For the first time in the history of the MLB playoffs, there were eight postseason games played on a single day -- well, almost a single day.
As Wild Card Wednesday stretched into Thursday, the New York Yankees won a wild 10-9 affair to eliminate the Cleveland Indians, and the Los Angeles Dodgers hung on to beat the Milwaukee Brewers. The day began with a Cincinnati Reds-Atlanta Braves extra-inning thriller and the Houston Astros' sweeping the Minnesota Twins out of the playoffs. Then the Miami Marlins took the opener against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, and the Oakland A's forced a deciding Game 3 against the Chicago White Sox. The second team to advance to the division series after the Astros? The Tampa Bay Rays, who blasted the Toronto Blue Jays. Later, the St. Louis Cardinals took Game 1 from the San Diego Padres.
Here are the heroes, turning points and takeaways from each of Wednesday's matchups.
Game 2 hero: The much-maligned Gary Sanchez, who was on the bench for Game 1. Sanchez hit the go-ahead home run in the sixth. Then, after the Indians had taken the lead, he tied it in the top of the ninth with a sacrifice fly, setting up DJ LeMahieu's go-ahead single.
What it means: It was not exactly one to put into the national archives, with 19 combined walks, but this was postseason baseball at its wildest, at its worst, at its most unpredictable and definitely at its emotional best with every blown lead.
For the Indians, it was another horrific postseason game to forget. They rallied from deficits of 5-4 and 8-6 to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth, only to have closer Brad Hand blow his first save of the season in the ninth. He was his own worst enemy, walking Giancarlo Stanton to lead off the inning and then bobbling Gleyber Torres' chopper over his head. For a franchise that will have to weigh trading Francisco Lindor in the offseason, this was a blown opportunity to face the Yankees in a do-or-die Game 3 with all the pressure on New York.
For the Yankees, next up is a meeting with the Rays, a team that won the season series 8-2, holding the Yankees to 3.4 runs per game in those 10 contests. But as we saw in New York's two wins over Cleveland, which included roughing up Shane Bieber, this Yankees lineup is healthier and deeper than it has been for most of the season. -- David Schoenfield
Next up: The Yankees meet the Rays in the AL Division Series beginning Monday.
Game 2 hero: Carlos Correa. One of the players at the center of the controversy surrounding the Astros this season (does the name Joe Kelly ring a bell?), Correa belted a no-doubt solo home run in the top of the seventh that put Houston up for good.
What it means: What can you say? With another 0-and-out, the Twins' record postseason losing streak extends to 18 games, and the 29-31 Astros advance to the division series. The Twins scored two runs in two games, and the lack of offense is par for their postseason history, as that makes 15 games in a row in which they scored four or fewer runs. The key for the Astros was Dusty Baker's employing his starting pitching depth in relief. Framber Valdez threw five scoreless innings behind Zack Greinke in Game 1, and Cristian Javier tossed three hitless innings in relief of Jose Urquidy in Game 2.
The Astros were not the offensive team they were in their three straight 100-win seasons, but even without Justin Verlander, they have one of the deepest slates of starters in the rotation, with five capable guys. We'll see how that plays out in the next round, when it's five games in five days, and whether Baker can use the starters in relief or will be forced to go deeper into his pen of rookie relievers. -- David Schoenfield
Next up: The Astros face the winner of the White Sox-Athletics series in the ALDS.
Game 1 hero: Can you be the hero with a no-decision next to your name in the box score? Trevor Bauer sparkled for 7 2/3 scoreless innings -- striking out 12 and walking none -- but in the 13th inning, Freddie Freeman gave the Braves a 1-0 victory.
What it means: Never before had a playoff game gone scoreless past the 11th inning. This festival of strikeouts concluded in the 13th, when Freeman did what the NL MVP favorite should do: walk off a postseason game. The blown opportunities, baserunning blunders and wasting of Bauer's brilliance will chafe at the Reds, though they don't have time to lament. Game 2 is nigh, and with star rookie Ian Anderson set to go for Atlanta, the Reds can't afford to replicate their punchlessness in Game 1. Of course, the Reds struck out only 16 times compared to the Braves' 21, yet Cincinnati's K's came at the worst possible times, including three straight in the 12th. -- Jeff Passan
Next up: Game 2, noon ET Thursday on ESPN
What it means: Hendricks had issues all afternoon, so manager David Ross will be second-guessed for not pulling Hendricks while the team's best reliever, Jeremy Jeffress, was ready in the pen. As is, Ross eventually brought Jeffress in -- but in a losing situation. It was a waste of an outing when Jeffress might be needed Thursday. The Cubs' offense picked up where it left off in the regular season, garnering just four hits in a stadium in which they produced the lowest batting average by the home team in history. Next Yu Darvish will pitch to keep the Cubs' season going. The last time he did that for a team, he lost Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. -- Jesse Rogers
Next up: Game 2, 2 p.m. ET Thursday on ABC
Game 2 hero: Chris Bassitt's seven-plus innings were just what the doctor ordered for Oakland. The A's entered the potential elimination game with the weight of a six-game postseason losing streak on their backs. They were facing grizzled playoff veteran Dallas Keuchel. But they jumped on Keuchel early while Bassitt settled in, mixing in his fastball arsenal that features a sinker, a rising four-seamer and a cutter to boot. Oakland staved off elimination without emptying its bullpen, giving the A's firm footing as they head into the winner-take-all Game 3.
What it means: The White Sox looked tight in the same way that they kind of seized up after clinching a playoff spot during the regular season. Then they regained their swagger against the potent Oakland bullpen. Early, Dallas Keuchel left a couple of pitches up. Nick Madrigal booted a key ground ball that set up Oakland's first-inning rally. The hitters flailed against Bassitt's array of fastballs. Meanwhile, the A's managed to snap their postseason drought, but the win was not without drama. Relief ace Liam Hendriks entered the game with six outs to go and Oakland up by five runs. He was unable to close out the victory despite burning through 49 pitches. The bad news for the A's is that they have lost a record nine straight winner-take-all games, and they look to snap that drought with the availability of one of the AL's top relievers an open question. -- Bradford Doolittle
Next up: Game 3, 3 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN
Game 2 hero: Tyler Glasnow got all the run support he needed in the first two innings en route to tossing six innings, allowing six hits and just two earned runs while striking out eight. Through the first two games of the postseason, everything is going exactly according to Tampa Bay's plan, as they're depending on the strength of the top of the rotation to keep the opposition's offense at bay.
What it means: The Rays are exactly who we thought they were. This team is going to be a force to reckon with this postseason, given the strength at the top of the rotation, the depth of power arms in the bullpen and a lineup that does enough to make Tampa Bay one of baseball's elite. Designated hitter Randy Arozarena, in his first full season with Tampa Bay, has been the offensive catalyst for the lineup in the team's first two games this postseason, collecting three hits and scoring two runs in Wednesday's series-clinching win against Toronto. The depth across all areas of this team will make the Rays an incredibly tough out for the winner of the Cleveland-New York series. -- Joon Lee
Next up: The Rays face the Yankees in the ALDS.
Game 1 hero: Rookie outfielder Dylan Carlson hit just .200 in the regular season, but he was moved into the cleanup spot the final day of the season and was there on Wednesday. He went 2-for-3 with two walks, doubling and scoring in the first inning and singling and scoring in the third.
What it means: The Padres were in a tough spot when they had to leave both Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet off the wild-card roster because of injury concerns. Rather than using Zach Davies on short rest (he threw 51 pitches on Saturday), Jayce Tingler went with Chris Paddack, and he made the mistake a lot of first-time postseason managers make: leaving a starter out there too long when there has to be more urgency, especially in a best-of-three scenario. Paddack didn't fool anybody in a four-run first inning, and though that happened quickly, Tingler left him to allow two more runs in the third inning. The Padres' bullpen allowed just one more run the rest of the way, but the early deficit was too much to overcome. With the season on the line Thursday, Tingler can't hesitate to go to his pen. The good news is that Davies was much more effective in the regular season (2.73 ERA) than Paddack, though the Cardinals counter with veteran Adam Wainwright, who pitched his best baseball since 2014 this season. -- David Schoenfield
Next up: Game 2, 7 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN
Game 2 hero: With Dodgers starter Walker Buehler limited to four innings, manager Dave Roberts needed some length from his bullpen. He got it from Julio Urias, who went three scoreless innings, striking out five and walking none as L.A. nursed a one-run lead until Corey Seager provided some insurance with a solo homer in the seventh.
What it means: There are two main reasons that the Dodgers believe this team is better suited than previous versions to conquer baseball's postseason tournament and finally win it all: They have ideal balance throughout their lineup, particularly at the top, and their bullpen is exceedingly deep.
Both of those traits pushed the Dodgers to a Game 1 victory. Leadoff man Mookie Betts, who has been even better than the Dodgers could have imagined this season, doubled in his first two plate appearances, and No. 2 hitter Seager, back among the game's best shortstops, provided a big insurance run with a seventh-inning homer. But it was the bullpen that really stepped up, with Urias providing three crucial innings in relief of Buehler, who is still fighting a nagging blister, and Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen cruising through the final six outs.
Jansen allowed only one baserunner in the ninth, but he was noticeably off. Roberts said, "It just didn't seem like the stuff had the teeth that I've seen in recent outings."-- Alden Gonzalez
What's next: Game 2, 10 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN