We saw a variety of different games on this first day of the 2010 baseball playoffs.
The Rangers routed the Rays in an afternoon tilt with heavy offense and a stellar performance by left-handed ace Cliff Lee. Then Phillies righty Roy Halladay made history in an early evening contest, stealing the show by hurling only the second postseason no-hitter in a decisive Game 1 victory over the Reds.
As for Yankees vs. Twins, the night cap? Well, that had everything.
Minnesota’s Michael Cuddyer launched a two-run homer to straightaway center field in the bottom of the second inning and Francisco Liriano kicked off his start with five strong scoreless innings. The Twins looked confident, Target Field was rocking and the home team carried a 3-0 lead into the sixth frame.
But the Yankees, always primed for a rally, kicked in four runs in the top of the sixth on a series of base hits that knocked Liriano from the game and put the Bombers up 4-3.
The resilient Twins managed three walks in the bottom of the sixth inning against a tiring CC Sabathia, including a bases-loaded free pass that tied the game at 4-4. Sabathia reached 112 pitches and wouldn’t return in the seventh. But that’s the last sniff of hope that the fans at Target Field would get.
Enter Mark Teixeira.
The big first baseman, battling a sore thumb for close to a month, launched a towering two-run homer to deep right field in the seventh inning to put the Yankees back on top 6-4. That lead would hold, many thanks to a four-out save by future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, who threw cutter after cutter in the exact same spot and left the Twins’ final batters hopeless for a comeback. By our count, Mo broke three bats.
Welcome to the 2010 edition of baseball’s postseason.
Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.
The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.
For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.
Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.
Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.
It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.