Day three of the league divisional series took place with four games — two per league — on Wednesday. The day brought us a pitchers’ duel, a furious comeback to avoid elimination and plenty of fireworks throughout the day.
MLB playoff scores
FINAL: Braves, 2 Marlins 0 (box score) — Atlanta leads series 2-0
FINAL: Athletics 9, Astros 7 (box score) — Houston leads series 2-1
FINAL: Rays 8, Yankees 4 (box score) — Tampa Bay leads series 2-1
LIVE: Padres vs. Dodgers (FS1) — Los Angeles leads series 1-0
The story of the playoffs through Tuesday night was the Yankees just pounding their opponents, stud pitchers and all, into oblivion with their powerful offense. The Bronx Bombers moniker was alive and well. The Rays got a bit better pitching in Game 2 and stepped up their power game to even the series. They followed with some similar medicine in Game 3, outhitting the Yankees 13-7 while homering three times to the Yankees’ one.
Plenty of game balls to pass out from the Tampa Bay (in San Diego) dugout, such as:
- Charlie Morton allowed just two runs (one earned) in five innings against this Yankees offense that had scored 36 runs on 43 hits in the four previous playoff games this year.
- Randy Arozarena is now 8 for 12 in the series with a home run in all three games.
- Kevin Kiermaier and backup catcher Michael Perez from the 8-9 spots in the Rays’ order combined for four hits, including a home run for each, and six RBI.
The Rays now look to close down the Yankees and avoid seeing Gerrit Cole in Game 5. If they do, it would mark the second trip to the ALCS in franchise history and the first since 2008.
Oh, there’s more from Game 3 …
Yankees frustrated with strike zone… again
For the second night in a row, the Yankees took exception to the strike zone in Game 3 of their ALDS matchup with Tampa. On Tuesday, the Yankees grew discontent with the calls being made by CB Bucknor; on Wednesday, their ire was directed toward Mark Carlson, who made some questionable calls during the third and fourth innings of Game 3.
The Yankees’ beef with Carlson started when he called a pair of borderline Charlie Morton strikes in a pivotal at-bat versus Luke Voit with the bases loaded:
In the next half-inning, this ball call on a full count from Masahiro Tanaka to Willy Adames put two runners on and eliminated a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play:
Kevin Kiermaier subsequently homered, giving the Rays a 4-1 lead.
Obviously it’s easy to analyze an umpire’s calls from the couch or the press box, but the context here is important. The Yankees felt they were wronged on Tuesday, resulting in a loss, and so Wednesday appears more to be more of the same. Whether or not that’s a fair evaluation is up to interpretation, but if you accept the premise as valid then it’s an understandable response.
A’s stay alive, tie franchise record 5 HRs in playoff game
Wednesday afternoon, the Oakland Athletics kept their 2020 season alive with a 9-7 win (box score) over the Houston Astros. The Astros lead the best-of-five series, 2-1. Oakland avoided elimination thanks to a franchise record tying five home runs in Game 3, but scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning via a sacrifice fly.
Despite their series deficit, Oakland has set a franchise record for the most home runs in a postseason series with 10 blasts so far:
- 10 HR – 2020 ALDS
- *9 HR – 1989 World Series vs. Giants
- 8 HR – 2002 ALDS vs. Twins
The Astros have hit eight homers in the series.
Facing elimination, Oakland hung with the Astros in Game 3 thanks to solo home runs from Tommy La Stella, Mark Canha, Matt Olson and Marcus Semien. All those homers came off Astros starter Jose Urquidy, who got the nod in Game 3 because Zack Greinke is dealing with arm soreness.
Urquidy finished his night after 4 1/3 innings where he gave up four earned runs and five hits while striking out three and walking one. A’s lefty Jesus Luzardo got the win and posted a similar line as Urquidy after he delivered 4 1/3 innings of work where he gave up four earned runs and five hits while striking out two and walking two.
A five-run fifth inning from Houston appeared it might close out the game and this series — their win probability was at 89.3 percent after that inning — but the A’s didn’t go quietly. After Astros reliever Josh James gave up back-to-back singles in the seventh inning, he gave up a three-run home run to A’s third baseman Chad Pinder to tie the game, 7-7.
The go-ahead run was, surprisingly, not scored on a home run. Oakland got a run on the board in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly. They added an insurance run on another sac fly later in the inning.
Houston threatened once again in the eighth inning, but stranded two runners in scoring position. Oakland reliever Liam Hendriks got pinch hitter Josh Reddick swinging on a 98.2-mph fastball for the final out. Hendriks was superb in his 37-pitch relief outing, finishing with the following line: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 K, 0 BB.
All in all, the Athletics and Astros have combined for 18 home runs (so far) in this Division Series. That’s 18 homers in just three games. The most home runs in a single Division Series came during the 1995 ALDS between the Yankees and Mariners in which the two clubs knocked 22 homers. The most home runs hit in any single postseason series is 26; from the 2008 ALCS between the Red Sox and Rays.
Eleven of the A’s 16 runs have come via homers. That’s not just a trend for this series. In fact, we’re seeing the majority of runs in this year’s postseason getting scored on home runs.
D’Arnaud goes deep again for Braves
The Mets released Travis d’Arnaud last May and he almost immediately became one of the best catchers in baseball. I know it’s cliché to pick on the Mets but good gravy. That doesn’t happen to any other franchise. D’Arnaud hit .263/.323/.459 for the Rays last year, then .321/.386/.533 for the Braves this year, then clobbered a huge three-run home run in NLDS Game 1 on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, he added another home run. D’Arnaud took Pablo Lopez deep to give the Braves a 2-0 lead, which held up as the final score. To the action footage:
Dansby Swanson hit a solo home run earlier in the game to get the Braves on the board. D’Arnaud now has five career postseason home runs — he has two this series plus three with the 2015 Mets — tied with Yasmani Grandal and Salvador Perez for second most among active catchers. Only Gary Sanchez (7) has more.
D’Arnaud is doing more than hitting the ball over the fence too. He helped rookie righty Ian Anderson navigate 5 2/3 excellent and scoreless innings in Game 2. Anderson struck out eight Marlins, including four in a six-batter stretch at one point early in the game. He has been a godsend for a team that desperately needed rotation help.
The Braves shut out the Marlins in Game 3 — MLB.com’s Sarah Langs notes the Braves join the 1905 Giants and 1966 Orioles as the only teams with three shutouts in their first four postseason games — to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. Historically, teams with a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series go on to win the series more than 91 percent of the time.