Playoff Recap – Tuesday 9/29

The Twins and Athletics lost? It must be playoff time!

In Major League Baseball’s ceremonial start of the postseason, the Twins and Athletics lost playoff games on Tuesday. Four games kicked off throughout the day as the American League ran a full slate of games. Pay close attention now, because with these best-of-three series and no days off, they’ll be over before you can say Moneyball. Let’s dig into it!


Astros 4, Twins 1


With Tuesday’s loss, the Twins have now lost 17 straight playoff games. 17 straight! Even Cubs fans wince at this run of incompetence. Tuesday’s game felt ill-fated for Minnesota the minute Alex Bregman ended the first with a barehanded play on a Miguel Sanó ground out that stranded the bases loaded. Despite great at-bats against Zack Greinke in the first, the Twins couldn’t break through. They managed just four hits on the evening.

For the Astros, Framber Valdez entered in relief and closed out the game with five spotless frames. It was a bit of a surprise to see Valdez in the bullpen considering his breakout season, but it turns out Dusty Baker made the right call. Valdez walked two in his first inning of work, and then he went into lockdown mode. If there’s any plus side to this game for the Twins, it’s that the Astros had to use (arguably) their two best pitchers to do it.

Regardless, the Astros looked like a team that knew how to win in the postseason, and the Twins didn’t. Jorge Polanco made a silly throwing error on a potential force out that would have ended the 9th inning and given the Twins a chance to win it with a walk-off.

Sergio Romo walked José Altuve with the bases loaded to surrender the lead a batter later. Michael Brantley followed with a single to grow the lead to three and essentially put the game on ice. It’s one thing to lose a game, it’s another to give it away. File this one in under the latter for the Twins.

Still, as amazing as the Twins run of playoff heartbreak is, a win in Game Two could wipe their memories and move this team past their considerable postseason demons. A loss and… would anyone actually be surprised if the Twins lost at this point? This is where Josh Donaldson’s injury really smarts. The Bringer of Rain also brings fire, and the Twins need to heat up to overcome their bad playoff juju.


White Sox 4, Athletics 1


The White Sox were 14-0 against left-handed starters coming into Tuesday’s game, so of course, the Athletics started southpaw Jesús Luzardo. Still, it was the right call for Oakland, though it did amount to punting Game One of a three-game series. Now, however, Lucas Giolito is done for the series, and the A’s are well-positioned to win the last two. Of course, something indefinable changes about the series chemistry once you’re in a hole.

For the White Sox, everything went as planned. José Abreu went deep. Yasmani Grandal went deep. Giolito shoved:

Not a bad playoff debut for Giolito, who passed this first true test as the ace of the staff. He was perfect until Tommy La Stella led off the seventh with a ground ball single up the middle. There’s little reason now to doubt that Giolito is a true number one starter. That’s great news for the White Sox even if they can’t finish off Oakland. Moving forward, Dallas Keuchel’s worm-killing (52.8 GB%) should neutralize the Coliseum effect, though that’s not necessarily a good thing for Chicago. The A’s are leaning into the spacious confines of their ballpark with Chris Bassitt and his 37.8 FB% for game 2.

But for Oakland, their punchless offense needs to wake up fast. Three hits and four total base runners isn’t going to be enough to get past the narrative darlings from Chicago’s South Side. The A’s had some bad luck, as a .228 xBA supposes they deserved better than their actual 3-for-30 mark, but they looked frustrated at the dish. Matt Olsen struck out three times, and they went down 1-2-3 in seven of the nine innings. Luckily for the A’s, they won’t have to see Giolito again.


Rays 3, Blue Jays 1


The Rays took care of business in Game One, and even the Blue Jays didn’t seem all that surprised by it. Given the interesting decision by Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo to start Matt Shoemaker, the Jays valiantly stayed in this game with surprisingly competent outings from Shoemaker and his follower Robbie Ray. Journeyman A.J. Cole took over in the seventh — another relatively surprising call — and he served up a two-run homer to Manuel Margot to triple the deficit from 1-0 to 3-0. Rafael Dolis (1.50 ERA/3.02 FIP) would have been the other option for Montoyo there, though he could have really gone for the gold by plugging in rookie flamethrower Nate Pearson. Pearson just returned from injury and he’s a starter by nature, but he has the best stuff on the team, and he’s on the roster for a reason.

Regardless, the Blue Jays weren’t getting much going off the quartet of Blake Snell, Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, and Peter Fairbanks. The Jays managed just five hits in total, and after getting two free passes from Snell, they didn’t walk the rest of the evening. It was a close game, but it sure didn’t feel like one. Snell struck out nine while posting 5.2 one-hit innings for the Rays. There wasn’t really a moment when it didn’t feel like the Rays had this game in pocket.

For the Jays, the series begins today with ace Hyun-Jin Ryu on the hill. The Rays bring the same game plan for Game Two with  Tyler Glasnow taking Snell’s spot on the bump. Offensively, they’ll pick their spots to take advantage of platoon splits and look to put the ball in play against Ryu — just as they have all season.


Yankees 12, Indians 3


Gerrit Cole versus Shane Bieber figured to be the preeminent showdown of the postseason, worthy competition for the first Presidential Debate in the primetime slot. Of the four competitors, only Cole maintained his composure throughout the night. Making his first postseason start as a Yankees, Cole routinely hit 98 to 99 mph on the radar gun, he got the win with seven strong innings of 2-run baseball, and he struck out 13 batters without walking a man. Cole’d.

Bieber, meanwhile, put his MVP-like regular season behind him with easily his worst outing of the year. The Yankees did a great job laying off curveballs and waiting to hit mistakes. When Bieber fell behind, he turned quickly to his fastball or cutter, and both pitches were hit hard when left over the middle of the zone. Two home runs, seven earned runs, nine hits, two walks, and just 4.2 innings for Bieber in Game One. Not quite how Cleveland drew it up.

On the plus side for Cleveland, Josh Naylor went 4-for-4 and took Cole deep. Lindor made a number of hyper-athletic plays at shortstop, though his contributions there were mostly cosmetic, as they didn’t actually result in outs.

Cleveland lost nine straight games when facing elimination in the playoffs, which is a record, just ahead of the Twins’ current run of eight straight. On Wednesday, both teams need to win, lest more can’t-win-when-it-matters narratives chase them through the winter. The White Sox, meanwhile, can prove they don’t suffer from the same postseason maladies as their divisional foes. It should be a great day of baseball.

TC Zencka

TC Zencka contributes regularly to Pitcher List, and MLB Trade Rumors. Come say hi on Twitter.

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