Major League Baseball’s 2021 postseason is kicking into high gear Friday with a four-game slate of divisional round matchups. The Astros won the first game of the day, taking a 2-0 ALDS lead over the White Sox. In the second game, the Brewers eked out a Game 1 win over the Braves by a score of 2-1. The Giants and Dodgers square off in the nightcap, and the Red Sox are trying to even up their series with the Red Sox with ALDS Game 2. (Here’s the complete playoff schedule.)
Friday’s playoff scores
And now for some takeaways from Friday’s action.
Rowdy, Brewers win pitchers’ duel
Game 1 of the NLDS between the Braves and host Brewers was looking like a connoisseur’s pitching duel until Rowdy Tellez broke a scoreless tie in the seventh with a two-run home run off Atlanta’s Charlie Morton. The Milwaukee bullpen preserved just enough of that lead, as the Brewers took a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-five series with the 2-1 win.
Tellez, seeing Morton for the third time in the game, turned around a 1-2 fastball and sent it 411 feet to right center. The clutch blast left Tellez’s bat at 109.3 mph:
Prior to his heroics at the plate, Tellez also did the heavy lifting in a 1-2 double play in the top of the first that allowed Brewers starter Corbin Burnes to escape an early jam.
Burnes overcame early command problems and wound up tossing six scoreless innings with six strikeouts and three walks. Of his 91 pitches, 57 went for strikes. He induced six groundouts — including that key double play in the first — against only one fly-out. As well, Burnes allowed just two hard-hit balls in Game 1. He didn’t allow a hit until Eddie Rosario’s bloop single to start the fifth. Burnes struck out a pair in his final inning, but Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell opted to pinch-hit for him in the home half of the sixth. Pinch-hitter Dan Vogelbach worked a walk — Morton’s first of the game.
Across the way, Morton was similarly effective and even more dominant, at least until Tellez’s game-changing home run. Flashing full command of his hammer breaking ball and showing some of his strongest velocity of 2021, Morton struck out nine and walked only one in six innings of work. He allowed two earned on three hits.
Braves outfielder Joc Pederson halved the Milwaukee lead in the eighth with a pinch-hit, opposite-field solo homer off Adrian Houser, who was working his second frame in relief of Burnes. Then, however, lockdown closer Josh Hader closed the game down in the ninth after a leadoff walk and a single to Austin Riley.
Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday back in Milwaukee, as Max Fried opposes Brandon Woodruff.
Bullpens decide Astros-Chisox Game 2
The Astros took down the White Sox by a 9-4 final (box score) on Friday afternoon in Game 2 of their best-of-five American League Division Series. The Astros now possess a 2-0 lead with the series heading to Chicago on Sunday. The two sides traded leads over the first five innings. The White Sox jumped ahead in the first when Luis Robert scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 1-0. Houston first tied the game in the second inning on a Kyle Tucker single, then took the lead later in that frame on a Chas McCormick sacrifice fly. The White Sox would push three across the plate to take a 4-2 lead in the fifth, yet once again the Astros roared back and tied the game up at 4-4 on a Yuli Gurriel single.
From there, it was all Houston.
Neither starter, Lucas Giolito nor Framber Valdez, completed as many as five innings, meaning the game was ultimately left in the hands of the relief corps. The Astros’ rose to the occasion; the White Sox’s did not.
Five Houston relievers combined to throw 4 2/3 shutout frames. Chicago also had to use five relievers, but rather than a clean sheet, both Aaron Bummer and Craig Kimbrel ended up with some crooked numbers.
Indeed, Bummer and Kimbrel surrendered five runs on five hits in one total inning of work. Bummer, for his part, allowed three singles that permitted the Astros to take a 5-4 lead. Kimbrel then entered and gave up a double to Carlos Correa to make it 7-4, and then a two-run shot to Kyle Tucker to put the game well out of reach.
As we noted elsewhere, for as loaded as the White Sox’s bullpen appears on paper, they had a tendency to melt down during the regular season. They did so again on Friday — and notably without using Michael Kopech. When manager Tony La Russa was asked about Kopech’s absence, he provided the following uninspiring answer:
Down 0-2 in the series, history is not on Chicago’s side. The White Sox will now need three consecutive wins to stave off elimination in the Division Series. According to MLB.com’s Andrew Simon, there have been 32 instances in the 2-2-1 format era where a road team lost the first two games. Just three of those teams came back to win the series. Conversely, 19 of those teams were swept in three games.. We’ll see if the White Sox can prove to be the exception come Sunday afternoon.
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