The 2020 MLB playoffs rolled on Wednesday, and as some teams watched their seasons come to a close, others advanced to the League Division Series.
Minnesota Twins fans could only watch in horror as their team lost its 18th consecutive playoff game. Meanwhile, the Houston Astros advanced to the ALDS, and shortstop Carlos Correa had some choice words for the team's doubters afterwards.
The Tampa Bay Rays, the No. 1 seed in the American League, made quick work of the Toronto Blue Jays, thanks in part to a Hunter Renfroe grand slam, and the New York Yankees swept past the Cleveland Indians after a wild back-and-forth game in Cleveland.
There will only be one winner-take-all in the AL, as the Oakland Athletics hit Chicago White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel hard and withheld a late Chicago White Sox rally to force a Game 3.
National League play got underway, starting with a 13-inning battle between the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds. The Reds got a historic performance from Trevor Bauer, but Braves starter Max Fried also had a tremendous outing. Both bullpens gritted things out until Freddie Freeman won it in the 13th inning.
The underdog Miami Marlins stunned the Chicago Cubs after scoring five runs in the seventh inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals jumped on San Diego Padres starter Chris Paddack with four runs in the first before hanging on for a 7-4 win.
Finally, the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to outlast the Milwaukee Brewers after scoring three runs in the first two innings and getting a late insurance run on a homer from Corey Seager.
Three teams have already punched their tickets to the ALDS, but the final participant has yet to be decided. Meanwhile, four NL teams will be hoping to save their seasons Thursday. The action is just heating up.
Here is the latest bracket, in addition to the remaining Wild Card Round schedule.
Wild Card Round Schedule
Thursday, Oct. 1
Reds at Braves, noon, ESPN
Marlins at Cubs, 2 p.m., ABC
White Sox at A's, 3 p.m., ESPN
Cardinals at Padres, 5 p.m., ESPN2
Brewers at Dodgers, 10 p.m., ESPN
Friday, Oct. 2
Marlins at Cubs (if necessary), 2 p.m., ABC
Reds at Braves (if necessary), 3 p.m., ESPN
Brewers at Dodgers (if necessary), 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Cardinals at Padres (if necessary), 10 p.m., ESPN
What to Expect from Thursday's Games
The Rays and Yankees already know they will be facing off for a spot in the American League Championship Series. But the Astros have to await the winner of Athletics-White Sox on Thursday to discover their opponent.
Oakland and manager Bob Melvin had yet to decide on a starter as of Wednesday night. They could turn to left-hander Sean Manaea, but the White Sox have burned left-handed pitching this year and got to A's rookie Jesus Luzardo in Game 1. So it's possible Oakland sends veteran Mike Fiers to the mound.
The White Sox had not yet selected a starting pitcher, either. Manager Rick Renteria said it will be "all hands on deck," per Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports Chicago, but expect right-hander Dylan Cease to get some work.
Atlanta and Cincinnati will once again kick off the day. The Reds will hope Luis Castillo can shove like Bauer did while scratching out more runs against Braves rookie Ian Anderson, who had a 1.95 ERA and struck out 11.4 per nine innings in six starts during the regular season.
The two teams struck out a whopping 37 times Wednesday and took aggressive approaches all day, so do not be surprised to see these lineups work the count in a search for more baserunners.
Whereas the Braves and Reds struggled to find offense, the Cardinals and Padres engaged in a slugfest.
The Friars are expected to score runs, but the Cardinals—who finished 14th in the NL in runs scored—took San Diego by surprise when they scored four runs in the first inning. Paul Goldschmidt homered, and rookie outfielder Dylan Carlson had a pair of hits in the cleanup spot.
Despite it being just one game, it could be a backbreaker for San Diego. The Padres are without both Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, and the Cardinals are turning to stoic veteran Adam Wainwright in Game 2. It will be an uphill climb for the Friars, but they have the offensive firepower to force a Game 3.
Meanwhile, the Cubs got six scoreless innings from Kyle Hendricks before Marlins outfielder Corey Dickerson clubbed a three-run homer. Jesus Aguilar followed with a homer of his own, and now the Cubs must turn to Yu Darvish to save their season.
Darvish has been spectacular. The 34-year-old had a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts, with an MLB-high eight games and an NL-best 2.23 fielding independent pitching mark (FIP). But the Marlins have their own ace in the hole, as Sixto Sanchez will take the hill.
The 22-year-old can move the ball in every direction and tops 100 mph, and the Cubs struggled against fireballer Sandy Alcantara on Wednesday. Given Chicago's offensive troubles (the Cubs averaged just 4.0 runs per game in September), it could be hard-pressed to find the necessary offense to force a decider.
In L.A., the Dodgers combined strong outings from Walker Buehler and Julio Urias to defeat the Brewers. Things will only get harder for Milwaukee in Game 2, as Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for the Dodgers.
Even if the Brewers manage to build a lead for Brandon Woodruff, rookie reliever Devin Williams (shoulder) is a massive loss, and the Los Angeles lineup is relentless.
Regardless, there is plenty at stake Thursday.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.