Marlins 5, Cubs 1: An Auspicious Start for Miami
The Miami Marlins are the one franchise to be excellent within the postseason. The common season is extra of an issue; the Marlins often have a shedding document. But after they win, they make it rely — each of their postseason appearances, in 1997 and 2003, ended with a World Series title.
Their long-awaited third quest has a protracted method to go. But it began the correct approach on Wednesday, with a 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs of their playoff opener at Wrigley Field. The Cubs, who hit simply .220 as a group within the common season, managed a homer by Ian Happ and simply 4 different hits. Starter Sandy Alcantara labored six and two-thirds innings, and nearer Brandon Kintzler — who pitched for the Cubs the final two seasons — bought the final three outs.
The Marlins, who had no successful seasons within the 2010s and went 57-105 final season, scored all of the runs within the seventh inning, with the large blows coming from veterans acquired as cut price free brokers final winter. Corey Dickerson chased Kyle Hendricks with a three-run homer, and Jesus Aguilar linked for a two-run shot off Jeremy Jeffress.
The Cubs, who attempt to thrive on the festive, communal vitality for playoff video games at Wrigley, seen the distinction with empty stands.
“You miss the fans; it isn’t the playoff atmosphere you’re looking for,” Manager David Ross stated, including that he was responding to a query and not elevating the problem himself. “This year’s unique and I’m not trying to make excuses. That’s not a playoff atmosphere, but it’s playoff baseball in 2020.”
To save their season on Thursday, the Cubs will begin Yu Darvish in opposition to Marlins’ Sixto Sanchez, a rookie right-hander from the Dominican Republic. Sanchez has the quantity 45 tattooed on his neck in honor of his idol, Pedro Martinez, and he’d do properly to mimic Martinez’s playoff debut. With Boston in 1998, Martinez labored seven innings with eight strikeouts and no walks in an 11-Three romp over Cleveland.
Braves 1, Reds zero: Freddie Freeman Ends It — Finally
We might need guessed that the Reds and the Braves would play a recreation like this. The Reds had not superior within the playoffs since 1995, the Braves since 2001. For 12 innings of their opener on Wednesday, it appeared as if neither group fairly knew how one can win.
The Braves lastly did, on a Freddie Freeman single within the 13th inning. By then, the sport had already achieved a particular place in historical past: Never earlier than had a postseason recreation been scoreless for therefore lengthy. The groups additionally mixed for a document 37 strikeouts within the recreation — 5 extra strikeouts than the overall for the 1976 World Series, when the Reds swept the Yankees.
This was a midday recreation that stretched till rush hour, and the early star was lengthy gone when it ended. The Reds’ Trevor Bauer labored seven and two-thirds innings, with 12 strikeouts, no walks and two hits allowed. Three relievers adopted, stifling the Braves till Freeman — a number one candidate for N.L. most dear participant — dumped an Amir Garrett pitch into heart area, scoring the pinch-runner Cristian Pache. Nick Markakis had began the rally with a single off Archie Bradley.
In the common season, groups began further innings with a runner on second base in an effort by Major League Baseball to hurry video games alongside and preserve gamers from getting overworked in the course of the pandemic. The rule just isn’t in place for the postseason, however the Reds should have wished it have been.
The Reds scored almost 60 p.c of their runs on homers this yr, the best proportion of any postseason group. Without a protracted ball on Tuesday, they have been nearly completely hopeless to attain. They failed repeatedly in opposition to starter Max Fried, who labored seven innings, and the seven relievers who adopted.
The Reds bumped into outs on the bases in opposition to Fried within the sixth and seventh, then stranded a mixed eight runners within the 11th, 12th and 13th. They have misplaced 12 of their final 14 postseason video games — not fairly as futile because the Minnesota Twins, however shut.
Astros Three, Twins 1: Twins’ Postseason Misery Continues
Sports is stuffed with shining examples of postseason heroics and repeated championship runs, from the Yankees to the New England Patriots and the Chicago Bulls.
On the opposite aspect of that ledger are the lengthy championship draughts and epic shedding streaks strung collectively by groups just like the previous Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Browns.
The Minnesota Twins simply added a brand new one to the listing this yr, and it is not going to be damaged till at the very least 2021.
The Twins fell to the Houston Astros, Three-1, in Game 2 of their American League wild card sequence at Target Field in Minneapolis on Wednesday, and Minnesota was eradicated from the postseason simply 48 hours after it began.
The loss prolonged the Twins’ postseason shedding streak to 18 video games, extending a document among the many 4 main North American sports activities. They set that disagreeable document the day past by shedding Game 1 of the sequence and passing the Chicago Blackhawks hockey group, which misplaced 16 straight playoff video games from 1975 via 1979.
The Twins final postseason victory got here in Game 1 of the 2004 division sequence in opposition to the Yankees, and they haven’t gained a postseason sequence since they beat the A’s within the 2002 division sequence.
But this yr was imagined to be totally different, if solely as a result of the Twins prevented their perennial nemesis, the Yankees. What’s extra, the Twins got here into the sequence with the second-best document within the American League, and additionally had the most effective residence document in baseball, going 24-7 at Target Field with out shedding consecutive video games at residence all yr.
Once once more, it did them no good within the playoffs. They scored solely two runs within the sequence, with no residence runs, and simply three hits in Game 2.
The Astros, in the meantime, superior to a different division sequence, the place they’ll play both the Chicago White Sox or the Oakland Athletics. This yr, they’re enjoying the position of social gathering crashers, whom nobody wished on the dance.
The Astros became pariahs after it was discovered that they used illegal means to steal signals from opposing teams in 2017. After an investigation and subsequent suspensions, they fired their manager, A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow, the general manager. Dusty Baker took over in the dugout and after a slow start, guided the Astros to the postseason, the fifth team he has done that with.
A Marathon Day of Playoff Baseball
It is Day 2 of the 2020 Major League Baseball postseason, and it is a doozy: An orgiastic, 13-hour baseball-a-thon, with an unprecedented series of eight playoff games on a virtual conveyor belt of high-stakes action.
It starts at noon Eastern time in Atlanta, with the next five games scheduled to begin every hour until the Yankees play in Cleveland at 7 p.m. Eastern time, and it lasts until the final pitch is thrown in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and Brewers, probably around 1 a.m., and half of them will be elimination games.
“It’s going to be crazy,” said Chicago White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who will pitch in the third game of the day against the Athletics in Oakland. “It’s almost kind of like a jumbled mess.”
Tuesday was the warm up-act, when baseball turned the page from an abbreviated regular season to an expanded postseason. There were four American League playoff games scheduled Tuesday, starting with the Houston Astros against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
But on Wednesday, when the National League joins the fray, the curtain will rise on the main stage for what may more closely resemble the early days of the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament than a traditional day of playoff baseball.
“March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year,” said Dusty Baker, the Astros manager, who is leading his fifth different team to the postseason. “This is like September Madness.”
(All times Eastern)
Reds at Braves, 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Astros at Twins, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
Marlins at Cubs, 2 p.m. (ABC)
White Sox at A’s, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Blue Jays at Rays, 4 p.m. (TBS)
Cardinals at Padres, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
Yankees at Indians, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Brewers at Dodgers, 10 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 8 Preview: Brewers at Dodgers
The Dodgers have by far the most to lose of any team in this postseason. They’ve won eight N.L. West titles in a row but have grown weary of the inevitable caveat: They haven’t won a championship since 1988. They had the majors’ best record this season (43-17) and face the first N.L. playoff team ever with a losing record: the 29-31 Brewers.
Milwaukee made it in despite a puzzling season from Christian Yelich, who had won the last two league batting titles but slipped to .205 (though he led Brewers regulars with a .356 on-base percentage). The Brewers will start lefty Brent Suter tonight, but will probably change pitchers often, deploying lefty Josh Hader in high-leverage spots. But they will be without Devin Williams — a rookie right-hander with a baffling changeup he calls the Airbender — because of right shoulder soreness.
The Dodgers will start Walker Buehler, who also started the last time these teams met in the playoffs: Game 7 of the 2018 N.L.C.S., when the Dodgers dashed Milwaukee’s World Series dreams.
Game 7 Preview: Yankees at Indians
The Yankees can advance to the A.L. Division Series with a win over the Indians in Cleveland on Wednesday night. The Yankees took the first game of the series, 12-3, on Tuesday when they clobbered Shane Bieber, the best pitcher in baseball during the regular season.
The Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (who had a 3.56 earned run average during the regular season) will face off against the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco (2.91 E.R.A.). Tanaka has been a dominant in his postseason career with the Yankees: 5-3 with a 1.76 E.R.A. in eight starts. Opponents are hitting .157 against him in the postseason — the lowest mark in major-league history among pitchers who have made at least six starts.
Should the Yankees fail to advance, it could be Tanaka’s final start in pinstripes; the seven year, $155-million contract he signed before the 2014 season is due to expire.
During the regular season, the Yankees had the A.L.’s highest scoring offense (5.25 runs per game) plus the best on-base-plus-slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers (.811). Carrasco, a right-hander, though, held opponents to a .663 O.P.S.
Game 6 Preview: Cardinals at Padres
This will be the best series to watch, at least visually: the classic birds on the bat of the Cardinals against the brown-and-gold Padres, who finally returned to their original, quirky color palette and instantly made it back the playoffs. Of course, that had more to do with the production of third baseman Manny Machado and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (whose father once belted two grand slams in one inning for the Cardinals), the re-emergence of right fielder Wil Myers and a lot of shrewd deals by General Manager A.J. Preller.
Chris Paddack — a hard-throwing, supremely confident right-hander who had a down season — will start Game 1, as Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger were both held out of San Diego’s roster because of late-season injuries. The Padres will get their first look at the Cardinals lefty Kwang-hyun Kim, a 32-year-old rookie from South Korea who goes by “KK,” an ideal nickname for a pitcher, if somewhat misleading for a guy who struck out just 5.5 hitters per nine innings.
Fun fact: the stalwart Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina should become the sixth player to reach 100 career postseason games (he has 98), and the first to do it all for a National League team.
Game 5 Preview: Blue Jays at Rays
These are heady days in the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning just won the Stanley Cup on Monday night, Tom Brady has led the Buccaneers to a 2-1 record in his first year there, and the Rays made good on their No. 1 seeding in the American League on Tuesday with a 3-1 win over the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.
Tampa, which went 40-20 in the regular season, hands the ball to Tyler Glasnow, their tall right-hander who will be making his first postseason start since last year’s debacle in Game 5 of the A.L. division series against the Astros in Houston. In that game, he gave up four runs in two and two-thirds innings, which in retrospect was an early indication of Astro sign-stealing via illegal means at Minute Maid Park. The Rays were clearly worried about it, because Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud used three sets of signs even when there were no Astros runners on base. But Glasnow reported after the game that it was his fault because he had been tipping his pitches. It could have been both.
Today, Glasnow squares off against Hyun-jin Ryu, who has pitched well in his first year with the Blue Jays. Ryu also pitched twice against the Rays in Tampa this year, and the Jays went 1-1 in those games.
But things have changed since then. Now it’s Title Town Tampa.
Game 4 Preview: White Sox at Athletics
Oakland’s terrific regular season, in which they tied for the third-best record in baseball and earned a No. 2 seed in the American League, is all on the line today when they face the Chicago White Sox in Oakland.
The White Sox blasted the A’s, 4-1, in Game 1 on Tuesday as Tim Anderson’s warning about lefties proved accurate. Anderson noted before Game 1 that perhaps the A’s “didn’t do their homework” because they started the lefty Jesus Luzardo, and Chicago rakes left-handers. The Sox went 14-0 against lefties in 2020, and their O.P.S. was .887, compared to .749 against right-handers. And it was a pair of righties, Jose Abreu and Adam Engel, who homered off Luzardo.
Oakland makes a correction in Game 2 as Chris Bassitt — a right-hander who was drafted and came up to the big Leagues with the White Sox — starts against his old organization. He did not put much credence in Anderson’s comments, saying before Game 1, “I don’t give a damn what you did against lefties. These three games are what matters.”
If the A’s don’t show improvement, though, they might not even get to a third game.