The expanded 2020 playoffs officially kick into high-gear Wednesday with a jam-packed, eight-game slate, featuring all 16 playoff qualifiers in act
The expanded 2020 playoffs officially kick into high-gear Wednesday with a jam-packed, eight-game slate, featuring all 16 playoff qualifiers in action. The all-day extravaganza features four potential elimination games in the American League. The Yankees, Astros, White Sox and Rays have an opportunity to advance to the ALDS after emerging victorious in the opening contests of their respective three-game series Tuesday. It’ll be up to the Twins, Athletics, Blue Jays and Indians to stave off elimination and keep their playoff hopes alive. Meanwhile, the National League playoffs fire up with several franchises (Marlins and Padres) making their first postseason appearances in nearly two decades. Without further delay, here is a quick preview of the playoff action on tap for Wednesday.
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Reds vs. Braves (12:08 PM)
(NL Wild Card series opener)
After spending two-plus months authoring a compelling case for the NL Cy Young, Reds righty Trevor Bauer — 1.73 ERA, 0.795 WHIP and 100/17 K/BB ratio across 73 innings (11 starts) — will step outside the NL/AL Central bubble, and take on one of the senior circuit’s premier lineups, spearheaded by Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuña. The Braves will hand the ball to lefty Max Fried, who appears to be fully healthy after dealing with back and ankle issues over the last few weeks. The 26-year-old lefty was outstanding, when healthy, posting a 2.25 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 50/19 K/BB ratio across 56 innings (11 starts) during the regular season.
Astros vs. Twins (1:08 PM)
(Houston leads AL Wild Card series 1-0)
The Twins will need to snap a surreal 17-game postseason losing streak in order to force a decisive Game 3 at Target Field on Thursday. The Astros’ offense plated four runs over the final three frames, and received five shutout innings in relief from stellar lefty Framber Valdez to sneak out a comeback victory in the series opener on Tuesday. With their season on the brink, the Twins will turn to righty Jose Berrios to attempt to force a decisive Game 3 on Thursday. The Astros will counter with righty Jose Urquidy, who emerged as a versatile weapon for their pitching staff, allowing only one run with a 12/2 K/BB ratio across 10 innings (four appearances, one start) last postseason.
Marlins vs. Cubs (2:08 PM)
(NL Wild Card series opener)
The Marlins will hand the ball to staff ace Sandy Alcantara in their first postseason appearance since 2003. The 25-year-old right-hander posted a robust 3.00 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 39/15 K/BB ratio over 42 innings (seven starts) regular season. He’ll be opposed by soft-tossing righty Kyle Hendricks, who closed out the condensed 2020 campaign with a 2.88 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 64/8 K/BB ratio across 81 1/3 innings (12 starts). The remainder of the best-of-three Wild Card series at Wrigley Field will feature a handful of dynamic right-hander’s including Yu Darvish, Pablo Lopez and rookie sensation Sixto Sanchez. If there’s one series worth keeping tabs on at all times, it’s this one.
White Sox vs. Athletics (3:10 PM)
(Chicago leads AL Wild Card series 1-0)
The White Sox have an opportunity to close out the three-game series against the Athletics with veteran lefty Dallas Keuchel, who compiled a 1.99 ERA over 63 1/3 innings (11 starts) this season, on the mound in Game 2, after ace right-hander Lucas Giolito delivered a dominant performance in the series opener on Tuesday. The 26-year-old righty retired 18 consecutive batters to open the contest, carrying a perfect game bid into the seventh inning before giving up a lead-off single to Tommy La Stella. He finished with eight strikeouts and was charged with only one run on two hits and one walk over seven-plus frames. The Athletics will turn to righty Chris Bassitt to try to keep the series alive. The 31-year-old righty is arguably one of the most underrated pitchers in the game. He recorded a microscopic 2.29 ERA with 55 strikeouts across 63 innings (11 starts) during the regular season. He’ll be tasked with suppressing a red-hot White Sox lineup, which socked a pair of homers off dynamic lefty Jesus Luzardo in Game 1.
Blue Jays vs. Rays (4:07 PM)
(Tampa Bay leads AL Wild Card series 1-0)
On the heels of a nine-strikeout effort from lefty Blake Snell in the series opener Tuesday, the Rays will hand the ball to electrifying righty Tyler Glasnow — 4.08 ERA with a 92/22 K/BB ratio over 57 1/3 innings (1 starts) this season, with a chance to eliminate the division-rival Blue Jays. Toronto will attempt to force a decisive Game 3 by turning to their high-profile free agent acquisition, veteran lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, in this one. The 33-year-old southpaw immediately established himself as their staff ace, posting a pristine 2.69 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 72/17 K/BB ratio across 67 innings (12 starts). If the Blue Jays manage to stay alive, it’s be Taijaun Walker versus Charlie Morton in the series finale at Tropicana Field on Thursday.
Cardinals vs. Padres (5:08 PM)
(NL Wild Card series opener)
The Padres find themselves in a precarious position entering their first postseason series since 2006 due to the absence of dynamic right-hander’s Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet at the front of their starting rotation. They’ll hand the ball to second-year righty Chris Paddack, who finished the shortened 2020 campaign with an underwhelming 4.73 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 58/12 K/BB ratio across 59 innings (12 starts). He also struggled to keep the ball in the yard, surrendering just over two homers per-nine innings, during the regular season. The Padres boast an incredibly deep bullpen, and have plenty of options to turn to if Paddack gets into trouble early. With the Padres’ rotation banged up, the Cardinals have an opportunity to tap into their #devilmagic and pull off a massive first-round upset, despite barely sneaking into the playoff field. They’ll hand the ball to 32-year-old lefty Kwang-Hyun Kim, who compiled a sparkling 1.62 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 24/12 K/BB ratio across 39 innings (eight appearances, seven starts), to open the series. They also have veteran righty Adam Wainwright, who put together a remarkable renaissance campaign, and ace Jack Flaherty lined up for the remainder of the series. Simply put, a Cardinals victory tonight eliminates any margin for error for soft-tossing righty Zach Davies and the rest of the Padres pitching staff tomorrow afternoon.
Yankees vs. Indians (7:08 PM)
(New York leads AL Wild Card series 1-0)
The Yankees demolished Indians ace Shane Bieber for seven runs over 4 2/3 innings Tuesday, and also received a 13-strikeout effort from marquee free-agent acquisition Gerrit Cole, cruising to a 12-3 blowout victory in the series opener. They have an opportunity to deliver the knockout blow in Game 2, with veteran right-hander’s Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos Carrasco squaring off at Progressive Field. After a 15-hit offensive explosion, which included round-tripper’s from Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton, an unexpected swarm of midges might be the only way to slow down the Yankees’ blistering-hot lineup. If the Tribe manages to avoid elimination, they’ll hand the ball to Zach Plesac in the final game of the series on Thursday.
Brewers vs. Dodgers (10:08 PM)
(NL Wild Card series opener)
The Dodgers cruised to their eighth consecutive NL West title, posted the best record in the major leagues during the regular season, and are the consensus favorite to emerge out of the National League playoff picture. Their quest to capture their first World Series title since 1988 begins with hard-throwing righty Walker Buehler on the mound at Dodger Stadium against a Brewers squad, which barely managed to sneak into the expanded playoff field. The 26-year-old ace missed a significant chunk of the Dodgers’ stretch run due to a persistent blister issue, but appears fully healthy after a dominant performance against the Athletics in his final regular-season outing. Meanwhile, the Brewers will counter with lefty swingman Brent Suter. The 31-year-old southpaw has been a key component of an electrifying Brewers bullpen, headlined by flame-throwing southpaw Josh Hader and sensational rookie right-hander Devin Williams. If the Brewers are going to pull off the upset, they’ll need to rely heavily on their well-stocked stable of bullpen arms.