Major League Baseball's 2021 postseason kicked into high gear on Friday with a four-game slate of divisional round matchups. The Astros, Brewers, Red Sox and Giants were all winners during the action-packed day. Houston opened up a 2-0 advantage over the White Sox in the ALDS, while the Red Sox leveled their ALDS against the Rays. In the National League, the Giants -- baseball's top team during the regular season -- earned a shutout win against the Dodgers behind Logan Webb, and Rowdy Tellez's home run lifted the Brewers over the Braves.
Here are Friday's scores and key takeaways.
Friday's playoff scores
- FINAL: Astros 9, White Sox 4 (Box score) -- Astros lead 2-0
- FINAL: Brewers 2, Braves 1 (Box score) -- Brewers lead 1-0
- FINAL: Red Sox 14, Rays 6 (Box score) -- Series tied 1-1
- FINAL: Giants 4, Dodgers 0 (Box score) -- Giants lead 1-0
Giants strike first in NL West showdown
There has never been a playoff series between two 106-plus win teams, nor had the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants ever faced off in an actual postseason series -- until Friday night. The Giants jumped on top quickly in this one when Buster Posey hit a booming opposite-field, two-run shot on a 3-0 count in the first inning. The Giants would later add a Kris Bryant home run as insurance and later add another shot from Brandon Crawford, though neither were really needed because starter Logan Webb was absolutely brilliant. He worked 7 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 10 without a walk while allowing just five hits.
Hernández, Red Sox make history in comeback
Similar to ALDS Game 1, Friday's Game 2 started disastrously for the Red Sox. They scored two runs in the top of the first inning only to watch Chris Sale give up a five-spot in the bottom half, including a grand slam to Jordan Luplow. Sale lasted one inning. It's the first time ever a team's starters failed to complete two innings in the first two games of a postseason series (Eduardo Rodriguez went 1 2/3 innings in Game 1).
Rather than let the Rays run away with it, the Red Sox battled back. Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo clubbed back-to-back home runs in the third inning, cutting the deficit to 5-4, then Enrique Hernández tied the game with a fifth inning solo homer. Later in that inning, JD Martinez gave Boston the lead with a long and loud three-run home run to center.
Martinez missed the Wild Card Game and ALDS Game 1 with ankle sprain. It was a fluke injury -- he slipped on second base while running out to his position in right field during the regular season finale -- but it was bad enough to sideline him in the team's first two postseason games, and it limited him to DH in Game 2. Martinez had four hits in Game 2.
The not-so-unsung hero: Tanner Houck. Houck replaced Sale and fired five scoreless innings, holding the Rays down long enough for Boston's offense to get back in the game. Houck joined Nathan Eovaldi and Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in Red Sox history with a five-inning relief appearance in the postseason. He had a stretch of 30 straight batters retired (spanning his last four appearances) end during Game 2.
Rafael Devers iced Game 2 with a two-run home run in the eighth inning. Even with all the home runs -- the Red Sox hit a franchise postseason record five homers in Game 2 -- Hernández was the star. He went 5 for 6 with a home run and three doubles, becoming only the fifth player in history with four extra-base hits in a postseason game. Hernandez very nearly had a fourth double too, but Kevin Kiermaier made a nice play to cut off a ball in the gap in the ninth inning. The other four hitters with four extra-base hits in a postseason game:
- Albert Pujols, Cardinals: 3 doubles and 1 home run (2011 NLCS Game 2 vs. Brewers)
- Hideki Matsui, Yankees: 2 doubles and 2 home runs (2004 ALCS Game 3 vs. Red Sox)
- Bob Robertson, Pirates: 1 double and 3 home runs (1971 NLCS Game 2 vs. Giants)
- Frank Isbell, White Sox: 4 doubles (1906 World Series Game 6 vs. Cubs)
Prior to Friday, teams were 24-1 all-time in the postseason when scoring five-plus runs in the first inning. The Rays are only the second team to lose such a game, joining Cleveland. Cleveland lost Game 1 of the 1997 ALDS against the Yankees 8-6 after taking a 5-0 first-inning lead. The ALDS is now tied at a game apiece. Game 3 is Sunday at Fenway Park.
Rowdy, Brewers win pitchers' duel
Game 1 of the NLDS between the Braves and host Brewers was looking like a connoisseur's pitching duel until Rowdy Tellez broke a scoreless tie in the seventh with a two-run home run off Atlanta's Charlie Morton. The Milwaukee bullpen preserved just enough of that lead, as the Brewers took a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-five series with the 2-1 win.
Tellez, seeing Morton for the third time in the game, turned around a 1-2 fastball and sent it 411 feet to right center. The clutch blast left Tellez's bat at 109.3 mph:
Prior to his heroics at the plate, Tellez also did the heavy lifting in a 1-2 double play in the top of the first that allowed Brewers starter Corbin Burnes to escape an early jam.
Burnes overcame early command problems and wound up tossing six scoreless innings with six strikeouts and three walks. Of his 91 pitches, 57 went for strikes. He induced six groundouts -- including that key double play in the first -- against only one fly-out. As well, Burnes allowed just two hard-hit balls in Game 1. He didn't allow a hit until Eddie Rosario's bloop single to start the fifth. Burnes struck out a pair in his final inning, but Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell opted to pinch-hit for him in the home half of the sixth. Pinch-hitter Dan Vogelbach worked a walk -- Morton's first of the game.
Across the way, Morton was similarly effective and even more dominant, at least until Tellez's game-changing home run. Flashing full command of his hammer breaking ball and showing some of his strongest velocity of 2021, Morton struck out nine and walked only one in six innings of work. He allowed two earned on three hits.
Braves outfielder Joc Pederson halved the Milwaukee lead in the eighth with a pinch-hit, opposite-field solo homer off Adrian Houser, who was working his second frame in relief of Burnes. Then, however, lockdown closer Josh Hader closed the game down in the ninth after a leadoff walk and a single to Austin Riley.
Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday back in Milwaukee, as Max Fried opposes Brandon Woodruff.
Bullpens decide Astros-Chisox Game 2
The Astros took down the White Sox by a 9-4 final (box score) on Friday afternoon in Game 2 of their best-of-five American League Division Series. The Astros now possess a 2-0 lead with the series heading to Chicago on Sunday. The two sides traded leads over the first five innings. The White Sox jumped ahead in the first when Luis Robert scored on a fielder's choice to make it 1-0. Houston first tied the game in the second inning on a Kyle Tucker single, then took the lead later in that frame on a Chas McCormick sacrifice fly. The White Sox would push three across the plate to take a 4-2 lead in the fifth, yet once again the Astros roared back and tied the game up at 4-4 on a Yuli Gurriel single.
From there, it was all Houston.
Neither starter, Lucas Giolito nor Framber Valdez, completed as many as five innings, meaning the game was ultimately left in the hands of the relief corps. The Astros' rose to the occasion; the White Sox's did not.
Five Houston relievers combined to throw 4 2/3 shutout frames. Chicago also had to use five relievers, but rather than a clean sheet, both Aaron Bummer and Craig Kimbrel ended up with some crooked numbers.
Indeed, Bummer and Kimbrel surrendered five runs on five hits in one total inning of work. Bummer, for his part, allowed three singles that permitted the Astros to take a 5-4 lead. Kimbrel then entered and gave up a double to Carlos Correa to make it 7-4, and then a two-run shot to Kyle Tucker to put the game well out of reach.
As we noted elsewhere, for as loaded as the White Sox's bullpen appears on paper, they had a tendency to melt down during the regular season. They did so again on Friday -- and notably without using Michael Kopech. When manager Tony La Russa was asked about Kopech's absence, he provided the following uninspiring answer:
Tony La Russa on Michael Kopech: "If we had needed him to win the game today we would have pitched him."— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) October 8, 2021
Down 0-2 in the series, history is not on Chicago's side. The White Sox will now need three consecutive wins to stave off elimination in the Division Series. According to MLB.com's Andrew Simon, there have been 32 instances in the 2-2-1 format era where a road team lost the first two games. Just three of those teams came back to win the series. Conversely, 19 of those teams were swept in three games.. We'll see if the White Sox can prove to be the exception come Sunday afternoon.