Good morning, I’m Kevin Sweeney. Dan Gartland’s back tomorrow, but for now, enjoy another loaded day of playoff baseball to get you through your Hump Day.
In today’s SI:AM:
Biggest takeaways from wild-card Day 1
The MLB postseason got off to a busy start with four games Tuesday. There wasn’t too much late-game drama, with all four games decided by multiple runs and only the Diamondbacks-Brewers game within a run in the ninth inning. But we did learn plenty about the eight teams fighting to keep their seasons alive, and Game 2 in all four series are this afternoon and evening. Some takeaways from Tuesday’s action.
The Rays were too sloppy
The Rays had the best record of the eight teams in action Tuesday, winning 99 regular-season games. That’s nine more wins than the AL West–winning Astros, who earned a bye to the Division Series by virtue of the league’s seeding structure. But Tampa Bay didn’t look like one of baseball’s best teams Tuesday in a 4–0 loss to the Rangers. They committed four errors on the field, walked six Rangers hitters and mustered just six hits themselves. Plus, they shot themselves in the foot when they did get opportunities at the plate, including a failed sacrifice bunt attempt by Jose Siri in the second inning that turned into a momentum-changing play. Now they’ll have to beat Nathan Eovaldi today to extend their season.
Not the same old Twins
For the first time since 2004, the Twins have won a playoff game. Two home runs by former No. 1 pick Royce Lewis were all the offense Pablo López and the lights-out Twins pitching staff needed to win Game 1. Minnesota also got a lift from its defense, with Carlos Correa making a sterling play to gun down Bo Bichette at home plate. And with Sonny Gray on the bump after an electric close to the season, Minnesota has a real chance of advancing in the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades.
Diamondbacks met the moment
Few knew how the Diamondbacks would respond to a playoff atmosphere after sneaking in surprisingly with a young team. Consider the first test passed with flying colors. After taking an early haymaker, Arizona rallied from 3–0 down to win 6–3 behind big hits from Corbin Carroll and Christian Walker. They escaped major trouble in the third (second and third, one out) and fifth (bases loaded, no outs), then got insurance in the top of the ninth. Beating Brewers ace Corbin Burnes is huge, especially with D-Backs ace Zac Gallen on the bump tomorrow in a potential clincher.
More Phillies October magic
The run Philadelphia went on in last year’s playoffs and the incredible fan support that followed was so much fun to watch. Early returns indicate this group hasn’t lost its playoff mojo. Citizens Bank Park was electric, and the Phillies were in control the entire way. Zack Wheeler was dominant on the mound, and Philadelphia got contributions from up and down its lineup. The chance for a rematch with the Braves in the NLDS is enticing, and we’ll get that matchup with one more Phillies win tonight.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- Emma Baccellieri has the story of a playoff win nearly two decades in the making for the Twins, including the message Game 1 star Royce Lewis received from a Twins legend pregame.
- Tom Verducci has more on the Rays’ disastrous Game 1 and what will need to change for Tampa Bay to avoid an abrupt ending to a promising season.
- Albert Breer breaks down the one stat that should have Jets fans most encouraged from Zach Wilson’s breakthrough performance Sunday.
- Notes ahead of a season-shaping month ahead in college football from Pat Forde, including which undefeated team has the easiest path to staying that way into November.
- Chris Mannix’s dispatch from Lakers camp, where LeBron James has new perspective and more help as he enters his 21st season in the NBA.
- New power rankings from Conor Orr after NFL Week 4, with the 49ers atop the list heading into this week’s huge clash with the Cowboys.
The top five…
…things I saw yesterday:
When Drew Brees became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw 400 career touchdown passes on this day in 2015, who caught the milestone pass?
- Marques Colston
- C.J. Spiller
- Willie Snead
- Ben Watson
Yesterday’s SIQ: The Canucks and Ducks played the NHL’s first regular-season game outside North America on this day in 1997. Which country did the game take place in?
Answer: Japan. While NHL teams had previously toured Europe and played exhibition games overseas, the two-game series in Tokyo marked the first time regular-season games were played in Japan. The Ducks were chosen in part because captain Paul Kariya is of Japanese ancestry, and the Canucks were picked because Vancouver has a significant Japanese population.
The NHL chose to stage games in Japan ahead of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, which would be the first to feature NHL players in the men’s hockey tournament.
The NHL returned to Japan in 1998 and 2000 for two regular-season games each year. Subsequent international regular-season games have been held in several countries in Europe, including Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. Last month, the league went to Australia for the first time for two preseason games between the Kings and Coyotes. The Maple Leafs, Senators, Red Wings and Wild are set to play a total of four games next month in Stockholm.