The only winner-take-all game of the 2020 Division Series lived up to the hype -- and then some -- with the Rays winning thanks to a go-ahead home run from Michael Brosseau off none other than Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning. The Rays’ 2-1 victory on Friday night clinched
The only winner-take-all game of the 2020 Division Series lived up to the hype -- and then some -- with the Rays winning thanks to a go-ahead home run from Michael Brosseau off none other than Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning. The Rays’ 2-1 victory on Friday night clinched the ALDS and booked them a date with the Astros in the ALCS, which begins Sunday.
The close game featured two starters pitching on short rest in Tyler Glasnow and Gerrit Cole and saw all three runs scored on solo homers. There’s plenty to parse out from it -- here are nine amazing facts about Game 5:
1. Let’s start near the end, with Brosseau’s home run. It came on the 10th pitch of his plate appearance against Chapman, the most pitches into a plate appearance that Chapman has allowed a homer in his career. It was the 12th go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later of a winner-take-all game. Of the six others to come since tracking for pitch counts began in 1988, none came on even the sixth pitch -- let alone the 10th or later.
2. Brosseau, who was undrafted out of Oakland University (Mich.), didn’t just hit a homer to propel his team to the ALCS -- he did it after not even starting the game. He became the seventh player to homer in a winner-take-all game that he did not start, and the first since the Cubs’ David Ross in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. The first player to do it was the Pirates’ Hal Smith, also against the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.
3. This is the second straight year that the Yankees’ season has come to an end in the playoffs after Chapman allowed a home run. Last year, it was a walk-off homer to Jose Altuve in Game 6 of the ALCS. Chapman is the first pitcher in postseason history to allow a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later with his team facing elimination multiple times.
4. Brosseau’s home run came on a 100.2 mph pitch from Chapman. That’s the fastest pitch any Rays batter has hit for a homer in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008, including the playoffs) as well as the fastest pitch anyone has hit for a homer in ‘20. It’s also the second-fastest home run pitch in the postseason during that span, behind only a 100.6 mph Justin Verlander pitch that Nelson Cruz homered on in the 2011 ALCS.
5. Chapman wasn’t the only one throwing hard. The entire game featured high velocity, beginning with both starters hitting 100 mph. MLB.com’s Mike Petriello notes that 61.2 percent of the fastballs (two- and four-seamers and sinkers) thrown were 97 mph or harder, the highest rate in any game in the pitch-tracking era (regular season or postseason).
The average fastball velocity in the game was 97.2 mph, the second-highest in any game on record, behind only a 2014 game between the Royals and D-backs, according to Petriello. The average pitch speed on all pitches was 92.7 mph -- yes, including offspeed pitches.
6. The Rays started Glasnow on just two days’ rest, with most guessing that he wouldn’t go deep into the game on a team that specializes in pitching maneuvers. Indeed, he went 2 1/3 innings, yielding to Nick Anderson (2 2/3 IP), Pete Fairbanks (2 IP) and, finally, Diego Castillo (2 IP). Tampa Bay is just the second team in postseason history to win a nine-inning game in which it had four pitchers throw two or more innings. The other was the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series -- and unlike the Rays on Friday, Los Angeles did that after its starter, Tim Belcher, allowed four runs early.
7. Given that home runs were a theme throughout the series, it should come as little surprise that three solo shots decided this game, which featured just six hits -- the fewest in any winner-take-all game. In fact, 75.6 percent of the runs scored in this five-game series came via the homer, the highest rate in any postseason series of at least three games. The prior record had been 75.0 percent in the 2001 NLDS between the Braves and Astros, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
There were 21 total home runs in the series, the third-most in a postseason series of five games or fewer behind only the 2020 ALDS between the Astros and A’s (24) and the 1995 ALDS between the Yankees and Mariners (22).
8. The Yankees’ lone run came on Aaron Judge’s fourth-inning homer, which was the third of his career in a winner-take-all game -- with each coming in a separate game. That’s tied for the most winner-take-all games with at least one home run, with Bill Skowron, and tied for the most homers in winner-take-all games with Skowron, Didi Gregorius, Troy O’Leary and Yogi Berra.
9. The starters didn’t end up as the story of the game, but they still deserve their due. Glasnow and Cole faced off in Game 5 of the ALDS last year, between the Astros and Rays. They’re the second pair of pitchers to meet in multiple winner-take-all games in their career, according to Elias. The other duo also met in back-to-back years: Don Larsen and Lew Burdette in Game 7 of the World Series in both 1957 and ‘58.
Glasnow threw five innings in a Game 2 start, then started again on Friday, becoming just the second pitcher in the last 40 years to start on two or fewer days’ rest after a start of at least five innings in the postseason. Cole pitched on three days’ rest for the first time in his career and struck out nine batters, tied for the second-most by a Yankees pitcher in a winner-take-all game.
Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.