Last week, 16 of Major League Baseball’s 30 ball clubs faced off in the first ever batch of Wild Card Series.
This unprecedented set of series came as a result of the playoff expansion agreed to by the MLB Players’ Association on Jul. 23, which expanded the postseason field from 10 teams to 16, allowing both the second-place team in every division as well as the traditional two Wild Card teams in on the fun. Here’s how the Wild Card Series played out:
No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays def. No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays (2-0)
No. 2 Oakland Athletics def. No. 7 Chicago White Sox (2-1)
After White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito went seven innings flirting with a no-hitter and the White Sox beat the A’s resoundingly in game one, it looked like we had an upset on our hands.
Then, the A’s showed up to play.
In Game two, the A’s dinged 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel for three runs on six hits in three-and-one-third innings and rode a great start by righty starter Chris Bassitt (7IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 5SO) to a 5-3 win, setting up a winner-takes-all game three.
In a battle of the bullpens, the A’s put up six runs to the White Sox’s four to take the series. A big hit by pinch hitter Chad Pinder in the fifth inning helped Oakland advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
No. 6 Houston Astros def. No. 3 Minnesota Twins (2-0)
Minnesota Twins fans got their wish in 2020 by avoiding a first round encounter with the New York Yankees, who eliminated them in the ALDS in 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2019 and in the 2017 AL Wild Card Game.
Yet, the Bomba Squad fell in straight games to the Houston Astros — currently the most hated team in baseball — extending their postseason loss streak to 18 games, the longest postseason losing streak in the history of the four North American sports.
Minnesota lost a game one heartbreaker when Sergio Romo and Caleb Thielbar combined to give up three runs in the top of the ninth inning, culminating in a 4-1 loss. Houston got a timely two-run hit from Michael Brantley in that inning.
In game two, Astros’ Kyle Tucker drove in two runs and Carlos Correa homered in the seventh to lead Houston to a 3-1 victory and the Twins to yet another first round exit.
No. 5 New York Yankees def. No. 4 Cleveland Indians (2-0)
After a questionable season, the New York Yankees earned the title of the Bronx Bombers in a first-round sweep over the Cleveland Indians, against whom they have now won five straight playoff meetings.
Aaron Judge connected for a home run against AL Cy Young favorite Shane Beiber early in game one to give the Yankees a lead that they newver relinquished. All-in-all, they dinged Bieber for seven earned runs en route to a 12-3 victory.
With Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco on the mound in game two and a complicated set of rain delays, the Yankees’ clinching game was a bizarre one. Leads changed hands three times in an up-and-down 10-9 victory for the Yankees, capped off by a DJ LeMahieu single up the middle and an Aroldis Chapman two-inning save.
The Indians continue the longest current championship drought in sports, now at 72 years.
UP NEXT in the American League: No. 1 Tampa Bay v. No. 5 New York and No. 2 Oakland v. No. 6 Houston.
No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers def. No. 8 Milwaukee Brewers
This was one we all saw coming.
Even after Walker Buhler’s relatively shaky game one start in which he let up two runs in four innings, the Dodgers bullpen shut the Brewers down as NL MVP favorite Mookie Betts, Cory Seager, AJ Pollock and Will Smith all drove in runs in the 4-2 win.
In game two, Clayton Kershaw temporarily put to bed the famous refrain that he cannot pitch in the playoffs, pitching eight innings of three-hit ball and striking out thirteen. Betts drove in another two as the team with the best record in baseball punched a 3-0 ticket to the NLDS.
No. 2 Atlanta Braves def. No. 7 Cincinnati Reds
No. 6 Miami Marlins def. No. 3 Chicago Cubs
Death, taxes and the Miami Marlins winning playoff series.
With a sweep of the Chicago Cubs, the Marlins won their seventh straight series in their first postseason appearance since a 2003 World Series Championship run. They remain undefeated in playoff series since 1997.
No. 4 San Diego Padres def. No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals won 4-0 to advance in their first postseason appearance since 2006, the last year they won it all.
UP NEXT in the National League: No. 1 Los Angeles v. No. 4 San Diego and No. 2 Atlanta Braves v. No. 6 Miami Marlins