Are the Houston Astros fighting for their legacy this postseason?
SportsPulse: The Houston Astros were the embarrassment of the league heading into the season after the team’s cheating scandal was revealed. Our MLB reporters debate if they’re fighting for their legacies this postseason.
Fans are in for quite a treat Wednesday with eight Major League Baseball postseason games starting at noon and continuing into the night.
The playoffs began Tuesday with all Game 1 of all four American League Wild Card Series – wins for the Astros, White Sox, Rays and Yankees – and the NL joins the party today.
Braves-Reds (12:08 p.m.) kicks things off, followed by Twins-Astros (1:08), Cubs-Marlins (2:08), Athletics-White Sox (3:10), Rays-Blue Jays (4:07), Cardinals-Padres (5:08), Indians-Yankees (7:08) and concludes with Dodgers-Brewers (10:08) in Los Angeles.
The winners of these best-of-three series advance to the Division Series, which begin Oct. 5 (AL) and Oct. 6 (NL).
Keep it here all day for live updates and highlights from around the league.
Marcus Semien and Khris Davis homered and Chris Bassitt took a shutout into the eighth inning as the Oakland Athletics evened their wild-card playoff series against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday with a 5-3 victory.
However, the outcome of Thursday’s decisive Game 3 may well be impacted by Oakland manager Bob Melvin’s decision to go to closer Liam Hendriks in the eighth inning to protect a five-run lead.
– Steve Gardner
Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer off a fading Kyle Hendricks in the seventh inning, and the Miami Marlins beat the Chicago Cubs 5-1 on Wednesday in Game 1 of their NL wild-card series.
Jesús Aguilar also homered and Sandy Alcantara pitched three-hit ball into the seventh as Miami conjured up memories of past playoff magic in the franchise’s first postseason game since it won the World Series in 2003. The Marlins, who rallied past the Cubs in a memorable NLCS that year, have never lost a playoff series.
– Associated Press
The top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays are making short work of the Toronto Blue Jays in their series. After scoring a run in the first inning against Hyun-jin Ryu, the Rays broke things open in the second with a home run by catcher Mike Zunino and a grand slam from outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
Ryu lasted only 1 ⅔ innings, allowing seven runs (three earned) and eight hits. Tampa Bay added another run off Ross Stripling in the third to jump out to an 8-1 lead.
Gifted a berth only because a 16-team, pandemic-inspired workaround granted them a reprieve after a 29-31 regular season, the Houston Astros pitched with precision and got just enough punch from their scandal-plagued stars to defeat the Minnesota Twins 3-1 and sweep the best-of-three series.
Carlos Correa, caught in a spring war of words with fellow big leaguers after he pushed back against criticism of the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scheme, hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning and Houston got another excellent long relief outing to stifle the Twins and advance to the AL Division Series.
Minnesota, meanwhile, lost its 18th consecutive postseason game, a streak that extends to 2004.
— Gabe Lacques
Never before in postseason history had a game gone scoreless into the 11th inning. The Braves and Reds blew past that mark before Freddie Freeman’s RBI single in the bottom of the 13th gave the Braves a 1-0 win.
The Reds had the bases loaded and one out in the top of the 13th but lefty A.J. Minter was able to work out of the jam.
Starting pitchers Trevor Bauer and Max Fried lived up to their status as NL Cy Young front-runners in Game 1 of the series. Bauer delivered perhaps the finest performance of his impressive 2020 season in his first playoff start for the Reds, striking out 12 without a walk and allowing two hits in 7 ⅔ scoreless innings. Fried was impressive himself tossing 7 innings and striking out five.
The two teams set a postseason record with 37 combined strikeouts.
Just like the San Diego Padres, the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff was dealt a major blow. Rookie relief pitcher Devin Williams was left off roster for their Wild Card Series against No. 1 seed Los Angeles Dodgers.
Williams. who emerged as one of baseball’s best relievers this season, injured his shoulder last Friday. The NL Rookie of the Year candidate went 4-1 with a 0.33 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 27 innings. He gave up eight hits and one earned run all season while forming a dynamic duo with closer Josh Hader.
– Scott Boeck
The San Diego Padres unveiled their Wild Card Series roster, and there were two glaring omissions. Right-handed pitchers Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger, the team’s two best starters, were not on it. Lamet (right biceps tightness) and Clevinger (right elbow impingement) suffered injuries in their last starts of the regular season and were questionable heading into the playoffs.
“It legitimately is gonna be a day-to-day situation. I’ve seen some of the reports today that people are out or not out. We’re not looking at it that way,” said Padres GM A.J. Preller.
The Padres will turn to Chris Paddack in Game 1 and presumably Zach Davies in Game 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
– Scott Boeck
Did Atlanta Braves mascot Blooper park himself behind home plate in a ghillie suit during the third inning of Game 1 of the Cincinnati Reds’ Wild Card series in Atlanta to try to mess with Reds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer?
A ghillie suit is camouflage clothing designed to resemble the background environment.
ESPN play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian and analyst Alex Rodriguez thought it was a bizarre move by Blooper, as did many on Twitter.
“The team employees do not have to disguise themselves in camouflage as it appears the Braves’ mascot has chosen to do this afternoon. … What’s going on there?” Vasgersian said.
“It’s got to be hot in there,” Rodriguez said.
“Is this like a Bill Belichick thing? Is he actually filming stuff in there?” Vasgersian added.
“He’s having fun. He’s got a great seat,” Rodriguez said.
– David Clark
Minnesota Twins prospect Alex Kirilloff will become the first player in history to make his debut by starting a playoff game. Kirilloff, 22, is playing right field and batting sixth for the Twins in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series against the Astros on Wednesday.
The left-handed hitter, is rated as the Twins’ No. 2 prospect and 27th overall by MLB Pipeline. Kiliroff is just the third player to make his MLB debut in a postseason game – but the first two to do so came off the bench.
UPDATE: In the fourth inning, Kirilloff became the first player in MLB history to record his first big league hit in the postseason with a single off Jose Urquidy..
– Chris Bumbaca
When the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves complete their best-of-three series this week, one franchise will win its first playoff series in a long, long time.
The Reds haven’t won a playoff series since 1995. They were swept in the 2010 Division Series against Philadelphia, lost three games to two in the 2012 Division Series to San Francisco and lost in the 2013 Wild Card game in Pittsburgh.
“I like this team much more than I liked those teams,” said Joey Votto, the Reds’ only holdover from those playoff runs, “and I really liked those teams.”
Atlanta has been to the postseason more often but hasn’t won a playoff series since 2001 – nine consecutive series losses.
– Bobby Nightengale