Blink, and it could be over.
For all the talk that Major League Baseball’s best-of-three wild-card weekend might be better than the single playoff that preceded it, Friday’s first game and this coming Saturday, the potential Game 2s will tell a different story.
With the Game 1 winner heavily favored to win 75% of the time in a top-three series, Friday’s losers need a response – fast. With three road teams breaking into action and shocking top seeds, the economy has changed dramatically in St. Louis. Louis, Toronto and New York.
Will it be two-and-through come Game 2? Focusing on the most important things like Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Toronto and New York aim to stop the removal:
Padres-Mets: This could all be over tomorrow
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It was a pairing worthy of breaking the bank, making a record $43.3 million per season for one player, driving the club’s payroll so much that they named the top tax collector after the owner.
Scherzer-deGrom. DeGrom-Scherzer. The Cohen Tax. New York Mets game.
Enjoy it while you can – it probably won’t take a few hours.
For six full months, the Mets looked like franchise owner Steve Cohen hoped they would, until Cohen and the boys flew to Atlanta last week in pursuit of their first National League East title in seven years.
They are still looking for their first win of the result.since
And after Max Scherzer — the one with a three-year, $130 million contract — produced a historic night to embarrass the house, the most popular Big Apple pairing since Biggie and Puff might be gone.
Saturday night, Jacob deGrom will take the ball against the San Diego Padres in a must-win situation. This is a red code for Game 2 (7:37, ESPN) comes after the Padres surrendered four home runs from Scherzer in a 7-1 throttling, in Game 1 of this wild-card series improbable juggernaut.
However the mighty Mets were held back in this shootout because 101 wins was one of the fewest wins in the East. And after Josh Bell, Trent Grisham, Jurickson Profar and Manny Machado were all free, loud and long, Scherzer was on the losing side for the third consecutive playoff.
It was especially uncomfortable when combined with the fact that Scherzer gave up two home runs and four runs in 5 ⅔ innings in his first win at Atlanta last week.
And now, deGrom – who gives no consolation on several counts.
After all, deGrom followed Scherzer’s start in Atlanta with three solo hits, in a loss that put the Braves on the brink of their division title. He started 11 times this season due to a shoulder problem.
And if he can’t beat the Padres Saturday night, deGrom is free to go.
Not once did he waver from his goal of getting out of his contract, even after a scapula injury delayed his start in 2022 until Aug. 2. It’s hard to blame him: The two-time Cy Young Award winner struck out nearly nine innings. eight of his 11 starts. The price of poker has only risen since he signed the extension with the Mets, and it’s unreasonable for deGrom to expect a Scherzer-esque year.
The big question: Will Cohen refuse? The Scherzer-deGrom pairing was less than two months together; signing deGrom to a long-term deal would give them two more years of offensive control.
But that will be Cohen’s call to make. You wonder if this year’s event could give the once-rich super-rich to cash another big check, this one for a 34-year-old with injury problems.
In addition, it did not go well until the end of this year. And only deGrom can make sure it doesn’t end Saturday night.
Mariners-Blue Jays: Down in the hole
The Rogers Center was supposed to be a formidable home for visiting teams this month. Instead, the Blue Jays can take any of the three non-adjusted observations from their Game 1 pratfall against Seattle.
Was it Ace Alek Manoah who lost command of his fastball, hitting the first batter he faced, putting the Blue Jays in a 3-0 hole before their offensive line even touched a bat?
Maybe it was Mariners ace Luis Castillo carving those bats in half, prompting a parade of weak catches and a shutout ball in the eighth inning?
Or will they lose sleep over the thought of trying to beat Mariners reliever Andres Muñoz, who has a 103-mph fastball and a 93-mph slider, which he has surrendered in five of the six batters he’s faced?
The biggest lesson from Friday’s 4-0 loss? The Mariners are a team you don’t want to get behind, a thought that piles on the pressure on Saturday’s Game 2 (4:07, ESPN) in Toronto.
No, facing these Mariners is like a wrestling match: Give them the edge and they’ll slowly increase their excitement, until you look up and the bull above you has taken Castillo’s place.
But the Blue Jays will not have time to sleep before they face the elimination and old friend Robbie Ray, the lefty who made a breakthrough for Toronto in a $15 million deal with the Mariners.
He’s not quite as dominant as Castillo, though he can strike out batters with more frequency. The Blue Jays now have no choice but to meet the deadline — to avoid digging themselves a hole they can’t get out of.
“You expect them to come out with the same energy, the same mindset, the same focus,” says Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider, “and just understand that you ran into a very good pitcher today for 7-plus innings and it’s really good after that in Munoz.”
“Wash it off and move on.” They are ready to go.”
Rays-Guardians: No offense, but…
They should lose Game 2 Saturday in Cleveland (12:07 ET, ESPN2), the Rays would fail to reach the AL Division Series for the first time since 2018. Their success over the past three seasons has been largely pitcher-centric, which is a good way to live. Yet it’s reasonable to wonder after their 2-1 loss to the Guardians in Game 1 if their bats were too weak to lift the big crew.
Tampa Bay finished 12th in the AL in OPS, 11th in runs, ninth in on-base percentage – both worst among AL playoff teams. Friday, they managed only three hits from Shane Bieber and Emmanuel Clase, who fulfilled the postseason manager’s expectations: Ace pitcher hands the ball to the untouchable near; everyone drives home safely.
However the Rays were united in that. Jose Siri’s opposite-field homer off Bieber yielded the only run and was one of seven balls left on the field. Bieber and Clase combined for nine hits.
Even in the best of times, things were not looking good. En route to their 2020 World Series runner-up finish, the Rays have won three or fewer runs in nine of their last 18 games. They had Randy Arozarena, who hit an incredible 10 home runs between the ALDS and the World Series.
Oh, they still have Arozarena, but not the Arozarena. He finished the regular season with just two homers in his last 118 at-bats over 30 games. In Game 1, he hit a triple and flew out to left field to end the game.
“I hope Randy goes. He’s highly motivated,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said after Game 1. “It wasn’t just Randy. Both guys have to help.”
Otherwise it will be a quick and quiet exit.
Phillies-Cards: Two outs, never earned
It wasn’t just a spectacular, gut-punch collapse that the Cardinals endured in yielding six runs in the ninth inning of. a 6-2 loss to the Phillies fans. That’s the worst situation since Ryan Helsley’s injury-related injury leaves them in Game 2 (8:37, ESPN2)
Helsley was asked to write five outs by manager Oli Marmol; the first three came clean.
The last two never did.
The game ended with an amazing rally for the Phillies with the help of the wild Helsley, who started out in the ninth and went one-walk-walk-HBP, as a familiar finger could lead to a complete loss of command. Helsley went in for X-rays and possibly some imaging right after Game 1.
And what now?
Helsley will probably go deep, maybe out of Game 2. Top man Giovanny Gallegos should get five outs for him. 102-mph man Jordan Hicks even leaned on him for the 12th. Meanwhile, the steady but unspectacular Miles Mikolas will start, and it would be a modest surprise if he sees the seventh inning.
It’s going to be tough to stitch nine straight innings together in a do-or-die game, especially when Phillies ace Aaron Nola (or Zack Wheeler?) is likely to pitch a set of zeroes over Busch Stadium.
“No one will feel sorry for us. Tell me that,” says Marmol.
No need for sympathy cards. But a straightforward, practical set of refreshments would be welcome.