The 2020 Major League Baseball postseason continued Wednesday with a packed eight-game schedule in the best-of-three Wild Card Series. The full slate saw three American League teams advance to the ALDS -- including the Yankees in a wild game vs. Cleveland -- and two road teams winning in the National League.
Below are the results from Wednesday and key takeaways from the day.
Wild Card Series scores
- Game 1: Braves 1, Reds 0 (FINAL) -- ATL leads 1-0
- Game 2: Astros 3, Twins 1 (FINAL) -- HOU advances 2-0
- Game 1: Marlins 5, Cubs 1 (FINAL) -- MIA leads 1-0
- Game 2: Athletics 5, White Sox 3 (FINAL) -- Series tied 1-1
- Game 2: Rays 8, Blue Jays 2 (FINAL) -- TB advances 2-0
- Game 1: Cardinals 7, Padres 4 (FINAL) -- STL leads 1-0
- Game 2: Yankees 10, Cleveland 9 (FINAL) -- NYY advances 2-0
- Game 1: Dodgers 4, Brewers 2 (FINAL) -- LAD leads 1-0
Yankees outlast Cleveland in wild Game 2
Hands down, the game of the postseason thus far is Game 2 between the Yankees and Cleveland. The game featured multiple lead changes, including one in the eighth inning and one in the ninth, and 19 total runs. At four hours and 50 minutes, it was the longest nine-inning game in baseball history, and that doesn't include the 76 minutes of rain delays they had to wait out.
The Yankees ultimately prevailed thanks to their ninth-inning comeback against Brad Hand. A walk, a single, and an infield single loaded the bases with no outs, then Gary Sanchez tied the game with a sac fly to center. DJ LeMahieu gave the Yankees the lead with a four-hopper back up the middle. It was definitely well-placed rather than well-struck, which is what the Yankees needed.
New York overcame a poor start from Masahiro Tanaka (six runs in four innings) and some shoddy bullpen work to win Game 2. They drew 12 walks, the most ever in a nine-inning postseason game, and they also hit three home runs. That includes Gio Urshela's go-ahead grand slam in the fourth inning. Urshela of course started his career with Cleveland.
The Yankees now advance to the Southern California bubble and the ALDS, where they'll take on the AL East rival Rays. That series will begin Monday. Cleveland goes home for the winter with the franchise's championship drought now at 72 years.
It's a rematch of the 2018 NLCS, though this one isn't nearly as close a matchup on paper. Mookie Betts doubled in each of the first two innings for the Dodgers, who scored three times in those first two frames and never looked back in a 4-2 win over the Brewers. Julio Urias, Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen from the Dodgers' bullpen combined for five scoreless innings, striking out seven, to lock things down. For full takeaways on the Dodgers taking a 1-0 series lead, click here.
Cards hit Paddack hard in Game 1 win
In a perfect world, the Padres would've had Mike Clevinger or Dinelson Lamet start Game 1 of their Wild Card Series against the Cardinals. In this decidedly imperfect world, the Padres had to start Chris Paddack after both Clevinger and Lamet developed arm issues.
If the Padres go on to lose the series -- and they'll have to win Games 2 and 3 to avoid elimination after dropping the series opener on Wednesday -- they'll have no choice but to wonder what could have been if Clevinger and Lamet had stayed healthy a little longer. Paddack's start got off on the wrong foot, as he allowed four runs to cross the plate before the Padres had a chance to bat.
His troubles wouldn't end with the first inning, either. By the time he departed, after 2 1/3 innings, he had yielded six runs on eight hits. Paddack managed just one strikeout along the way. The Cardinals will have a chance to advance to the NLDS on Thursday. They would play the winner of the Dodgers-Brewers series.
Astros knock out Twins
The No. 3 seed Twins saw their postseason nightmares continue this week. With the 3-1 loss to the Astros in Game 2, the Twins extended their record MLB playoff losing streak to 18 games and were knocked out of the postseason in the process. The devastating streak dates back to the 2004 ALDS, and is the longest in North American sports history. Houston, the team with the worst regular season record (29-31) in the playoff field, knocked out Minnesota in two games at Target Field.
Aside from the fact the the Twins were simply a far better team than the Astros during the regular season, the Twins also held a 24-7 (.774) record when playing at home. Furthermore, the Astros had been terrible when playing on the road during the regular season, compiling an atrocious 9-23 (.281) record on the road. The Twins home record was the highest win percentage since the 1975 Reds, while the Astros away record is the worst road winning percentage by a playoff team in the World Series era.
Frustrations piled up for the Twins in Wednesday's elimination game when the Twins' offense went ice cold. Altogether in the two Wild Card Series games, the Twins lineup managed just seven hits and two runs. Minnesota's usually hot bats going quiet during the postseason isn't a new storyline. The last time the Twins scored more than four runs in a playoff game was when they scored five runs in a loss to the Yankees on Oct. 9, 2004.
Braves only need one
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman secured a 1-0 victory with a walk-off single in the 13th inning of Atlanta's series opener against the Reds on Wednesday. Freeman's knock was just the sixth of the day for a Braves team that reached base six fewer times than the Reds did.
What everyone will remember about Game 1 was how dominant the pitching was for both teams. The Braves were paced by left-hander Max Fried, who struck out five over seven shutout frames. Atlanta then received three-plus perfect frames from relievers Chris Martin, Will Smith, and Mark Melancon before turning things over to the rest of the bullpen. Darren O'Day, Tyler Matzek, Shane Greene, and A.J. Minter bent but didn't break by putting on eight baserunners and stranding them all across 2 2/3 shutout frames.
The Reds arguably outpitched the Braves. Trevor Bauer struck out 12 and allowed just two hits in 7 2/3 innings. Raisel Iglesias, Lucas Sims, and Michael Lorenzen then combined to strike out nine batters and gave up a hit and two walks over four-plus innings. Archie Bradley and Amir Garrett couldn't keep the good times rolling with no margin for error, however. Every starter on both teams struck out at least once, resulting in a record 37 punch outs. As our Mike Axisa noted elsewhere, the Braves and Reds also set a record for the longest scoreless playoff game. It was just that kind of afternoon.
Oakland flips the script?
Playoff success for the A's since the days of the Bash Brothers has been difficult to come by. From 2000-13, there were six Game 5 losses in the ALDS. They did win one ALDS, but then got swept in the ALCS. Since that stretch, there have been three wild card games and the A's lost all three. Looping in the last two with Game 1 here in 2020, the A's had zero leads in any playoff game after losing the 2014 Wild Card Game to the Royals.
With their backs against the wall on Wednesday, however, the A's delivered the goods early. They got two in the first thanks to a Nick Madrigal error, though they got three singles before that and putting the ball in play is always preferred to striking out. Then in the bottom of the second, Marcus Semien muscled up for a two-run shot:
The A's counterpart, however, was excellent. Chris Bassitt worked seven innings and allowed just one run on six hits. Oakland nearly coughed up a three-run lead in the ninth, but Jake Diekman got Jose Abreu to ground out with the bases load to end the threat and the game.
Looking ahead to Game 3, the A's could run lefty Sean Manaea out there, but there's a caveat. The White Sox are now 15-0 this season in games started by left-handers, including Game 1 against Jesus Luzardo. Here's how the Sox fared in the regular season against each side:
vs. RHP: .253/.313/.436
vs. LHP: .285/.364/.523
With that in mind, maybe the choice will be righty Mike Fiers?
Rays sweep Jays with ease
Three-game series on a one vs. eight matchup in baseball might not typically be quite the bloodbath fans of other sports might expect. In the case of the Blue Jays visiting the Rays, it was every bit of one. The Rays grabbed a run in the bottom of the first, a two-run homer in the second, and then a Bo Bichette error left the door open for Hunter Renfroe with the bases loaded and two outs:
Just like that, it was 7-0 Rays and they never looked back. The series barely felt like it had started before it was essentially over.
Renfroe's shot was the first Rays grand slam in postseason history.
The Rays only had to use Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow among their starting pitchers and now get to wait until Oct. 5 (Monday) before they have to play again. They will be traveling to southern California, but otherwise it's an easy handful of days working out to get themselves ready for the ALDS, where they'll face either the Yankees or Cleveland.
The Marlins surprising 2020 continued Wednesday as Miami scored five times in the seventh inning for a 5-1 win over the Cubs in Game 1. Miami got a strong outing from Sandy Alcantara and finally got to Cubs' righty Kyle Hendricks in the seventh. You can read more about that game here.