The 2022 post-season is underway and, as in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the first round is a best-of-three wildcard series. This time there are four teams involved in each league instead of the eight that qualified two years ago. The other difference is that this time there are fans in the stadiums. More after the jump.
These post-season posts will be mainly for discussion of the games. I’ll try to add a few statistical curiosities that you hopefully haven’t read elsewhere. I might even pose a quiz question or two. So let’s get started.
Rays vs. Guardians
Now in their 25th season, the Rays are appearing in their fourth consecutive post-season, matching their total post-season appearances for the first 21 years of franchise history. Tampa Bay comes into this series ice cold, having lost 5 straight games in which they scored a total of only 8 runs. In their first season with their new moniker, the Guardians enter the post-season as baseball’s hottest team over the last 30 games of the season, with a 24-6 record over that stretch.
Cleveland takes game 1 in a low-scoring affair with all of the runs coming on two home runs, a solo shot by Jose Siri for the Rays and a two-run blast by Jose Ramirez for the Guardians in reply. Both starters (Shane Bieber and Shane McClanahan) went 7+ innings, something that didn’t happen even once in the 2021 post-season. Those dominating starts made for a very tidy game time of 2 hours, 17 minutes, the shortest post-season game since 1996. In his second season, Siri has played in the post-season both years and for different franchises, becoming the 11th player who can say that, but the 6th to do so in just the past three years. I don’t know if there have been other post-season games with both starting pitchers having the same first name and with all of the runs driven in by players with the same first name; I’ll let someone else try to find that out.
Padres vs. Mets
The Mets were in first place after each of their first 135 games, save for one game way back in April. And, they stayed ahead, tied or within a half game every day after that until the final week when they were swept in Atlanta and, in so doing, lost the head-to-head season series with the Braves by a 10-9 count. That season series win gave the Braves the tie-breaker over the Mets when the two clubs finished with identical 101-61 records. All of that is to say there must be a considerable letdown in the Met clubhouse in having to navigate the wildcard round while the defending champs get a bye. The Padres stayed within reach of the West-leading Dodgers through the first half of the season, trailing by only 2½ games at the end of June. But, treading water after that (a 43-41 record) quickly dropped the Friars far in arrears of LA who rolled on to a franchise record 110 win season.
In game 1, San Diego got to Mets ace Max Scherzer early and often in a 7-1 romp, while Padre starter Yu Darvish scattered 6 hits over 7 IP. Padre batters went deep four times against Scherzer who becomes the oldest (by 23 days) of 11 pitchers (including Darvish) who have suffered that indignity in a post-season game.
Phillies vs. Cardinals
St. Louis makes the post-season dance for the fourth straight season, and 16th time in the past 23 years. For Philadelphia, it’s their first post-season appearance in 11 years, as the Phils, with a 65-46 record under interim (for now) manager Rob Thomson, held off the Brewers to take the final wildcard spot. In the 29 seasons of three division play (both clubs were in the NL East before that), this is only the second time they have faced each other in the post-season, with the Cardinals winning the first in 2011 en route to their World Series triumph.
In game 1, the two starters (Zack Wheeler for the Phils, and Jose Quintana for the Cards) were both unblemished, with Quintana pitching into the 6th inning and Wheeler into the 7th. St. Louis drew first blood soon after Wheeler’s departure with a 2-run pinch-HR from Juan Yepez. That lead held up until the 9th when Cardinal closer Ryan Helsley, who was being asked to get the last 5 outs, allowed a hit and two walks to load the bases and then plunked the next batter to get the Phils within one. Helsley then departed with some sort of injury in his fingers, and was relieved by Andre Pallante, who induced soft contact by the next three hitters but no outs. When the dust had settled, six runs had scored to give the opener to the visitors. But, the Cardinals might have escaped being down just one run as, with runners on the corners, Paul Goldschmidt, after fielding a one-hopper in front of first, may have been able to turn a 3-6-3 double play to get out of the inning; instead he elected to go the plate, but pinch-runner Edmundo Sosa slid home just ahead of the tag.
I was surprised to learn that Yepez is the first player with a pinch-HR in his first career post-season game. And, he did it on the first pitch he saw. Yepez’s home run also marked the first time that the first run or runs of a post-season series have come via a pinch-HR.
Mariners vs. Blue Jays
The expansion cousins from 1977 meet for the first time in the post-season, after both teams finished one win shy of a post-season berth last year. The Mariners, making their first post-season appearance since their 116 win season in 2001, won the last 5 games of their season series with Toronto, and continued their mastery over the Blue Jays with a 4-0 whitewash, jumping on Blue Jay starter Alek Monah for a quick 3-0 first inning lead, and then cruising behind the dominating work of their starter, Luis Castillo, who pitched into the 8th inning. Seattle’s rookie phenom Julio Rodriguez got plunked twice (and scored both times); he becomes the first player to make that painful post-season debut.
Four starters went 7+ IP in the four game 1s. It’s just the fourth time this century that that’s happened on the same day in the post-season, and the first since five starters turned the trick on October 9, 2015.
Rays vs. Guardians
The Guardians completed the sweep with an epic 1-0 win on Oscar Gonzalez‘s home run leading off the home half of the 15th inning. Cleveland put a runner in scoring position only in the 6th inning, when the Guardians loaded the bases with nobody out, but a strikeout and double play grounder snuffed out that golden opportunity. The Rays threatened three times in extra innings, getting a runner to third in the 10th, 12th and 15th, but were foiled by a spectacular stretch and scoop by first baseman Josh Naylor on a third to first groundout to end the 12th, and a pair of clutch K’s by winning pitcher Sam Hentges to end the 15th.
This was the first post-season game to be scoreless through 13 innings and, thus, the longest post-season team shutout win. Gonzalez becomes the second youngest player, after Bill Mazeroski in the 1960 World Series, with a walk-off home run in a series clinching game. He is also the second rookie with that accomplishment, after the Astros’ Chris Burke in an 18-inning game to end a 2005 NLDS against the Braves. Four runs scored by both teams are the fewest in the first two games of a post-season series since the Yankees and Phillies combined for four runs to start the 1950 WS. The record low is two runs by the Yankees and Dodgers in the 1949 WS, with each team posting a 1-0 shutout win. Fifteen pitchers in the game each allowing zero runs sets a new post-season record, eclipsing the previous record of 14 set in these two extra-inning games. Thirty-nine strikeouts in the game eclipses by two the previous post-season high set in this game.
Padres vs. Mets
The Mets equalized with ace Jacob deGrom on the hill, breaking open a tight one-run game with a four spot in the 7th against Padre reliever Adrian Morejon, who faced four batters in the frame and failed to record an out. Morejon is the sixth Cuban born lefthander to pitch in the post-season. Quiz: who were the pitchers the only two times that two Cuban born southpaws appeared in the same post-season game?
Stathead has stopped working as I am typing this. So, statistical oddities will have to wait. I’ll add some when I can.
Phillies vs. Cardinals
Philadelphia blanked the Cardinals 2-0 to complete the sweep, behind ace Aaron Nola‘s 6⅔ innings allowing only 4 hits, and solid work from the bullpen. Bryce Harper delivered a mammoth 435 foot home run, and Kyle Schwarber provided a sacrifice fly for the Phillies’ only runs. In what is expected to be their final major league game, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina both delivered hits, Molina’s coming with two outs in the 9th to move a Cardinal baserunner to third for the first time in the game.
Mariners vs. Blue Jays
Seattle completed its sweep with a comeback from 7 runs down, winning 10-9 on a 9th inning 2-out RBI double by Adam Frazier. The comeback started with four runs in the 6th inning, the key knock a 2-out 3-run home run by Carlos Santana off of Blue Jay reliever Tim Mayza, who had just entered the game to face the veteran switch-hitter. Seattle tied the game in the 8th with another four spot, keyed by J.P. Crawford‘s bases clearing 2-out bloop double to short center field.
Teoscar Hernandez becomes the third Blue Jay with a post-season multi-HR game, with the first two also coming in losing contests. Blue Jay closer Jordan Romano, making his post-season debut, took the loss and was charged with a blown save. Quiz: which other pitcher had the same unfortunate post-season debut in a series clinching game?
Padres vs. Mets
In the only series to go the distance, Padre starter Joe Musgrove, making his first post-season start, stymied the Mets completely, allowing only a single and a walk in 7 shutout innings. Musgrove’s stuff was so dominating that Met manager Buck Showalter resorted to some serious gamesmanship to try to get him off his game. It didn’t work as Showalter’s request to the umpiring crew to search Musgrove’s person for illegal substances proved unavailing, and the search and its attendant delay had no discernible effect on Musgrove’s performance. Padre hitters had more luck facing Met starter Chris Bassitt and a parade of following relievers, building a 4 run lead before the Mets had their first baserunner, en route to a 6-0 whitewash of the home side. Musgrove becomes the 5th pitcher to allow one hit or none in 7+ scoreless IP in his maiden post-season start. He is also the only pitcher with such a start in a sudden death game at any point of a post-season career.