Marlins and Reds Return to Postseason
Prior to this season, the Miami Marlins had only made the postseason twice in their 27 year history -- each time culminating in World Series titles (1997 and 2003). Now, they’ll see if they can make it 3-for-3.
On Friday, the Marlins eked out a 4-3 victory over the Yankees in extra innings, clinching a playoff berth for the first time in 17 seasons. Their 16-year drought between playoff appearances was the longest of any team in the National League. The Mariners have the longest drought in the American League, as they’ve been kept out of the postseason since 2001.
The Marlins making the postseason in 2020 would already be an amazing story just based on the fact that they lost 105 games a season ago. They’re now just the second team in MLB history to make the playoffs after losing 100 or more games in the previous season -- joining the 2017 Minnesota Twins.
When you add in the fact that the Marlins nearly had their entire season shut down in the first week due to an outbreak of COVID-19, it becomes even more astounding.
They had 18 players test positive for COVID-19 during the first week of the season. They played 28 games in 24 days once finally resuming play, and have made 174 roster moves since Opening Day. In all, the Marlins have utilized 61 different players this season -- 25 position players and 37 pitchers. The Marlins have seen a league-record 18 players make their big league debuts this season.
The playoff berth also comes on a bittersweet anniversary for the Marlins, as it’s exactly four years to the day that the club lost ace right-hander Jose Fernandez to a tragic boating accident.
This isn’t a team that’s content just making the postseason either -- they’re here to make noise. Closer Brandon Kintzler told reporters after Friday’s game, “We've got nothing to lose. We're playing with house money. We go in and make some noise. We've got a dangerous team. We have starting pitching that can pitch with anybody in baseball on any given day.”
He’s not wrong about that. In a three-game Wild Card series, the Marlins can roll out a trio of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Sixto Sanchez -- a trio that can stack up favorably against anyone. If the playoffs were to start now, the Marlins would be the sixth seed in the National League and would take on the Cubs in Chicago on Wednesday.
The Marlins weren’t the only team to punch their postseason ticket on Friday however, the Cincinnati Reds snapped a playoff drought of their own -- riding a pair of home runs from Mike Moustakas to beat the Twins 7-2. It’s the first time the Reds have made the playoffs since 2013.
Even in a sprint 60-game season, the Reds have had to overcome many lows. In fact, just two weeks ago on September 12, the Reds fell to six games below the .500 mark at 20-26, where they were given only a 17% chance to make the postseason according to Fangraphs.
Since then, they have rattled off 10 wins in their last 12 games -- climbing back to 30-28.
The Reds are looking to snap another lengthy drought, as they have gone 24 seasons without winning a playoff series. The last time they won a playoff series was 1995 where they swept the Dodgers in the NLDS before getting swept by the Braves.
If the postseason were to begin now, the Reds would serve as the seventh seed in the National League and they would take on those same Braves in Atlanta beginning on Wednesday.
Down Goes Lamet
Padres manager Jayce Tingler noted that they're "hoping it's precautionary" and that "We’ll know more information each day. Right now the plan is for him to be able to make his start."
No team wants to head into the postseason with their top two starters dealing with arm injuries, but that's exactly the position that the Padres now find themselves in. All they can do right now is take things one day at a time.
The 28-year-old hurler has been a force atop the Padres rotation this season, compiling a 2.09 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 93/20 K/BB ratio over 69 innings of work.
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Acuna Goes Deeeeep
To say that Braves’ superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. crushed a ball to lead off Friday’s game against the Red Sox would be a massive understatement. The 22-year-old pulverized a Chris Mazza offering into the stratosphere in left-center for his record 19th leadoff home run in his young career.
The ball traveled an estimated 495 feet -- making it the longest home run by any Braves hitter in the Statcast era. It’s also the longest home run that any player has hit during the 2020 season.
Since Statcast began in 2015, it’s the fifth longest home run that has been recorded.
Teammate and fellow superstar Freddie Freeman was in awe of Acuna Jr.’s blast, noting “I was in the stands watching and that’s the farthest ball I've ever seen hit in person. That was incredible.”
Acuna Jr. and his teammates have been putting on quite a show in the month of September. So far, they have blasted a combined 53 home runs during the month -- with no other team tallying more than 45.
On the season now, Acuna Jr. is slashing .258/.420/.609 with 14 homers, 29 RBI and seven stolen bases in 45 games. He’s one of only a handful of players who are in the conversation to be the top overall pick in fantasy drafts once again for 2021.
All around baseball, everyone seemed to have a flair for the dramatic on Friday as there were five different games that ended in walk-off victories for the “home” teams.
In Texas, the Rangers tied the game in the ninth inning when Ronald Guzman blasted a game-tying solo homer off of Astros’ closer Ryan Pressly to force extra innings. The Astros were able to push a run across in the top half of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Alex Bregman, but the Rangers weren’t going to be denied. Nick Solak evened the score with a sacrifice fly of his own in the home half, then Joey Gallo reached on a fielder’s choice that plated Isiah Kiner-Falefa with the winning run.
Out in Oakland, the A’s and Mariners were locked in a scoreless pitcher’s duel heading into the 10th inning. The Mariners finally broke through in the home half of the 10th inning, as Dee Strange-Gordon advanced to third base on a fly ball then scampered home on a wild pitch. Down to their final out in the bottom half of the frame, the A’s evened the score on an RBI double by Ramon Laureano. They then walked it off as Mark Canha crushed a game-winning two-run homer off of Joey Gerber to put it in the win column for the Athletics.
In Atlanta, the Red Sox rallied to score two runs off of Braves closer Mark Melancon in the ninth inning in order to force extra innings. There, they took the lead in the top half of the 10th inning on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Alex Verdugo. It didn’t take long for the Braves to strike back though, as MVP-candidate Freddie Freeman slugged the second pitch of the inning over the wall in left-center for a walk-off two-run blast -- his 13th homer of the season.
In Cleveland, the Indians managed to defy logic by securing their third straight walk-off victory. In this one, they overcame a 3-1 deficit in the ninth inning as Jordan Luplow delivered an RBI double, Delino DeShields plated him with a run-scoring single and Cesar Hernandez came through with the dagger -- a two-out two-strike single into shallow right field to send the Indians’ faithful into a frenzy.
Perhaps the most dramatic walk-off victory came in San Francisco. In the second game of their doubleheader on Friday, it was the Padres that served as the “home” team, despite playing at Oracle Park in San Francisco. In a back-and-forth affair, the Giants overcame a 3-1 deficit when Wilmer Flores crushed an improbable three-run homer off of Drew Pomeranz in the sixth inning to go ahead 5-3. It wasn’t just the first home run that Pomeranz had allowed all season -- but the first runs of any type that he had surrendered in 18 ⅔ innings. The Padres wouldn’t go quietly though, as Tommy Pham led off the seventh inning with an infield single and Greg Garcia drew a one-out walk, setting the stage for Trent Grisham’s three-run blast over the wall in right to crush the spirit of Giants’ fans everywhere.
American League Quick Hits: Josh Donaldson was pulled from Friday’s game against the Reds due to a right calf cramp -- the same calf that caused him to miss the entire month of August… Luis Rengifo was removed from Friday’s game against the Dodgers with a right hamstring strain...Byron Buxton was pulled from Friday’s contest against the Reds after getting hit in the helmet by a pitch during the eighth inning. He was diagnosed with a head contusion and is considered day-to-day. He’ll be re-evaluated prior to Saturday’s game… Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Giancarlo Stanton will not exercise the opt-out clause in his contract after the season… J.D. Martinez said Friday when asked about exercising his opt-out this offseason that he's "probably not leaning that way."... Athletics manager Bob Melvin announced Friday that Paul Blackburn will start one game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Mariners… Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Friday that it's "unlikely" Rowdy Tellez (knee) will return for the Wild Card round…. Eduardo Rodriguez (myocarditis) has been cleared to resume walking in a couple weeks… The Astros placed right-hander Josh James on the injured list for undisclosed reasons… Aaron Civale will be used out of the bullpen by the Indians during the Wild Card round before rejoining the rotation for the ALCS should they advance… Renato Nunez (knee) was held out of the Orioles lineup on Friday… Eloy Jimenez is not expected to play this weekend because of a mid-foot sprain… The Tigers placed Jeimer Candelario on the 10-day IL with a lower back strain… The Mariners claimed right-hander Ian Hamilton off of waivers from the White Sox… Nelson Cruz (knee) returned to the Twins lineup on Friday, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and two walks in a loss to the Reds… The Royals put closer Greg Holland and outfielder Jorge Soler on the 10-day injured list with right oblique strains… The Twins designated right-hander Homer Bailey for assignment.
Sam Huff went 3-for-4 and blasted a pair of home runs as the Rangers topped the Astros… Jose Urquidy punched out five over seven innings of two-run ball in a tough-luck no-decision… Jose Berrios struck out seven, but gave up four runs over five innings in a loss to the Reds… Mike Trout crushed a three-run shot off of Clayton Kershaw as the Angels fell to the Dodgers… Jared Walsh socked his ninth dinger in that one… Chris Bassitt struck out six over seven shutout innings in a tough-luck no-decision against the Mariners… Yusei Kikuchi fanned five over six scoreless frames on the other side… Jose Iglesias homered for the second consecutive game as the Orioles fell to the Blue Jays… Randal Grichuk blasted his 11th home run to lead the Jays to victory in that one… Taijuan Walker struck out four over three perfect innings for the Jays… Brett Phillips went 2-for-2 with a homer and two RBI, leading the Rays past the Phillies… Aaron Judge had two hits and an RBI in a losing effort against the Marlins… Chris Mazza struck out six over five innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Braves… Carlos Carrasco struck out eight over six innings of two-run baseball in a no-decision against the Pirates… Brad Keller struck out five over six shutout innings in a victory over the Tigers… Adalberto Mondesi went 3-for-3 with a double, triple and two stolen bases to lead the charge for the Royals… Niko Goodrum doubled and stole a base in the loss for the Tigers… Dylan Cease served up three home runs in a loss to the Cubs.
National League Quick Hits: Friday’s game between the Mets and Nationals was postponed due to rain. It’ll be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday… Padres general manager A.J. Preller announced that right-hander Mike Clevinger has been diagnosed with a right elbow posterior impingement. He received a cortisone injection on Friday and has yet to be ruled out for the first round of the postseason...Wil Myers was pulled from Friday’s game against the Giants for precautionary reasons due to a tight quadriceps. He’s considered day-to-day… Max Muncy was lifted from Friday’s game against the Angels after feeling a sting in his right wrist on a check swing, but manager Dave Roberts called the early dismissal purely precautionary. He should be considered day-to-day… Brewers’ right-hander Corbin Burnes landed on the injured list with a left oblique strain… Tucker Davidson will start for the Braves against the Red Sox on Saturday, making his major league debut… The Cardinals placed Jon Gant on the 10-day IL with right groin tightness… Kris Bryant (oblique) remained out of the Cubs' lineup on Friday… Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Nationals have agreed to a contract extension with manager Dave Martinez… Howie Kendrick (hamstring) has been shut down for the remainder of the season.
Freddy Galvis had three hits including his seventh home run as the Reds topped the Twins… Justin Turner clubbed a pair of home runs to lead the Dodgers past the Angels… A.J. Pollock smacked his 14th homer in that one… Ryan McMahon went 2-for-3 and slugged his eighth homer as the Rockies fell to the Diamondbacks… Josh VanMeter homered and drove in three runs to lead the charge for the D’Backs in the lopsided victory… Mike Yastrzemski crushed a two-run homer as the Giants beat the Padres in the first game of their twin bill… Tyler Anderson struck out four over six innings of two-run ball to earn a victory there… Chris Paddack was tagged for five runs on eight hits over 3 ⅔ innings in a losing effort… Fernando Tatis belted his 16th home run as the Padres rallied to beat the Giants in the nightcap of their doubleheader… Jeff Smardzija allowed three runs over three innings in a no-decision against the Padres in his season debut… Zac Gallen racked up 10 strikeouts over six shutout innings in a dominant victory over the Rockies… Christian Walker crushed a two-run homer to pace the offense there… Antonio Senzatela struggled in a loss, allowing four runs on eight hits over 4 ⅓ innings -- lowering his ERA to 3.44… Bryce Harper went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBI as the Phillies fell to the Rays… Sandy Alcantara struck out nine over 7 ⅓ innings in a no-decision against the Yankees… Marcell Ozuna went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI as the Braves topped the Red Sox in extra innings… Mitch Keller allowed one run -- on no hits and eight walks -- over five innings in a no-decision against the Indians… Gregory Polanco clubbed a two-run homer in a losing effort there… Yu Darvish punched out five over seven scoreless innings in a victory over the White Sox… Willson Contreras blasted a pair of home runs and drove in four in the rout… Javier Baez homered -- and doubled while batting left handed -- in the victory… Christian Yelich homered as the Brewers topped the Cardinals in the first game of their twin bill… Brent Suter, Devin Williams and Josh Hader combined to shut out the Cardinals in that one… Jack Flaherty gave up three runs on four hits and four walks over five innings in the loss… Daniel Ponce de Leon carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning in a victory over the Brewers in the nightcap of their doubleheader… Orlando Arcia launched a solo homer to account for the Brewers lone run in the loss.