It was a wild, exhausting, exhilarating first day of the Wild Card Series, and the craziest thing is that now, Saturday … there are four elimination games. For four teams it’s do-or-die, and if they survive, well, they have to go through the same thing Sunday.
Storyline: Can Tyler Glasnow save the Rays' season?
Just two years ago, Glasnow was the series-clinching pitcher for the Rays in both the last Wild Card Series and the ALDS. (Though he did get drilled in the World Series.) He was terrific in 2021 in 14 games before needing Tommy John surgery in August, but he worked his way back at a rapid rate just in time to throw 6 2/3 innings in two starts in September and October. And now the Rays welcome him back by asking him to keep their season alive. You can’t expect Glasnow to pitch too long -- this is the Rays, after all -- but considering the meekness of the Rays’ offense in the 2-1 Game 1 loss (and really all year), he has absolutely zero margin for error. The guy hasn’t pitched seven innings total this season, and now everything is on his shoulders.
Comparatively speaking, Triston McKenzie and his 191 1/3 innings are basically Old Hoss Radbourn. The irony of Game 1’s scoring results -- a solo homer from Jose Siri and a two-run homer from Jose Ramirez, and that was it -- is that these are two teams that aren’t so much into hitting homers. When the pitching is as good as it was in Game 1, one swing is almost all one team needs to win. McKenzie has thrown a ton of them this year; Glasnow, hardly any. And now, the way Game 1 went and the way these offenses look, they both have to be essentially perfect.
Storyline: Does somebody need to turn the Blue Jays off and turn them back on again?
The Blue Jays have felt vaguely unsatisfying, really, for this entire season. That’s sort of unfair to say about a team that won 92 games and is hosting a Wild Card Series, but there’s no question that this team, so heavily hyped as perhaps the best in the American League heading into the year, seems to have been stuck in second gear since March. When asked, Blue Jays players and brass, notably Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (speaking of people who feel unfairly vaguely unsatisfying), has said they were going to show their real selves in the playoffs, that we would finally see the real Blue Jays.
Welp! The Jays fell behind 3-0 in the first inning to a Mariners team that, like its fans, was ready to run through a wall in their first playoff game in 21 years. The Jays had just seven hits in a 4-0 shutout loss that they never seemed to be a part of at all. The Jays have one of the best home crowds in baseball, but it was pretty silent from the get-go in Game 1. And for all that talk about the “real” Blue Jays, well, if they don’t wake up soon, their season is going to be really over, like, for real. The Blue Jays have still not won a playoff game since 2016, despite a collection of young (but getting a little less young every day) talent that’s the envy of the sport. Blue Jays fans have to be wondering if the revolution is ever really going to start.
Storyline: Is this deGrom’s last start for the Mets?
One of the biggest joys of watching the Mets this year has been to witness a team that has -- for the most part -- seemed intent on putting to rest the idea that this is a tortured franchise. But, sad to say, after the Mets lost their NL East lead to the Braves in the final week (despite still winning 101 games), if they get swept by the Padres in the Wild Card Series while having their rotation lined up to start Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom in the first two games, the season (perhaps unfairly) will be remembered as yet another Mets disappointment. It can turn on you fast.
So much of it comes down to deGrom, who was actually the co-ace that Mets fans were a little bit more worried about coming into this series, thanks to a couple of rough starts down the stretch. This start, against a Padres lineup that had been struggling until slugging four homers off Scherzer in Game 1 of this series, has so much riding on it.
For starters, it could be deGrom’s last outing as a Met. The two-time Cy Young winner has said he plans to opt out of his contract this offseason and test the free agent market.
But perhaps more important, it could be the end of a dream Mets season. It could make it all feel like just another year. Or it could be deGrom -- a pitcher who has not appeared in a postseason game since the 2015 World Series -- saving his Mets when they sure seem to need saving more than they have in a decade. This can’t be how it ends for deGrom and the 2022 Mets … can it?
Storyline: Can the Cardinals possibly pick themselves up off the floor after that?
There are a lot of hard ways to lose a postseason game, but giving up six runs in the ninth inning of a game you led 2-0 is a one of the worst ones. But it’s not just that. Part of the problem with the Cardinals’ brutal 6-3 loss to the Phillies is that the Cardinals emptied the bullpen of all their best pitchers while trying to secure that win. The triumvirate of Jordan Hicks, Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley was supposed to be the Cardinals' path to victory, their obvious advantage over the Phillies. Now, Hicks (who only pitched one game in September after hitting the injured list) threw a tough two-thirds of an inning, Gallegos went more than a full inning (a rarity for him) and Helsley, well, Helsley may be out for the whole postseason now with a finger issue … however long that postseason might go. That’s not even mentioning the emotional devastation that comes with a loss like that: That’s one of those games where, when your team loses, you not only need a break from baseball for a few hours, you almost don’t want to look at anything round. Or diamond, for that matter.
Oh, and now the Cardinals have to go up against Aaron Nola, the Phillies’ other ace. The Cardinals had great vibes heading into the postseason, but all it took is one game -- one half inning -- to turn all that around. The Phillies are the aggressor now, and everything looks to be in their favor. Can the Cardinals recover? Would you be able to recover?