MLB playoffs: Mariners oust Blue Jays with huge rally; Guardians and Phillies advance
Adam Frazier hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the ninth inning, and the visiting Seattle Mariners erased a seven-run deficit and topped the Toronto Blue Jays 10-9 on Saturday for a sweep of their American League wild-card series.
It was the biggest road comeback win in playoff history and baseball’s largest comeback victory to clinch a postseason series. Next up for resilient Seattle are the Houston Astros in the AL Division Series.
“To go to the World Series, you have to go through Houston,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “They’re really good. We understand that. We’re really good.”
Seattle got off to a 29-39 start this season, but it went 61-33 starting June 21, trailing only the Astros (65-31) among AL teams over that span.
The Padres tied the score twice, on a homer by Trent Grisham and a single by Jurickson Profar, but the Mets pulled away in the seventh inning and won 7-3 in Game 2.
Making the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2001, Seattle trailed 8-1 through five innings Saturday, but the Mariners tied the score at 9 with four runs in the eighth.
With two outs and the bases loaded, J.P. Crawford hit a blooper to center field against All-Star closer Jordan Romano. Center fielder George Springer and shortstop Bo Bichette went hard after the ball, but it landed as the two collided. All three runners scored on the double, tying it at 9.
“I was praying to the baseball gods to just let that ball sit,” Crawford said.
Chris Taylor is confident he will play in the NLDS after dealing with neck stiffness, but the Dodgers aren’t sure if Blake Treinen or Dustin May will pitch.
It looked as if Bichette’s right arm whacked Springer across the forehead. Bichette got up pretty quickly and stayed in the game after he was checked on by a trainer. A woozy Springer was helped to his feet before he was carted off the field.
The 33-year-old Springer, a four-time All-Star, encouraged the cheering crowd as he was driven off.
“It seems everything that could go wrong did go wrong in a very short period of time,” said Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider, who said Springer was “doing OK” and would be evaluated further.
Cal Raleigh, who hit an RBI single for Seattle in the eighth inning, reached on a one-out double against Romano in the ninth. After Mitch Haniger flied out, Frazier drove in Raleigh with a double to right field.
“Those are the kind of moments you picture yourself in in the backyard when you’re a kid,” Frazier said.
Bichette walked, stole second and advanced to third base on a grounder in the eighth, but Andres Munoz retired Alejandro Kirk to end the threat.
George Kirby, Seattle’s eighth pitcher of the game, handled the ninth for his first career save. Matt Chapman walked with one out, but Danny Jansen struck out and Raimel Tapia lined out to end the game.
The Mariners then raced out of their dugout and celebrated behind the mound. They beat Toronto 4-0 in Game 1 of the best-of-three series Friday.
Toronto got off to a fast start in Game 2. Teoscar Hernandez hit a two-run homer in the second inning and a solo drive in the fourth against Robbie Ray, who won the AL Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays last year.
After Ty France scored on Tim Mayza’s wild pitch in the sixth, Carlos Santana gave Seattle’s comeback a big boost with a three-run homer.
Cleveland Guardians 1, Tampa Bay Rays 0 (15 innings)
Rookie Oscar Gonzalez broke up the longest scoreless postseason game in major league history with a leadoff home run in the 15th inning, giving host Cleveland a victory over Tampa Bay and an AL wild-card series sweep.
Gonzalez, who walks to the plate to the “SpongeBob SquarePants” theme song, drove a 1-0 cutter from Corey Kluber, the 432nd pitch in the nearly five-hour game, over the 19-foot wall in left-center field to touch off a wild celebration at Progressive Field.
As Gonzalez rounded the bases, and his teammates gathered near home plate, the sellout crowd of 34,971 shook the ballpark as Cleveland’s surprise season turned even more surprising.
“There’s no way to describe it,” said Gonzalez, who punctuated his shot with an emphatic bat flip before strutting toward first base. “It was such an exciting moment that it’s hard for me to put into words.”
Freddie Freeman thought he would end his career with the Atlanta Braves, but he has since grown comfortable with the Dodgers.
AL Central champion Cleveland, the youngest team in the major leagues, opens the best-of-five Division Series on Tuesday at the AL East champion New York Yankees.
On their visit to Yankee Stadium in April, the Guardians were swept and trash was thrown at them. They are returning a different team.
Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti isn’t buying any David vs. Goliath storyline.
“We haven’t gotten caught up with that and what the external narrative has been around our team,” he said. “These guys have written their own story. ... The Yankees are obviously a great team and we know we have our work cut out for us, but these guys embrace the challenge.”
Cleveland defied odds all year in its first season after abandoning the Indians nickname in favor of the Guardians. The team unexpectedly won the AL Central going away, then swept the more experienced Rays.
Tampa Bay was bounced quickly from its fourth consecutive postseason appearance. The Rays finished the season with seven straight losses and managed just one run and nine hits in the series.
The game was the longest in Cleveland postseason history. Gonzalez was one of 17 players to make their debut for the Guardians this season, so perhaps it was fitting his hit was the game-winner.
“I don’t think by that point we cared,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “It could have been one of the old guys. We didn’t care. We’re not biased. I was happy that he hit it.”
Philadelphia Phillies 2, St. Louis Cardinals 0
Aaron Nola pitched four-hit ball into the seventh inning, Bryce Harper’s homer gave Philadelphia an early lead, and the Phillies held off host St. Louis to sweep their National League wild-card series.
Nola struck out six and walked one on 101 pitches before leaving with two outs in the seventh. Jose Alvarado then retired Yadier Molina on a popup, stranding a runner on first. Seranthony Dominguez struck out Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado to wiggle out of a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth.
Goldschmidt and Arenado, two of the leading contenders for NL most valuable player, went a combined one for 15 in the series with no RBIs and six strikeouts.
The Cardinals tried to rally one more time off Zach Eflin in the ninth, getting consecutive two-out singles from Corey Dickerson and Molina. But the starter-turned-closer responded by getting Tommy Edman to foul out to end the game, giving the Phillies their first postseason series win since they topped Cincinnati in the 2010 divisional round.
They will face a familiar foe, the NL East champion Braves, when their Division Series begins Tuesday night in Atlanta.
“Everybody in that clubhouse, on this team, in this organization is super excited,” Nola said. “Just a bunch of unselfish guys, doing whatever it takes to win a ballgame, no matter what it is. It’s a lot of excitement.”
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is heading into retirement, and he intends to honor his 10-year, $10-million personal-services contract with the Angels.
Miles Mikolas gave up two runs and two hits for St Louis before leaving with two outs in the fifth. Albert Pujols had a pair of singles, including one in the eighth inning in what was likely the final at-bat of his career.
The sellout crowd of 48,515, the third-largest in Busch Stadium history, was at its flag-waving throatiest trying to keep the dream season of Pujols, Molina and the rest of the Cardinals alive. Instead, their fans watched the NL Central champions go down with a whimper, losing in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
“It’s a tough one, when you know it’s Yadi’s last year and Albert’s last year,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “There’s just extra motivation to deliver for them and do something special and allow that story to end with a championship. ... It’s obviously disappointing, but it’s where we’re at.”
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