The journey to the Fall Classic officially began on Tuesday. And if the thrilling, extra-inning battle between the Rockies and Cubs was any indication of things to come, this October will be full of incredible baseball. With one Wild Card game still to go, the remaining eight teams are setting their rotations and gearing up for the Division Series.
Wolters, Rockies stun Cubs in extras
In the longest elimination game in postseason history in terms of innings, the Rockies upset the Cubs 2-1 in 13 innings. With Kyle Hendricks pitching in relief in the top of the 13th, Trevor Story and Gerardo Parra hit back to back singles with two outs. Then Tony Wolters came up to bat pinch-hitting for Ian Desmond and delivered the go-ahead hit to score Story and put Colorado up for good.
From the first pitch to the final out, the night was dominated by pitching. After letting up a 1st inning run, Jon Lester pitched masterfully, going six innings with nine strikeouts and allowing only four hits. For Colorado, Kyle Freeland – on just three days rest – went 6.2 innings of shutout baseball while striking out six in his postseason debut. Freeland following the win had this to say about the epic game:
“It was a ton of fun to compete tonight. It was a tough game. There were a ton of highs and lows, but we kept competing. We kept it going right to the end.”
The Rockies were up 1-0 until MVP candidate Javier Baez tied the game with a 2-out RBI hit in the bottom of the 8th. After that hit, the teams remained scoreless until Wolters’ hit in the 13th.
The Cubs, who had been in 1st place in the NL Central since July 12th, lost the division crown to Milwaukee in a tiebreaker game on Monday. Between the losses to Milwaukee and Colorado, the Cubs managed just two runs on nine hits in 22 innings. Including the regular season, it was their 40th game of the season scoring fewer than two runs.
While Chicago’s season ends, the Rockies get a much-needed day off before traveling to Milwaukee to begin their series against the Brewers. Game 1 is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. CST on Thursday.
DS rotations starting to take shape
While there are still a few teams who have yet to make their official announcements, several clubs have revealed their starting pitchers through at least the first game of their series.
The Braves and Dodgers series gets going on Thursday night. For the Dodgers, who won the NL West in a tiebreaker game on Monday afternoon, will throw out Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 1 and Clayton Kershaw in Game 2. Mike Foltynewicz will start Game 1 for the Braves, with no starter named yet for the rest of the series.
For the only series we’ve known was happening for the past couple of weeks, the Indians and Astros square off beginning on Friday. A pair of Cy Young winners will start Game 1; Corey Kluber for the Indians and Justin Verlander for the Astros. Cleveland will then turn to Carlos Carrasco in Game 2, while Houston will match with Gerrit Cole. Houston has also announced Dallas Keuchel as the starter for Game 3.
And while the Red Sox wait to see if they will be facing the Yankees or Athletics, their rotation is locked in for the first three games. Chris Sale will start Game 1 on Friday, David Price will go for Game 2 on Saturday, and Rick Porcello will pitch Game 3 on Monday.
The Brewers are the only non-Wild Card team who has yet to announce any starters. Milwaukee hosts the Rockies for Game 1 on Thursday afternoon.
Twins part ways with Molitor
In perhaps the most surprising coaching change of the young offseason, the Twins fired manager Paul Molitor.
Molitor, who was the AL Manager of the Year in 2017, oversaw a Twins team that went 78-84, finishing 13 games behind the Indians in the AL Central. He was one year into a three-year extension that he signed after the 2017 season. He finishes his 4-year stint as the Twins manager with a record of 305-343, with one playoff appearance.
The Twins now join the Angels, Blue Jays, Rangers, and Reds as the teams with managerial vacancies. The Orioles may soon join that list, as they are expected to part ways with Buck Showalter.
The Wild Card round wraps up tonight as the Athletics and Yankees square off in New York. Luis Severino is starting for New York, while the Athletics will go with a bullpen game, leading off with Liam Hendriks. First pitch from Yankee Stadium is 8:08 EST.