For the first time in the history of the MLB playoffs, there will be eight postseason games played on a single day.
Wild Card Wednesday began with a Cincinnati Reds–Atlanta Braves extra-inning thriller and the Houston Astros‘ sweeping the Minnesota Twins out of the playoffs. Then the Miami Marlins took the opener against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, and the Oakland A’s forced a deciding Game 3 against the Chicago White Sox. The second team to advance to the division series? The Tampa Bay Rays, who blasted the Toronto Blue Jays.
Here are the heroes, turning points and takeaways from each of Wednesday’s matchups.
Game 2 hero: Carlos Correa. One of the players at the center of the controversy surrounding the Astros this season (does the name Joe Kelly ring a bell?), Correa belted a no-doubt solo home run in the top of the seventh that put Houston up for good.
What it means: What can you say? With another 0-and-out, the Twins’ record postseason losing streak extends to 18 games, and the 29-31 Astros advance to the division series. The Twins scored two runs in two games, and the lack of offense is par for their postseason history, as that makes 15 games in a row in which they scored four or fewer runs. The key for the Astros was Dusty Baker’s employing his starting pitching depth in relief. Framber Valdez threw five scoreless innings behind Zack Greinke in Game 1, and Cristian Javier tossed three hitless innings in relief of Jose Urquidy in Game 2.
The Astros were not the offensive team they were in their three straight 100-win seasons, but even without Justin Verlander, they have one of the deepest slates of starters in the rotation, with five capable guys. We’ll see how that plays out in the next round, when it’s five games in five days, and whether Baker can use the starters in relief or will be forced to go deeper into his pen of rookie relievers. — David Schoenfield
Next up: The Astros face the winner of the White Sox-Athletics series in the ALDS.
Freddie Freeman loops a single into center field, bringing in the winning run in the 13th inning to give the Braves a 1-0 victory over the Reds.
Game 1 hero: Can you be the hero with a no-decision next to your name in the box score? Trevor Bauer sparkled for 7 2/3 scoreless innings — striking out 12 and walking none — but in the 13th inning, Freddie Freeman gave the Braves a 1-0 victory.
What it means: Never before had a playoff game gone scoreless past the 11th inning. This festival of strikeouts concluded in the 13th, when Freeman did what the NL MVP favorite should do: walk off a postseason game. The blown opportunities, baserunning blunders and wasting of Bauer’s brilliance will chafe at the Reds, though they don’t have time to lament. Game 2 is nigh, and with star rookie Ian Anderson set to go for Atlanta, the Reds can’t afford to replicate their punchlessness in Game 1. Of course, the Reds struck out only 16 times compared to the Braves’ 21, yet Cincinnati’s K’s came at the worst possible times, including three straight in the 12th. –– Jeff Passan
Next up: Game 2, noon ET Thursday on ESPN
Jesus Aguilar smacks a two-run home run to right field in the seventh inning to extend the Marlins’ lead to 5-1 over the Cubs.
What it means: Hendricks had issues all afternoon, so manager David Ross will be second-guessed for not pulling Hendricks while the team’s best reliever, Jeremy Jeffress, was ready in the pen. As is, Ross eventually brought Jeffress in — but in a losing situation. It was a waste of an outing when Jeffress might be needed Thursday. The Cubs’ offense picked up where it left off in the regular season, garnering just four hits in a stadium in which they produced the lowest batting average by the home team in history. Next Yu Darvish will pitch to keep the Cubs’ season going. The last time he did that for a team, he lost Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. — Jesse Rogers
Next up: Game 2, 2 p.m. ET Thursday on ABC
The White Sox attempt to rally in the ninth inning with the bases loaded, but Jose Abreu is thrown out at first as the A’s seal a 5-3 win.
Game 2 hero: Chris Bassitt‘s seven-plus innings were just what the doctor ordered for Oakland. The A’s entered the potential elimination game with the weight of a six-game postseason losing streak on their backs. They were facing grizzled playoff veteran Dallas Keuchel. But they jumped on Keuchel early while Bassitt settled in, mixing in his fastball arsenal that features a sinker, a rising four-seamer and a cutter to boot. Oakland staved off elimination without emptying its bullpen, giving the A’s firm footing as they head into the winner-take-all Game 3.
What it means: The White Sox looked tight in the same way that they kind of seized up after clinching a playoff spot during the regular season. Then they regained their swagger against the potent Oakland bullpen. Early, Dallas Keuchel left a couple of pitches up. Nick Madrigal booted a key ground ball that set up Oakland’s first-inning rally. The hitters flailed against Bassitt’s array of fastballs. Meanwhile, the A’s managed to snap their postseason drought, but the win was not without drama. Relief ace Liam Hendriks entered the game with six outs to go and Oakland up by five runs. He was unable to close out the victory despite burning through 49 pitches. The bad news for the A’s is that they have lost a record nine straight winner-take-all games, and they look to snap that drought with the availability of one of the AL’s top relievers an open question. — Bradford Doolittle
Next up: Game 3, 3 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN
Game 2 hero: Tyler Glasnow got all the run support he needed in the first two innings en route to tossing six innings, allowing six hits and just two earned runs while striking out eight. Through the first two games of the postseason, everything is going exactly according to Tampa Bay’s plan, as they’re depending on the strength of the top of the rotation to keep the opposition’s offense at bay.
What it means: The Rays are exactly who we thought they were. This team is going to be a force to reckon with this postseason, given the strength at the top of the rotation, the depth of power arms in the bullpen and a lineup that does enough to make Tampa Bay one of the elite teams in baseball. Designated hitter Randy Arozarena, in his first full season with Tampa Bay, has been the offensive catalyst for the lineup in the team’s first two games this postseason, collecting three hits and scoring two runs in Wednesday’s series-clinching win against Toronto. The depth across all areas of this team will make the Rays an incredibly tough out for the winner of the Cleveland-New York series. — Joon Lee
Next up: The Rays will face the winner of the Yankees-Indians series in the ALDS.
More Wednesday games: