The Month That Was in Baseball: September 2020
Tuesday, September 1
The San Francisco Giants come to mile-high Denver and play as if they are, in the words of the Byrds, eight miles high. In a 23-5 rout of the Colorado Rockies, the Giants score in every inning except the ninth—ironically, while facing Rockies emergency pitcher/catcher Drew Butera—to tie a franchise record for runs, and have three players knock in six runs each—an unprecedented feat in the post-1900 modern era of baseball. One of those three players is Alex Dickerson, who homers three times, doubles twice—including a ninth-inning drive off the face of the wall that comes close to being homer #4—and racks up 16 total bases to tie Willie Mays for the single-game franchise mark.
The Braves’ Marcell Ozuna makes it two hat tricks on the night, parking three balls over the walls at Boston’s Fenway Park walls with six RBIs to help lift Atlanta to an easy 10-3 win over the hopeless Red Sox. It’s Ozuna’s first three-homer game of his career.
Offensive fireworks are also in display at Cincinnati where the visiting St. Louis Cardinals pile on the Reds, 16-2, behind 23 hits. Brad Miller has the big night for the Redbirds, going 4-for-6 with two homers, a double and seven RBIs.
Despite being charged for the blowout loss, Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray maintains his streak of consecutive starts allowing six or fewer hits to 41—because he’s pulled just two-thirds of an inning into the game, having already allowed six runs on five hits.
The Rays may hold a healthy lead in the AL East, but the Yankees are letting them know not to get too cocky about it. New York’s spirited 5-3 home win over Tampa Bay does pull the Yankees back to within 3.5 games of the Rays in the AL East race, but the moment everyone’s talking about is Aroldis Chapman’s 101-MPH pitch that sails frighteningly close to the head of Tampa Bay’s Michael Brosseau in the ninth inning. (Chapman otherwise is hardly wild, pitching a 1-2-3 frame with one strikeout.) Dugouts empty and words are exchanged after the game; manager Kevin Cash is ejected at that point, even though the game has technically finished. But Cash isn’t done; during his postgame Zoom conference with reporters, he lets the Yankees know that two—or more—can play at this game: “I got a whole damn stable of guys that throw 98 MPH. Period.”
Wednesday, September 2
Baseball loses a giant on Wednesday as 300-win pitching great Tom Seaver, diagnosed with dementia last year, passes away after contracting COVID-19. It seems especially cruel that dementia would have targeted someone as bright and articulate as Seaver, who wasn’t afraid to speak the straight talk about the New York Mets, the franchise he spent the bulk of his Hall-of-Fame career with. When given to the Mets via a low-tech lottery after the Braves illegally tried to rush a bonus payment to him while still pitching at USC, Seaver set about trying to change the losing culture of the young franchise—and in 1969, he and his teammates made good on that goal with a shocking World Series triumph over the heavily-favored Orioles. When the Mets fell on hard times eight years later as owner M. Donald Grant spurned the onset of modern-day free agency, Seaver publicly criticized the front office—and then asked for a trade when Grant’s poison-pen pal, the New York Daily News’ Dick Young, savaged Seaver in his daily columns. Seaver got his wish; he was dealt to Cincinnati, where he continued his reign of excellence for the Reds before taking turns back with the Mets (briefly, with Grant long gone) the White Sox and finally the Red Sox, at age 42.
On the mound, Seaver had few peers. He won 311 games, struck out 3,640, compiled a sparkling 2.86 career ERA and took home three Cy Young Awards, finishing runner-up another two times. “Tom Terrific” holds the major league record for most consecutive strikeouts (10, in a 1970 game against San Diego) and reigns at the top of practically all major pitching categories in Mets history. Finally, he was elected to Cooperstown with a then record-high 98.84% of ballots cast, in a time when voters could hide behind their selections without worrying about online shaming.
The Braves became the first team in major league history with individual three-homer performances in back-to-back games, as Adam Duvall snares the hat trick a day after Marcell Ozuna did the same. The victims again are the Red Sox, who go down to defeat, 7-5.
The Yankees’ Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig belted three homers in back-to-back days in 1930—but not in back-to-back games, as doubleheaders were played on both days.
A day after tempers flare at Yankee Stadium, Tampa Bay gets the last laugh in the series finale with a 5-2 win over the Yankees. The Rays’ Michael Brosseau—whose head was nearly decapitated by a 101-MPH Aroldis Chapman pitch the previous night—stars with a double, home run and three RBIs. Tampa Bay pitchers don’t follow up on manager Kevin Cash’s threat to get even for Chapman’s ‘wildness’, even after the Yankees apparently double down; trailing 5-0 in the fifth, New York pitcher Ben Heller is ejected for drilling the Rays’ Hunter Renfroe in the back.
After winning or splitting 27 straight home series, the Yankees have now lost two in a row—both to the Rays.
The Chicago Cubs announce that Wrigley Field will become the first major league ballpark to include a sportsbook after agreeing to a multi-year partnership deal with online betting giant DraftKings. The City of Chicago and State of Illinois still must give approval, but any opposition is assumed to be minimal. The Tigers earlier this year also entered into a sponsorship deal with a betting company, but that did not include installation of a sportsbook at Comerica Park.
Thursday, September 3
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw zeroes down on the visiting Diamondbacks, allowing just one hit—an infield single by Christian Walker some suggest should be ruled an error—through six innings of a 5-1 victory. Of more historical importance, Kershaw fans eight batters, raising his career total to over 2,500 and making him the fourth fastest (by games, at 353) to reach that milestone; only Randy Johnson (313), Nolan Ryan (338) and Max Scherzer (344) got there faster.
The Red Sox, who haven’t been able to pitch if their lives depended on it, get a potential no-hitter from Martin Perez at Boston against the Blue Jays, but Teoscar Hernandez’s lead-off single in the seventh ends the bid. Five Toronto batters later, Perez is removed, the bullpen takes over and, as usual, blows it—allowing the Jays to pull away with a 6-2 win.
Friday, September 4
In his 105th career plate appearance with the bases loaded, the Braves’ Freddie Freeman finally goes deep for his first grand slam in the second game of a mini-doubleheader against Washington. It’s Freeman’s 233rd career home run; only Sammy Sosa (246) hit more to begin a career without a slam. Freeman’s bases-clearing shot isn’t enough for the Braves, who lose a 10-9, seven-inning slugfest to the Nationals. For Washington, it’s the end of a seven-game skid.
Freeman’s next homer, just two days later, will also be a grand slam.
The Yankees leave their dominance back in New York as they split a mini-DH at Baltimore—and in the process see the end of three long streaks. Though they hang on to win the first game, 6-5, the Yankees fail to hit multiple home runs—ending a run of 12 straight games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in which they hit at least two, one short of the all-time record held by the Twins at Kansas City against the A’s during the 1960s. The Yankees then lose the second game, 6-3—ending a streak of 19 straight wins against Baltimore, and 18 straight over the Orioles at Camden Yards. The latter streak ties a major league mark previously set by the Red Sox in 1911-13 against…the Yankees; the 19-win streak falls short of the all-time mark of 23 held by the 1969-70 Orioles against the Royals.
Saturday, September 5
In the wild first game of a mini-doubleheader at Anaheim, Mike Trout launches his 300th career home run to surpass Tim Salmon as the Los Angeles Angels’ all-time leader. It’s almost a shame that the seesaw game against Houston only goes seven innings; every single frame sees at least one instance of either team tying or taking the lead, with Houston notching three runs in the top of the seventh—only for the Angels to come back with three of their own to win, 10-9, on Jo Adell’s two-run, walk-off single. In the second game, the Angels—performing as the road team in their own ballpark—plate another three runs in the seventh to come from behind yet again and defeat the “host” Astros, 7-6.
Trout becomes the fastest player by games (1,235) to reach 300 homers and 200 steals; Willie Mays, with 1,295, held the old record.
Ronald Acuna Jr. is only 22 years of age, but he’s already the all-time Braves leader in lead-off home runs. He blasts his 18th to start Atlanta’s first inning in a 10-4 loss to Washington, knocking Felipe Alou—who needed nearly three times the number of games as Acuna—off the top of the list.
Milwaukee closer Josh Hader finally gives up a hit in 2020—two of them in fact, leading to a 4-3 loss at Cleveland. Taking over with a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the ninth, Hader immediately allows a double to the Indians’ Oscar Mercado, who then scored the game winner when the next batter, Cesar Hernandez, punches out a single. Hader had not allowed a hit through his first 11.2 innings of the season; his 35 hitless at-bats to begin the year tied a major league record held by Hal Newhouser (1942) and Brad Clontz (1998).
The Reds’ Eugenio Suarez becomes the seventh major leaguer this season to hit three home runs in a game, knocking in five runs to help Cincinnati to a 6-2 win at Pittsburgh. It’s Suarez’s first career hat trick.
Madison Bumgarner returns to his old home at Oracle Park to face off against his old team, the Giants, for the first time since signing a lucrative contract with Arizona. Fresh off a four-week layoff after a back injury, Bumgarner gives up three hits over four innings—but two of those are back-to-back home runs from Evan Longoria and Darin Ruf in the second inning, giving the Giants a lead they will not abandon the rest of the evening as they defeat the Diamondbacks, 4-3.
There are three unfortunate things about Bumgarner’s return to San Francisco, all thanks to the virus: He doesn’t get a hero’s welcome at an empty Oracle Park, doesn’t face his old batterymate of 10 years, Buster Posey (who’s sitting out the year), and because the NL has adopted the designated hitter for at least this season, doesn’t get to bat.
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo receives a three-year extension, likely a gift for building the team that won the franchise’s first World Series last year. Only three other GMs have hung around as long as Rizzo, who began his tenure in 2009; the Yankees’ Brian Cashman (1998), the Rangers’ Jon Daniels (2005) and the Royals’ Dayton Moore (2006).
It’s interesting to note: Of all 30 general managers currently in place, only one—Seattle’s Jerry Dipoto—has major league playing experience.
Sunday, September 6
Baseball loses a second Hall-of-Fame legend in as matter of days as Lou Brock, the highly revered and popular St. Louis Cardinals speedster, dies at the age of 81. In the game of baseball word association, think “Brock” and you’re likely to come back with “steal”; nobody in the National League has stolen more bases than Brock’s 938, and his 118 swiped in 1974 remained the modern-day major league standard until Rickey Henderson shattered it in 1982. (NBC cut into its regular programming to show Brock’s record-breaking steal.) His seven stolen bases in both the 1967 and 1968 World Series are Fall Classic records. But Brock was more than just baserunning. He had power; he was one of only three players in the long history of New York’s Polo Grounds to club a baseball over the distant center-field wall, hit as many as 21 homers in a season (1967), and belted four round-trippers in 21 World Series games, slugging at an impressive .655 clip. The Chicago Cubs, Brock’s first team, thought he’d make it as a power hitter without focusing on his speed game and misused him; when they weren’t satisfied with the results, they traded him, one-up for damaged-goods St. Louis pitcher Ernie Broglio in 1964. The rest is history.
Brock collected 3,023 career hits; his 3,000th, in 1979 after his 40th birthday, came all too predictably on an infield single. A class act who was well liked by Cardinals fans, Brock struggled in recent years, losing a leg to diabetes in 2015.
The Mets’ Pete Alonso powers two home runs in New York’s 14-1 throttling of the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, giving him 63 career homers—the most ever hit by anyone through his first 200 games. The old record belonged to the Yankees’ Aaron Judge.
For the first time this season, the Dodgers lose a series as it bows to the visiting Rockies thanks to an old friend: Matt Kemp, the once long-time Dodger whose two-run homer in the eighth puts Colorado ahead to stay, 7-6. The 1990 Reds remain the team with the most series wins/splits to begin a season, with 17.
Monday, September 7
In the first of 10 games to be played this month against the Blue Jays, the Yankees take a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth at Buffalo—and then promptly give up 10 runs, four of them on a grand slam crushed by Danny Jansen off New York reliever Adam Ottavino. The Jays carry the big inning to a 12-7 victory, increasing their advantage over the Yankees for second in the AL East to two games. It’s the first time since 1932 that the Yankee bullpen has allowed 10 runs in a single inning.
After cruising through the first five innings at San Francisco, Arizona’s Zac Gallen allows the first six Giants to reach in the sixth—and four of them score, just enough for the Giants to take a 4-2 victory. It’s the first time in 24 career starts that Gallen has allowed more than three runs in a game, ending a major league-record streak to begin a career.
Tuesday, September 8
The Yankees are on the precipice of panic. They suffer their fifth straight loss on Tuesday at Buffalo to the Blue Jays, 2-1, dropping their record to an even .500; they’re 5-15 since peaking at 16-6 on August 17. Worse, their injury-depleted offense has become dormant, running up a 17-game streak without registering double-digit totals in hits. That’s the third-longest stretch in Yankees history, and the longest since a 33-game patch in 1968, which is #1 on that list. Some will apply the asterisk to this streak since seven of the 17 games were seven-inning affairs—but still, they’ve hit an atrocious .205 during this time.
The Twins split a pair at St. Louis and are now a half-game behind both the Indians and White Sox in a very competitive AL Central race—but the historical award goes to Nelson Cruz, who goes a combined 4-for-6 in the mini-DH with solo home runs in both games. It’s the third time this year that Cruz has homered in both ends of a double-dip, something not done since 1964 when the Twins’ Harmon Killebrew and Indians’ John Romano both accomplished the feat.
Also homering in both games of a mini-DH is Boston rookie Bobby Dalbec, who’s finally provided the wretched Red Sox with something of a silver lining this season. The 25-year old has gone deep in four straight games—and becomes only the third player in major league history, after Graig Nettles (1968) and Trevor Story (2016) to have a four-homer streak within the first nine games of their careers. The Red Sox split the DH at Philadelphia, as Dalbec knocks in the final three runs to unlock a 2-2 tie in the nightcap.
Wednesday, September 9
A day after getting shut out by the Marlins, the Braves’ offense gets back on track—to say the least. Starting with an 11-run outburst in the second inning, the Braves continue piling on the runs until they wrap up a staggering 29-9 victory over Miami, setting a modern NL record for runs in a game. Among the game’s unique factoids: Adam Duvall collects three homers for the second time in eight days and ties pitcher Tony Cloninger’s all-time franchise RBI mark (from 1966) with nine; Miami pitcher Jordan Yamamoto coughs up 13 runs (12 earned) over 2.2 innings of work, becoming one of only three relievers to give up 13 or more in less than three innings of work (the other two were Vin Mazzaro in 2011 and Hugh Caravan in 1918); Atlanta starter Tommy Milone becomes the first pitcher in MLB history to be the benefactor of 10-run innings in multiple games—and not win either; and Braves reliever Bryse Wilson pitches the final four innings and officially “earns” a save with Atlanta up by as many as 20 runs.
The 29 runs for the Braves are not an ‘all-time’ franchise record. In the team’s very first year of play in 1871, the Boston Red Stockings—as the Braves were originally known—scored 30 and 31 runs in separate games. They averaged 13 runs per game in a time when the game was quite different than what it is today.
Four Marlins relievers throw a total of 185 pitches; for their sake, hopefully they’ll recover as Miami has to play 22 games over the final 18 games of the regular season.
In another big-time rout on the day, the Brewers lay a thoroughly one-sided 19-0 thumping on the Tigers in Detroit, outhitting them 21-2. It isn’t the biggest shutout win in Brewers history—they defeated the Pirates, 20-0, in a 2010 game—but it’s the worst home shutout defeat suffered by the Tigers in their 120 years of existence. Jedd Gyorko hits two of five home runs on the day for Milwaukee, while Corbin Burnes—obviously a changed man after being dishonored with our Worst NL Pitcher of the Year award last season—allows just one hit with no walks and 11 strikeouts through seven near-flawless innings, lowering his season ERA to 1.99 over nine appearances (six starts) in 2020.
It isn’t Mars, but it sure feels like it as the A’s and Giants play evening games under orange skies created from a thick upper layer of smoke funneled in from numerous wildfires within California. The Martians win; the Giants clobber Seattle 10-1, while the A’s get a walk-off RBI single from Ramon Laureano to defeat the Astros, 3-2.
Thursday, September 10
The Marlins begin a five-day, seven-game series—yes, seven games—against the Phillies in Miami, and after trailing early 6-3 bounce back with three in the eighth and one in the ninth to win, 7-6. At 20-19, the Marlins are tied with the Giants for the NL’s #7 playoff seed.
In his ninth major league start, the Royals’ Brady Singer nearly becomes the second Singer in major league history (Bill Singer, 1970) to throw a no-hitter, coming within four outs of the promised land when Cleveland’s Austin Hedges breaks it up with a single. It’s the only suspense registered in an otherwise one-sided night as the Royals blast the Indians, 11-1.
Two major leaguers with good name recognition are released by their teams. The Giants say adios to Pablo Sandoval, who enjoyed a somewhat turbulent pair of tenures at San Francisco sandwiched around a disastrous stay at Boston; the 34-year-old infielder was batting .220 with a home run over 82 at-bats. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks let go of Jake Lamb, who looked like a star on the rise back in 2017 after collecting 30 home runs and 105 RBIs—but in the three years since has appeared in just 152 games, batting a paltry .199 with 12 homers.
Friday, September 11
The virus has struck baseball again. This time it’s out west, where an unnamed Giants player tests positive in San Diego; both the Giants and Padres appear to be seconds away from starting a Friday night game when ballplayers are informed the game is off. The next day’s contest will also be postponed while further testing determines if an outbreak is at hand.
It seems almost unbelievable that a major league team has never once fielded an all left-handed hitting lineup, until tonight. The Rays go left from top to bottom and it pays off, bashing the Red Sox at St. Petersburg, 11-1. Young Tampa Bay first baseman Nick Lowe has the big night offensively, collecting two homers and a single while driving in four runs.
In defeat, the Red Sox’ Brian Dalbec fails to hit a home run after going deep in five straight games—settling for a double and single. Dalbec’s five-game streak is the first by a player within the first 10 games of a career.
It’s a bittersweet night for young Cleveland ace Shane Bieber—with the accent more on the ‘bitter’ part. Bieber not only becomes the first pitcher this season to reach 100 strikeouts, but he does it in just 62.1 innings—the fewest frames ever needed by a major league pitcher to record his first 100 Ks of any year. But he’s outdueled by the Twins’ Kenta Maeda, whose seven shutout innings help pin the first loss of the season on Bieber as Minnesota triumphs at home, 3-0.
For a second straight start, Jacob deGrom doesn’t have to sweat to pick up a win. The Mets’ ace improves to 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA with six strong innings and plenty of support as New York crushes the Blue Jays at Buffalo, 18-1. The Mets have scored 32 runs over deGrom’s last two starts.
There are three ‘official’ complete games thrown by starting pitchers, but asterisks are needed. Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (at Miami) and the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole (home against the Orioles) each throw shutouts in the first games of mini-doubleheaders, but those are seven-inning blankings; chances are, had the game gone the more typical nine innings, they wouldn’t have been allowed to make it that far as they both throw over 100 pitches. Meanwhile in St. Louis, the Reds’ Luis Castillo does go a legitimate nine, scattering a run on two hits over 112 pitches as Cincinnati defeats the Cardinals, 3-1.
Saturday, September 12
If ever a team was happy not to have fans in the stands, it’s the Astros on a day as they make their first visit to Dodger Stadium since winning the 2017 World Series—illicitly, most people believe. It’s not that Dodgers fans don’t try to be a disruptive influence; though they can’t get into the ballpark, they do congregate in the parking lot and, when the Astros’ team bus arrives, say hello by banging on trash cans, while a plane flies overhead with a banner in tow stating, “Houston Cheats Bang Bang.” Inside, the Astros appear to be on their way to their ninth loss in 10 games, trailing 5-2 in the ninth—but that’s when they rally for five runs off closer Kenley Jansen, who couldn’t retire any of the five batters he faced. Houston’s 7-5 win brings the team back to the .500 mark.
Jansen, who had a 1.06 ERA just five days ago, has given up eight runs (six earned) on eight hits over his last two outings.
Jared Walsh’s three-run homer in the top of the 11th gives the Angels a 5-2 victory at Colorado, but the historic news is Albert Pujols’ RBI double in the sixth; it’s the 669th career two-bagger for the future Hall of Famer, surpassing Craig Biggio for fifth on the all-time list. Next for Pujols is Ty Cobb, who’s #4 with 724.
Insult is added to injury in what’s become a pitiful season for the Pirates, who drop to 14-29 with a 7-4 defeat at Kansas City. For the third straight game, the Bucs lose to a pitcher who wins his first career game—in this case, Royals reliever Kyle Zimmer. It’s only the second time in modern baseball history that a team has suffered three straight defeats to pitchers winning their first game.
The game at Kauffman Stadium is delayed 30 minutes because of a police action in the parking lot as a man with a “mental health issue” begins firing at ballpark employees; he’s taken into custody after a tense standoff.
The A’s split a pair at Texas, but the AL West leaders still feel like they lose the day as it’s learned that stellar third baseman Matt Chapman will undergo hip surgery and miss the rest of the season. Chapman was not having the best year at the plate with a .232 average, but he did bust out 10 home runs over 37 games—and his glovework, considered the majors’ best, will be sorely missed as the A’s head toward the postseason.
Sunday, September 13
In just his 28th major league appearance and 15th start, the Cubs’ Alec Mills stuns the Brewers in Milwaukee with the franchise’s 11th no-hitter in modern times, walking three and striking out five in a 12-0 romp. The 28-year-old right-hander, in his fourth season—but really, his first full campaign—throws 114 pitches in improving his record and ERA to 5-3 and 3.93, respectively. Mills is terrific but hardly overpowering; the Brewers swing and miss at only five of his pitches during the entire game.
This is the second no-hitter of the year, following Lucas Giolito’s gem for the White Sox on August 25; it’s the first time that no-no’s have been thrown by pitchers of both Chicago teams within the same year. It’s the second no-hitter recorded in the 20-year history of Miller Park, with the first also thrown by a Cub: Carlos Zambrano, who silenced not the Brewers but the Astros in a 2008 game moved to Milwaukee because the City of Houston was being overwhelmed by Hurricane Ike.
The Angels’ 5-3 win at Colorado, Albert Pujols belts career home run #660 to tie Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time list. Not only is the round-tripper historic, it’s important; the two-run shot in the eighth put the Angels ahead to stay.
Baseball stat enthusiast Sarah Langs notes that two of Pujols’ other big milestone moments—his 600th home run in 2017 and his 3,000th hit a year later—also came on the same day that a no-hitter was thrown.
So it turns out that the positive COVID-19 test that postponed two games between the Giants and Padres over the last couple of days was nothing more than a false alarm. The Giants’ Alex Dickerson, the player in question, repeatedly tested negative afterward and returns to Petco Park along with everyone else to play a mini-doubleheader swept by the Padres, 6-0 and 3-1. Mike Clevinger tosses a three-hit ‘complete game’ shutout in the first contest, scattering two hits and a walk.
An emotional Dickerson, whose wife is days away from giving birth to their first child, is highly relieved that he was okay all along.
Question: If a pitcher officially gets credit for a shutout and/or complete game that goes seven innings, shouldn’t any starter that lasts four frames and departs with the lead in a game of similar length get credit for the win? After all, he’s pitched more than half the game—just like one who pitches a minimum of five innings in a nine-inning contest, correct?
There is a true nine-inning shutout to report on the day, besides Alec Mills. In Kansas City, the Royals blast the poor Pirates (14-30) behind a five-hit shutout from Brad Keller, his second complete game and first shutout of his three-year major league career. Keller is now 4-2 with a sterling 2.06 ERA.
Monday, September 14
Mets fans won’t soon have the Wilpons to kick around anymore. Billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen agrees to buy 95% of the team for $2.4 billion, subject to approval by MLB. Cohen has been attempting to acquire the club for nearly two years, with competition from Alex Rodriguez and fiancée Jennifer Lopez—both of whom dropped out last month.
Virus, bad. Smoke…okay. The A’s and Mariners play a pair of make-up games in Seattle on despite an air quality index over 200—in the hazardous range, according to climatologists, as smoke from fires near and far choked the air at T-Mobile Park. The two teams split the mini-DH, with the A’s taking the nightcap 9-0 behind contributions from two recently acquired players: Former Texas pitcher Mike Minor, who throws a two-hit ‘complete-game’ shutout, and Jake Lamb, who powers his first homer for Oakland after being released by Arizona.
T-Mobile Park’s retractable roof is closed for the doubleheader, but that doesn’t make the facility totally enclosed as there’s open space on the north end behind left field, which allows the filthy air to infiltrate inside.
After scoring just three runs over their previous four games, the Orioles do some making up by beating Atlanta, 14-1. It’s the first time that an AL team has scored 14-plus runs after failing to score more than one in the four games prior.
The Cardinals’ Kwang-Hyun Kim, owner of a 136-77 record playing in Korea the past 12 seasons, is making the KBO look very good these days. In the first game of a mini-DH at Milwaukee, the 32-year-old right-hander shuts down the Brewers (victims of Alec Mills’ no-hitter the day before) on three hits—but he departs before the game goes into ‘extra’ innings tied at 0-0, and the Brewers pick up two runs to counter the Cardinals’ auto runner score in the top of the eighth to win, 2-1. In five starts this year, Kim has allowed just one earned run over 27.2 innings, and none over his last 24.2; his 0.33 ERA is the lowest by a pitcher in his first five major league starts since Fernando Valenzuela’s 0.20 figure during his fabled 1981 breakout campaign.
MLB is banning alcohol from playoff-clinching postgame celebrations, out of fear that players and coaches would be drinking out of the same bottle and thus could potentially spread any virus that may just happen to be hanging around.
Tuesday, September 15
Baseball’s final three rounds of the 2020 postseason will be played at neutral sites, an MLB first—with the World Series to take place exclusively at Arlington’s new Globe Life Field. The Fall Classic has been played entirely within one ballpark before—in 1921-22 at New York’s Polo Grounds for the Yankees and Giants, and 1944 at St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park for the Cardinals and Browns—but those ballparks were the actual shared homes of the participating teams.
The League Division Series and League Championship Series will also be played at neutral sites; the ALDS will be Southern California-based with games at San Diego’s Petco Park and Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, while the NLDS will take place back in Texas at Globe Life Field and Houston’s Minute Maid Park. Globe Life Field (NLCS) and Petco Park (ALCS) will host the postseason’s penultimate round.
MLB believes the neutral site options will reduce the risk of virus infections as October deepens and flu season potentially becomes more widespread, compounding the struggle to contain the current pandemic. But it also takes away the last vestige of home field advantage for the higher-seeded teams; though they won’t have fans in the ballpark, teams are decidedly more familiar with the dimensions of their home yard. That advantage will be lost.
Commissioner Rob Manfred hopes that fans will be allowed in the ballparks for the neutral site games—especially in Texas, where state officials are more inclined to do so than in California, which has more buttoned-up regulations. And in a comment that’s sure to leave many gnashing their teeth, Manfred believes that the 16-team playoff field will not be a one-off and will continue on a permanent basis, saying that he has the owners’ backing.
Count the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in the anti-bubble circle: “Not a fan of the bubble. I’m not a fan of the whole setup. Like I said before, it doesn’t really reward a team for going out and winning. There’s really no home-field advantage anymore.”
Memo to Manfred: Just in the past seven years alone (2013-19), 12 teams with losing records would have qualified for the postseason if MLB’s 16-team playoff format was in use. This is no way to reward mediocrity.
The air misery index intensifies in Seattle, forcing the Giants and Mariners to abandon the Northwest and relocate to San Francisco to play out a two-game series.
The Yankees appeared to have righted the pinstriped ship after slumping to a 21-21 nadir back on September 8. In pummeling the Blue Jays, 20-6, the Yankees win their sixth straight game and pass a half-game ahead of Toronto into second in the AL East, four games behind Tampa Bay. The Yankees are fueled at the top, as DJ LaMahieu and Luke Voit, hitting 1-2, combine to go 7-for-11 with 10 RBIs, two doubles and three home runs. It’s the second time in the last 100 years that the top two players in a lineup each knocked in five runs. When did it happen the first time? Just seven days earlier, when Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman did it for the Braves.
Voit has a major league-leading 18 home runs and 42 RBIs; those two numbers are the most added up by a Yankee through the team’s first 48 games of a season since Alex Rodriguez in 2007.
Just six days after racking up a 19-0 victory over Pittsburgh, the Brewers mash the Cardinals at Milwaukee, 18-3. It’s the first time in franchise history that the Brewers have scored 18 or more runs in multiple games within a week, but here’s the odd part; in the five games sandwiched in between the two blowouts, the Brewers scored a total of just seven runs, batted a paltry .139, and were no-hit by the Cubs’ Alec Mills.
Wednesday, September 16
The Yankees demolish the Blue Jays anew, drilling seven more home runs off beleaguered Toronto pitching in a 13-2 rout at New York. The slugging star of the night is catcher Kyle Higashioka, who’s the first #9 batter in Yankees history to drill three homers; DJ LaMahieu, batting first, adds two homers and a double—a night after a four-hit game in which he doubled twice and homered. Gerrit Cole takes a no-hitter into the sixth inning and ends up conceding a run on three hits over seven innings to improve his record to 6-3.
Higashioka is the sixth player in modern major league history to belt three home runs from the #9 spot in the order. The Yankees in general are the fifth team since 1901 to hit six or more homers in consecutive games; one of the other four teams was the Blue Jays, who did it just a little over a month ago (August 11-12).
The Dodgers became the first team in the majors this season to clinch a postseason berth—and more importantly blow a little more breathing room between themselves and the second-place Padres with a 7-5 victory at San Diego. It’s the eighth straight year that the Dodgers have made it to the playoffs—the third longest stretch behind the 14-year run by the Braves from 1991-2005 (the washed-away strike season of 1994 excluded) and the 13-year run by the 1995-2007 Yankees. Los Angeles maintains the best record in the majors at 35-15, and is 3.5 games ahead of second place San Diego in the NL West.
The Mets, with dubious hopes of making the playoff field, absorb both good news and bad at Philadelphia. With single runs in the eighth and ninth innings, the Mets defeat the Phillies 5-4 to improve their record to 22-27. That was the good news. The bad news: Jacob deGrom starts and lasts just two innings, allowing three runs before being forced out with a picky hamstring. The outing ends a streak of 13 straight starts in which the two-time defending NL Cy Young Award winner allows two or fewer runs.
Thursday, September 17
The Yankees must be asking the Blue Jays: Haven’t you had enough yet? After smoking 13 homers over the previous two nights, the Yankees ramp up again and belt six more homers—five in one inning, something that’s only been done six times in major league history—to quash Toronto, 10-7 and finish a three-game sweep at New York. Among the quintet of Bronx Bombers for the Yankees is Luke Voit, who’s the first in the majors to reach 20 round-trippers on the year. The Yankees are the first team in history to hit at least six homers in three straight games.
Three of the Yankees’ five home runs in the seven-run second inning come in consecutive at-bats; with the Phillies also hitting three in a row in their 10-6 victory over the Mets at Philadelphia, it’s the third time that two teams have done it on the same day. It previously happened in 1999 and in 2000, the latter when both teams (Kansas City and Minnesota) did it playing one another.
The 19 homers hit by the Yankees against Toronto are the most ever collected in a single series of any length in major league history.
The Angels’ Jared Walsh, barely qualifying as a 2020 rookie after logging 79 at-bats late last season, nevertheless sets a ‘first-year’ mark by collecting at least a run and RBI each in nine straight games—surpassing the 1939 record held by Detroit’s Barney McCosky—in a 7-3 home win over Arizona. It’s not like Walsh has been playing it safe during the streak; he’s homered in six of the nine games, and is batting .328 for the season.
Walsh’s streak will end the next day when he knocks in a run but fails to plate one.
Friday, September 18
Albert Pujols cranks out two solo homers to surpass Willie Mays and take sole possession of the #5 spot on the all-time home run list in the Angels’ 6-2 home victory over Texas. It’s Pujols’ 60th career multi-homer game; only seven players have more, with Babe Ruth topping the list at 72.
After being shut out in the first game of a mini-doubleheader by a 5-0 count, the Marlins—and more specifically, Brian Anderson—make up for lost offense in the nightcap by trashing the Nationals, 14-3. Anderson hits a solo home run early, then adds two three-run shots late to foster the rout. He’s the first player to have a hat trick in the nine-year history of Marlins Park, and the first to ever do it in a major league game lasting less than nine innings.
This is the seventh three-homer performance in September, tying the all-time record set in August 2002 for the most in any month.
Saturday, September 19
Remember back at the beginning of this shortened season when the Astros’ Justin Verlander, after dropping out of action with a forearm strain, insisted that he’d be back this year? Well, not only does it look like he won’t be back in 2020, but 2021 as well. The 37-year-old future Hall of Famer said on his Instagram account that he’s set to undergo Tommy John surgery after feeling “something in my elbow” while pitching in a simulated game this past week.
From 21-21 to 31-21: The Yankees do more than just win their 10th straight game with an 8-0 munching of the Red Sox in Boston. They also make it 12 in a row against the Red Sox, matching a franchise high against their archrivals (they also won a dozen straight against Boston in 1936 and 1952-53), clinch their 28th consecutive winning season (second longest in major league history to their own 39-year run from 1926-64), and are just one game away from clinching a postseason spot. J.A. Happ throws eight shutout innings while Clint Frazier belts his eighth home run of the year among three hits.
The defending champion Nationals lose a 7-3 decision at Miami, dropping their season record to 19-31. Sound familiar? Last year, Washington also limped out to a 19-31 start before rebounding to win it all. Except, this year isn’t like last year; they don’t get 112 games to catch up.
The Marlins’ win over Washington shaves a game off the Braves’ NL East lead, which is at 2.5 games following Atlanta’s 7-2 defeat at New York against the Mets. The statistical silver lining for the Braves is that Adam Duvall launches his 11th home run of September, setting a franchise record for this particular month.
Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire announces that he’ll be stepping down as Tigers manager so he can focus on his health—which has been a challenge as he’s had to overcome cancer and diabetes. Coming out to the ballpark and being “stressed out all day” with his hands “shaking” hasn’t helped—nor has the fact that the Tigers have gone 133-241 in three years under the 62-year old’s watch.
Sunday, September 20
The Padres clinch their first playoff spot since 2006, bulking up for a trio of runs in the 11th inning to triumph at Seattle, 7-4. Some may sneer at the Padres’ achievement because of this year’s expansive postseason template—but even in a normal year, a 34-20 record (paced out to 102-60) would very much be postseason-worthy. Dinelson Lamet fires another excellent start for the Padres (six innings, one run allowed on two hits with 10 strikeouts) but fails to pick up the win; it’s his fourth quality start this season without one.
Monday, September 21
So the most the Braves can get out of Cole Hamels for $18 million (prorated lower due to the pandemic) is a measly 3.1 innings. After making his first start on September 16—allowing three runs in those 3.1 frames against Baltimore—Hamels and the Braves agree to throw the towel in on his season as issues with his triceps and shoulder continue to dog him. This leaves the Braves with less pitching depth as they seek the #2 seed in the NL postseason.
The idle A’s become the first AL team to clinch a divisional title, capturing the West as the second-place Astros lose at Seattle, 6-1. This is Oakland’s first finish at the top since 2013—and ends Houston’s three-year reign in the AL West.
Tuesday, September 22
The 2020 postseason gels a little more as the Braves clinch their third straight NL East title with an 11-1 home rout of Miami, while the Dodgers secure home field advantage for the NL playoffs after defeating the A’s at Los Angeles, 7-2.
Also punching a ticket to the postseason is Cleveland, thanks to Jose Ramirez’s three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to end a come-from-behind, 5-3 walk-off victory over the White Sox. It’s the second time in major league history that a three-run game-winning homer, launched while trailing, gave the triumphant team a postseason berth. The other? The 1951 New York Giants, on Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World.
With the Cubs also losing on a game-winning homer (by Pittsburgh’s Jacob Stallings), this is the first time in history that both Chicago teams have lost on walk-off homers on the same day.
The Phillies’ playoff aspirations are heavily dented by the Nationals, who sweep a mini-doubleheader by scores of 5-1 and 8-7. The second game is won in the “extra” eighth frame on rookie Yadiel Hernandez’s two-run homer, the first of his career—at age 32. He’s thus the oldest player to go walk-off with his first major league homer. The Phillies drop to 27-29, a game behind three others (Reds, Brewers and Giants) vying for the final two NL playoff spots.
The pandemic claims another baseball casualty as there will be no Arizona Fall League in 2020. Not having fans at the Phoenix-area ballparks were a given—not many typically show up to those games even when there’s no virus to contend with—but officials were concerned about oversized rosters staying safe and germ-free. That’s interesting, given that most of these ballparks are the same ones that host spring training games when major league rosters are oversized.
Wednesday, September 23
Behind six sharp innings from Tyler Glasnow and a pair of homers from rookie Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay wraps up its third AL East title (and first since 2010) with an 8-5 win over the Mets at New York. The Rays are in a safe position to also grab home field advantage for the AL playoffs—which, with no home crowd and a neutral setting, is pretty much nothing more than…you get to bat last.
In a meeting of two teams who folded tent at the trading deadline, the Diamondbacks take care of the visiting Rangers, 7-3, behind the first two career home runs for third baseman Wayne Mathisen. The 26-year-old Texas native mashes both of his deep flies from the #9 spot, the first National Leaguer to do so with his first two homers; that may sound impressive, but it must be reminded that, until this year, pitchers have principally hit last 99% of the time.
The Twins overtake the White Sox in the AL Central race with a 7-6 home victory over the Tigers—but give Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera credit for making the game close. The future Hall of Famer drives in all six of the Tigers’ runs on a pair of three-run homers, tying a career high previously set in five previous games; the twin blasts up his total of multi-homer games in a Tigers uniform to 32, tying Hank Greenberg at the top of the all-time franchise list; and his two runs scored put him in sole possession of first place among Venezuelan-born players with 1,455.
Thursday, September 24
The Buffalo, er, Toronto Blue Jays stamp their ticket to the postseason with a 4-1 home win over the Yankees behind Hyun-Jin Ryu’s seven shutout innings. It’s the Jays’ first appearance in October since 2016.
The Jays’ clinching leaves second place in the AL West as the league’s remaining spot up for grabs—and that battle is now exclusively between the Astros and Angels. Houston’s 12-4 rout at Arlington against the Rangers officially eliminates the Mariners, who will miss out on the postseason for the 19th straight year—the majors’ longest current drought.
The Royals’ Alex Gordon announced that he’ll be stepping down after the season after 14 years, all of them with Kansas City. The 36-year-old outfielder never totally fulfilled the high expectations when he first arrived on the scene in 2007, and collected a so-so .257 lifetime batting average, but he did well enough to earn three All-Star Game appearances, seven Gold Gloves, while his longevity served him well enough that he currently is ranked #3 on the all-time franchise list in walks, #4 in home runs and #5 in doubles.
Friday, September 25
At New York, the Marlins clinch a playoff berth with 10th-inning help from the gift runner on second to defeat the Yankees, 4-3. It will be the Marlins’ third-ever appearance in the playoffs and first since 2003; in their previous two trips, both representing the wild card, they won the World Series.
The Reds make it to October for the first time since 2013—and in the process tie the Cardinals for second in the NL Central—with a 7-2 win at Minnesota. This leaves one spot up for grabs in the NL, and the Giants have the advantage there—but they could have all but clinched had reliever Sam Coonrod not blown a gasket and allow a walk-off homer to the Padres’ Trent Grisham in the second game of a mini-doubleheader at San Francisco, ruining a mini-sweep with a 6-5 loss. (The Giants nearly blew a 5-1 lead in the ninth, er, seventh in the first game, but hold on for a 5-4 decision.)
Meanwhile in the American League, the Astros put closure on the list of eight teams headed for the postseason not with their 5-4, 10-inning loss at Texas but with the Angels’ 9-5 defeat against the Dodgers. This marks Houston’s fourth straight postseason appearance, which will certainly leave the many still angered over their cheating back in 2017 (and possibly beyond) gnashing their teeth.
There’s still suspense in the AL seeding picture as three quality teams—the Twins, Indians and White Sox—begin the day just a game apart. The Twins lead with the one-game advantage despite their loss to Cincinnati, while the Indians—who had all but faded out of the picture just a week earlier—rumbled to their sixth straight victory, 4-3 over the Pirates; and the White Sox took their sixth straight loss as they got hammered by the cross-town Cubs, 10-0.
Cleveland wins its sixth straight game with a 4-3 decision over Pittsburgh despite the efforts of Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller—who for the second straight game is pulled before giving up his first hit, allowing one run thanks to eight walks on 98 pitches, only half of them (49) for strikes. He’s only the second pitcher in NL history to last at least five innings in successive starts and not allow a hit; the other was the Reds’ Johnny Vander Meer, who in 1938 started and finished two straight no-hitters.
The Braves cement their #2 seed standing in the NL playoff picture with a dramatic 8-7, 10-inning home win over the Red Sox. Two home runs stand out for Atlanta: A 495-foot blast from Ronald Acuna Jr., the longest hit this year in the majors and the longest ever hit in the short history of SunTrust/Truist Park; and a two-run, pinch-hit, walk-off shot from Freddie Freeman in the 10th.
Thom Brennaman makes it official; he will step down permanently from the Reds broadcast booth after 33 years on the job. The 57-year-old Brennaman was indefinitely suspended after an ear-opening hot mic moment on August 19, emphatically shouting out “One of the f*g capitols of the world” as the game went back on air, apparently earlier than he thought.
Saturday, September 26
The Dodgers have spent a pretty penny sprucing up Dodger Stadium of late; now they need to spend some dough on sending out an electrician. During the Dodgers’ 7-6 win over the Angels, the lights went out for 25 minutes; this follows twin outages one month apart back in 2018.
Sunday, September 27
Baseball’s Sweet Sixteen is set as MLB’s pandemic-shortened 60-game schedule comes to a conclusion without traumatic interruption; with the exception of the Cardinals and Tigers (58 games each), all major league teams get in the maximum 60 games. That in itself is a victory.
The Cardinals defeat the Brewers 5-2, but both teams clinch at the last minute as the Giants fall shy of the Padres (and home plate umpire Rob Drake, whose balls-and-strikes calls rightfully infuriate the Giants), 5-4 to get knocked out of October action.
The Brewers and reigning AL champ Astros both qualify for the postseason despite losing records (29-31 each). They thus join the 1981 Kansas City Royals (50-53) as the only teams making the playoffs while finishing the season below .500. The Astros’ entry into the postseason is an historic one for Houston manager Dusty Baker, who becomes the first skipper to lead five different teams into the playoffs over his career. His other four teams are the Giants, Reds, Cubs and Nationals.
Although the defending world champion Nationals will not return to the playoffs, they can at least boast the youngest batting champion in NL history. Juan Soto singles in his lone at-bat during the Nationals’ 15-5 home rout of the Mets and finishes the year batting .351, the highest in Expos/Nationals history. At 21 years of age, Soto is the fifth youngest batting titlist, with the other four having all won in the AL.
In the AL, the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu easily captures his second career batting crown with a .364 mark. LeMahieu becomes the ninth Yankee to win the title, the first since Bernie Williams in 1998 —and the first ever to win crowns in both leagues since Ed Delahanty (NL 1899, AL 1902).
One of the more intriguing performances on the season’s final day comes from the Cubs’ Billy Hamilton, whose career was all but considered flamed out. The 30-year-old speedster not only hits his first home run since 2018, but also steals home—the first Cub since Glenn Beckert in 1967 to do both in the same game, as the Cubs take care of the White Sox, 10-8.
The end of the regular season also brings on the inevitable first round of firings and dismissals. In Boston, the Red Sox bid adieu to manager Ron Roenicke, who failed to spark the Sox (24-36) as a virtual fill-in for the next guy after the sudden ousting of Joey Cora in the aftermath of the Astros’ cheating scandal; it’s theorized that the Sox might actually bring back Cora. Out in Anaheim, the Angels sack general manager Billy Eppier after five years—all of them resulting in losing records.
Monday, September 28
The 1970s were full of colorful baseball personalities, and few were as memorable as Jay Johnstone, who passes away on Monday at age 74. The fact that Johnstone played 20 seasons (from 1966-85) despite rarely performing full-time was quite the back-handed feat, in part because as a left-handed batter he often sat against southpaw pitchers—and many right-handers, for that matter. But his offbeat character, coated with a quirky sense of humor, made him a fan favorite. “I plead guilty to assigning Jay Johnstone and Jimmy Piersall as roommates,” Angels manager Bill Rigney once said. “It was an easy decision. I didn’t want to screw up two rooms.” With the Dodgers in the early 1980s, Johnstone once went to get a Dodger Dog—in full uniform, during a game.
We need more players like Jay Johnstone today.
Tuesday, September 29
All eight American League playoff teams battle to start the heavily expanded 16-team MLB postseason, with some surprises.
First and foremost, leading AL Cy Young candidate Shane Bieber takes a big-time pounding from the Yankees at Cleveland, as he surrenders seven runs over 4.2 innings in a 12-3 loss. This is by far the worst outing of the year for Bieber, who hadn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his 12 regular season starts. Unlike Bieber, Gerrit Cole does bring his A-game to Progressive Field, allowing two runs over seven frames with 13 strikeouts and no walks; he’s the first pitcher to collect 12-plus Ks and no walks in two different playoff games.
The Twins’ postseason misery continues as they can’t even defeat a team that entered the playoffs with a losing record. Kenta Maeda holds the visiting Astros in check with five shutout innings, but Houston erases a 1-0 lead in the seventh—then notch three in the ninth to break a late tie and defeat the Twins, 4-1. It’s the 17th straight postseason loss for Minnesota—establishing a North American pro sports record they shared with hockey’s Chicago Blackhawks from 1975-79. There is on-air criticism of the Astros pulling starter Zack Greinke too early—he had allowed just a run on two hits through four innings and 79 pitches—but reliever Framber Valdez makes manager Dusty Baker look smart by throwing the remaining five innings without conceding a run—something no reliever has done in a postseason game since the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner’s memorable Game Seven appearance against Kansas City in 2014.
In Oakland, White Sox ace Lucas Giolito—who threw one of the majors’ two no-hitters during the regular season—takes a perfect game into the seventh when the A’s Tommy La Stella breaks it up with a leadoff single. Giolito is removed two batters into the eighth but picks up the win as three home runs—one each from Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal and even light-hitting Adam Engel—provide all the offense in Chicago’s 4-1 victory.
Tampa Bay takes a somewhat easy first step toward the next round by silencing the visiting Blue Jays, 3-1. Blake Snell gives up just one hit through 5.2 shutout innings with nine strikeouts, while Manuel Margot’s two-run shot in the seventh proves to be the winning blow.
With the exception of the game in Oakland, the cardboard fan cutouts have company—not reserve players or photographers, but actual fans. Well, sort of. A smattering of team employees and family members are allowed into the ballparks to cheer on their employers, following social distancing rules—not a difficult thing to do within venues seating roughly 40,000.
Wednesday, September 30
Once upon a time, a typical regular season day consisted of eight games—because there were 16 teams between the two leagues. Today, 16 teams are in action—all of them in the playoffs. It’s the first time eight postseason games have ever been played on a single day. There won’t be another this year—and hopefully, never again—as three American League teams exit after being swept; two of those teams bow at home against lower-seeded competition.
The disappointment of October continues in Minneapolis, where the Twins are two-and-done after dropping their 18th straight postseason game, a 3-1 loss to the Astros. Carlos Correa’s seventh-inning solo shot breaks up a 1-1 tie, while a suddenly impressive Houston bullpen throws 4.2 more shutout innings.
Correa lets off a little post-cheating-bitchery steam, telling reporters after the game, “We play great baseball. We won a series on the road in Minnesota. So what are (the critics) going to say now?”
The one happy note on the date for the losing Twins is the presence of right fielder Alex Kirilloff, who becomes only the third player in major league history to make his debut in a postseason game—and the first position player to get his first career hit in the playoffs.
The last time the Twins won a playoff game was on October 5, 2004, when they beat the Yankees in the first game of the ALDS, 2-0. Johan Santana outdueled the Yankees’ Mike Mussina to ensure the win.
Also exiting the postseason are the Cleveland Indians, who lose a rain-interrupted, seesaw 10-9 battle to the visiting Yankees. The Indians watch an early 4-0 lead evaporate, twice come back to tie the game and nab a one-run lead in the eighth—only to give up two runs in the ninth, with the winning tally scoring on DJ LeMahieu’s two-out single.
Cleveland’s defeat comes despite hits by Josh Naylor in each of his first five at-bats of his postseason career, within the two losses; he’s the first player to accomplish that.
The Indians have lost a major league-record 10 straight playoff games in which they faced elimination.
Tampa Bay advances with an easy 8-2 win over Toronto, scoring all of their runs in the first two innings—half of those coming on one swing of the bat from Hunter Renfroe, who drills a grand slam off of Blue Jays starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.
All four National League first-round series begin, with wins by two of the road teams: The Cardinals, who triumph at San Diego 7-4 thanks to a pair of boneheaded baserunning moves by Padres rookie Jake Cronenworth, and the Marlins, whose pursuit of a third world title in as many postseason attempts gets off to a successful start with a 5-1 win at Chicago over the Cubs., as the Fish score all of their runs in the seventh.
The best game of the day takes place in Atlanta, where the Braves and Reds go scoreless into overtime and struggle to score without the benefit of the auto gift runner on second (not being used in the playoffs); the Braves finally break through, 1-0, on a bases-loaded single from Freddie Freeman in the bottom of the 13th. Two records are set in the game: The longest a postseason game has gone without a run (12 innings), and the combined strikeout total between the two teams (37).
The last game on this exhausting day takes place in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers benefit from four first-inning walks from Milwaukee’s Brent Suter (tying a postseason record), gaining a quick 2-0 advantage on their way to a 4-2 triumph.
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