There were eight teams vying for four spots in the Division Series, and within two days we are down to just two teams. Sweeps were the name of the game on Saturday, and three teams were able to complete them in extremely close fashion — fitting for how MLB probably wanted this round of the playoffs to kick off. Let’s jump right into how three teams had their season end in the blink of an eye:
ALWC Game 2
Cleveland Guardians 1, Tampa Bay Rays 0 (15 innings)
(CLE wins, 2-0)
Pitching was the name of the game for this series in the first game, and that was further enforced in Game 2. But while the start of the series was one of the shortest games in recent postseason history, this one went deep into the afternoon thanks to a complete inability for either offense to figure out an effective response.
The starters for both teams were solid, with Tristan McKenzie going six shutout with eight strikeouts and Tyler Glasnow tossing five innings with five punchouts respectively. Neither one pitched the majority of this game, however, as the keys were handed over to the bullpen and it became a war of attrition. That’s a scenario where Cleveland would often be favored thanks to their elite top-end of the bullpen, but Tampa held serve in inning after inning. Being on the brink of elimination, Tampa was not conservative in running out some of their starters in relief either, sending out Drew Rasmussen and Corey Kluber to try and outlast the depth of the Guardians relievers.
Nine innings was not enough for this game, and so the first case of extra-innings without the Manfred ghost runner came into play in 2022. The lack of a free runner certainly dampened the chances of either of these two teams scoring, as the Rays tallied just six hits all game and the Guardians only mustered up five. Tampa was robbed of a potential tie-breaking hit in the 12th inning when José Ramírez showcased his elite defense at the hot corner, saving the day with his glove even when his bat was silenced for once:
Cleveland finally got the hit that mattered to lead off the bottom of the 15th when Oscar Gonzalez launched a ball into the seats in left for the walk-off home run:
That blast secured Cleveland the 2-0 sweep and a date with the Yankees in the Bronx on Tuesday for the ALDS. For the Rays, they went out on a whimper in a year where they took a sizeable step back, and their window in the AL East got a lot tighter this year.
ALWC Game 2
(SEA wins, 2-0)
Where the first game of the day featured elite pitching and defense, this one featured sizzling offense and a wild comeback. At first it appeared that the Jays were going to respond emphatically to even out the series after the Mariners shut them down in their own stadium — they scored in the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings to build an 8-1 lead, and it all started by battering their former Cy Young-winning pitcher from last season, Robbie Ray. Teoscar Hernández did the heavy lifting there, launching two home runs against his former teammate.
Seattle was shell-shocked for the first four innings, but they started to come alive against Alek Manoah in the fifth inning with a sacrifice fly to get on the board, and they continued to build momentum in the sixth inning. Three straight singles opened up the frame, and a wild pitch scored the first runner. Carlos Santana took advantage of the erratic Tim Mayza and deposited this ball into the stands:
Two innings later, after the Blue Jays managed to get one run back, Anthony Bass entered the game and gave up back-to-back hits to Eugenio Suarez and Cal Raleigh to start off the eighth. Another pair of singles loaded the bases and brought the winning run to the plate, but closer Jordan Romano entered and nearly stopped the rally cold with a pair of quick strikeouts. Then J.P. Crawford dunked a ball into center field that just found the Bermuda Triangle of grass in-between the Jays defenders that unloaded the bases.
Romano got out of the rest of the inning without giving the M’s the lead, but that didn’t last long. Doubles from Raleigh and Adam Frazier in the ninth inning finally burst the bubble, and the Mariners overcame an 8-1 deficit to lead 10-9, which would be the final score of the game. It was a wild opening series for Seattle’s first postseason appearance in 21 years, and it was a brutal way to go out for Toronto after entering 2022 as division favorites with aspirations of a World Series run.
NLWC Game 2
(Series tied, 1-1)
After Max Scherzer bombed out of Game 1 in this series, the Mets turned to their other ace in Jacob DeGrom to keep their 101-win season alive. DeGrom hadn’t looked much like the man who was the best pitcher in baseball of late, but he came through on this night. He pitched six innings of two-run ball, allowing a solo homer to Trent Grisham but otherwise appearing dominant once more.
On the flip side, Blake Snell didn’t have much of anything going. The Padres yanked him in the fourth inning after he walked his sixth batter of the game and gave up a single to put the Mets back on top. Nick Martinez bailed San Diego out of a jam that inning to limit the damage, but they wouldn’t get so lucky in the seventh. Adrian Morejon entered in relief of Martinez, who had allowed a solo shot to Pete Alonso in the fifth inning, and promptly allowed a single and a pair of walks to load the bases. Jeff McNeil took full advantage of the struggling pitcher, lacing a ball to right that scored everybody.
A single and a sacrifice fly later, and it was 7-2 Mets. Buck Showalter had chosen to relieve DeGrom with his closer, Edwin Diaz, for the seventh inning, perhaps learning from his mistake in leaving Zack Britton to dry when he was the Orioles manager. He may have also seen Toronto blow that massive lead and got nervous about his own lead, as he kept Diaz out for the eighth inning. Diaz got the first two outs, but Showalter summoned Adam Ottavino for the final out before entrusting him with the ninth, and it got interesting there. A hit-by-pitch followed by three walks forced in a run and brought the tying run to the plate, prompting another pitching change to Seth Lugo, who mercifully shut the door and prevented the Mets from blowing their season (for now).
NLWC Game 2
(PHI wins, 2-0)
The Phillies didn’t have a ton of offense on this night, but they made it count. Bryce Harper got the Phils on the board early in the second with a solo home run, and in the fifth inning Alec Bohm led off with a ground-rule double and advanced to third on a sac bunt. A hit-by-pitch and a walk loaded the bases for Kyle Schwarber, but the big slugger only lifted a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 2-0.
That would be all that the Phillies staff needed, as Aaron Nola flummoxed the Cardinals lineup for 6.2 innings. The vaunted middle of the order for St. Louis never got going in this series, in particular MVP candidates Nolan Arenado and Kyle Goldschmidt who went a combined 1-for-15 in these two games. That’s the value of the higher seeds playing out, as a quick cold spell from your best players can instantly end your season in these Wild Card matches.
The Phillies did give the Cardinals one shot, and of course it came in the ninth inning. St. Louis was down to their last out when they got back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners and bring the winning run to the plate, but Tommy Edman popped out to third base to end the game and the Cardinals’ season. Philadelphia advances, with Bryce Harper winning the first postseason series of his career, and St. Louis bids adieu to two legends in Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina (and most likely Adam Wainwright as well).