Shortly after midday in Atlanta, Nick Senzel of the Cincinnati Reds took Max Fried’s first throw to the right for a pitch, starting a baseball day like never before.
Eight postseason matches, all of which started in about 10 hours.
“It’s like September Madness,” said Houston manager Dusty Baker. “This is going crazy.”
Wednesday does have a bit of the feel of the NCAA Tournament, with a stretch of playoffs that kick off late in the afternoon and last long into the night as the Yankees finish Cleveland early Thursday morning in the longest nine-inning game in major league history.
During most of the 20th century, baseball had a maximum of seven games in one postseason. Wednesday alone has more than that, the outcome of an expanded field for 2020 that includes 16 teams after the regular season was shortened to 60 games by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our country needs it. It’s very therapeutic, “said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts before his team’s night game against Milwaukee. “It’s a diversion.”
“September Madness” included a baseball version of the buzzer beater – a walk-off hit by Freddie Freeman of Atlanta – and two series wins by a lower seed. Although the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees may not fit the public’s definition of Cinderella.
The last two games go well past 1am Eastern time, and at the end of the night Sweet 16 baseball was reduced by three after the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians crashed out. The final game of the night pits the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have the best game record in the regular season, against the sub-500 Brewers. It’s the kind of battle that draws criticism for this expanded playoff format, and no one knows when or if the sport will have a day like Wednesday again.
For one day, however, it’s fairly new, and the Reds are ready when they come to the plate against Atlanta. They rocked the game’s first three throws, taking two single strokes to put the men in first and third with no one out.
Then the Braves got out of the jam without scoring, a sign of things to come.
It takes a long time for anyone anywhere to score. When the first run came, it was the Houston game in Minnesota, which started about an hour after the Braves and Reds. Kyle Tucker raced for the Astros with his fourth single inning.
That’s when the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs got their start. In a season when football games are outlawed for fans, it’s at least a baseball party on television.
“That’s cool. I am often in my office, getting ready, with the game going on, going back and forth and seeing what happens in the league,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before his team’s night game in Cleveland. “One of the things of the playoffs. expanded this year, I’m sure baseball fans who are actually in a bit of heaven today, can see all these games. “
Atlanta and Cincinnati remained non-scoring into overtime, meaning at one point, five games were in progress simultaneously. In addition to the Braves-Reds, Astros-Twins and Cubs-Marlins, the Chicago White Sox plays in Oakland, and Tampa Bay hosts Toronto.
The first match that ended was the Houston game Victory 3-1 over the Twins – Minnesota’s 18th straight postseason defeat. The Braves finally beat the Reds moments later, when Freeman scored the lone goal in the 13th inning to bring home a game that’s just run.
It was the first postseason game not to score after 11 innings, and Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer became the first pitcher in postseason history to unleash 12 batters with no runs, no runs and two or fewer strokes.
The next game that ended was Miami’s 5-1 victory. The Marlins have never lost a postseason series. They won the last two games of the 2003 NL Championship Series at Wrigley Field, and they started best of these three with the Cubs in the same way.
The White Sox also faced elimination after Oakland 5-3 wins The forced game 3 of the series. This will be a winning match-all take for Athletics, which since 2000 have won 0-6 in Game 5 of the Division Series and 0-3 in wild card games.
The Blue Jays wanted to play a winner-take-all game, but the Rays turned down their chance. Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam, driven Tampa Bay 8-2 win which ended the series.
San Diego’s first postseason appearance since 2006 got off to a bad start. The Padres left injured players Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet off the list. Then they gave up four rounds in the first inning losses 7-4 to St. Louis Cardinals.
Night games bring their own kind of drama. The Yankees and Indians played the longest nine-inning game in baseball history – 4 hours, 50 minutes, not counting the 76 minutes left in the rain delay. New York scored twice at the top of the ninth round to win 10-9.
Not long after that, Kenley Jansen beat Christian Yelich to cover won 4-2 for the Dodgers – and end this historic baseball day.
AP Baseball Writers Ronald Blum and AP Sports Writers Beth Harris and Kristie Rieken contributed to this report.
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