With the wildcard round completed, it’s on to the division series. Three of this year’s division series feature teams from within the same division. So, no secrets and no love lost. More after the jump.
Phillies vs. Braves
The defending champions take on their divisional rival in the first post-season meeting between these clubs since the Phillies knocked off the defending NL champion Braves in the 1993 NLCS.
In game 1, the visiting Phils got to Braves’ starter Max Fried early, with a deuce in the first inning after four consecutive two out singles. Fried hurt his own cause with a throwing error in the third leading to two unearned runs, and was charged with two more in the fourth, both scoring after Fried had departed the game. Travis d’Arnaud‘s two RBI double in the 5th got the Braves closer, but they still trailed 7-3. The Phillies hung on to that lead until the 9th, when Matt Olson‘s 3-run blast got the home side to within one. But, Zach Eflin retired the next two Brave batters to preserve the Phillies’ 7-6 win. Fried’s 6 runs allowed are the most by a starting pitcher in his team’s first post-season game, among pitchers who started and won the previous season’s clinching World Series game (Quiz: which starting pitcher also allowed 6 runs in his team’s first post-season game, after winning, but not starting, the previous season’s clinching World Series game?).
Game 2 was a tight pitcher’s duel between the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler and the Braves’ Kyle Wright. With two out in a scoreless game in the home 6th, Wheeler hit Ronald Acuna Jr. in the right forearm or elbow, after which Acuna took some time to shake off the effects of being plunked. Whether or not that delay affected Wheeler, he proceeded to walk the next batter, and then allowed three straight singles, none hit hard, to put the Braves up 3-0. That would be the final score as neither team threatened after that.
Game 3 turned decisively in the space of 5 pitches with the Phillies batting in the 3rd inning. With one out in a scoreless game and Brandon Marsh on first, Bryson Stott doubled down the right field line on a 2-2 pitch, scoring Marsh. With first base open, Kyle Schwarber was walked intentionally. Then followed home run, single, home run, single, all on the first pitch, to make the score 6-0. The long balls, both no-doubters, were provided by Rhys Hopkins and Bryce Harper. First pitch hits by four consecutive batters is a post-season first for games for which pitch count data are available. Among those games, three consecutive first pitch hits has been achieved three times:
- by the Yankees in the 3rd inning of game 2 of the 1939 World Series
- by the Indians in the 4th inning of game 3 of the 1948 World Series
- by the Tigers in the 1st inning of game 2 of the 1984 World Series
- worthy of mention also are the three first pitch hits and an intentional walk by four consecutive Brewer batters in the 6th inning of game 2 of a 2011 NLDS
Phillie ace Aaron Nola turned in 6 solid innings as the home side cruised to a 9-1 romp over the Braves. Nola becomes the 13th pitcher to begin his post-season career with two starts of 6+ IP allowing 5 hits or less and one run or less.
The Phillies completed the upset of the defending champs with another lopsided win in game 4. J.T. Realmuto makes history with the first inside-the-park post-season home run by a catcher. Bryce Harper’s .500/.529/1.063 slash for the series set Phillie LDS records for BA, SLG and OPS. Harper and Realmuto posted identical 5-1-2-2 box score lines with a home run, the first time two players on a team have done so in a post-season game.
Padres vs. Dodgers
This series marks just the second time these teams have met in the post-season, the first coming in the 2020 NLDS when the Dodgers swept the series en route to their world championship. LA was 14-5 against the Padres this season, their twelfth straight year winning the season series. Fourteen wins against San Diego are second only to the 16-2 record by the 1974 Dodgers en route to that club’s NL championship.
In the opener, the Dodgers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead against Padre starter Mike Clevinger. San Diego got to Dodger starter Julio Urias for a three spot in the 5th, but could get no closer as the Dodger bullpen shut down the Padres the rest of the way. Clevinger’s 3.2 IP in his two post-season starts for the Friars is a record low for a Padre pitcher in consecutive post-season starts, one out fewer than Eric Show managed over his last two starts of the 1984 post-season. Padre center-fielder Trent Grisham hit safely for a seventh consecutive post-season game, one shy of the Padre record held by, who else, Tony Gwynn, also in 1984.
In game 2, starters Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish were both shaky early, resulting in a 3-3 tie after three innings. Both righted the ship somewhat, with scoreless frames in the 4th and 5th, before handing off to their respective bullpens. Dodger shortstop Trea Turner‘s fielding error on what could have been an inning-ending double play ball led to a Padre go-ahead run in the 6th, with a Jake Cronenworth home run in the 8th rounding out the scoring for the visitors. The Dodgers threatened in the 6th with runners at the corners and nobody out, and again in the 7th with the bases loaded and one out, but Padre reliever Robert Suarez walked the tightrope to get out of both jambs unscathed. Suarez is the
third fourth Venezuelan-born rookie pitcher to allow no runs over his first 3 post-season games (Quiz: who are the other two three?). Trea Turner joins Corey Seager (2019) and Derek Jeter (1997, 2002) as shortstops with home runs in their teams’ first two games of the post-season. Darvish allowed home runs in each of the first three innings to become the 9th starting pitcher to win a post-season game with 3 or more home runs allowed (Quiz: which of those pitchers accomplished this feat to win game 7 of the World Series?).
At a raucous Petco Park for game 3, the Padre bullpen continued their post-season mastery over the Dodgers, blanking their I-5 rivals for the third straight game. Trent Grisham’s fourth inning homer proved to be the difference in a 2-1 win for the home side. The Dodgers rolled the dice starting Tony Gonsolin, who had pitched just once since August 23rd, but Gonsolin wasn’t sharp and didn’t make it through the second inning. Gonsolin is the fourth pitcher to have one loss or none over his first 24 starts (excluding “opener” starts) of a season. Quiz: which of those pitchers, like Gonsolin, lost his first post-season start that same year?
San Diego completed the most unlikely upset of the 111 win Dodgers with a come-from-behind 5-3 win in game 4. LA finally broke through against the Padre bullpen with a singleton run in the 7th to extend their lead to 3-0. That lone tally, however, was the result of a bases loaded nobody out jamb, so allowing just one run was really a win for the Padres, with reliever Tim Hill quelling the potential big inning. The Dodgers got into their own bases loaded nobody out pickle in the bottom of the inning but weren’t able to put out the fire, with Jake Cronenworth delivering a two out 2-RBI single to cap a 5 run inning and put the home side ahead for good. Josh Hader struck out the side in the 9th for his 3rd save of the series, becoming the 12th pitcher to do so in an LDS. San Diego finished 22 games behind LA in the NL West; that is the largest such deficit overcome in a post-season series since the 93-58 White Sox upset the 116-36 Cubs in the 1906 World Series. San Diego has beaten two 100 win teams in this post-season, matching the feat of the 1998 Padres. The Red Sox (2004 and 2018) are the only other franchise with two such post-seasons.
Three 100 win teams going down before the LCS round has happened only once before, in 2002, when the Yankees, Athletics and Braves all lost division series. Two teams winning fewer than 90 games will now face each other in the NLCS, a first for any LCS series. That has also happened only once in a World Series in a full-length season, in 2014 when the Giants beat the Royals.
Mariners vs. Astros
This is the first post-season series between these franchises. Houston won this year’s season series, as they have done for 7 of the 10 seasons Houston has been in the AL; they lost in the other three years by the narrow 10-9 margin.
In a wild game 1, Seattle led 4-0 after two innings and 7-3 after seven, but couldn’t hang on against the defending AL champs. One game after coming back from an 8th inning four run deficit to win, the Mariners took the loss after leading by four in the 8th, allowing a 2-run blast by Alex Bregman, and a walk-off 3-run shot by Yordan Alvarez in the 9th against lefty Robbie Ray, making just his 5th relief appearance in 230 regular and post-season games. Bringing in Ray to face Alvarez, who is equally dangerous against lefties and righties (.998/1.030 OPS vs LHP/RHP in 2022, and .963/.980 for his career), seems a curious decision by manager Scott Servais, especially since Seattle had one of the best bullpens in the game this season, ranking 2nd in the majors in WHIP, BA and OBP, and because Ray has been knocked around of late, allowing 6 home runs in only 14.1 IP over his last three starts, including a pair of bombs allowed against Toronto just 3 days before. After leading the majors this season in ERA, ERA+ and WHIP, Astro starter Justin Verlander allowed 10 hits and 6 runs over his four innings of work, those totals the highest and second highest in his 31 post-season starts. Alvarez’s 5 RBI tied the Astro post-season record, and his 1.054 WPA established a new major league record for a post-season game.
Game 2 was a tight pitching duel between Mariner ace Luis Castillo and Astro left-hander Framber Valdez. Castillo allowed just 5 hits over his 7 innings of work, but two of them were home runs, including a go-ahead 2-run blast by Yordan Alvarez in the 6th. Valdez allowed 4 hits and a pair of runs over his 5.2 IP, and the Astro bullpen closed out the game unblemished. Alvarez establishes a new record for cumulative WPA in consecutive post-season games and, counting last season’s final post-season game, in three straight games.
The Astros completed the series sweep with a 1-0 victory in 18 innings, tied for the longest ever post-season game, and setting a new mark for the longest post-season team shutout, surpassing the 15 innings by the Guardians and Rays just 7 days earlier. This game was the first in the post-season with 20+ K’s for both teams, and establishes a new post-season record with 42 total K’s. Eighteen pitchers used by both teams ties the post-season record, and 17 of them allowing zero runs surpasses the previous record of 15 set last week in Cleveland. The hero of the day was Houston’s rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena with his home run leading off the 18th inning; the other three 18 inning post-season games were also decided by a solo home run. Luis Garcia pitched the last 5 innings for the win; it was the 5th post-season game with two pitchers on a team each logging 5+ IP.
Houston reaches the ALCS for the 6th straight year, breaking the previous record of 5 consecutive seasons, by Oakland from 1971 to 1975. The NLCS record is 8 straight seasons, by Atlanta from 1991 to 1999.
Guardians vs. Yankees
This is the 6th time these franchises have met in the post-season, with the Yankees holding a 3-2 series edge over their five previous meetings. The Yankees won this year’s season series 5-1; in the 28 seasons these teams have met in the three division era, New York holds a commanding 21-5 edge, with two seasons tied.
Game 1 was a tight pitching duel between Yankee ace Gerrit Cole and Guardian right-hander Cal Quantrill, who posted a 15-5 record over 186.1 IP in his first season as a full-time starter. The teams traded early solo homers before the Yankees pushed across an unearned run in the 5th. The home side might have had a bigger inning, but a base-running blunder by Josh Donaldson proved costly as Donaldson was tagged out as he jogged between first and second thinking he had hit a home run that had bounced back onto the field (his shot down the right field line hit the top of the fence and bounced back into play without being touched by a fan). The next inning, the Yankees finished the scoring for both teams with a two-run blast by Anthony Rizzo following an unintentional leadoff walk to Aaron Judge. For the second time in franchise history, Cleveland has begun a post-season with only four runs scored over their first 3 games. The first time, in 1920, the Indians won the World Series. Quiz: which team, with the same start to their post-season, most recently won the World Series?
Game 2 was another tight, low-scoring affair. New York took an early first inning lead after Giancarlo Stanton thought he had walked on a 3-1 pitch from Guardian ace Shane Bieber. The umpire thought otherwise and called Stanton back to the plate; but, Stanton wasn’t complaining after he deposited the next offering in the seats for a 2-0 Yankee lead. Cleveland knotted things with singleton runs in the 4th and 5th, and the game stayed tied through the end of regulation. In the 10th, the Yankees called on starter Jameson Taillon to face the heart of the Guardian lineup. Taillon induced bloops by the first two batters but both found turf, plating the go-ahead run after an off-line throw by Josh Donaldson and some daring baserunning by Jose Ramirez allowed him to reach third base to open the inning. Josh Naylor drove in an insurance run with a line drive double to the warning track that was misjudged by center-fielder Harrison Bader who broke in on the ball only to have it sail over his head. Guardian closer Emmanuel Clase recorded the last 7 outs for the win.
The Yankees connected for the long ball in game 3, chasing Guardian starter Triston McKenzie with a pair of 2-run blasts, including the first of the series by Aaron Judge. The Guardians managed singleton runs in the 1st, 2nd and 6th innings, needing three hits in each of those frames to push across their tallies. A third Yankee home run in the 7th extended the visitors’ lead to 5-3, with that score holding as the home side took their final time at bat against lefty Wandy Peralta, who was still on the hill for New York after entering the game back in the 7th. After Peralta allowed a pair of one out hits to put the tying runs on base, and having thrown 27 pitches, manager Aaron Boone went to righty Clarke Schmidt. A single to the left side and an infield hit that way against a defense shifted to the right plated one run and left the bases loaded. Schmidt struck out Josh Naylor for the second out, but a single up the middle by Oscar Gonzalez scored the tying and winning runs. With that game-winning knock, Gonzalez joined this select company of players with multiple walk-off hits in the same post-season, while becoming the first rookie with that accomplishment.
The Yankees struck early in game 4, going up 3-0 after a 2nd inning 2-run blast from Harrison Bader. That would prove to be all the runs the visitors would need as seven strong innings from Gerrit Cole supported by effective relief work from Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta yielded a 4-2 victory to square the series. Cole’s winning effort marked the 17th time a Yankee starter has won a potential elimination game. Quiz: who is the only pitcher in the division era (since 1969) with two such winning starts for the Yankees?
The Yankees completed the comeback in game 5, following the same script as in game 4 with an early home run (this time by Giancarlo Stanton) to take a 3-0 lead, en route to a 5-1 win over a game Cleveland side that was ultimately overmatched against Yankee starting pitching. This game was originally expected to be a bullpen game by both teams but a weather postponement allowed New York to come back with game 2 starter Nestor Cortes on three days rest. Cleveland might have done the same with their ace Shane Bieber, but instead elected to stick with their original plan and use Aaron Civale (5-6, 4.92 ERA in 20 starts) to start the game and, hopefully, hand off to the bullpen after 3 or 4 effective innings. That was the plan but it was too tall an order for Civale who, after not pitching for 13 days, was able to retire just one of the five batters he faced. Mindful of those three days of rest for Cortes, the Yankees pulled him after 5 innings and just 61 pitches, the second lowest pitch total by a starter winning a post-season game (Quiz: which starting pitcher threw the fewest pitches to win a post-season game?). New York’s bullpen took it the rest of the way, yielding 5 hits over 4 scoreless innings and not allowing the tying run to come to the plate. The win for Cortes marks the 18th time a Yankee starter has won a potential elimination game, and the third time it has happened in consecutive games (Cleveland was also the victim in 2017 when Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino brought the Yankees back from a 2-0 series deficit to square that ALDS).