Major League Baseball’s best-of-three wild card series begin Friday, a quadruple-header to kick off the first year with an expanded 12-team postseason field.
In the American League, the Cleveland Guardians face the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays host the Seattle Mariners. In the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies visit the St. Louis Cardinals – in Albert Pujols’ final postseason – and the 101-win New York Mets host the San Diego Padres.
In the Cleveland-Tampa Bay opener, Guardians pitcher Shane Bieber gave up one earned run in 7 ⅔ innings and Jose Ramirez’s two-run homer was all they needed in a 2-1 win over the Rays.
PREDICTIONS: Who’s going to win the four wild card series?
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Keep it here all day Friday for updates, scores and highlights from around the league:
Pujols back in the postseason at Busch Stadium
Albert Pujols gets a rousing cheer from Cardinals fans during pregame introductions. It’s his first postseason game at Busch Stadium since Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.
And again before his first at-bat.
Jose Ramirez puts Guardians ahead
After Tampa Bay’s Jose Siri hit a solo home run in the top of the sixth off Cleveland starter Shane Bieber to open the scoring, Guardians slugger Jose Ramirez connected on a two-run shot in the bottom of the inning to put his team ahead. The score held on as the Guardians won 2-1.
Are you ready kids?
For those not familiar with the Guardians’ clean up hitter, Oscar Gonzalez’s walk-up music is the theme song to Spongebob Squarepants.
Gonzalez, who made his MLB debut on May 26, was asked about his song choice back in May.
“Because kids love that song and this is a kid’s game after all. I’ve had it since Triple-A.”
Will Albert Pujols go out on top?
Albert Pujols, 42, is playing in the final postseason of his 22-year career, beginning Friday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies in a best-of-three wild-card series at sold-out Busch Stadium.
When the teams line up for introductions, Pujols will get the longest ovation. When he comes to the plate for the first time during the game, he’ll get another one , as fans grab their cell phones and take pictures for posterity. They’ll do the same thing every time he comes to bat
“Man, I missed that feeling of playing this time of year,’’ Pujols says. “These guys have given me the joy, the thrill, of being back in the postseason. This is what we play for.
“This is why I came back.”
– Bob Nightengale
Mets postseason roster: Starling Marte returns, Francisco Alvarez in the squad
All-Star right fielder Starling Marte was included on the New York Mets’ roster Friday for their wild-card series against the San Diego Padres and could make his first appearance since Sept. 6.
Marte has been sidelined since breaking the middle finger on his right (throwing) hand when hit by a 96 mph fastball from Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller.
New York also included 20-year-old Francisco Álvarez, who debuted Sept. 30 and went 2 for 12 with a homer, a double and two walks in five games.
– Associated Press
All-Star batsman Alejandro Kirk is an X-factor for Toronto
“He’s the best. He’s the man,” Blue Jays outfielder George Springer says of Alejandro Kirk, the club’s catcher and designated hitter. “His smile is something everybody loves and he likes to have fun.”
October often shines brightest on those who make contact, who swing not for the fences but with purpose. Kirk, who has struck out just 57 times in 468 at-bats, might be the perfect playoff concoction for a Jays team with plenty of muscle and star power.
“What he’s done at the plate – as I watch pitchers try to find his weakness as the season goes on – there’s really not one,” says Toronto starter Kevin Gausman. “He can hit the high ball really well for a short guy, he can hit the low ball well, he’s an exceptional off-speed hitter.”
– Gabe Lacques
Twitter to air live look-ins during MLB playoffs
Twitter will offer live broadcast look-ins throughout Major League Baseball’s postseason for the first time.
ESPN, Fox and other broadcasters of playoff games will be able to show the look-ins on their social media accounts, and live action will also be show on MLB’s official account. There isn’t a limit on how long each look-in can last.
Twitter will be the only social media platform to officially stream live look-ins during the postseason, which begins Friday with four wild-card round games.
– Associated Press
Mets have reason to be confident
Having lost out on the NL East title, the Mets’ path to the World Series may have gotten tougher with a best-of-three series against the Padres beginning on Friday, but they have proven throughout the season that they are able to rise through adversity.
Whether it was an early-season injury to Jacob deGrom, midseason injury to Max Scherzer or getting hit by a pitch an MLB record 112 times, the Mets have managed to bounce back more often than not when a speed bump arises.
In the postseason, anything can happen. Ask last season’s Braves squad.
“Everybody starts 0-0. It’s a new time of the year,” Francisco Lindor said. “We’ve got to focus on what we have in front of our feet. It’s a blessing to be in the playoffs. To be in the playoffs is a blessing. At the end of the day, I don’t care whether it’s a Wild Card or World Series, it’s an honor, it’s a privilege to be here. Not everybody gets to be here.”
– Andrew Tredinnick, NorthJersey.com