MLB’s 2022 season moves forward into a brave new world, a 12-team postseason bracket that will decide a champion sometime next month. And it will go very quickly. The new set of best-of-three wildcards begins Friday and will be decided no later than Sunday. The breakout of high-stakes baseball pits eight teams — Guardians-Rays, Cardinals-Phillies, Blue Jays-Mariners, Mets-Padres — for the right to advance.
The favorites they would face in the next round are familiar – the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves and The New York Yankees hold the top seeds. But certainly some of these challengers have plans to overturn baseball’s existing world order.
[Here’s the full TV schedule for the MLB postseason]
First, they have to spend this weekend. And that looks daunting for several top seeds.
There was a dominant ace in his late thirties on the mound in New York on Friday. But it wasn’t Max Scherzer. Padres maestro Yu Darvish blocked the favorite Mets for 7 innings as the San Diego bats repeatedly left the court. Scherzer left to a shower of boos from Citi Field after allowing four homers and seven career postseason runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Scherzer called the loss one of the “lowest lows” the game of baseball has to offer. After dealing with an oblique injury for much of the season, he said he felt good physically at the start. Scherzer said his fastball either ran or went flat, meaning it lacked the usual “uphill” motion he usually uses to miss bats.
After 101 regular season wins, the Mets are on the verge of elimination at the hands of the Padres. Jacob deGrom is now likely to take the mound with the Mets season — a magical season until about two weeks ago — riding on his performance.
New York will have to hope that diverges from Scherzer’s unusually disastrous outing. Josh Bell, Trent Grisham, Jurickson Profar and Manny Machado took Cy Young’s three-time winner deep, with the three strongest bursts coming from Scherzer’s fastball.
Only Eduardo Escobar arrived in Darvish, bringing his scorching September to October. Darvish struck out four and scatter six hits, allowing a run on Escobar’s solo homer. The 36-year-old right-hander with an unprecedented pitching barrage has now thrown 21 innings against the Mets in 2022, allowing a total of two runs and a walk while striking out 19.
While deGrom will be under the microscope, the Padres will enter Game 2 with the best starting pitcher. Lefty Blake Snell has a 2.19 ERA in 14 starts since the All-Star break, and a sparkling 0.72 ERA in his last four starts. After a blistering return to action this summer, deGrom has faltered to a 6.00 ERA in his last four starts.
Sailors pounce on Blue Jays as Luis Castillo throws like an ace
The Mariners will be back in the playoffs, thank you very much. The club, which ended a 21-year drought in October, came out against their top-ranked hosts, the Blue Jays. Led by Cal Raleigh’s two-run homer, they scored three runs in the top of the first inning, then handed the ball to Luis Castillo.
It turned out to be a lot.
The dynamic ace, acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in a trade-due blockbuster, bombarded the stellar Blue Jays squad. He struck out five, allowed just six hits and felt perfectly in control. Hard throwing reliever Andrés Muñoz cruised through the last five outs to give Seattle its first playoff victory since Game 3 of the 2001 ALCS.
After defeating Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah, the Mariners will enter Game 2 with a chance to advance to the ALDS against the Astros. Saturday’s game will pit Mariners starter Robbie Ray against his former club and Kevin Gausman, the starter signed an almost identical contract this winter to take his place.
Phillies explode for 6 points in 9th to overthrow Cardinals
Going into the ninth inning at St. Louis, it looked like the first big postseason moment for a Cardinals rookie would be the decisive hit in a Game 1 pitcher duel. In the end, 10 Phillies had struck, the Cardinals bullpen had melted, and 11th-grade player Jean Segura was the hero of his first post-season game.
After Phillies starter Zack Wheeler (6 1/3 innings) and Cardinals starter Jose Quintana (5 1/3 innings) both posted scoreless outings, it turned into a reliever battle. The Phillies surrendered first, allowing a two-run homer to rookie Juan Yepez. But the cardinals gave in more completely. Attempting a five-out save, St. Louis closest Ryan Helsley lost his command in the ninth. He got just three outs, walked two and dove Alec Bohm with a wild 101 mph fastball to force a run. When the Cardinals fired him, apparently concerned about an injury to his throwing hand – he left his last outing with a stuck finger – they brought in André Pallante. The rookie right-hander made sense, he gets a lot of groundstrokes and the Cardinals desperately needed a double play. But it didn’t work.
Segura threw a single down the right side that scored two and gave the Phillies the lead. Then the floodgates opened. Two more grounders drove in two more runs and Kyle Schwarber’s sacrifice fly made it 6-2. According to Sarah Langs of MLB.com, the Phillies became the first team in playoff history to score more than 6 runs in the ninth inning or later after going scoreless.
Recent bullpen convert Zach Eflin allowed a run but closed it, 6-3.
All told, the difference in the game — and perhaps eventually the series — may be the extra round of trust Wheeler has earned from manager Rob Thomson. Stretched, the Cardinals’ top relievers haven’t quite made it, and now they’ll have some serious questions in the bullpen ahead of a do-or-die Game 2.
Shane Bieber and José Ramírez help Guardians smother Rays in Game 1
What decade are we? Behind a vintage ace performance from Shane Bieber and a two-run homer from José Ramírez, the Guardians held off the Rays in a lightning-fast Game 1. Bieber went 7 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on a Jose Siri long ball. , and removing eight.
Rays starter Shane McClanahan was almost as good as Bieber, but he allowed Ramírez’s outburst that put Cleveland back on top almost immediately after Siri’s homer run. From there, Bieber shut it down. Cleveland skipper Terry Francona turned to closest untouchable Emmanuel Clase for the final four outs. In total, the game was completed in less than 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Cleveland will enter Game 2 on Saturday with an elimination opportunity in the new wildcard format. They send young curveball artist Triston McKenzie to the mound against the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow, an ace who only recently returned from Tommy John surgery.
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