MLB Friday Division Series games recap: Yankees vs Guardians | Padres vs Dodgers | Phillies vs Braves
Yesterday’s rain delay dampens Yankees bats, while the Phillies electrify their home crowd, and the Padres outclass the Dodgers in Petco Park
While the NLDS is into their respective third games, the Cleveland Guardians and the New York Yankees played their second game, owing to a rain delay on Thursday. And with each series being evened up heading into three, Cleveland followed suit, handing the Yankees a humiliating home loss.
The Phillies took full advantage of playing post season baseball in their home field for the first time in 19 years and out west, the Dodgers were handed a dose of cold reality by the Padres.
Guardians 4-2 Yankees
The Yankees have built their season around explosive hitting. Their defense has struggled at times and coming into the playoffs, their bullpen has been looking threadbare. But the big hits out of the big hitters would carry them through.
When Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run shot over the short porch in the first inning, the Yankees were playing from the familiar script. Nestor Cortes worked from the mound, pitching five outstanding innings. In what turned out to be a pitching duel, those two runs scored to start the game off would be the last that the pinstripes could muster.
Clawing their way back into the game, the Guardians managed to get a home run of their own to level the game at 2-2, before settling into their own rhythm behind reliever Emmanuel Clase.
Finishing up the regulation nine innings at a stalemate, the tenth saw the game won for Cleveland in the most bizarre of fashions. Not with the classic “bloop and a blast” but with bloop after bloop.
The Yankees had gone through their bullpen, and with few options open to him, Aaron Boone asked Jameson Taillon to appear in relief for the first time in his career. Jose Ramirez led off and hit a little bloop to left that fell turned into a double E-5 when Josh Donaldson threw the ball into right field, giving the Guardians a leadoff triple.
Oscar Gonzales followed this up with another little bloop, this time to right field, which scored Ramirez from third to break the stalemate.
Josh Naylor then one-hopped the center field wall for a double, scoring Gonzales all the way from first and Taillon was mercifully taken off the mound. Clarke Schmidt came on and got managed to get the Guardians to hit three ground balls, two of them effectively swinging bunts, to end the inning.
But the real story of the game was played out in the bottom half of the tenth, where the Yankees… did nothing. The team who have leant most heavily on the home run, in a season where Aaron Judge has broken Maris’ league record for home runs, fell awkwardly silent at the bat.
While the Yankees have relied on the booming bats, the Guardians have been on the opposite end of the spectrum this season, grinding out wins with the lowest number of home runs in the league.
Naylor, who was visibly favoring his leg after returning from the horrendous broken ankle in 2021 that ended his season, said that the Guardians are all pulling in the same direction. “We play hard for each other,” Naylor said. “That’s our mentality here. It’s not about any specific individual. We just want to win together.”
The way that the opening blooper was stretched into three would seem to bear this out. On a hit that many batters would have simply trotted dejectedly to first, Ramirez ran full speed from the beginning. That hustle is what opened the play up, forcing the ill-advised throw to second and offering the opportunity to stretch the play.
“We just try find a way on base anyway we have,” says Naylor. “If it’s a bloop hit, it’s a bloop hit. If it’s a hard-hit single, double, whatever the case, we just try to hustle. Try to make things happen on the field, try to put pressure on the defense, and that’s really just kind of our mentality and play hard until the end.”
That put-the-ball-in-play-and-anything-can-happen attitude is a refreshing antidote to the modern game’s all-in betting on the home run. Perhaps, now that the series is level at a game apiece, the Yankees will carry some of that lesson into Game 3.
Braves 1-9 Phillies
Coming into Game 3 with the series split, Atlanta started their ace rookie Spencer Strider, who has had a stellar season. With post season baseball being played in Philadelphia for the first time in 19 years, the Phillies were not going to let the occasion get the better of them, no matter who was on the mound.
With Aaron Nola getting the start for the Phillies, the game started off as you might expect. When the scoring was opened, however, in the third, it wasn’t simply cracked open, but had the doors blown off the hinges.
Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper both went long in a six-run inning, electrifying the stadium. Hoskins slammed his bat to the ground in a celebration that was at once ugly and beautiful. Bat flips are generally silly showboating, but under the circumstances, with everything on the line in the playoffs, at home for the first time in a generation, you can perhaps give Hoskins a pass for the gesture. It was an outburst of pure, raw emotion and it sent the crowd into a delirious rapture.
Atlanta had no answer to the inning, and looked deflated from that moment forward. Nola pitched six excellent innings, completely silencing Braves bats and allowing only one unearned run.
Just to put an exclamation point on their win, the Phillies tacked on another three runs in the seventh inning, offering a sweet moment to Phillies fans who have not seen a home game of any kind in 19 days, much less a playoff win.
Atlanta is now on the ropes, just one game away from elimination, and to avoid that outcome will need to do something that they are not known for. They will need to win two games in a row.
The key words in the Braves season have been “grit” and “determination” after they chased the Mets through the season. They will need to dig deep and show some of that now. Saturday will be the biggest test of their resiliency, facing a hot Phillies team coming off of a big win, a cathartic win, in front of a hostile Philadelphia crowd.
“At the end of the day, we’ve won two games in a row plenty of times,” Dansby Swanson said. “I think it’s just about playing better baseball, and we have plenty of guys on this team that are really good baseball players. We’ve done it before, and I’m confident we’ll do it again.”
Travis d’Arnaud agrees. “Huge confidence. We’ve won two games in a row before. We all believe in each other, we’re all still pulling on the same side of the rope. We know what the situation is, and we’re all going to be ready to go tomorrow.”
Padres 2-1 Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in baseball. The Dodgers are the top-seeded team in the playoffs. And they are always the first ones to tell you, just in case you forget.
But this is the playoffs, and none of that matters. Sweep all of it to one side and play each game as it comes, because it doesn’t matter how many games you win in the regular season, lose three and your season is over.
The Padres haven’t had a post season game at Petco Park in 16 years, and they come into this one having split the first two games, even-stevens, losing 5-3 and then winning by the same score. The crowd in Petco is often Dodger-heavy, with the seeming imbalance often noted as a source of irritation by San Diegans. Not today. The crowd is out in force with chants of “Beat L.A.” ringing out.
In the bottom of the first inning, that home crowd was given something to cheer about when Jake Cronenworth knocked in Juan Soto with an RBI single. Tony Gonsolin lasted only into the second inning before being replaced by Dodger reliever Andrew Heany.
Part of Los Angeles’ narrative this season has been their outstanding bullpen, and they were made to use every bit of it by the Padres, going through Heany, Almonte, Vesia, and Phillips after San Diego’s Trent Grisham tacked on a solo home run in the fourth.
On the other side, however, Padres starter Blake Snell put in 5.1 outstanding innings of work, shutting down the prodigious Dodger bats. Not that they didn’t have their chances, Snell did surrender five hits after all, but he managed each time to work out of it, before finally being yanked after giving up a run when a Mookie Betts sac fly scored Trayce Thompson from third.
The Padres brought on Martinez, Garcia, Suárez, and Hader to close the game out, and while the Dodgers kept it sporty, the Padres managed to close all the doors in front of a rapturous home crowd.
So many times throughout the season, the Dodgers have made a point of telling the Padres exactly how big the quality gap is between the two teams. They took special delight in Soto’s enormous price tag and perceived lack of payoff.
When Josh Hader was brought in from the Brewers, it was for moments like these, and the Padres faithful took gleeful delight in watching him slam the door in the faces of the Dodger hitters. Every swing and miss was cheered as if it were the final out.
With the crowd on their feet, screaming as only long-suffering Padres fans can, Hader retired the side in order to take San Diego to that unthinkable place in Dodger minds, only one game away from the ALCS.
Winning a post season game in front of a home crowd for the first time since 1998 is sweet. When the team you beat is Los Angeles, it is euphoric for Padres fans. The Dodgers are now facing elimination with another loss, something that will bring back horrific flashbacks of last season, when the Dodgers were also the best team in baseball and failed to make it to the World Series.
For the Padres, basking in the afterglow of a playoff win over the Dodgers is one thing, but should they get past LA, they will need to face either the Phillies or the Braves, two teams who make a habit of ruining other teams’ stories.