Sports Four things we learned from Thursday's MLB playoff games

14:12  02 october  2020
14:12  02 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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MLB provided fans with everything they could hope for on Friday behind four postseason games that The evening slate of playoff action featured two On a night full of big performances and some costly letdowns by key players, here are seven things we learned from Friday’ s postseason action.

Baseball fans were treated to two winner-take-all postseason games on Wednesday in the National League . It began in Atlanta, where the Braves St. Louis built the playoff roster to accomplish it. Daniel Ponce de Leon made eight starts during the regular season and could easily cover four innings.

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After the eight-course playoff meal Major League Baseball served up to fans on Wednesday, the quadruple-header on Thursday seemed more like a rich dessert.

Three teams experienced the sweet taste of victory by closing out their respective wild-card series, while one avoided a bitter end to the season by forcing a do-or-die Game 3 on Friday.

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Our USA TODAY staffers have opened their notebooks to share their thoughts on each of the games on the wild card schedule – focusing on the game-changing (or potentially series-changing) moments.

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So let's take a look at the most important takeaways from Thursday's playoff action.

Reds vs. Braves

The Braves’ bats finally showed some life in the bottom of the eighth inning of their 5-0 victory over the Reds. That’s more than we can say for Cincinnati, whose lineup betrayed the pitching staff. Regardless of opponent – either the Marlins or Cubs -- it’s advantage Braves in the NLDS.

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Chris Bumbaca

White Sox vs. Athletics

Is Hercu-Liam enough to carry the A's through the playoffs? That's the tag A's manager Bob Melvin dropped on closer Liam Hendriks after the Aussie threw 68 pitches in about 24 hours, the latter coming Thursday when he struck out the side to close out the A's 6-4 win over the White Sox to win their first elimination game since 1973. That's great news for the A's; not so great is that their bullpen had to absorb 5 2/3 innings in Game 1 and 7 1/3 innings in Game 3. Oakland barely had enough pitching to scrap through a best-of-three series. It's hard to imagine this formula carrying them through a best-of-five with no off days in the AL Division Series, let alone best-of-seven series in the ALCS and the World Series.

-- Gabe Lacques

Padres vs. Cardinals

Don't ever count the Padres out. Staring down elimination in Game 2, the Padres -- with 22 comeback wins during the regular season -- rallied from a four-run deficit thanks to a home run barrage beginning in the sixth inning. Fernando Tatis Jr., who had struggled offensively until his three-run home run, and Wil Myers, each hit a pair of home runs. Manny Machado slugged one behind Tatis in the sixth for back-to-back bombs. So, in total, the Padres became the first team in postseason history with five home runs from the sixth inning onward in a game. And for the history lesson:  Tatis and Myers became the first teammates to each hit two homers in a postseason game since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the 1932 World Series.

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Last Sunday' s game was a teaser, but now with a full slate of games heading into the weekend, let' s see what we learned from the Thursday night Helu was the only back to average above four yards a carry. On 32 attempts, Washington averaged a measly 2.7 a pop and only had one run over 10 yards.

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-- Scott Boeck

Brewers vs. Dodgers

He's never won a World Series ring and he's had some high-profile failures in the playoffs, but Clayton Kershaw's masterful Game 2 performance against the Brewers -- 8 shutout innings, 3 hits, 13 strikeouts -- should quiet the critics, at least for the time being.

Yes, he entered Thursday's game with a 4.43 ERA in the playoffs (compared to 2.43 in the regular season). But he's often been pushed beyond reasonable limits (pitching on short rest or deep into games) or put in unfamiliar circumstances (three career relief appearances in the regular season, seven in the playoffs).

With a strong 2020 postseason, Kershaw has an opportunity to rewrite the narrative -- once and for all. His 13-K gem to close out the Brewers was a great way to start.

-- Steve Gardner

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Four things we learned from Thursday's MLB playoff games

Jose Altuve may have the yips, but he's also raking .
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