far out of reach, though.
Charlie Morton (5.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB, 4 H) more than did the job for the Rays. He only notched 10 whiffs, but his sinker alone generated 10 called strikes, pushing him to a 33% CSW and helping him turn over a comfortable lead to the Rays’ bullpen. That lead came via strong efforts throughout the Rays’ lineup, but Kevin Kiermaier (2–4, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR, 2B) probably deserves the greatest praise. In addition to his actual output on the game, he also logged the hardest hit ball of the night in a game that featured Giancarlo Stanton. And Stanton hit his sixth home run of the postseason. So that’s good, I guess.
What you missed:
Aaron Judge flashed his Gold Glove defense with a fun catch to end the first that might have saved a run for Tanaka.
— Sports Gambling Guides (@SGamblingGuides) October 7, 2020
Stanton now has six home runs in five postseason games, tying him for ninth-most all time in a single postseason. The record for is eight, accomplished three times: Barry Bonds in 2002, Carlos Beltran in 2004, and Nelson Cruz in 2011.
Los Angeles Dodgers 6, San Diego Padres 5 (LAD leads 2–0)
It might be a coincidence that the matchup some are thinking of as the real World Series is happening in Arlington. And make no mistake: the NL West’s best are putting on a show for everyone who doesn’t live in the Eastern time zone.
What Changed Things:
Padres starter Zach Davies (5.0 IP, 4 ER, 3K, 0 BB, 9 H) went full-neckbeard in this one, throwing just 66 of his 73 pitches in the bottom half of the zone or lower. The Dodgers caught on quickly, tagging him for four runs on nine hits. In truth, things could have been even worse for him: he recorded five outs from his 13 balls in play with an xBA above .500, including an a Mookie Betts lineout with runners on the corners in the 3rd and a Will Smith flyout to end that same inning that had an .890 xBA. He was also bailed out to end the 4th when Jurickson Profar threw out Austin Barnes stretching to third.
The Padres used that luck well. Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado launched back-to-back home runs off of Clayton Kershaw (6.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 0 BB, 6 H) in the sixth, making it a 4–3 game. It was still 4–3 in the 7th when Fernando Tatís Jr., Brusdar Graterol, and Cody Bellinger teamed up to do this:
WHAT A CATCH BY CODY BELLINGER TO ROB FERNANDO TATIS JR OF A HOME RUN! pic.twitter.com/pawcOI7Ebl
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) October 8, 2020
Things would only get crazier. After Betts and Corey Seager reached base against Pierce Johnson, they pulled off a double-steal to score first on a sac fly and then on a single. The Dodgers held that 6–3 lead into the bottom of the ninth, when Kenley Jansen was sent in to close the door.
Jake Cronenworth, Mitch Moreland, and Trent Grisham all notched hits against Jansen before he was given the hook. Joe Kelly came on to replace him, only to walk Tatís and Machado and load that bases with two out. Eric Hosmer had the chance to level things or even win the game, but he grounded out meekly the second to end things.
The series puts just an absurd collection of talent and flair on display. Reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger might not be the fourth- or fifth-best player who played, but he certainly made the biggest impact. His home run off of Zach Davies in the fourth gave the Dodgers a 4–1 lead, but it was his catch highlighted above that we’ll remember.
This was a game where every player too good to be called a role player was reduced to just that. Corey Seager (3–4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 2B) might have had the best night at the plate, but deep shots to Globe Life’s seats from Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer also made a big impact on this game. So too did Kershaw, who technically recorded a quality start despite giving up two home runs. But against an offense as good as the Padres’, that’s a decent night.
What You Missed:
Kershaw now leads all pitchers in innings this postseason with 14 through two starts. His 19 strikeouts this postseason are second only to Gerrit Cole, and he now has a 1.93 ERA and 0.71 WHIP.
Only two of the nine barreled balls in play at Globe Life Field have resulted in home runs this postseason. Compare that to six of nine at Minute Maid Park, 25 of 40 at Petco Park, and 17 of 24 at Dodger Stadium.
Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)