With both National League Division Series knotted up after MLB’s four-game Friday, it’s time for an all-AL Saturday to see if anybody has a sweep in them or if every series could give us the kind of drama that leaves fans talking about this postseason for years to come. Will the Rays and Twins cooperate, or will the Astros and Yankees deliver on superteam-driven expectations?
What’s on tap
5:07 p.m. ET: Twins-Yankees Game 2
9:07 p.m. ET: Rays-Astros Game 2
The most important thing of the day: The Twins won 101 games during the regular season, but they can’t seem to buy a win against the Yankees in October. No team with 100 or more wins has been swept out of the postseason in its first series since the 1980 Yankees lost three straight in the best-of-five ALCS. Only five teams with 100 or more wins have been swept in their initial postseason series, with the ’76 Phillies (NLCS), ’71 Athletics (ALCS), ’63 Yankees (World Series) and ’54 Indians (World Series) joining that Yankee squad from 39 years ago in suffering this particular indignity. Can the Twins avoid the risk of joining the list and make a series of it in the Bronx?
The view from inside the ballparks
HOUSTON — After an anticlimactic regular season in which they won 107 games, the Astros were back in their element Friday. October baseball — the pressure, the stakes, the excitement — is pure wheelhouse stuff for them. And with the chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their ALDS series against Tampa Bay, they turn to their No. 2 starter — who might well have been the No. 1 pitcher in all of baseball this season — in Gerrit Cole. No wonder October feels so comfortable. — Jeff Passan
NEW YORK — It’s not as if comebacks from 2-0 are impossible, but Minnesota needs Randy Dobnak to really step up in his postseason debut. Dobnak is not someone whom anyone, the Twins and Dobnak himself included, expected to be starting a postseason game back in spring training. In a ballpark that’s as hitter-friendly as Yankee Stadium, going against a lineup that led MLB with 943 runs, the Twins will need Dobnak to keep his surprising rise going to prevent the road to the ALCS from getting any more difficult. — Joon Lee
A stat to impress your friends: Unbelievably, the Twins have lost 10 straight playoff games to the Yankees when scoring first, the longest streak in MLB history, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. And if you really want to impress them, let them also know the Twins broke the record set by the 1921-23 Yankees, who lost eight times in a row in the postseason to the Giants despite scoring first.
The Astros haven’t lost the past 13 times Cole has toed the rubber. That streak isn’t going to end Saturday. Astros 4, Rays 1. — Passan
So you thought Justin Verlander was tough in Game 1? Meet Gerrit Cole, who ended the season with nine straight double-digit strikeout games and did it 14 times in his final 16 games. Oh, he’s also 16-0 with a 1.78 since May 27. Astros 4, Rays 1. — David Schoenfield
In a grinder of a game, Minnesota pulls out Game 2 to bring an even series back home. Twins 6, Yankees 4. — Lee
Sorry, Twins fans, it’s going to be 15 consecutive postseason losses — 12 of those to the Yankees. Although if anyone can stop the streak, maybe it will be Randy Dobnak, who began the season in Class A — after an offseason spent driving for Uber. Or, umm, maybe not. Yankees 7, Twins 5. — Schoenfield
About last night
Stud of the night: Definitely Justin Verlander, who added to his legend for postseason dominance by shutting down the Rays with seven innings of shutout baseball spiced with eight strikeouts against just four baserunners. He’s now 8-0 with a 2.14 ERA in 11 starts (and 12 appearances) in the ALDS.
Dud of the night: Teams go for staff-wide games these days, and Jose Berrios was on a short leash, so how about spreading some staff-wide blame to the Twins’ bullpen, which gave up seven runs over the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey, Cody Stashak and Kyle Gibson can take a collective bow for being those responsible, turning a close Game 1 into a snoozer in the team’s latest October setback at the hands of the Yankees.
Highlight of the night: After already seeing the Nationals bring in Max Scherzer — he pitched on two days’ rest after starting the NL wild-card game Tuesday — for the eighth inning, you already knew this game was memorable. But the ninth was wall-to-wall drama, including Anthony Rendon‘s diving catch in shallow left of a Cody Bellinger popup to help Daniel Hudson close out a nailbiting save. For Nats fans used to too many late-game disappointments, that had to be sublime.
Anthony Rendon falls backward for the second out of the ninth, as Daniel Hudson and the Nationals go on to escape a bases-loaded jam to tie the NLDS at 1-1.
Off the diamond
Social media says:
The Yankees’ .875 win pct (14-2) vs MIN in the playoffs is the 2nd-highest win pct by any team against a single opponent in postseason history (min 10 games).
The Cardinals have a .900 win pct vs SD in the playoffs (9-1).
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 5, 2019
Quote of note: “We got Verlander’d.” — Rays manager Kevin Cash, on seeing his team get shut down by the Astros ace in Game 1 of their LDS.
Best of the playoffs so far …
Our running postseason MVP: With apologies to Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz, whose two homers in two at-bats helped decide the AL wild-card game and made him our initial choice, Verlander just graduated to being a verb after blanking the Rays for seven innings to get the Astros’ postseason off on the right foot. It’s his title until someone takes it from him.
The play of this October: Juan Soto‘s single/Trent Grisham‘s error with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning of the NL wild-card game, which turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 Washington lead. Unfortunately for Grisham, the play will be part of those postseason blunders lists — and it could take on a life of its own if the Nationals end up winning it all.
Game of the postseason so far: Still Brewers-Nats, though the Nats’ gritty Game 2 win in L.A. in their NLDS with the Dodgers deserves some consideration. The first game of this postseason set the bar pretty high, with a truly unexpected comeback via an unusual turn of events. What a start to October.