Trevor Bauer took the mound for Cincinnati's playoff opener and produced a line never before seen in the postseason — 12 strikeouts, no walks and no runs allowed in 7 2/3 two-hit innings. The Reds and Atlanta Braves struck out 37 times — no playoff game had ever stayed scoreless for so long.
Then, hours later, the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees played a game that might as well have been a different sport.
“Another notch of experience for these guys in tough situations — in adverse situations at times,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, describing a victory in a contest that included 19 runs and 19 walks.
It's been a feast-or-famine postseason on the pitcher's mound so far. Bauer and Clayton Kershaw were both dominant, while Brandon Woodruff and Yu Darvish were impressive in a losing cause. Then there were teams like the Indians and Chicago White Sox, whose seasons are over in large part because of control problems that popped up at the worst possible time.
The contrast was unusually clear Wednesday, when the Braves and Reds played 4 hours, 39 minutes, and it felt like they might never score. Then the Indians and Yankees went 4:50 — plus over an hour waiting out the weather — because outs were so hard to come by.
The Atlanta-Cincinnati contest was the first postseason game to be scoreless after 11 innings. The Braves finally won 1-0. New York beat Cleveland 10-9 in the longest nine-inning game in big league history.
Kershaw — at least momentarily — shoved aside talk of his past postseason struggles by striking out 13 in eight innings Thursday night. His Los Angeles Dodgers knocked out Milwaukee with a 3-0 victory — Woodruff struck out nine for the Brewers.
Friday's slate included two shutouts — and even those came about in different ways. The Marlins beat Darvish and the Cubs 2-0. Miami's starter, Sixto Sánchez, blanked Chicago for five innings.
“You've got to start with Sixto, right?" Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "We felt good about him. When he gives us a solid five, gets us back into the back end where we can use our guys the way we want to use them, he set the tone for that.”
In Friday's second game, San Diego beat St. Louis 4-0 in Game 3 of their series. The Padres, without injured starters Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet in this series, sent reliever Craig Stammen to the mound to begin a bullpen game with the season on the line.
“We came into the series with 2 1/2 starters and had to use two of those guys yesterday,” manager Jayce Tingler said before the game. “This is where we’re at and we’re good with it. ... We’re going to go with Craig and get the ball in his hand at the beginning and get as many outs as possible, and from there we’re going to have to put it together.”
Nine San Diego pitchers managed to hold the Cardinals without a run.
San Diego was only in that position because the Cardinals couldn't hold off the Padres' sluggers Thursday. San Diego rallied from a 6-2 deficit and homered five times in an 11-9 win.
The Padres used nine pitchers in that Game 2 and St. Louis used eight. That makes for a particularly tough turnaround in this year's postseason. The lack of scheduled off days during a series — as baseball tries to complete a postseason amid a pandemic — could force teams to go deeper into their bullpens.
The White Sox know all about that problem. They led 3-0 early in Game 3 of their series at Oakland on Thursday, but Chicago pulled rookie starter Dane Dunning in the first, and reliever Garrett Crochet left an inning later with an injury. The White Sox ended up using nine pitchers and Oakland used eight. The A's won 6-4, helped along the way when Matt Foster walked in two Oakland runs in the fourth.
Chicago ended up walking nine batters in the game. That made San Diego's performance — under similar circumstances a night later — all the more impressive.
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