The Bombers on Monday proved they don't need to be at home in the Bronx -- or in a familiar location at all -- to launch dingers into the October night.
On the strength of four home runs, including Giancarlo Stanton's grand slam in the ninth inning, the Yankees bested the Rays 9-3 on Monday to take a 1-0 lead in their Division Series matchup. The Yanks collected 15 hits to the Rays' six, with every Yankees starter notching at least one hit in the contest.
It seemed as though Yankees manager Aaron Boone pulled all the right levers to get his team the all-important first victory. Clint Frazier, who started in left field ahead of Brett Gardner, hit a third-inning solo homer to give the Yanks a short-lived lead. Kyle Higashioka, with whom starter Gerrit Cole had a microscopic 1.00 ERA in four starts during the regular season, also homered, tying the score in the fifth inning.
It was the lineup stalwarts Stanton and Aaron Judge, each of whom missed significant time during the regular season with separate injury issues, that made the biggest difference, though. Judge's line-drive solo homer in the fifth inning -- two batters after Higashioka's game-tying shot -- gave the Yankees a lead they would hold, and Stanton broke the game open with a majestic grand slam over the center field wall in the ninth inning to turn a two-run game into a six-run rout.
Higashioka's presence helped Cole do just enough to get the victory. In six innings he allowed three runs on six hits, including a pair of homers, while walking two and striking out eight.
On the other side, Blake Snell gave up three of the Yankees' four homers in allowing four runs over five innings of work. Randy Arozarena had a particularly potent day at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with a home run and two runs scored.
There's little time for either team to get too high or too low, as they'll be right back at it Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. The Rays will send out Tyler Glasnow, who kept the Blue Jays quiet in a Wild Card series win in Game 2, while the Yanks will counter with 21-year-old Deivi Garcia. Garcia, per MLB.com, will be the youngest starter in Yankees postseason history, a noteworthy accomplishment given the organization's rich past.
It's a game the Yankees will want, surely, so as not to have to rely too heavily on a rotation that's got an equal number of questions and answers. It's a game the Rays need, though.
Offense-minded Astros take Game 1
During the truncated regular season, the A's pitching staff ranked fifth in the majors with a 3.77 ERA. The team also committed 26 errors in 60 games, fourth-fewest in the league.
So it was out of character when the difference in Monday's ALDS Game 1 between the A's and Astros was a four-run sixth inning in which none of the runs were earned, part of a 10-run afternoon for the Astros in their 10-5 victory. The Astros banged out 16 hits in the win, jumping out to an early lead in the five-game series.
Neither team's starting pitcher was overly effective -- A's starter Chris Bassitt allowed three runs on nine hits over four innings, but he was arguably better than opposing starter Lance McCullers Jr., who gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits, including three homers, in his four innings of work -- but it was that decisive sixth inning that tilted the scales in favor of the Houston club.
After Carlos Correa struck out to start the inning -- more on him later -- and Yuli Gurriel flied out for a quick second out, a Marcus Semien error allowed Josh Reddick to reach. What followed was three singles and a double, and when the dust settled the Astros had gone from down 5-4 to up 7-5. It was a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Correa wasn't part of that big inning, but he was a thorn in the side of Oakland pitchers in virtually every other at-bat of the night. The shortstop took Bassitt deep to center for a solo shot to tie the game in the fourth inning, and in the seventh he gave the Astros some insurance with another solo homer to center that was just out of the reach of the wall-scaling, outstretched glove of A's center fielder Ramon Laureano.
In 53 career postseason games, Correa now has an amazing 14 home runs and 38 RBI. Monday's performance was the second multi-homer game he's had in a postseason series.
Elsewhere, George Springer had four hits, Alex Bregman hit a solo home run as well and three A's hitters -- Matt Olson, Khris Davis and Sean Murphy -- also homered in the affair. On the pitching side, Blake Taylor got the victory after relieving McCullers in the fifth inning, while J.B. Wendelken took the loss. The A's ended up using eight different pitchers in the contest before all was said and done.
The teams now turn their attention to Tuesday's Game 2, when Sean Manaea and Framber Valdez -- neither of whom started a game in their teams' respective Wild Card series -- will take the mound for the pivotal matchup. Valdez threw five strong innings in relief of McCullers in the opening series, earning a win for his efforts, while Manaea didn't appear in the A's win over the White Sox.
NL East, West ready for battle
It's a quirky treat, but a treat nonetheless, that each of the four Division Series meetings pits division rivals against each other.
The American League clubs began their combat Monday as already noted, but the National League teams will fire up their rivalries Tuesday with a pair of must-see matchups. Each game features an upstart young club trying to unseat the old guard, with the Marlins looking to topple the Braves and the Padres trying to punch back against the big-brother Dodgers.
The first game of the day features two starting pitchers coming off dominant Wild Card performances. Max Fried started the Braves' postseason opener and fired seven of the team's 22 shutout innings against the Reds in their two-game sweep last week. On the other side, Sandy Alcantara and the Marlins stunned the Cubs in a two-game sweep of their own on the back of Alcantara's 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in Game 1.
The story of David vs. Goliath is noteworthy because it's the exception that proves the rule, and the Marlins will need a David-like effort to knock down the Braves in this series -- not only have the Braves not been scored upon this postseason, but during the regular season they boasted an offense that was first or second in nearly every offensive category. The Marlins, meanwhile, were a below-average offensive team that's gotten to this point with some skill, a lot of luck and an abundance of moxie.
There are few teams against which the Padres would be underdogs given their combination of pitching and hitting, but the Dodgers are one of them. The Los Angeles club led the league by a wide margin with a 3.02 ERA during the regular season, and they also led the way with 5.82 runs per game on offense -- quite literally the most proficient team at both scoring runs and suppressing them.
The Padres can't be counted out, though, especially if Mike Clevinger is able to take the ball in Game 1 and give them a few good innings before exiting. Chris Paddack and Zach Davies will have to be better to combat the Dodgers' staff that features Walker Buehler in Game 1 and Clayton Kershaw in Game 2 with studs like Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias waiting in the wings, but Fernando Tatis Jr. is arguably the game's most exciting player at the moment and the Padres ranked third in the majors with their own 5.42 runs per game.
Buckle up for a full day of action Tuesday.
Quick Hits: The Marlins haven't decided whether to include Starling Marte (hand) on their roster for the NLDS. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said they'll likely wait until the last minute before making a decision. Marte suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his left hand when he was hit by a pitch in Game 1 of the Marlins' Wild Card Series against the Cubs last Wednesday. Odds are he'll have a diminished role even if he's included on the roster ... Austin Meadows (oblique) was not in the Rays' lineup for Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees on Monday. He did serve as a pinch-hitter in the loss, striking out in the seventh inning. Meadows was added to the roster for the series after recovering from an oblique strain, but it sounds like the Rays plan on easing him back into things ... Rhys Hoskins did not have Tommy John surgery last week, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. It was a procedure called an internal brace repair, and the hope is that it will lead to a much shorter recovery time than Tommy John surgery. Hoskins could be ready for baseball activities in about 4-6 months, whereas TJS usually sidelines position players for over eight months. Pitchers typically need around 12-15 months. The 27-year-old slugger is aiming, for now, to be active at the beginning of the 2021 regular season. It certainly helps that the injury was to the ulnar collateral ligament in his non-throwing elbow.