6:21 PM ET
The 2020 MLB playoffs began Tuesday with four American League Wild Card Series.
The Chicago White Sox beat the Oakland A’s as Lucas Giolito flirted with perfection. The Houston Astros, who finished the 2020 season with a losing record, topped the Minnesota Twins to extend Minnesota’s record playoff losing streak to 17 games. Blake Snell and the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays held off the Toronto Blue Jays.
Here are the heroes, turning points and takeaways from each of the Game 1s.
Key links: Preview | Predictions | Schedule, bracket | Playoff Baseball Classic
Jump to: CHW at OAK | HOU at MIN | TOR at TB
Chicago White Sox 4, Oakland A’s 1
Game 1 hero: Lucas Giolito. The White Sox ace became the fifth player in MLB history to take a perfect game into the seventh inning of a postseason game and allowed just two hits, one walk and one run over seven-plus frames.
What it means for the White Sox: What does a bad finish tell us? Apparently, not much. The White Sox looked like a dispirited club as they dropped seven of eight to finish the season. In the first game of their first postseason in 12 years, that changed. It didn’t hurt that Chicago’s No. 1 starter — Giolito — pitched like a championship-level ace, taking a perfect game into the seventh. Just as important, though, was that the lineup of bashers who swaggered their way through most of the short season was back. Adam Engel, Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal went deep as the White Sox were characteristically aggressive at the plate and did damage when they made contact. That was the team we saw for most of the campaign. — Bradford Doolittle
What it means for the A’s: The less said about this performance by the A’s the better. Their lineup was the biggest question heading into the 2020 postseason, and Giolito validated those concerns. He was brilliant, the White Sox’s relievers did enough to hold the lead, and now the A’s — who have bowed out of the playoffs five times in the past eight years without reaching the ALCS — need to beat Dallas Keuchel and his 1.99 ERA to remain alive. — Jeff Passan
Next up: Game 2, 3 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN
The Twins surrender three runs in the ninth inning and lose 4-1 to the Astros, setting an American pro sports record with their 17th consecutive postseason loss.
Houston Astros 4, Minnesota Twins 1
Game 1 hero: Framber Valdez. Taking out a former Cy Young winner early is exactly the kind of move that can get you second-guessed in the postseason, but young Valdez made Dusty Baker look very smart when he came in and pitched beautifully in relief of Zack Greinke. The relief outing gave Houston’s offense a chance to pounce and steal Game 1.
What it means for the Astros: Never did the Astros panic — not when they were stranding runners, not when their starter Greinke got chased after four innings and not when Jose Altuve, in the midst of a season-long struggle, took a full-count Sergio Romo fastball just above the strike zone for ball four to put his team ahead in the ninth. Between Romo and Valdez going five brilliant innings in relief with just a fastball and curveball — and escaping a ninth-inning jam — the Astros did what they needed to scrape by. Now they’re in quite the enviable position: two cracks at a chance to face the winner of Chicago-Oakland in the division series. — Passan
What it means for the Twins: I’d argue that no team needed to win its first game more than the Twins because now they’re staring at that incredible, inconceivable mark of 17 consecutive losses in the postseason. Different teams, different years, sure, but that doesn’t mean this streak doesn’t feel like the weight of the Mall of America on their shoulders. Those 17 defeats have come in many ways, but this was one of the most painful. Shortstop Jorge Polanco made a lazy error with two outs in the ninth inning, casually flipping the ball wide of second base on what should have been an inning-ending force that would have kept the game tied at 1. Now the Twins have to summon the mental fortitude to ignore those 16 years of history and hit the ball over the fence — or just get a hit with a runner in scoring position after going 0-for-7 in Game 1. — David Schoenfield
Next up: Game 2, 1 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN2
Blake Snell is dominant against the Blue Jays, striking out nine batters while allowing just one hit in 5 2/3 innings of work.
Tampa Bay Rays 3, Toronto Blue Jays 1
Game 1 hero: Blake Snell. The former Cy Young Award winner brought electric stuff to the mound, striking out nine batters in 5 2/3 innings and looking like the pitcher who posted a 1.89 ERA in 2018.
What it means for the Blue Jays: Toronto wanted to cobble together a bullpen game out of Matt Shoemaker and Robbie Ray and steal the opener from the best team in the American League. The thing is, that’s the Rays’ modus operandi — and, frankly, they’re better-equipped to do it. Nobody on the Blue Jays could solve Snell. They touched up Nick Anderson for a run, which is something of a moral victory, but morals don’t win three-game series. Good play does, and the Blue Jays now are relying on Hyun-Jin Ryu going pitch-for-pitch with Tyler Glasnow in hopes that they can get to a Game 3, in which Taijuan Walker would face Charlie Morton. — Passan
What it means for the Rays: This was a characteristic Tampa Bay victory: a close game won on the strength of pitching depth. This team will need strong performances from its trio of top-tier starters — Snell, Glasnow and Morton — to make a deep run this postseason. Snell brought his A-game to shut down Buffalo, er, Toronto in Game 1 and handed things off to Diego Castillo, Anderson and Peter Fairbanks to finish things off. If the Rays make it beyond this round, expect many of their games to look like this one: strong pitching with just enough offensive output to pull off victories. It has been a tried-and-true formula this season. — Joon Lee
Next up: Game 2, 4 p.m. ET Wednesday on TBS
More Tuesday games
New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians, live on ESPN