It was another four-game day in the MLB playoffs with every division series in action Wednesday. The Atlanta Braves got things started with a victory over the Miami Marlins. And the Los Angeles Dodgers ended the night with a win over the San Diego Padres and a highlight for the ages (we’re looking at you, Cody Bellinger). In between, the Oakland Athletics averted a sweep by the Houston Astros, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees to gain a 2-1 ALDS edge.
Here are the stars, turning points and takeaways from each of Wednesday’s games.
Chad Pinder ties the game with a seventh-inning home run, then Sean Murphy and Chad Pinder get sacrifice flies in the 8th helping them force a Game 4.
What it means: An A’s team that entered Wednesday 1-29 when trailing by at least three runs after the sixth inning in postseason games came back to beat the Astros and save their season under that very scenario — and now is when things get interesting.
The A’s used their closer, Liam Hendriks, to record the final nine outs of Game 3 and lost second baseman Tommy La Stella after he took a fastball near his right elbow. The Astros, meanwhile, are unsure if they’ll have Zack Greinke, who has been nursing soreness in his arm and hasn’t pitched since Game 1 of the wild-card series.
La Stella has only a contusion, and Hendriks expects to be ready. But both are nonetheless uncertain, as is the identity of the Astros’ Game 4 starter. One near-certainty: The shadows at Dodger Stadium, which have covered the batter’s box for the last few innings of every game in this series, will continue to make an impact, making it exceedingly difficult for these hitters to see. “It’s dangerous as hell,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. — Alden Gonzalez
Next up: Game 4, Thursday at 3:35 p.m. ET
Ian Anderson pitches 5.2 scoreless innings, finishing with eight strikeouts as the Braves defeat the Marlins 2-0 in Game 2 of the NLDS.
What it means: The Braves have won this postseason when they’ve hit, just as they did during the regular season. They’ve also won when they haven’t, and that’s a scary proposition for any team that looms in the Braves’ path.
Atlanta has three shutouts in four outings during their perfect playoff run, led by two scoreless outings from 22-year-old phenom Ian Anderson. After a season of hand-wringing over Atlanta’s injury-riddled rotation, since the postseason bell rang the Atlanta rotation is 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA.
If the starting pitching keeps performing at the level it has shown so far, even as the level of competition ramps up, this is a Braves team with no real weakness. — Bradford Doolittle
Next up: Game 3, Thursday at 2:08 p.m. ET
The Rays combine for 13 hits and three home runs as they take down the Yankees 8-4 in Game 3.
What it means: Tampa Bay’s nearly flawless high-end arms continued to show why they dominated the AL East and made the Rays one of the best teams in baseball all year in an 8-4 romp of the Yankees on Wednesday night.
As they did in their Game 2 win, the Rays were able to quiet the mighty Yankees bats with a steady diet of quality pitchers, starting with Charlie Morton, who set the tone with five solid innings, giving up one earned run on four hits. Meanwhile, this postseason’s “Senor Octubre” — Cuban rookie Randy Arozarena — had three hits, including his third home run of the series. The Rays outfielder is 8-for-12 (.667) this series. Including the wild-card round, Arozarena’s 11 hits are the most in a four-game span in postseason history.
Giancarlo Stanton has been the Yankees’ answer to Arozarena, becoming the first player in franchise history with at least one homer in five straight postseason games. But the Yankees’ challenge has been their underperforming pitching staff. Masahiro Tanaka was all but a shadow of his former playoff self, lasting only four innings and giving up five runs.
The Rays will send righty Ryan Thompson to the mound Thursday as their first “opener” of the ALDS. The Yankees will try to stave off elimination with inexperienced lefty Jordan Montgomery on the mound, but manager Aaron Boone said it will be “all hands on deck” in a do-or-die Game 4 against the AL East champions. — Marly Rivera
Next up: Game 4, Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET
The Dodgers hold off a late rally by the Padres and go on to win 6-5 in Game 2 of the NLDS.
What it means: Two images told the story of Game 2, a 6-5 Dodgers victory that left L.A. a win short of the NLCS. The first is Cody Bellinger splayed across the center-field wall, his arm over the fence and stealing back a would-be go-ahead home run from Fernando Tatis Jr. in the seventh inning. The other is Brusdar Graterol, the Dodgers rookie who nearly allowed the home run, celebrating not only with a glove chuck and hat toss but with the most snapshot-worthy response of all: waving to peeved Padres third baseman Manny Machado and blowing a kiss at him.
A so-so start from Clayton Kershaw had allowed the Padres to claw back into the game, but the Dodgers did what they so often do. They scored a couple of insurance runs, pitched like bosses, caught the ball with aplomb, chirped gleefully and overcame a ninth-inning meltdown from Kenley Jansen to run their record this postseason to 4-0. — Jeff Passan
Next up: Game 3, Thursday at 9:08 p.m. ET