There will be no sweep in the National League. No championships dethroned, no teams with 111 wins, just a long and grueling week of baseball ahead.
Credit the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres for that, flipping the slate and squaring off their respective National League Division Series with a taut, grinding Game 2 victory. The American League Division Series will begin on Thursday afternoon, with the rival Seattle Mariners hoping to bounce back from an October blowout.
Here’s what we learned as the NL series ticked over while the AL took a breather:
Braves-Phillies: Champs keep hope alive
We are now completing a quarter-century without a team winning back-to-back World Series titles. That dream still lives on for the Atlanta Braves.
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But even when they revived their hope with 3-0 win to advance their NLDS with the Philadelphia Phillies at 1-1, the magnitude of the task is already clear.
The Braves scratched and scratched to get even with Philly, as 20-game winner Kyle Wright and Phillies ace Zack Wheeler hung zeroes until the sixth, when a hit-by-pitch, a long delay, an error prevention and two first strikeouts. recommended the game in favor of Atlanta.
Over two games, the Phillies gave them more than they wanted to handle and in doing so drove home the point that repeating will be even more difficult.
Why? Because even a year ago, these Phillies wouldn’t have been in the playoffs.
Extended playoffs mean more teams. More teams means more opportunities for a team to make strides, like the Phillies did in securing a playoff spot at the end of the year and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals. Louis to start the playoffs. Heck, in another year, one in which the Braves don’t win 100 games, their participation might have forced them to win two more games.
This Atlanta club has a lot of products going back-to-back, the first club to do so since the 1998-2000 Yankees. There’s no danger of going too far, what with the popular Matt Olson-Freddie Freeman swap at first and All-Star caliber contributions from rookie outfielder Michael Harris II and outfielder Spencer Strider.
It’s Strider who will have to win at least one game in hostile Philadelphia to take the title or keep Atlanta alive; manager Brian Snitker did not say whether starter Charlie Morton or anyone else would start Game 3.
“We have faith in every single one of the guys in that locker room. And I think that’s the thing we’re having success with here, the trust we have in each other,” shortstop Dansby Swanson, who along with third baseman Austin Riley made impressive defensive plays in Game 2, said of the secret starters.
The first one will face All-Star Aaron Nola, in front of a Philly crowd that any other year would be singing “Fly, Eagles Fly” instead of watching baseball. Another roadblock for the club aiming to reverse it – no easy task.
Dodgers-Padres: Tribe dilly-dallys
The session was completed in August. The No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs is guaranteed in early September. The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers had months to clear the playing field and balance its players in October.
It only took two games for something to look like fear of stability.
The two Dodgers-Padres games in the NLDS tied the series 5-3 resultfirst to the Dodgers, Game 2 to the Padres, two clubs hanging on for dear life.
It was the Padres who got two nights of perfect bullpen work to stay in one game and win one. The Dodgers’ relievers fell, and so did they shortstop Trea Turnerand then the whole operation seems too comfortable for the club that hit the field this year.
With the team hanging on to a 4-3 lead, right-hander Blake Treinen pitched the seventh inning, his first outing since Sept. 5 and his third since April. He gave up a huge – in length and value – home run to Jake Cronenworth.
With the tying run at the plate in the eighth inning, and righty lefty Josh Hader on the mound, manager Dave Roberts pinch-hit for No. 9 hitter Cody Bellinger – not longtime playoff hero Chris Taylor but backup catcher Austin Barnes.
Taylor, coming off a neck injury was not ready to hit right away, but will start for the Dodgers in Game 3 against Blake Snell. Huh?
Meanwhile, Tony Gonsolin will start on the mound for the Dodgers – just his second start since Aug. 23; it should be noted that he only pitched two tune-up innings in his return Oct. 3.
In short, this doesn’t feel like a playoff juggernaut but like a club that’s still working in September, still mixing and matching like the crazy Dodger clubs of the past and not the top-to-bottom star power that this club boasted.
“Well, we weren’t clean,” Roberts says, and he may be referring to Turner’s defensive failure and offense that stranded eight runners and went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
Going to San Diego, where there will be a crazy crowd and a Snell-Gonsolin matchup means that the game, once again, will really come down to the bullpen.
So far, it’s been an advantage, Padres – a scary sign for the No. 1 seed in this game.
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Mariners-Astros: Avoiding the drop
Asked the next day about his curious and ultimately unsuccessful decision to bring in starting pitcher Robbie Ray with Game 1 of the AL Division Series on the line, Scott Servais took a breath and gave a 687-word answer. He said the word “practice” six times.
After Yordan Alvarez burning a three-run homer made history and folded the version from Seattle to Houston, the main hope of the Mariners, it seems, relying on this approach will give better results than the explosion of Alvarez sent Minute Maid Park in place. frenzy.
That’s the Mariner Way: Don’t trust the process so much as hurt it. That’s how GM Jerry Dipoto can change the lion’s share of 40 men over the winter or trade closer to their rival (the Astros, no less) in late 2021, causing chaos in the clubhouse.
The Mariners missed the playoffs by several games but made it this year, so something is working. However to the untrained eye, turning to Ray, a lefty who had not pitched since 2020 and only twice since 2014, looked curious about what he looked like two days ago, failing to get past the third inning of the wild-card series that begins in Toronto.
“Our performance was good, stick with it,” Servais said Wednesday, the day off between Games 1 and 2. “I’m not going to change it. I’m not going to walk away from it. Why would you? It’s what got us to this point.”
Servais’ big hit was Paul Sewald, the shortstop who pitched into the chaos that brought the Rays into the game, and the unhittable Andrés Muñoz, who gave up a two-run homer to Alex Bregman that cut the Mariners’ lead in half in the eighth inning. , and Ray himself carried them away. And he would lean on them all again, despite their concerns.
That would be a good idea, except for the way Seattle wandered off script and put Ray in that position. Of course, it’s always up to the pitcher to make it, but Seattle’s style seemed to have something to do with the medium-high fastball that Alvarez smoked up the middle to The Woodlands.
Not to say that it is something they cannot overcome. But players remember these things too. They’re lucky that speed comes in the form of ace Luis Castillo, who will start Thursday in Game 2. Starting rookie George Kirby, not Ray, in Game 3 is probably the best performance-based option. However, it will be difficult to avoid the reminders of the great flashback.