While the National League took the night to rest and travel, the American League delivered plenty of enjoyable playoff action on Saturday.
Minnesota hoped it could reverse years of October misfortune at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees quickly squashed that hope by scoring eight runs in Game 2 and 18 runs in two games to take a 2-0 series lead.
After watching the Yankees stomp all over the Twins in the afternoon, baseball fans witnessed a pitching duel between the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros. While the Astros only produced three runs, it’s all they needed thanks to Gerrit Cole’s franchise-best start.
Now with the Astros and Yankees each on the verge of sweeping their opponents, here’s what we learned from Saturday’s postseason action.
Rocco Baldelli set up Randy Dobnak for failure
The Twins turned to Randy Dobnak as their starter for Game 2 with the hope he could quiet New York’s powerful lineup. Instead, he became a storyline for his work as an Uber driver. While he lifted the spirits of Yankee Stadium, Minnesota’s fan base feels like it received a one-star rating.
This loss shouldn’t fall on Dobnak’s shoulders. He pitched well after being promoted in September and helped a team that needed pitching. Starting a pitcher with little MLB experience and who pitches to contact against a record-setting lineup is simply an awful decision. Fittingly, decisions like this have consequences in October.
New York will sweep the Twins
It’s beyond the point of contemplating if the Twins can make a comeback in this series. This team’s only hope is to avoid a sweep in front of its home fans and even that seems doubtful.
Minnesota will be turning to Jake Odorizzi, who gives up a significant amount of fly balls. That’s an obvious problem given how much power the Yankees’ lineup boasts from top to bottom. Even if Gibson pitches admirably, Minnesota’s bullpen is a train wreck this postseason and can’t be trusted in a close game.
Minnesota’s front office failed to address its most glaring need
Two things became evident in the week leading up to MLB’s trade deadline. The Twins had the lineup to compete with any in the AL and they desperately needed more pitching. Minnesota’s front office saw this, then made relievers Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo its prized acquisitions.
The faith in their existing options backfired. José Berríos pitched poorly in the second half, No. 2 starter Michael Pineda received a season-ending PED suspension and Jake Odorizzi regressed into a No. 4 starter. Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, Zack Wheeler, Trevor Bauer and Tanner Roark each would have been enormous upgrades for this rotation. Instead, Baldelli sent Dobnak out in a must-win game and its bullpen collapsed. Minnesota’s front office wasted a 101-win season and there’s no excuse for it.
Astros’ hitters must execute more in the clutch
Houston can celebrate Saturday’s win and a 2-0 lead in the series for a few hours, but this lineup needs to improve. The Astros didn’t have issues getting runners on, but they routinely struggled to drive them in.
The Astros went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners stranded. Houston escaped with a 3-2 win because Cole took the mound and threw a historic gem. If this happens again and Roberto Osuna’s ninth-inning meltdown becomes a trend, the Astros’ World Series hopes will be in serious jeopardy.
Blake Snell flashes greatness in postseason debut
It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen Snell look this dominant. He didn’t have the elite velocity from before his elbow surgery when he returned in September. It returned in his playoff debut and it paired perfectly with his nasty curveball.
He made just one mistake in this game and Bregman punished it for a solo home run. Unfortunately, his limited workload in September kept him to only 3.1 innings on Saturday. While Tampa Bay’s chances to overcome this two-game deficit are bleak, the organization loves that Snell is rediscovering his Cy Young form.
Gerrit Cole is taking Houston to the World Series
There are some years when a player is performing at such a high level that he transcends the sport and carries his team to a championship. It felt like we were seeing that from Cole during the season and this postseason start only confirmed it.
Cole came into Saturday with nine consecutive starts with double-digit strikeouts. He needed only five innings to reach that mark in Game 2. Cole just kept mowing down hitters and set a franchise record with 15 strikeouts in 7.2 shutout innings. Houston’s lineup and rotation are loaded. Pairing that with Cole’s historic streak only makes it more apparent that they are the superior team in MLB.