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Where you read it first | Saturday, June 22, 2024

Extra Innings: MLB postseason storylines

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MLB postseason storylines

The first two rounds of the playoffs have been full of surprises. The teams I picked to advance in the wild card matchups won a total of one game and lost every series. The three biggest favorites in the National League have all been eliminated, and two wild card teams will play for the pennant on that side of the bracket. That’s postseason baseball for you. Here are five of the biggest storylines of the playoffs so far. 

Toronto Blues

Before the season, Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. famously said that the Blue Jays’ last season was the trailer, while 2022 would be the movie. That movie ended up being a short film, as the Jays were stunned by the Mariners in the wild card round. Give Seattle credit — Luis Castillo pitched a gem in game 1 and the team stormed back after being down 8–1 in game 2. But blowing an 8–1 lead in a win-or-go-home game against a Seattle offense that was average at best during the regular season? It’ll take a while for the Jays to live this one down. Expectations for this team were huge: ESPN had them ranked second in their preseason power rankings. Instead, they failed to win even a single playoff game. 

Money Can’t Buy Happiness

In just two seasons as the Mets’ majority owner, Steve Cohen has spent big money on additions like Francisco Lindor, Max Scherzer and Starling Marte, resulting in the Mets registering the league’s highest payroll in 2022. All that cash couldn’t buy the Mets even one playoff series win, as they were ousted by the Padres at home. San Diego took Scherzer deep four times in game 1 and shut out the Mets in game 3, despite manager Buck Showalter’s attempts to prove that pitcher Joe Musgrove was using foreign substances. A 101-win season can hardly be counted as a disappointment, but between this series and blowing a huge lead in the National League East to the Braves, the Mets didn’t exactly finish the year on the right foot. 

No Repeat in Atlanta

The defending champion Braves were shocked by the Phillies in the division series. Atlanta’s pitching staff had a rough series. Kyle Wright was terrific in game 2, the Braves’ only win of the series, but Max Fried was chased after three and a third in game 1 and neither Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton made it through the third inning in their starts. Their offense wasn’t great either — stars Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson and Michael Harris II went a combined 4 for 45 with 14 strikeouts in the series. Without a repeat this year, the last team to successfully defend their title remains the Yankees in 2000. 

Astros Roll

The Mariners were the feel-good story of the postseason, having made the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. Unfortunately, their season ended on Saturday night in an 18-inning marathon against the Astros, who swept Seattle in the division series to advance. Yordan Alvarez was clutch for Houston — he had a walk-off three-run homer in game 1 and a go-ahead two-run shot in game 2. It’s the sixth consecutive American League championship series appearance for the Astros, who have won three pennants and a World Series in that span. At least one of my predictions hasn’t collapsed — yet. 

Broken Promises

In March, Dave Roberts told radio host Dan Patrick to “put it on record” that his Dodgers would win the World Series in 2022. Instead, they chose a more familiar course of action — collapsing in October. Los Angeles was eliminated by the San Diego Padres, a team they owned in the regular season, in four games. Give credit to San Diego, especially their bullpen, for a great series. But the Dodger bats were quiet, as they scored only 12 runs in four games, and their season was over in the blink of an eye. The harsh reality for the Dodgers is this: Nobody cares about the 111-win regular season. The goal for this team was always World Series or bust, and they didn’t even come close.

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