After a short yet exciting 60 game season, the MLB playoffs began last Tuesday. With a new and improved playoff format this year there are now 16 total teams in the playoff bracket compared to 10 teams the last couple years. With more teams there is now a more official wild card round where everyone plays a best of 3 series.
To start in the American league, the Houston Astros went up against the Minnesota Twins. In two close games, the Astros swept the Twins, extending the Twins playoff losing streak to 18 games. Houston, who is still trying to put the cheating scandal behind them, became the first team ever with a losing record to make the playoffs will be advancing.
Toronto Blue Jays vs the top seeded Tampa Bay Rays. After winning game 1, 3-1 the Rays put up a crooked number in game 2 vs Blue Jays ace, Hyun Jin Ryu, capped off by a towering grand slam by right fielder Hunter Renfroe as the Rays went on to clinch the sweep by a score of 8-2. The Rays, who are more known as a pitching led team, put on an offensive showcase that they hope will continue in the next round.
New York Yankees vs the Cleveland Indians. In game 1, the Yankee bats found a way against probable Cy Young winner, Shane Bieber, winning 12-3. Game 2 was much different. With rain delays, the game went on for almost five hours and the score went back and forth but the Yankees prevailed, winning 10-9 with the help of a clutch grand slam by Gio Urshela. The Bronx Bombers will advance to San Diego with a lot of momentum from the offense.
To wrap things up in the American league we had the Chicago White Sox vs the Oakland Athletics. White Sox took game 1, 4-1 led by a great pitching performance by Lucas Giolito. Game 2, the A’s took control right away and won 5-3. The deciding game 3 was a close one, but the A’s took the game 6-4 led by a four run 4th inning. Oakland, who are missing star third baseman Matt Chapman, advance to the next round.
Now, in the National league, we start with the Cincinnati Red vs the Atlanta Braves. Game 1 was a pitchers duel between Trevor Bauer and Max Fried, taking a scoreless tie to extra innings. In the 13th, MVP candidate Freddie Freeman ripped an RBI single to walk off game 1, 1-0. Game 2 was less intense as the Braves made quick work of the Reds, winning 5-0 and punching a ticket to the next round. The Reds finished the series scoring zero runs in the 22 innings played.
Next, was the Milwaukee Brewers vs the top seeded Los Angeles Dodgers. In game one, the Dodgers got it going early and never looked back winning 4-2. In game 2, Clayton Kershaw, who some consider to be a postseason choke, showed that he can get the job done, striking out 13 in eight shutout innings to lead the Dodgers to a 3-0 win, eliminating the Brewers and helping his team advance.
Also, the Miami Marlins vs the Chicago Cubs. The Marlins who snapped a 17 year playoff drought came into Chicago and took game 1, 5-1. In game 2, Marlins rookie pitcher, Sixto Sanchez dominated, throwing five shutout innings and hitting 100 mph on the radar gun numerous times. In the 4th inning, a base hit to right field sent the Cubs Willson Contreras home, but a throw on the money from right fielder Matt Joyce gunned him down at the plate and kept the game scoreless. In the 7th, Marlins first baseman Garrett Cooper launched a home run to give the Marlins and they didn’t look back, winning game 2, 2-0 and upsetting the Cubs.
To wrap things up we had the St. Louis Cardinals vs the San Diego Padres. The Cards took game 1 by a score of 7-4, capped off by a four run first inning. In Game 2, the Cards had a lead but young star Fernado Tatis Jr. led the comeback for the Padres resulting in a 11-9 Padres win, forcing the deciding game 3. In game 3, Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty took the bump, throwing six solid innings and only giving up one run. That one run came on an Eric Hosmer double in the 5th and that was all the Padres really needed. The Padres got a couple more runs later on after some Cardinal errors and they won by a final score of 4-0. The Padres used nine pitchers in nine innings to help win what was probably the most entertaining series of the whole round.
With the wild card round finished, the divisional round starts this week with a best of 5 series. All four matchups ended up being actual division games with AL west foes the Houston Astros facing the Oakland Athletics and the AL east Rays going against the New York Yankees for the first time in the playoffs. In the National league, the NL east Miami Marlins will square off against the Atlanta Braves and in what should be the most exciting series, the NL west San Diego Padres will duke it out with the Los Angeles Dodgers.