Columnists, Sports

Fair or Foul: The best and the worst of the 2020 Wild Card round

Major League Baseball just finished the first round of its first ever 16-team, expanded postseason. Along with the increased number of teams came an increase in the number of games in the Wild Card round from one to three matchups.

With the Division Series having kicked off Monday, let’s take a look at the biggest positive and negative outcomes from the first round of the 2020 MLB Playoffs.

The Chicago White Sox looked good, but not good enough.

The White Sox young core entered the playoffs fresh off a great 35-25 season. However, some of their young hitters struggled. Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada both struck out 36 percent of the time in the regular season and kept up a similar rate against Oakland in the playoffs. Tim Anderson batted 0.643 to carry the team to a third game, but he wasn’t enough. 

On top of that, Dallas Keuchel had a rough Game 2 and the bullpen had a rough Game 3. 

For their first playoff series since 2008, the White Sox put up a good fight and they’ll be back, but the Athletics just outplayed them.

The Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves both brought great pitching, but the Reds just didn’t hit.

Game 1 of this series was hands down the best pitching matchup of the playoffs so far. After Max Fried and Trevor Bauer traded zeroes through seven innings, the bullpens kept it up until the Reds finally faltered in the 13th inning. 

In Game 2, Ian Anderson lived up to the hype of his great rookie season by shutting down Luis Castillo and the Reds again. Cincinnati went 22 innings straight without scoring a run, and no one on the team did anything at the plate. 

Now that they’ve made the postseason, the Reds do not look legitimate.

The Toronto Blue Jays did the best they could, but stood no chance against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Toronto squeaked into the postseason as the No. 8 seed, but the 40-20 Tampa Bay Rays were waiting. Unfortunately for everyone north of the border, Toronto got outplayed by the far superior Rays team. Blake Snell, Manuel Margot and the Rays’ bullpen carried the team to an easy 3-1 win in Game 1.

Game 2 was much easier for Tampa Bay. After two throwing errors by Bo Bichette, eight runs in the first three innings and Tyler Glasnow pitching another great playoff start, Toronto stood no chance. If their young crop of players keeps developing, the Blue Jays will be back, but this was not their year. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ weak hitting was backed up by great pitching and a terrible Milwaukee Brewers team.

The Dodgers’ eighth straight division title rewarded them with an easier first-round playoff matchup than ever before. The Brewers were one of two below-0.500 teams to play in October, and unlike the other in the Houston Astros, they looked like fish out of water. After 15 strikeouts for the Dodgers’ pitching in Game 1, Clayton Kershaw put together possibly his best playoff start in his whole career in Game 2. 

L.A. will need to step up the offense against a San Diego Padres team that is on fire, but they cruised past the first round into the Division Series this year.

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Padres put together a dogfight of a Wild Card series.

San Diego only outscored the Cardinals by three runs, 19-16, over the course of its three-game series, but it was a back-and-forth war of attrition. St. Louis’ bullpen kept the Padres at bay through Game 1, then the Padres’ pen did the same to the Cardinals in Game 2. Then the Friars used nine hurlers to overcome an enormous lack of pitching depth to shut out the Redbirds in Game 3. 

Thanks to youngsters Jake Cronenworth and Fernando Tatís Jr., as well as veterans Tommy Pham and Wil Myers, the Padres are primed for an epic Division Series against the archrival Dodgers.

The Minnesota Twins must wait yet another year to win a playoff game.

The last time the Twins won a playoff game was 16 years ago. Since their 2004 ALDS victory over the New York Yankees, they’ve incurred 18 straight losses in October. 

This year, it was the offense that let the team down. Other than slugger Nelson Cruz, the rest of the Twins hitters went 5-for-53 in the two games of the series. 

The 29-31 Astros also pitched brilliantly, allowing just two total runs, and the Twins bullpen floundered just like they have in recent years. The frustration and playoff woes now continue heading into 2021.

The Yankees might be inconsistent, but they looked better than ever against the Cleveland Indians. 

The Yankees entered the playoffs coming off a 2-6 stretch at the end of the regular season. They also had to go up against a surging Indians team and the league’s best pitcher in Shane Bieber. 

New York sent a message right away by scoring two runs only two batters into the game. Gerrit Cole delivered an epic performance while the Yanks shelled Bieber and Cleveland. Game 2 was as back and forth as ever, with both pitching staffs playing terribly. Fortunately for the Yankees, they got the last laugh, and Aroldis Chapman shut the Indians down to close out the game. They now face a very intriguing matchup against the Rays.

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