On a night when the Yankees secured their first of hopefully 11 postseason victories, it was actually the other three games around the league that stole the spotlight. The Phillies and Braves kicked off the action with a high-scoring affair, the Astros followed with a thrilling comeback victory over the Mariners, and the Dodgers wrapped up the action stymying a comeback attempt from the Padres.
Let’s dive into the day’s action.
NLDS Game 1
Philadelphia Phillies 7, Atlanta Braves 6
(PHI leads, 1-0)
The Phillies got the Division Series round started with a bang, tagging Braves ace Max Fried for a pair in the first on four straight singles. Travis d’Arnaud responded with a leadoff home run in the second, but other than that it was all Phillies in the early going. Fried’s night only got worse from there, and he’d end up surrendering six runs (four earned) on eight hits in 3.1 innings. Philly scored a pair in the third on an Alec Bohm sac fly and Jean Segura RBI single and another pair in the fourth on a Nick Castellanos two-run single.
An Edmundo Sosa sac fly made it 7-1 Phillies heading to the bottom of the fifth, though a d’Arnaud two-run double in the bottom half cut that to 7-3. There the scores would stay until the bottom of the ninth, with Rob Thompson going to Zach Eflin to finish the game. He surrendered one-out singles to Ronald Acuña Jr. and Dansby Swanson, bringing Matt Olson to the plate.
The Braves traded for Olson during the offseason and shortly after inked him to an eight-year, $168 million extension, closing the door on keeping the face of the franchise Freddie Freeman in Atlanta. He went off on a tear his first week in Atlanta, but ended up posting somewhat of a down year by his standards while Freeman finished his first season in LA as the fourth-most valuable player in baseball. He erased much of the lingering regret over the past winter, crushing a three-run home run to pull the Braves within a run of tying it.
Atlanta’s comeback would fall just short, though, as in the end this game may go down as the Castellanos redemption game. He finished the season as the third-worst qualified hitter and tied for the fourth-worst fielder in baseball after signing a five-year, $100 million contract as part of Philly’s all offense, no defense winter spending spree. He went 3-for-5 with three RBI, and his diving catch put the lid on the Braves’ comeback attempt, likely winning over a significant chunk of the Phillies fanbase.
ALDS Game 1
(HOU leads, 1-0)
If this game is any indication of how the rest of the series will go, strap in folks. Seattle ambushed Justin Verlander, stringing together multiple base hits including a Julio Rodríguez two-run double in the second to hang four runs on the future first ballot Hall of Famer through two. Houston responded with a two-run Yordan Alvarez double in the bottom of the third, and it wasn’t the last we’d hear from the prodigious slugger. Momentum was still firmly in the Mariners’ camp at that point and they capitalized, tagging Verlander for a further two runs in the fourth on a J.P. Crawford solo shot, a Rodríguez triple, and a Ty France RBI double to extend the lead to 6-2 on 10 hits off JV.
Heading to the bottom of the eighth down 7-3 and facing the Mariners’ two highest leverage guys, things looked bleak for Houston. However, Andrés Muñoz and Paul Sewald had uncharacteristically shaky nights, which combined with clutch hitting from the home team allowed the Astros right back into the contest. Alex Bregman clubbed a two-run bomb in the eighth to cut the deficit to 7-5, setting up a grandstand finish. Sewald put a pair on in the bottom of the ninth, prompting Scott Servais to pull him for Robbie Ray. Ray leads all the majors with 108 home runs surrendered since the start of 2019, so what happened next went exactly how you might expect. Alvarez crushed a middle-middle sinker on a frozen rope to right to complete the comeback and walk-off the Mariners, 8-7.
Seemingly down and out, this Astros squad is looking scary. Despite losing key pieces of the roster every offseason — Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Zack Greinke, Carlos Correa, George Springer, etc. — each new guy they bring up fills the gap. Alvarez was the second-best hitter in baseball this year, Kyle Tucker is a star, and they haven’t skipped a beat transitioning from Correa to star rookie Jeremy Peña. In the rotation, Verlander will likely win his third Cy Young while Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Luis García, and Cristian Javier look like the rotation of the future. And now they’re winning games that looked unwinnable. Scary.
NLDS Game 1
Los Angeles Dodgers 5, San Diego Padres 3
(LAD leads, 1-0)
Like with the other two playoff games not involving the Yankees, one side jumped out to a big lead before the other team fought their way back into the contest. The Dodgers made a statement of intent in the first, with Trea Turner crushing a solo shot and Max Muncy an RBI single off Mike Clevinger to grab the early 2-0 lead. They’d add a further three in the third on RBI doubles from Will Smith and Gavin Lux, who would later come around to score on an error.
Rather than lament their situation, the Padres kept battling and answered with their own three-run inning in the fifth. Wil Myers got things started with a leadoff home run, followed by a Jake Cronenworth single, Ha-Seong Kim double, Trent Grisham RBI single, and Austin Nola sac fly to reduce the Dodger lead to 5-3.
That would spell the end of Julio Urías’ night, and with it the Padres hopes as the Dodgers bullpen pitched four scoreless to wrap up the 5-3 victory. The Dodgers were the best team in baseball during the regular season and played like it for much of this contest. They received contributions from hitters up and down the lineup, their starter provided a bend-but-don’t-break outing, and the bullpen pitched lights-out to secure the win. The Padres showed grit and character, but that alone is not enough against a superior opponent.