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MLB Wild Card Day 1: Key Takeaways and Game 2 Strategies

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The Opening Day of the 2023 MLB Playoffs featured eight teams in action as they embarked on the best-of-three wild-card round. In the American League, the day’s Game 1 action concluded with the visiting Texas Rangers defeating the Tampa Bay Rays, while the Minnesota Twins secured a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, ending their 18-game postseason losing streak at home.

In the National League’s evening games, the Arizona Diamondbacks surprised the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Miami Marlins.

We’ve got you covered with takeaways, live updates, and analysis from the Day 1 games, along with a crucial point to know for each Game 2:

Philadelphia Phillies 4, Miami Marlins 1: In what appeared to be the biggest mismatch of the four wild-card series on paper, the Marlins-Phillies Game 1 played out as expected. Zack Wheeler took a shutout into the seventh, and the Phillies hit Jesus Luzardo hard, with five of their eight hits registering at 104 mph or higher.

However, it wasn’t an easy win for the Phillies, as the Marlins managed to score a run in the seventh, and they had the go-ahead run at the plate. A stellar 94-mph cutter by Jose Alvarado to strike out Yuli Gurriel extinguished that threat.

In the eighth, the Marlins had the tying run at the plate, but Jeff Hoffman came on and induced Jorge Soler to ground out. If the Phillies’ bullpen maintains its performance, they have a chance to do more than just beat the Marlins.

One thing to know for Game 2: Last postseason, the Phillies relied heavily on Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Wheeler performed well in Game 1 on Tuesday night, but Nola hasn’t matched his previous year’s form, with a regular-season ERA increasing from 3.25 to 4.46 in 2023. Whether Nola can regain his playoff prowess will significantly impact the Phillies’ postseason journey.

Arizona Diamondbacks 6, Milwaukee Brewers 3: Despite pre-series discussions focusing on Arizona’s speed, the Diamondbacks demonstrated the key postseason formula by hitting three homers over two innings against Milwaukee ace Corbin Burnes.

The home run spree commenced with a 440-foot blast by probable NL Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll, who had stolen 59 bases during the season but also displayed considerable power. For the Brewers, Game 1 was marked by missed opportunities.

They loaded the bases twice without scoring, including a fifth-inning situation with no outs. After Brice Turang struck out, Tyrone Taylor appeared to have a go-ahead single to left, but Evan Longoria, who turned 38 on Saturday and was not a sure starter, made a remarkable catch and converted it into a threat-ending double play.

Longoria had stated before the game that many of these matchups would come down to one or two crucial moments. He was prepared, and Arizona now leads 1-0. The next two days feature Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly in line for the Diamondbacks.

If the Brewers can’t seize pivotal moments in Game 2, where Freddy Peralta will take the mound, they might not have a chance to face Kelly.

One thing to know for Game 2: Securing a Game 1 victory on the road places Arizona in an advantageous position, particularly for a potential series upset. With ace Gallen set to pitch Game 2 and Kelly available for Game 3 if necessary, Arizona holds a strong position against a Brewers team without the injured Brandon Woodruff.

Minnesota Twins 3, Toronto Blue Jays 1: The long-standing postseason curse is finally over! The Twins’ 18-game postseason losing streak, dating back to 2004, was a stretch of misery that defied belief. With this burden lifted, the Twins enter the wide-open AL bracket, bolstered by the impressive performance of Royce Lewis.

The rookie, Minnesota’s standout hitter, hadn’t played since September 19 due to a hamstring injury. However, he made a remarkable return, hitting two home runs and driving in three runs against the formidable Kevin Gausman.

Gausman chose a 3-2 four-seamer in the first inning, instead of his most effective pitch, a splitter, and Lewis capitalized with a two-run home run.

This might have been an ill-advised pitch selection by Gausman. With Sonny Gray set to take the mound against a less intimidating Toronto lineup (featuring Cavan Biggio batting fifth), the Twins might be on the verge of winning their first postseason series since the 2002 ALDS.

One thing to know for Game 2: Minnesota’s euphoria after ending their postseason losing streak in Game 1 sets the stage for a clinching opportunity in the ALDS. In Game 2, Toronto starter Jose Berrios, who spent the first six years of his career in Minnesota before being traded to the Blue Jays at the 2021 trade deadline, faces a challenging return to Target Field. All-Star Sonny Gray is set to pitch for the Twins.

Texas Rangers 4, Tampa Bay Rays 0: While the trade deadline acquisition of Max Scherzer received extensive attention, Rangers general manager Chris Young’s move to acquire a second

starting pitcher paid dividends.

Jordan Montgomery delivered a dominant performance against the formidable Tampa Bay offense, pitching seven scoreless innings in the Rangers’ 4-0 victory. Over his past five starts, Montgomery has only allowed two runs in 34 innings, establishing himself as a postseason ace, despite his unconventional profile as a non-strikeout pitcher.

Another remarkable performance came from rookie left fielder Evan Carter, who went 2-for-2 with two doubles and two walks (although Yandy Diaz should have made a play on one of the doubles). Carter, at just 21, made his MLB debut on September 8 and has already displayed star potential at the plate, boasting a 1.058 OPS in his 23 regular-season games, all while batting ninth in the Rangers’ lineup. It’s an impressive lineup.

The Rays had a disastrous game with four errors. Kevin Cash’s questionable decision to leave Tyler Glasnow in the game to start the sixth inning resulted in Glasnow walking the first two batters, allowing the Rangers to extend their lead with two more runs.

One thing to know for Game 2: After an impressive 99-win regular season, the Rays will entrust their fate to Zach Eflin, their highest-paid free agent signing in franchise history last offseason.

Eflin performed exceptionally well at Tropicana Field this year, going 11-4 with a 3.30 ERA and averaging 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings, compared to a 5-4 record, 3.77 ERA, and 8.0 K/9 on the road.”




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