MLB's first-ever wild-card series weekend is here.
As the playoff field expands to 12 teams for the 2022 postseason, four best-of-three series starting today will determine which teams will advance to the American League Division Series (against either the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees) and National League Division Series (against either the Atlanta Braves or Los Angeles Dodgers).
The Friday festivities began with the Cleveland Guardians taking a close victory from the Tampa Bay Rays at home, followed by the Philadelphia Phillies engineering an incredible late-game comeback against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Seattle Mariners followed up by shutting out the Toronto Blue Jays, and finally, the San Diego Padres hit four home runs off Max Scherzer in a win over the New York Mets.
Here are the biggest takeaways from each game of the first day of the postseason.
Cleveland leads the series 1-0.
Two hours and 17 minutes. That's all it took to get through the first game of the 2022 MLB playoffs. This was the shortest AL postseason game ever. It's only fitting that Game 1 between two teams not known for the long ball was decided by ... the long ball. Cleveland's Jose Ramirez erased a brief deficit with a two-run blast after Jose Siri went deep for the Rays for the first run of a very brief AL wild-card opener. Ramirez, nearly traded during spring training before signing a long-term contract, was the one home run threat in the Guardians lineup that Kevin Cash said he was concerned about before the series -- but it was hard to pitch around him with a runner on first base in a tight game. Meanwhile, Shane Bieber was about as good as he's been all year in keeping the Rays to one run over 7⅔ innings -- and now Cleveland is just one win away from knocking out Tampa Bay. Yeah, these wild-card series might go by that fast. -- Jesse Rogers
José José José Joséééé 👏 https://t.co/yPWh9brZbc— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 7, 2022
Let's go @CleGuardians ☝🏾down— krayzie Bone (@iamKrayzieBone) October 7, 2022
Our experts' pick to win the series: Guardians 19 votes, Rays 12
Phillies lead 1-0
Game 1 takeaways
The Cardinals had it all lined up. Jose Quintana, who would have been considered an unlikely playoff Game 1 starter when the season began, matched Phillies ace Zack Wheeler zero for zero. Rookie manager Ollie Marmol pulled the right lever in the seventh, as pinch-hitter Juan Lopez wrapped a Jose Alvarado pitch around the left-field foul pole for a two-run homer, breaking a scoreless tie. All-Star closer Ryan Helsley came on to close it out ... but whether it was a bad game or a physical problem, Helsley simply lost command. He was charged with four Philadelphia runs during a nightmarish ninth-inning in St. Louis. That's playoff baseball: The margin for error for every team is nil. And now the Cardinals have to win on Saturday or the careers of Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina will be over. -- Brad Doolittle
The Phillies go ahead ... and pile on
JIMMY CIGS!!!! pic.twitter.com/azLnNLJDZg— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 7, 2022
MARSHY ADDS ON pic.twitter.com/p82r411JnS— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 7, 2022
Yepez breaks the scoreless tie
Standing O in St. Louis
"By the All-Star game we wondered did he have anything left, now we're wondering why he's retiring"— Talkin' Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 7, 2022
A big ovation for Albert Pujols in his first at bat of his 10th and final postseason pic.twitter.com/nMxiSnFbsk
Clocking in. pic.twitter.com/ket1rBUp94— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 7, 2022
Mariners lead 1-0
Game 1 takeaways
First the Seattle Mariners broke their 20-year playoff drought, and on Friday night they booked their first postseason victory since 2001. Now, with one win separating them from the division series, it's fair to wonder just how magical this season can get. The Mariners input their season-long formula into Game 1 of their wild card series with Toronto -- great starting pitching (thanks, Luis Castillo for 7.1 innings), big home run (Cal Raleigh, two-run shot in the first), lockdown relief (hello, Andres Muñoz) -- and emerged with a 4-0 victory. Next up: Robbie Ray returns to Toronto, where he won the Cy Young last season, to try to finish the series for Seattle. And the Blue Jays, shut out for the ninth time this season, need to win two straight to set up a matchup with Houston. -- Jeff Passan
Wishing our Buds from down the street the best of luck 🔵⚪️ pic.twitter.com/T7a8y9DoOZ— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) October 7, 2022
Padres lead 1-0
Game 1 takeaways
It doesn't matter that Max Scherzer had a 2.29 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 23 starts this season. All it takes is a couple of bad pitches for a game and, potentially, a series to flip on its head. That's what happened to the Mets ace when he left four pitches out over the middle of the plate to Josh Bell, Trent Grisham, Jurickson Profar and Manny Machado, who hit home runs in the first, second and fifth innings, respectively. Those three home runs more than made the difference in a game where the Mets' offense was nonexistent aside from an Eduardo Escobar home run in the fifth inning. New York's offense will need to wake up from its slumber if it hopes to keep its season alive beyond Saturday. -- Joon Lee
Emma Stone gets booed ... for wearing a Padres jacket
when an entire stadium boos you pic.twitter.com/6lBgn00sDh— Joon Lee (@joonlee) October 8, 2022