American League Wild Card series begin
SportsPulse: The Houston Astros were the embarrassment of the league heading into the season after the team’s cheating scandal was revealed. Our MLB reporters debate if they’re fighting for their legacies this postseason.
Major League Baseball’s expanded 16-team postseason begins Tuesday afternoon featuring Game 1 of all four American League Wild Card series.
The best-of-three series are being played at the home ballparks of the higher-ranked teams with the winners advancing to the traditional best-of-five Division Series.
Things get underway at 2 p.m. ET with the Minnesota Twins hosting the Houston Astros, followed by the Chicago White Sox visiting the Oakland Athletics at 3 p.m., Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Rays at 5 p.m. and the Cleveland Indians hosting the New York Yankees at 7 p.m.
Keep it here all day for live updates and highlights from around the league:
After Minnesota shortstop Jorge Polanco’s error extended the inning, Sergio Romo walked Jose Altuve to force in the go-ahead run, breaking a 1-1 deadlock in the top of the ninth. Michael Brantley followed with a two-run single against Caleb Theibar, and the Astros would hang on to win 4-1.
Framber Valdez relieved Zack Greinke after four innings with Houston trailing 1-0 and the left-hander wound up tossing five scoreless innings to pick up the victory. Ryan Pressly got the final two outs to earn the save for the Astros.
The Twins have lost their last 17 postseason games dating back to 2004.
White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Athletics, but Tommy La Stella’s leadoff single ended Giolito’s bid.
Giolito, 26, threw a no-hitter on Aug. 25 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and is making the first postseason start of his career. The right-hander was an All-Star in 2019 and had a 3.43 ERA over the past two seasons.
White Sox starter Lucas Giolito set down the first 15 batters he faced Tuesday in Game 1 of Chicago’s series against the Athletics. He struck out three in the first five innings, throwing 41 of 60 pitches for strikes.
White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu hit a two-run homer off Athletics lefty Jesus Luzardo in the third inning in Oakland, extending Chicago’s lead to 3-0. Adam Engel had hit a solo home run in the second to open the scoring against the second-seeded Athletics.
Abreu led the AL with 76 hits, 60 RBI and a .617 slugging percentage and is among the favorites for the MVP award.
After the Twins opened the scoring in the third inning with an RBI double from Nelson Cruz), the Astros loaded the bases in the top of the fourth against Kenta Maeda. But with two outs, Maeda got Josh Reddick to strike out swinging to end the threat and escape unscathed.
Maeda, acquired from the Dodgers in an offseason trade, was 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA this year but was struggling with control early Tuesday, walking three batters in four innings. The right-hander had issued just 10 walks in 11 starts during the regular season.
– Jesse Yomtov
Entering Tuesday, the Twins had lost 16 consecutive postseason games dating back to 2004, the longest streak in baseball history. Thirteen of those losses came at the hands of the Yankees, most recently a sweep in the 2019 ALDS. The streak includes those three games, the 2017 AL wild-card game against the Yankees, sweeps in the 2009 and 2010 ALDS vs. the Yankees, a sweep in the 2006 ALDS vs. the Athletics and the final three games of the 2004 ALDS vs. the Yankees.
– Jesse Yomtov
Former AL MVP Josh Donaldson was left off the Twins’ 28-man roster for their Wild Card series against the Astros due to a calf injury. Minnesota signed Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million contract in the offseason but he was limited to 28 games, missing all of August with the injury and then sat out the final two games of the regular season.
Center fielder Byron Buxton, who suffered a head injury Friday, did manage to make it back and will bat second on Tuesday. Minnesota’s active roster also includes top prospect Alex Kirilloff, who could become just the third player in history to make his MLB debut in the postseason.
– Jesse Yomtov