At the start of Friday's inaugural "MLB The Show" player tournament, most people pointed to Rays starter Blake Snell and Twins reliever Trevor May as the favorites to win given that the two are avid streamers on Twitch.
But maybe the fact that Reds reliever Amir Garrett was wearing a full uniform should’ve served as an indication that he was looking to win the championship over Snell, May and Giants outfielder Hunter Pence.
Garrett beat May in the first round, 2-1, and then downed Snell in the championship game by the same score to take home the honor of the first “MLB The Show” tournament champion.
“It’s all a lot of fun,” Garrett said after the tournament. “I played against Blake in the Florida State League and we pitched against each other and we’ve been close since then. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s all fun and games. It’s all love.”
The tournament produced friendly banter between the four players as over 6,000 people tuned into the live streams. Every player created a roster via Diamond Dynasty and were all able to use an exclusive 99-rating version of themselves. Each game lasted five innings.
Let’s take a look at how every game of the tournament shaped out.
Semifinals: May vs. Garrett
May’s starter: Max Scherzer
Garrett’s starter: Gerrit Cole
Final score: 2-1, Garrett
Garrett didn’t waste any time jumping on May, who couldn’t help but let out some screams of frustration during the contest. Garrett used Christian Yelich and Mike Trout to launch back-to-back homers off Scherzer in the top of the first inning, giving him an early 2-0 lead.
“Did I just give up another one?” May added. “I’m getting destroyed! Max, I’m gonna need you to stop it!”
“I know that Trevor is taking it easy on me,” Garrett said. “I know he’s going to come back and demolish me. He’s just playing with me, I swear. He be streaming, streaming ... y’all gotta understand that.”
May answered back immediately with a run in the bottom of the frame to cut the deficit to 2-1, but Garrett struck out Mitch Garver on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded to end the threat.
“Got out of the jam, bro,” Garrett said. “I’m sweating, yo.”
In the later innings, May was able to get a lot of traffic on the bases, but Garrett made the big pitches, inducing three key double plays to end threats, including a game-ending 1-6-3.
May did keep Garrett off the scoreboard over the last four innings, including a scoreless frame in the fifth with the 99-rated version of himself against the heart of Garrett’s batting order.
“96-100 [mph]?” Garrett said. “Oh my God, he’s throwing absolute rockets.”
Garrett, however, also turned to his 99-rated card to convert his first virtual save with a scoreless fifth.
“Oh, he’s throwing absolute bullets! What am I supposed to do?” May said. “I’m getting my doors blown off.”
“I got my first big league save right there,” Garrett added. “That’s sick.”
Semifinals: Pence vs. Snell
Pence’s starter: Cole
Snell’s starter: Himself
Final score: 8-1, Snell
This matchup ran into some technical difficulties, but after taking out the disc and blowing on it ('90s babies will understand), Snell and Pence were able to resume -- though it was all Snell after that.
Freddie Freeman smashed two home runs in the game, including the three-run dagger in the third inning to give Snell a 7-0 lead. Snell also started the game by striking out the first seven hitters with his 99-rated card.
“My wife is screaming at me now, 'What are you swinging at?!'” Pence said. “I’m completely guessing right now.”
“It’s punchie season,” Snell said. “If it hangs, it has to bang. Pence that’s how you make your living, bro.”
Snell pitched four scoreless innings with himself, but ran into some trouble in the fifth. That’s when he turned to Adam Ottavino to close out the 8-1 win to earn a chance to play Garrett in the championship round.
“I faced [Ottavino] so many times when he was with the Rockies and I came to grips with the fact that you have to be OK with dying [when facing him],” Pence joked. “You have to say that, 'If it’s a fastball by the neck, you just have to knock out.'”
“I got Blake in the championship game?” Garrett asked. “I gotta run in place or something.”
Championship round: Garrett vs. Snell
Garrett’s starter: Jacob deGrom
Snell’s starter: deGrom
The competition got interesting as Snell couldn’t use himself as his starting pitcher due to fatigue. Instead, he opted to go with deGrom, which is also the same pitcher Garrett chose. However, Garrett got on the board first thanks to an RBI double by Francisco Lindor.
“I’m not swinging at anything out of the zone,” said Garrett, still rocking his full uniform.
But with the championship on the line, Snell answered back in the bottom half of the frame with another Freeman home run -- this time a solo shot that tied the score. It was Freeman’s third home run of the tournament.
“That’s 3-for-3 with three absolute jacks!” Snell screamed. “Freddie Freeman is a GOD!”
“That’s the first pitch in the handbook, don’t throw a heater to Freddie Freeman,” May chimed in. “We talked about that in the meeting!”
With the score now tied, it didn’t take long for the friendly back and forth between Snell and Garrett to pick back up.
“Hey Amir, what’s good?” Snell asked.
“I’m just here so I don’t get fined,” Garrett said, referencing Marshawn Lynch’s Super Bowl press conference. “I don’t even want to talk about it, bro.”
“You’re just trying to throw haymakers, man, stop lying,” Snell replied. “That’s my favorite baseball moment of all-time.”
But it was Garrett who got the last laugh. Garrett hit a home run with Nolan Arenado off deGrom in the fourth inning to give him the 2-1 edge. He then went to his bullpen to try and close it out, but Snell had one last chance at evening the score after an interesting decision made by Garrett.
Instead of using his 99-rated card to close out the game, Garrett opted to go with Kirby Yates for the save opportunity. Snell quickly responded with a leadoff double by Lindor, followed by a flyout that allowed him to reach third with just one out. Garrett tried to substitute himself into the game, but the game didn’t allow it due to the new three-batter minimum rule.
“Is that a thing?” Garrett asked. “No way that’s a thing.”
Oh, it’s definitely a thing. But it ended up working out for Garrett as Yates struck out Aaron Judge on a splitter out of the zone for the second out. Then he summoned himself for the one-out save. Snell tried to counter by taking out the left-handed Freeman and inserting the right-handed Ronald Acuña Jr.
“[Freeman] was hot,” Snell said. “But I felt better with Acuña coming in. I was just late.”
The move didn’t pan out as Garrett got Acuña to fly out to end the game and give Garrett the championship.
“Playing May and Blake was tough because they are gamers,” Garrett said. “I always tell people I’m a gamer, but I’m just not good even though I play a lot. But a win is a win, and I’m a champion.”
Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.