Winners and losers from the AL Wild Card Game

By Michael Dixon
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A day after the Colorado Rockies defeated the Chicago Cubs in a thrilling NL Wild Card Game, the New York Yankees defeated the Oakland Athletics in the AL Wild Card Game that, while not as dramatic as its NL counterpart, was no less significant.

Naturally, the game produced plenty of winners and losers. A pair of Yankee sluggers really helped solidify the Bronx Bombers moniker. Meanwhile, the bats of many of the sluggers that had helped lead Oakland to such a fantastic regular season fell silent. Naturally, New York’s fantastic pitching helped contribute to the A’s offensive struggles. Meanwhile, a questionable strategy that the Oakland used worked okay, with some very notable exceptions.

Before looking ahead to the Yankees ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, these are the winners and losers from New York’s AL Wild Card Game win over the A’s.

Winner: Aaron Judge

It didn’t take long for Judge to make his presence felt in this one. The A’s were retired in order in the top half of the first. Judge then sent the already red-hot crowd to another level with a two-run blast (which you can see here).

The Yankee offense took a nap for a while after that. But when it awoke, Judge was the catalyst. He led off the four-run sixth inning with a double and eventually came around to score. It’s hard to imagine where New York would have been in this game without Judge. Fortunately for the Yankees, they didn’t have to find out.

Loser: Liam Hendriks

Hendriks opened the game for Oakland. It did not go well. He walked Andrew McCutchen on five pitches and fell behind 2-1 before allowing the aforementioned homer to Judge.

If nothing else, it served as a solid reminder that these players are human, not just compiled stats.

Hendriks was clearly overly amped up in his first several pitches. After Judge’s homer, he actually settled in okay, retiring each of the next three hitters. But by that point, the damage was done.

Winner: Luis Severino

The New York starter lasted only four-plus innings, but he made quite an impression. Severino got himself into some jams, walking four hitters. But thanks to seven strikeouts, he kept the A’s off the board.

After Judge’s home run, every zero the Oakland offense put up felt massive. Big starts are always important in single-elimination games. They’re even more important for young teams like the A’s, who don’t have a lot of playoff experience. And while Severino didn’t last long, he did last long enough to hand a lead to Dellin Betances and the heart of the New York bullpen.

Loser: Bob Melvin

Melvin left himself open to criticism with his decision to make this a bullpen game. But when we consider that Mike Fiers, his best traditional starter, has a 5.06 ERA against the Yankees and a 7.59 ERA at Yankee Stadium, it gets more understandable. But Melvin made some crucial errors.

First of all, Lou Trivino should have started the game, not Hendriks. As we saw, he’s capable of throwing multiple innings. Had that happened, Melvin could have used Hendriks against a different part of the order, sparing him from Judge. Then facing a 2-0 deficit in the sixth, Melvin sent Fernando Rodney out, rather than Blake Treinen. Four runs later, the game was effectively over.

Winner: Dellin Betances

Nobody who watched Severino struck Marcus Semien out with the bases loaded to end the top-of-the-fourth thought he’d return for the fifth.

Only, Aaron Boone didn’t quite see it that way. He sent Severino back out for the fifth. Oakland’s first two batters that inning responded with hits. Then Betances came out. Betances retired Matt Chapman, Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis on order to finish the fifth.

He retired the side in order in the sixth, as well. In total, he went two innings, allowed no hits, no walks, and struck out three. He kept the Yankees ahead for long enough for their bats to wake up and blow it open in the sixth.

Loser: MLB replay system

We understand that calls need to be conclusive to be overturned. But for the second night in a row, a call that appeared to be a pretty obvious reversal was upheld. MLB got away with it each time. On Tuesday, the Rockies defeated the Cubs in spite of a bad call. On Wednesday, the Yankees benefited from a bad call, but the game was fairly lopsided when it happened. The next time, MLB may not be so lucky.

It would take a while to debate all the ways that the replay system can be changed, or potentially changed. But here’s something that must happen. The fans at home and in the stadium need to be told what happened. Start with making these reviews more transparent and go from there. The final scores not being impacted by these calls doesn’t make the current system any less egregious.

Winner: Brian Cashman

Aided by a historic rookie year from Judge, the Yankees had one of the best lineups in baseball in 2017. In the offseason, Cashman acquired reigning NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, coming off of a 59 home run season. The duo led New York to the MLB-record for most home runs in a single-season. And in their first playoff game as teammates, these two sluggers made their mark.

Judge got the ball rolling with a home run in the first. Then, in the eighth, Stanton answered a mini-Oakland rally with a towering home run of his own.

That’s quite a message to send to the rest of the league.

Loser: Heart of the Oakland order

Coming into Tuesday’s game, we were pretty sure that both teams were going to score. But the A’s didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

Davis did hit a two-run home run, but it came in the eighth inning when his team was trailing 6-0. Coming into that at-bat, he was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Lowrie went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Stephen Piscotty was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

These three guys combined for 98 home runs on the season with each hitting at least 23. Oakland had its chances early in the game. The big hitters just didn’t come through.

Winner: MLB and TBS

The A’s were a great team and a great story in 2018. In a way, it seems unfair that their postseason ends after only one game. But don’t expect to see much sympathy from the folks at either TBS or the league office.

For the first time in 14 years, the league’s highest-profile rivalry, the Yankees and Red Sox, will get the postseason spotlight. This is a very competitive time of the sports calendar. You don’t have to like either team.¬†As MLB and its TBS compete for ratings, they really couldn’t ask for anything better.