On July 23, 2020, the road ahead was filled with an unsettling amount of uncertainty. Postseason baseball seemed like eons away. But, here it is. We made it to postseason baseball. October baseball. Lets pretend like it’s October.
A clash of power was summoned on the first day of the Wild Card round as four games set precedent to the 2020 postseason. From the Twin Cities, to Oakland, the Trop and Believeland — or is it, Beibland? — baseball’s most prominent hitters paved a path to victory for their respective teams.
Valdez, Astros Find Footing to Propel Over Twins
The first Wild Card series game was played up in the Twin Cities as the Minnesota Twins welcomed the No. 6 seeded Houston Astros to Target Field. With home field advantage, the Twins could not find the momentum to break their 17-playoff game losing streak, as they fell to the defending American League champions 4-1 Tuesday afternoon.
Forty-year-old slugger Nelson Cruz was the first to draw blood in the 2020 playoffs, as he slashed a RBI single to left field to give the Twins a 1-0 lead in the third inning.
Though Kenta Maeda threw five stellar innings of two-hit ball, the Twins bullpen could not seamlessly work through a yearning Astros lineup, allowing Houston to score four runs on two singles and a bases-loaded walk.
Framber Valdez came to the Astros pitching defense, taking the mound to pitch five shutout innings. Despite running into trouble in the bottom of the ninth, Valdez was able to close out the game by getting Willians Astudillo to ground into a game-ending double-play.
Strutting his best pitches, the 26-year-old lefty’s sinker averaged 90-plus-mph, carving a masterful performance against the Twins lineup that was desperate for hits.
“They told me [I’d be entering the game] before the game, I knew what the plan was coming in, that’s why I was prepared,” Valdez said after gaining his first postseason victory. “I was prepared to come in and be a successful reliever and that’s what I did today.”
Abreu, Grandal and Others Rally Behind Giolito, As Pitcher Neared Perfection
Magic was in the air in Oakland for the Chicago White Sox as Lucas Giolito pitched six perfect innings until Tommy La Stella singled in the seventh inning. Despite losing his perfect bid, the White Sox offense didn’t let Giolito’s outing go to waste as the club’s home run leader José Abreu lifted his team to a 3-0 lead over the Oakland Athletics with a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning.
Alongside Abreu, Cuban native Yasmani Grandal, Tim Anderson and Adam Engel were all home run contributors in the White Sox’s 4-1 victory over the A’s.
In 2020, Abreu has raked through the American League rankings with a .317 average (4th in the AL) 19 home runs (2nd in the AL to Yankees slugger Luke Voit), 60 RBI (most in the league) and .617 slugging percentage (1st in AL).
The White Sox are looking to win their first postseason series since 2005, since winning the World Series against the Houston Astros in 2005 — the same year Venezuelan manager Ozzie Guillén was calling the shots. In the last 10 games of the 2020 season, the White Sox went 2-8, relinquishing their position on top the American League Central to the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians. They look forward to reclaiming their glory as they take on the A’s tomorrow in Oakland.
Margot’s Big Moment Lifts Rays and Spirits After Facing Personal Tragedy This Year
Nothing about this year has been normal. For many, far from normal was being stuck at home on days upon end in self-quarantine, for others it’s grieving the unimaginable losses of loved ones due to COVID-19. Tampa Bay Rays Manuel Margot is one of those people. Margot lost his father from complications caused by COVID-19.
Today, he hit a two-run home run to give the Rays the edge they needed to topple the Toronto Blue Jays in his first postseason appearance.
“I know that was special for him and obviously we are really happy for him,” Rays teammate Willy Adames said as he reflected on the adversity Margot has faced this year. “Everything that he went through recently and what he’s gone through off the field and for him to show up this year in his first postseason like that, that’s impressive. I was happy for him and hopefully, he can continue to do that to help us.”
With the help of a 389-foot home run from Margot and a wild pitch to score Randy Arozarena, the Rays were able to edge out the Blue Jays 3-1 in the first game of the Wild Card series. A steady pitching performance with nine strikeouts from All-Star Blake Snell led the way for the Rays to succeed early.
The Tampa Bay Rays entered the postseason with the American League’s best record (40-20) and did not let the thought of an early exit come to mind Tuesday night.
Both teams have been hailed for their talents and young stars, all who have the potential to carry momentum through a postseason that craves a Cinderella storied team to make it far. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio have been placed under a microscope, as the careers of their fathers linger in their path. All three, wanting to prove they have what it takes to carry their team to baseball’s holy land, the World Series.
Indians Take Gut Punch Loss, Gleyber & Gerrit Fuel Bombers To Game 1 Win
There are people who flourish as baseball enters the final chapters of the season, then there are those who falter in high stake situations. New York Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres and pitching ace Gerrit Cole stepped into the limelight of the postseason, allowing their talents to ignite a frenzy as the No. 5 seed demolished presumptive 2020 CY Young winner Shane Bieber in a 12-3 victory at Progressive Field.
Torres capitalized on a 4-for-4 day in his first postseason game of 2020. The 23-year-old shortstop continues to soar above expectations on New York’s most strenuous platform with a career postseason line of .351/.413/.649.
The Yankees shortstop links his postseason success to studying his opponents and soaking in advice from the veterans — specifically, outfielder Brett Gardner — who have found success before him.
“Now, I’m watching really good videos about the pitcher in the bullpen. When I come into the field, I’m preparing myself really well. I know my routine and just mentality, I was really good,” Torres said after a successful day in the batter’s box. “He [Brett Gardner] told me, ‘baseball gives you another opportunity. So we start a new position and new games, that is the time we need to do the job for our team.’ So Gardy gives me [advice], I feel really well after that. During the night, we have a great game.”
Four home runs from Torres, Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge against Bieber and the Indians bullpen was only half of the winning equation, as Gerrit Cole struck out 13 batters over seven innings, giving up one home run to Josh Naylor and handing the ball to Luis Cessa to seal the victory.
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