Monday brought us our final four-game day and night of the 2019 postseason, and all four of those contests happened to be elimination games. As you’ll see from the scores below, all but the Twins survived to fight another day.
To help you unpack all the wall-to-wall playoff action, we’re here to righteously declare some winners and losers. Let’s do just that (winners get to go first, losers) …
Winner: Kevin Kiermaier
In the bottom of the second in Monday’s ALDS Game 3, Zack Greinke of the Astros was staked to a 1-0 lead in what for the Rays was an elimination game. A single and an HBP put two on for veteran Ray and No. 8 hitter Kevin Kiermaier, and he punished a Greinke changeup for a game-changing three-run homer. That homer flipped the Rays chances of winning Game 4 from 43.6 percent to 72 percent. That blast wound up to Kiermaier’s only hit of the day in what turned out to be a 10-3 Tampa Bay romp. At the time, however, it felt like a season-saving home run.
Loser: Zack Greinke
When the Astros acquired Greinke at the trade deadline, they were expecting him to be their third ace alongside Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Greinke was that in the regular season, pitching to a 3.02 ERA in 10 starts and 62 2/3 innings with Houston.
In Game 3 against the Rays though, Greinke flopped and was unable to complete four innings after Verlander and Cole combined to throw 14 2/3 of 18 possible innings in Games 1-2.
Greinke allowed five homers in two starts against the Rays since his trade to the Astros (one regular season start and ALDS Game 3), and four homers in his other nine starts combined. He now owns a 4.46 ERA in 12 career postseason starts. That is … not great.
Fortunately for Greinke, the Astros went into Game 3 with a 2-0 series lead, so they still have two chances to punch their ticket to the ALCS. Verlander will start Game 4 on short rest and Cole will start a potential Game 5 on normal rest, lining Greinke up for the ALCS Game 1 start, should Houston advance in a five-game ALDS.
Winner: Yadier Molina
The stalwart Cardinal backstop had a big day in the must-win Game 4 against the Braves on Monday. First, he tied the game in the eighth on a bloop single just off the glove of Freddie Freeman, and then in the 10th he sent it back to Atlanta with the walk-off sac fly that scored Kolten Wong. Molina had only one hit on the day (and a couple of uncharacteristic defensive missteps), but his work at the plate improved the Cardinals’ chances of winning by a whopping 41 percent in total.
Loser: Middle of the Braves’ order
Specifically, the 3-4-5 hitters. Freddie Freeman went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts in Game 3, including going 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position. Josh Donaldson went 0 for 3 with two walks. Nick Markakis went 1 for 4 with a walk. Freeman clobbered a home run against Carlos Martinez in Game 1, otherwise these three hitters have been pretty bad in the NLDS:
- Freeman: 2 for 16 (.125) with one walk
- Donaldson: 2 for 14 (.143) with two walks
- Markakis: 2 for 17 (.118) with one walk
The three hitters in the middle of Atlanta’s lineup are a combined 4 for 47 (.128) through four NLDS games. That is not going to cut it. For all the talk about Ronald Acuna’s lack of hustle, that dude is 8 for 16 (.500) with three doubles, a triple, and a homer in the series. He’s been the best player in the postseason and he’ll need some help from the 3-4-5 hitters in Game 5 for the Braves to advance.
Winner: Max Scherzer
Pitching on short rest in the must-win Game 4, Scherzer pretty well shoved against the best offense in the NL. Mad Max wound up firing seven innings of one-run ball. Over that span, he allowed four hits while striking out seven against three walks. Scherzer hasn’t started on normal rest since Sept. 18. His final two starts of the regular season weren’t on his normal schedule, and then he started the NL Wild Card Game on a weeks’ rest. Next came a short-rest, high-leverage relief appearance against the Dodgers in Game 2, and then he takes the ball in Game 4 for what turned out to be a 109-pitch gem just three days after that relief appearance.
Loser: Julio Urias
Julio Urias threw two innings on Sunday as part of the Dodgers’ Game 3 victory against the Nationals. Manager Dave Roberts asked Urias for more coverage on Monday, but this time things didn’t go as planned.
Rather Urias, who entered in the fifth inning trying to preserve a tie, permitted three of the five batters he faced to reach: Trea Turner (single), Anthony Rendon (another single), and Howie Kendrick (yes, a single). Turner scored on Rendon’s single, which came after Adam Eaton sacrificed. In other words, if you were facing Urias, you were probably good for a knock.
Urias was then yanked for Pedro Baez, who promptly gave up a three-run home-run to Ryan Zimmerman to make it a 5-1 game. That was more than enough for the Nationals to win.
Winner: Gleyber Torres
The young slugging infielder did his thing in the series clincher against the Twins. His home run in the second put the Yanks up early, and he scored an important run in the seventh not long after doubling to put himself in scoring position. Torres also sparkled in the field, particularly when he snuffed out a potential Minnesota rally in the fifth with a highlight worthy 4-3 putout.
For good measure, Torres added another double in the ninth.
Loser: Miguel Sano
We’re putting Miguel Sano here, but a number of Twins could’ve qualified. (We were also tempted to name Twins fans as a whole, since they’re the ones who have to deal with another winter of wondering “what if?”)
Sano serves as a proxy for the Twins’ problems hitting with runners in scoring position. He went 0 for 4 on the night with two strikeouts and left four runners on. That included two situations where a base hit — even a single — could’ve altered the Twins’ fortunes.
In the bottom of the second, Sano came to the dish with the bases loaded and no one out. He worked a lengthy at-bat, but ended it with a pop up to first base. The Twins wouldn’t score. Later, in the sixth, Sano lined out with a runner on second base and one away. Again, the Twins wouldn’t score in that situation.
It isn’t fair to put everything on Sano, but he served as a fine poster player for what ailed them throughout the night and the series: An inability to make the most of their opportunities.