It’s Saturday 8 October, and I have just watched the delayed coverage of the Padres’ emphatic win over the Mets. Four Wild Card games are in the bag, and the visitors won three of them. As a neutral, this sets up the next couple of days perfectly.
Saturday 5:00pm Rays @ Guardians
Cleveland took the pitcher-duel opener 2-1, thanks to a stellar start from right-hander Shane Bieber. Justin’s more talented namesake is one of only eight pitchers to reach 200 innings in the regular season, and he did this with an average fastball velocity below 92 mph. The guy relies on control and guile instead of power. He was great to watch.
It was the Rays who took the lead in Game 1, when a personal favourite of mine, Jose Siri, took Bieber deep with a solo shot. Cleveland’s runs came when another Jose (Ramirez) went yard off another Shane (McClanahan). The two-run shot proved decisive.
Game 2 sees the Rays wheel out another ace in the form of Tyler Glasnow. I’m excited to see whether the Tommy John surgery returnee can save Tampa Bay’s season. The drop-off between Bieber and Cleveland’s Game 2 starter, Triston McKenzie, seems far greater than McClanahan to Glasnow.
Saturday 9:00pm Mariners @ Blue Jays
Toronto got unlucky in Game 1 when it was evident that Luis Castillo had brought his A-game across the border. The former Reds’ ace was gifted a 3-0 lead in the first (Julio Rodriguez scored and then Cal Raleigh hit a two-run homer) and then restricted Blue Jays’ hitters to scraps for 7.1 innings.
Rodriguez, Mariners’ 21-year-old rookie phenom, provided a spark at the top of the lineup and scored his second run of the game in the fifth inning, once again courtesy of Eugenio Suarez‘s big bat.
Although Alex Manoah recovered from the first-inning ambush, the Blue Jays bats offered him no support.
Game 2 sees vaccination sceptic, Robbie Ray, return to Toronto for the first time since leaving for Seattle in free agency. He will face off against another 200-strikeout ace, Kevin Gausman. This one is not for the faint-hearted.
Saturday night: (12:30am Sunday morning) Padres @ Mets
Who had Max Scherzer giving up four home runs in Game 1? Anyone? If stuffing was ever knocked out of a team, then San Diego did it to the Mets last night in the 7-1 thrashing.
The commentator was talking about Josh Bell‘s .192 batting average since moving to San Diego when the former National took Scherzer deep with a two-run shot in the first inning. I don’t know if it was the same commentator who was talking about Trent Grisham‘s challenging season (0.626 OPS) when the 25-year-old homered in the second. Jurickson Profar despatched a three-run homer in the fifth before Scherzer allowed his third two-out home run of the game when Manny Machado made the score 7-0.
Yu Darvish was magical on the mound and every time I watch him pitch I consider whether his varied repertoire would have been quashed to two or three pitches had he grown up in the more conventional environs of the USA. Eduardo Escobar‘s solo homer was the only damage inflicted on Darvish over seven innings of work.
Unless the “best baseball player on the planet” can produce the goods tonight, the Mets will be the first team eliminated from the NL postseason extravaganza.
Saturday night (1:30am Sunday morning) Phillies @ Cardinals
Two overlapping games is frustrating fixture-setting but I guess that is the price for expanded playoffs. The Phillies’ comeback/Cardinals’ capitulation yesterday summed up the excitement of baseball. Having won their previous 93 playoff games when entering the ninth inning with a lead of two or more runs, the Cardinals were near certain of winning. What happened next was one of the reasons why we love this game.
At the top of the ninth, Rhys Hoskins struck out swinging. Leading 2-0 after a Juan Yepez two-run homer in the seventh, the Cardinals only needed two more outs for victory. The next batters went (something like): single, walk, walk (bases loaded), HBP, single, single, sac fly. And then Rhys Hoskins came to the plate for the second time in the inning… and struck out again. Philadelphia converted a 0-2 deficit into a 6-2 lead.
Phillies dodged a bullet but will be full of momentum against the dejected Cardinals when Aaron Nola takes on Miles Mikolas in Game 2. The Pujols, Molina, Wainwright Hollywood ending might need some Sorkin magic.
Where to watch
All of the games are available LIVE on BT Sport and delayed by 90 minutes on MLB.tv. BT Sport offer 30-day passes for £25.00.
STOP PRESS: We have been informed that games broadcast on ESPN/ABC (that’s all of today’s/tomorrow’s games) are not blacked out internationally. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s great news for this weekend. Liz Truss would be proud of the U-turn.
Featured image photo of Yu Darvish by K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune
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