All four of Major League Baseball’s best-of-five Division Series were in action Tuesday with two NLDS Game 1s and a pair of ALDS Game 2s. The Braves started the day with a Game 1 win over the Marlins before the Astros homered their way to another win over the Athletics. The Rays evened up their ALDS matchup with the Yankees by homering four times and striking out their competition 18 times in a Game 2 victory. The Padres fell to the Dodgers in the nightcap.
Here’s a look at the day’s games and what to know about each.
MLB playoff scores
Dodgers take Game 1; Padres arms in trouble
Four Dodger relievers combined to allow no runs on one hit in five innings of work, and Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner each notched two-out RBI in the sixth as the Dodgers took Game 1 over the Padres. Historically, home teams taking Game 1 of a best-of-five postseason MLB series go on to win the series in question 74 percent of the time.
Given the Padres’ pitching straits, however, the Dodgers may be even heavier favorites. Right-hander Mike Clevinger was a late addition to the roster and the surprise Game 1 starter after missing the final days of the regular season and the Wild Card Series because of arm problems. Unfortunately, just two pitches into the second inning Clevinger was removed with an undisclosed injury. Bear in mind that fellow starter Dinelson Lamet also remains sidelined with a biceps injury. Anyhow, the injury to Clevinger forced the Padres’ bullpen to work hard — nine San Diego pitchers were used in this one. And this comes after the San Diego bullpen was leaned on hard over the course of the three-game series win over the Cardinals in the first round. More ominous for the Padres is that the LDS schedule includes no off days. Down 1-0 and with a strained staff, the Padres are in a bad spot.
Yankees opener strategy backfires
The Yankees chose to go with rookie right-hander Deivi Garcia as their starter Game 2, but it turned out manager Aaron Boone was using Garcia as the game’s opener. The 21-year-old threw just one inning (and allowed a solo homer to Randy Arozarena) before southpaw J.A. Happ entered in the second. Happ allowed four more runs, via a pair of two-run homers off Mike Zunino and Manuel Margot and put the Yankees in a 5-1 hole. Boone’s pitching plan backfired. The Rays added two more runs after Happ left, and the Yankees never dug themselves out in a 7-5 loss. Tampa evened the ALDS, 1-1, with the victory.
However, Giancarlo Stanton made things interesting with one powerful swing of the bat. Stanton knocked a 458-foot, three-run home run off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow to bring the club within one run in the fourth inning. Stanton, who homered twice on Tuesday, joined Lou Gehrig and Reggie Jackson as the only Yankees to ever homer in four consecutive postseason games. Read more about the Rays’ win here.
Valdez, Springer push Astros to 2-0 lead
Left-hander Framber Valdez was instrumental to the Astros during the regular season, and it’s apparent that remains the case in the playoffs. Coming off a big relief outing in the Wild Card Series, Valdez made his first postseason start on Tuesday against the Athletics. He pitched well enough to push the Astros to a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-five series.
Valdez struck out four batters and held the A’s to five hits, a walk, and two runs over seven innings of work. He threw 103 pitches on the afternoon, and generated six swing-and-misses on his curveball. His fastball, meanwhile, averaged about 93 mph.
While Valdez may have paced the Astros’ effort, they also received a big game from outfielder George Springer, who homered twice and drove in three runs. Springer now has five career postseason home runs at Dodger Stadium, putting him one behind Reggie Jackson for the most all-time, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Neither Springer nor Jackson has played for L.A.
Catcher Martin Maldonado delivered a home run as well. The Astros can complete the series sweep on Wednesday afternoon.
Braves power up, pull away after tempers flare
The Marlins and the Braves started the day’s action with a back-and-forth contest that featured some elevated tempers after Ronald Acuna Jr., who hit a leadoff homer in the bottom of the first, was struck by a Sandy Alcantara pitch in the third. Acuna appeared to take exception to Alcantara’s errant offering, and the two sides jawed before he took his base. (He later scored from first.)
While Alcantara had no reason to intentionally hit Acuna, it’s worth noting that the two sides have history. Acuna has been hit by 19 pitches in his career; four of those have been thrown by Marlins pitchers. No other team has hit Acuna more than twice.
The FS1 broadcast interviewed Braves manager Brian Snitker during the game. When asked about the hit-by-pitch, he said: “I’ll probably get in trouble if I tell you exactly what I think.” Clearly, then, the Braves believe the Marlins were intentionally throwing at Acuna.
Moving on, the scrappy Marlins clawed their way to a three-run third, giving them a 4-1 lead. The Braves got two back in the bottom half, but the lead remained 4-3 heading to the seventh for the Marlins. That seemed like a big deal at the time, given that the Marlins were 28-0 in the regular season when leading on their way to the seventh inning.
Then again, the Braves had 13 come-from-behind wins this season and have some serious offensive firepower. They showed it in the seventh. Back-to-back singles started things off to chase starter Sandy Alcantara. It could be argued the bullpen should have taken over and surely Alcantara only giving up a single to Ronald Acuna while seeing him a fourth time was a bit of a dodged bullet, given the alternative in a one-run game.
The Marlins then pegged Yimi Garcia, a right-hander, to face Freddie Freeman, who absolutely destroys righties. It actually worked, for a quick second. Freeman grounded into a fielder’s choice. But then Marcell Ozuna singled to tie it and then Travis d’Arnaud broke things open with a three-run shot:
It’s worth mention that Garcia had major problems in giving up the long ball in previous years (32 HR allowed in 159 2/3 innings before this season), but had made it through 15 regular-season innings and two more innings so far in the postseason without having allowed a single homer. Perhaps it was only a matter of time against this powerful Braves offense.
Due to the likes of Acuna, Freeman, Ozuna and even Dansby Swanson and Adam Duvall with big years, d’Arnaud’s huge season at the plate has flown under the radar. He hit .321/.386/.533 with eight doubles, nine homers and 34 RBI in 44 regular-season games.
Later in the seventh, Swanson added a two-run shot and all of a sudden the Braves didn’t even have to sweat out the late innings. A six-run seventh was the difference here, and the Braves lead the best-of-five series, 1-0.
Something to watch if the series goes the distance: Max Fried only threw 70 pitches for the Braves and, with no off days this year in this round, Game 5 now could see the No. 1 coming back on short rest. The guess is Fried can handle that. For the Marlins, Alcantara went to 95 pitches. It’s not a ton and he’ll probably be OK to come back, but he’d be the more compromised of the two.