By Nick Telesmanic
BU News Service
This year’s American and National League Wild Card games went wild in a way MLB has never seen before.
There was drama and heartbreak in the National League Wild Card game against the Brewers and the Nationals. With a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the eigth, Brewers star reliever Josh Hader had an uncharacteristic outing, missing the strike zone often and letting the bases get loaded.
With two outs, Nationals outfielder Juan Soto hit a line drive base hit toward Brewers rookie outfielder Trent Grisham. Grisham mishandled the ball and let it get behind him, allowing the Nationals to clear the bases and take a 4-3 lead heading into the top of the ninth. By the end of the game, the Brewers could not overcome, finally giving a nervous Nationals Park crowd something to cheer for, sprinkling the remainder of their beer into the air in celebration.
Likewise, the AL Wild Card game was a heart-breaker for the Oakland Athletics, who lost in their second consecutive Wild Card game, and their third since the game was added to MLB in 2012. There’s been a similar theme the past two years for the A’s in these games— they have the pedigree to square off against playoff opponents, but they haven’t had strong pitching to match up with the opponents they face in the one-game playoffs.
The Rays had ace Charlie Morton (who is having a career year) on the mound, notching season highs in wins, innings, strikeouts and ERA. A five inning, zero earned run performance combined with a dominant bullpen allowed Tampa Bay to cruise to the ALDS with a 5-1 win.
There is one thing that both these games had in common, and it’s a telltale sign for an exciting MLB postseason to come: the home run, the long-ball game. The Rays produced all five of their runs Wednesday night via home runs. Rays first baseman Yandy Díaz, who last had a hit in a major league game on July 22, hit two home runs in his first two at-bats. Although the biggest hit from the NL Wild Card game was not a home run, every other run-scoring hit from that game was a home run, with two coming from the eliminated Brewers and one from the Nationals.
With many rumors circulating that the baseballs used in MLB are juiced — whether they started becoming juiced this year or years ago — it’s hard to deny that we’ve already been seeing more home runs in the 2019 season. This year, 48 players have hit 32 home runs or more. In 2014, only nine players did that.
The Major League Baseball organization themselves acknowledged that the game is changing, creating their own commercial for this postseason explaining that the game is faster, younger and harder than it ever was before.
Even if your favorite MLB team is not going to be playing in this postseason, it’s certain that all viewers will be in for a unique treat this October. Seeing more home runs will add more excitement to playoff games; it’s always exciting knowing that anyone can change the pace of the game with a swing of the bat.
Not only that, but we can expect to see even more pure adrenaline from the crowd, emotion from players on the field and fairy-tale endings. We’ve already had a taste of some of this in the Wild Card games, and there’s only more of it to come.
MLB fans better get ready for things to get even wilder as the postseason progresses.