This Friday, the MLB wrapped up the first round of its revised playoff format, in which (for the first time ever) eight teams in each league made the playoffs. As much as the exclusivity of the MLB playoffs is what makes baseball so great, it was refreshing to get so much extra baseball before the Division Series even started. Here are my takeaways from the first round of the MLB playoffs.
The Twins continue to disappoint
Eighteen straight playoff losses. Outscored 107-48. I mean come on, you knew this one was coming. I could’ve written the entire article on Minnesota alone. For a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since before the Curse of the Bambino was broken, nobody was shocked when the Twins got easily bounced by a struggling Astros team.
The bats just couldn’t get going for the Twins in this series, as they only scored two runs over two games. Things looked good in Game 1 after Nelson Cruz hit an RBI double to put the team up 1-0. However, a George Springer RBI single in the 7th, a two out error in the 9th and a bases loaded walk put the Astros ahead for good.
In the second game, the only run for Minnesota came off of another Cruz RBI double. The Astros bats were led by Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker, who each had two hits to make this game not much of a contest either.
Death, taxes and Minnesota postseason struggles. Maybe next year.
The Yankees are back
As a Red Sox fan, I hate to say this, but watch out for the Yankees. At one point in the season, it was uncertain if this squad would even make the playoffs (they were the 8 seed in the AL). But now?
They look good. Really good.
Here are the facts. They’ve won 12 of their last 18 games in the regular season, including massive blowouts of a good Blue Jays team. This past week, they faced the Cleveland Indians, who were second in the MLB in both ERA and WHIP this season. They were up against the probable Cy Young winner in Shane Bieber Game 1 and a top 15 pitcher in the AL in Carlos Carrasco.
They put up 12 and 10 runs, respectively. That, ladies and gentlemen, is nuts.
While the first game wasn’t close, it took the biggest game of Gio Urshela’s career (against his former team, no less) to propel the Yankees to a 10-9 victory over the Indians. Urshela went 2-for-5 with a huge grand slam and made a game-saving double play at third base.
The story of the Yankees’ offseason was the signing of star pitcher Gerrit Cole. They paid for him to show up and show out in the postseason, and that’s exactly what he did Tuesday night. He pitched seven innings while only allowing two earned runs and struck out 13 Cleveland batters.
At the beginning of the season, the Yankees were highly favored (along with the Dodgers) to win the World Series this year, partly because of their offensive weapons and the new addition of Cole to the rotation. While they may have had some ups and downs this year, the offense is looking like it was supposed to all season. It could not have come at a better time. Watch out, Tampa Bay.
Watch out for San Diego
Definitely the most exciting out of these three takeaways is the emergence of the San Diego Padres. The Padres were facing a 1-0 deficit in the series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but they stormed back and won two straight to advance to the next round. This is San Diego’s first playoff appearance since 2006 and the first time winning a postseason series since 1998.
The player of the series (and really the season) for San Diego is none other than Fernando Tatis Jr., aka the Face of Baseball, aka the Electric Factory. This guy is must-see television every time he steps up to the plate.
The Cardinals took Game 1 of the series, thanks to the St. Louis offense absolutely teeing off of starter Chris Paddack for six runs in 2.1 innings. Facing elimination, the Padres had to come up big in two consecutive games.
While falling behind early 4-0, San Diego was able to tie up the game in the sixth thanks to back to back home runs from Tatis and shortstop Manny Machado. A solo home run by Wil Myers the next inning, followed by yet another home run from Tatis, put the Padres up for good.
In Game 3, the Padres were able to put up four runs thanks to big hits from Jake Cronenworth, Eric Hosmer and yep, you guessed it, Tatis Jr. Despite a good start from Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, the combined effort of nine different San Diego pitchers was enough to blank the Cards.
If this team can get their top pitching back (both Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet were out due to injuries) within the next few days, look for a highly competitive NLDS against the No. 1 seed LA Dodgers. The Padres were 4-6 against LA this season, but if they can get their offense to click at the right time, along with some good showings on the mound, don’t be surprised if there’s an upset of the World Series favorites.