After winning their Wild Card Series openers on the first day of Major League Baseball’s playoffs, the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Philadelphia Phillies can advance to the next round with victories Wednesday.
As is often the case when postseason play rolls around, pitching was king Tuesday.
None of the four teams that won gave up more than three runs. Minnesota and Philadelphia allowed just one, while Jordan Montgomery and two relievers combined on Texas’ shutout at Tampa Bay.
Nathan Eovaldi (12-5) starts Wednesday for the Rangers as they try to wrap up the best-of-three series against Zach Eflin (16-8) and the Rays, who have dropped six straight playoff games dating to 2021.
Zack Wheeler tossed 6 2/3 splendid innings to lead defending NL champion Philadelphia to a 4-1 victory over the upstart Miami Marlins. Aaron Nola (12-9) pitches Game 2 for the Phillies against Braxton Garrett (9-7).
Pablo López and four relievers held George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays in check as the Twins snapped a record 18-game postseason losing streak with a 3-1 win.
Sonny Gray (8-8, 2.79 ERA) goes in Game 2 for Minnesota against José Berríos (11-12, 3.65), who was traded by the Twins to Toronto in July 2021.
Arizona got 6 1/3 scoreless innings from its bullpen and erased an early three-run deficit in a 6-3 victory at Milwaukee. Now the Diamondbacks have ace Zac Gallen (17-9) lined up to face Freddy Peralta (12-10) on Wednesday.
The Braves are the current betting favorites to win the World Series at +270, followed by the Dodgers (+420) and Astros (+450), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
BACK WITH A BANG
Royce Lewis homered in his first two postseason at-bats for Minnesota. He had been sidelined for two weeks with a strained left hamstring.
“It was the most nervous game, exciting game, I’ve ever played in my life,” he said. “It was so much fun.”
The 24-year-old Lewis became the third player in major league history to go deep in his first two postseason plate appearances, following Evan Longoria for Tampa Bay in 2008 and Gary Gaetti for the Twins in 1987, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Lewis was selected by the Twins with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft, but the start of his major league career has been interrupted by injuries. He tore the ACL in his right knee during an offseason workout in 2021 and again last year just 12 games into his Twins debut. Maintaining his rookie status in 2023, Lewis never missed a beat.
“He’s truly a special talent, the type of talent that can carry you to win a lot of ballgames when the postseason comes,” teammate Carlos Correa said.
The playoff opener between Texas and Tampa Bay drew an announced crowd of just 19,704 to Tropicana Field, the lowest for a postseason game since the 1919 World Series other than during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The crowd was roughly 5,300 below the listed capacity of Tropicana Field.
Meanwhile, the Rays went retro for Game 1.
Sporting throwback Devil Rays jerseys the team wore during a decade of futility, Tampa Bay was limited to six hits and committed four errors in a 4-0 loss.
“It was a frustrating game,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t recall us playing a game like that in quite some time.”
It was the first time Tampa Bay, which began play as an expansion franchise in 1998, wore Devil Rays jerseys in the postseason.
STEALING THE SHOW
Baseball changed this year — especially for guys with game-changing speed, like Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr.
Fans only now turning their attention to baseball for the postseason will find a sport with a different pace. Following the implementation of new rules like a pitch clock and limits on pitcher disengagements from the rubber, players are running much more than a year ago. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, a dramatic jump of more than 1,000 from a year ago. It’s the highest total since 1987’s record of 3,585.
The rampant running is expected to continue in the playoffs.
“Guys are going to be turning it loose like they have all year,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, whose team earned a bye to the Division Series. “Teams like Arizona are going to be flying all over the place. I don’t really see a change from the season.”
The Diamondbacks swiped two bases and were also caught twice in their wild-card opener.
Batting third in Arizona’s lineup, Tommy Pham went 0 for 4 with a walk. He struck out twice and scored once.
The veteran outfielder has been dealing with turf toe, which has limited him to designated hitter for most of the past two weeks.
Pham said he would “probably get an injection to help that out” before Game 1 against the Brewers.
“This is the first time that I’ve ever had turf toe,” Pham said. “Quite honestly, I didn’t even know what was going on. I thought it was my cleats, so I’ve been switching out cleats. Then it just gradually got worse and worse, so here I am.”
HOW TO WATCH
The wild-card rounds will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN and ESPN. The later rounds will be split among Fox, FS1, and TBS.
Wild Card Series: Oct. 3-5
Division Series: Oct. 7-14
League Championship Series: Oct. 15-24
World Series: Oct. 27-Nov. 4