3 teams advance, 4 more could today!

October 1st, 2020

The Yankees-Rays ALDS that has seemed inevitable is now set in stone as both clubs finished two-game sweeps of their Wild Card Series on Wednesday. That’s the headline of day two of the playoffs.

The Astros delivered the first surprise of the postseason by sweeping two games from the Twins. Meanwhile, in the only undecided American League series, the A’s and White Sox will play a deciding Game 3 today.

In the National League, the Braves defeated the Reds in a 13-inning, 1-0 Game 1 epic. The Dodgers and Cardinals will also attempt to finish their series today.

Here’s a breakdown of Wednesday’s eight postseason games:

Result: Astros won Game 2, 3-1
Next game: Astros will face White Sox or A’s in ALDS on Monday at Dodger Stadium.

The Astros smartly worked around a shaky bullpen by piggybacking starting pitchers in both games and needing relievers for just five outs. After a disappointing 29-31 regular season, Houston swept the Twins and looked like a team that has played 10 more postseason games than any other club the last four seasons.

If the Reds lose this series, they’ll be haunted by stranding the go-ahead run on third base in the 11th, 12th and 13th innings in a 4-hour, 39-minute game that had 37 strikeouts, 22 men left on base and 12 relievers. The Reds went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 13 on base. The Braves also had just one hit with a runner in scoring position: Freddie Freeman’s walk-off in the 13th.

Successful postseason managers have a mantra: Manage like your hair is on fire. When a move is too aggressive for the regular season, it might be just right for the postseason. Cubs skipper David Ross didn’t do that in the top of the seventh inning even after he’d gotten six shutout innings from starter Kyle Hendricks in a game the Cubs led 1-0. When Corey Dickerson’s three-run home run flew over the wall in the top of the seventh, Ross probably knew he’d stayed with his ace a hitter or two too long.

White Sox-A’s
Result: A’s won Game 2, 5-3
Next game: Game 3 today, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The A’s, faced with another quick postseason exit, got home runs from Marcus Semien and Khris Davis. As omens go, the A’s couldn’t have asked for two more significant ones. Neither player had a good offensive season. Nor did the A’s, scoring three runs or less in eight of their final 12 regular-season games.

Blue Jays-Rays
Result: Rays won Game 2, 8-2
Next game: Rays will face Yankees in ALDS on Monday at Petco Park.

This is what the Rays do to teams. Tampa Bay overwhelms opponents with 98 mph fastballs and back-bending cutters and sliders. In sweeping the Blue Jays, Tampa Bay pitchers struck out 23 in 18 innings and allowed just three earned runs.

After playing 53 games -- including 11 doubleheaders -- in 44 days, the Cardinals showed up for Game 1 after two days off, which meant a rested bullpen and a rested offense. Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run home run got the Cardinals going in the first inning, and manager Mike Shildt mixed and matched five relievers who combined for 5 1/3 shutout innings.

Result: Yankees won Game 2, 10-9
Next game: Yankees will play the Rays in ALDS on Monday at Petco Park.

The Indians will remember that they were right there. They had a 4-0 lead early and a 9-8 lead in the ninth. If there’s any consolation, they were beaten by a tremendous Yankees team that’s finally healthy and playing at its highest level of the season. Cleveland’s pitching -- that’s the thing that got them here -- let them down. Their starting pitchers, Shane Bieber and Carlos Carrasco, allowed 11 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings. Seven Indians pitchers walked 12 Yankees in Game 2. But the Yankees were relentlessly resilient and at their best in rallying for two runs in the top of the ninth. In a two-game sweep, they scored 22 runs and socked seven home runs.

No postseason team faced as much pressure as the Dodgers, who rolled through the regular season with a 43-17 record and eighth straight NL West title. In Game 1, they took care of business. Nothing sensational. Walker Buehler passed a nice four-inning test in returning from a blister problem, and the Dodgers got two hits from Mookie Betts and a home run from Corey Seager.