Giolito snags final Players League playoff spot

April 30th, 2020

It came down to the last night of the regular season, but after nearly three weeks of games, the MLB The Show Players League’s eight-team postseason field is finally set.

In action televised on ESPN2, (Yankees) lost to (Astros) and fell out of the playoff race on Wednesday night. That guaranteed a playoff berth for (White Sox), who subsequently moved up the rankings by beating (Reds) in the final regular-season contest of the video-game tournament.

Now come the playoffs, which will start Friday night with a pair of televised quarterfinals. Let’s take a look at the field.

  1. , Rays – 24-5
  2. , Rangers – 23-6
  3. , Blue Jays – 21-8
  4. , Mets – 21-8
  5. , Orioles – 19-10
  6. , White Sox – 19-10
  7. , Cubs – 19-10
  8. , Dodgers – 19-10

So the opening round is set. Snell will face Lux, Gallo will match up with Happ, Bichette will go up against Giolito, and McNeil will duel with Smith. How close was the competition? Consider that Lux lost the runs-scored tiebreaker to Happ by exactly one run, and Kahnle had the potential tying run at the plate when he was eliminated.

McCullers started Zack Greinke, while Kahnle sent Masahiro Tanaka to the mound. The Astros jumped ahead early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning. That prompted Kahnle, who posted a 3.67 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings in real life last year, to shake his head and say, “Oh, I can’t pitch in this game. Terrible.”

Kahnle and McCullers heard from their teammates throughout the league competition, which began on April 10. Kahnle first said the Yankees were rooting for him, then McCullers dryly interjected that his teammates were “pretty embarrassed by my performance.” Kahnle could relate to that, too, apparently.

“I get roasted by them a lot,” Kahnle said.

McCullers scored again to take a 3-0 lead into the third. Kahnle put two runners on with nobody out, then popped out with Brett Gardner; if that ball had fallen for a hit, McCullers said, “I would’ve thrown my PS4 through the window and you would’ve won.” DJ LeMahieu struck out, bringing up Aaron Judge against reliever Ryan Pressly. With a full count, two outs and two on, Judge went down swinging at a 97 mph fastball.

“Bro,” McCullers said, “I was more nervous there than in a real game.”

That eliminated any drama for the second half of the digital doubleheader, as Kahnle’s elimination clinched a spot for Giolito. The White Sox starter did away with any lingering anticipation by pounding Garrett’s pitchers in the first inning.

Garrett, wearing his Reds cap and jersey, tried to limit Giolito’s lineup by steering clear of hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park and playing at a neutral site: Marlins Park. But Giolito began the game by hitting back-to-back homers off Luis Castillo with Tim Anderson and Yoán Moncada.

“There’s no way,” Garrett said. “It’s over. It’s over! It’s over!”

He wasn’t wrong. Garrett pulled Castillo and called upon Pedro Strop, who gave up a homer to Nomar Mazara that made it 5-0, White Sox. Even Giolito was surprised.

“I cannot believe I’m hitting like this right now,” Giolito said.

Garrett made it interesting, pulling within three runs, but Giolito rode Dallas Keuchel -- his favorite starter to pitch with -- and relievers Steve Cishek and Aaron Bummer to a 6-3 victory and the sixth seed in the playoffs.

Up next
The Players League playoffs begin on Friday night. The Snell-Lux and McNeil-Smith series will air on FS1 at 10 p.m. ET, then we’ll see the Gallo-Happ and Bichette-Giolito series at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday on ESPN2.

Then we’ll head to the semifinals, with one matchup set for 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2 after the quarterfinals round wraps up. The other semifinals series will air on FS1 at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The quarterfinals and semifinals will be best-of-three series. Then it’s on to the best-of-five championship series, which will air Sunday on ESPN.