MLB Recap: Cole, Yankees Blast Indians
The first day of the MLB playoffs featured the American League Wild Card round, showcasing the reigning AL pennant winners and the most-storied franchise in baseball history.
Here are the key takeaways from day one of the MLB postseason.
Houston has life
After winning an MLB leading 311 games over the last three seasons and winning the AL pennant in 2017 and 2019, the Houston Astros struggled in 2020.
After being punished for sign-stealing and suffering through a myriad of injuries, they limped into the Wild Card round with a 29-31 record and faced the second-seeded Minnesota Twins.
However, they looked like the championship tested team from recent seasons in Game 1.
DH Michael Brantley hit a 2-run single in the top of the 9th inning to help secure a 4-1 victory, and continued a trend of late inning magic for the Astros in the postseason.
This is now the sixth playoff game in the last three postseasons where the Astros have taken a lead in the 9th inning or later, and gone on to win.
They won via walk-off home runs in Games 2 and 6 of the ALCS last season against the Yankees, and in the 2017 postseason, Houston won two playoff games on walk-off hits, while also winning Game 1 of the 2017 World Series in the 11th inning.
And now, all of the pressure is placed directly on the Twins in Game 2, with their season on the line.
They are also now battling the ghosts of playoffs past.
The White Sox show poise
The White Sox are in the postseason for the first time since 2008, while the Oakland Athletics have made the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
In Game 1 of this Wild Card matchup, the White Sox looked like the team that had been here before, and rode SS Tim Anderson and 1B Jose Abreu to victory.
The duo combined to hit 5-for-9 with two RBIs and 2 runs scored, and they weren't the only Chicago batters who shined.
DH Yasmani Grandal and RF Adam Engel both homered as well, while combining for 3 hits between them.
That combination of hitting, coupled with a dominant pitching performance from Lucas Giolito, would seem to be a good recipe for success for the White Sox this October.
Giolito overwhelmed the Athletics in 7 innings of work, allowing just 1 run and striking out 8 batters.
Through 6 innings, he had a perfect game working.
Tampa Bay Rays holds serve
The Rays secured the AL's top record heading into the postseason, going 40-20 in the regular season, and they looked the part in their 3-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.
The Rays required timely hitting to secure a win, with RF Manuel Margot batting 2-for-3, including a 2-run bomb in the seventh inning.
The key reason the Rays secured Game 1 victory was a dominant pitching performance from Blake Snell, who pitched 5.2 innings and struck out 9 batters while allowing no runs and a single hit.
The 9 strikeouts tie the most ever by a Rays pitcher in a playoff game.
The performance didn't just make franchise history, but MLB history as well.
A tale of two aces
The New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians matchup was supposed to be a battle between two aces.
Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole won the 2019 Cy Young award, while Indians pitcher Shane Bieber is the favorite to win the award this year.
But only one pitcher got the memo.
Cole dominated in 7 innings of work, producing one of the greatest pitching performances in postseason history for the Yankees in his playoff debut for the franchise.
Bieber, on the other hand, struggled.
After winning the pitching triple crown this season, posting the lowest ERA (1.63), most strikeouts (122), and leading the league in wins (8), he struggled Tuesday with his command, and in turn, the Indians were doomed early.
Bieber allowed 7 earned runs in less than 5 innings pitched, a far cry from his regular season dominance.
He had only allowed 7 earned runs in his first seven starts of the 2020 season.
RF Aaron Judge got the scoring started early for the Yankees, with a 2-run homer in the first inning, which followed a common trend for him in Wild Card games.
In three career Wild Card games, Judge has hit a home run in all three and the Yankees are now 3-0.
LF Brett Gardner, DH Giancarlo Stanton and SS Gleyber Torres all hit home runs as well en route to a 12-run performance, the most runs allowed by the Indians in a game this season.