Three headlines from the baseball world, as the first round of the postseason could potentially end today…
1. AL Wild Card Series matchups
The Rays will turn to starter Zach Eflin to keep their season alive when Tampa Bay hosts the Rangers in Game 2 this afternoon. Signed to a three-year, $40MM deal this past offseason, Eflin delivered a very strong season, becoming a rock of stability within an injury-riddled Rays rotation. Texas will try to clinch the series with Nathan Eovaldi (a former Ray) on the mound, and Eovaldi will be looking to add to an impressive postseason resume. The winner of a World Series ring with the Red Sox in 2018, Eovaldi has a 3.14 ERA over 43 innings in 11 career playoff games.
In the other ALWC series, Jose Berrios and Sonny Gray are the starting pitchers for the Blue Jays and Twins. Berrios is a longtime former Twin who came to Toronto in a deal at the 2021 trade deadline, and he is now tasked with beating his ex-club in an elimination game. The Blue Jays’ inconsistent offense again surfaced in Game 1’s 3-1 loss, and things won’t get much easier for Toronto against Gray, who enjoyed arguably the best season of his 11-year career in 2023.
2. NL Wild Card Series matchups
The Diamondbacks can complete the upset over the Brewers with a victory in Game 2, with ace Zac Gallen taking the mound for his first career postseason game. Gallen and Merrill Kelly (scheduled to start a Game 3, if necessary) have carried an otherwise shaky D’Backs rotation throughout the season, and Milwaukee will now have to try to make the comeback against Arizona’s two best pitchers. The Brewers will counter with a big arm of their own in Freddy Peralta, but the lineup also needs to be better after stranding 11 baserunners in a 6-3 loss in Game 1.
Speaking of shaky offenses, the Marlins were one of the lower-scoring teams in baseball this season, and the bats weren’t there in a 4-1 loss to the Phillies in Game 1. Braxton Garrett will make his first career playoff start, looking to continue his good form after posting a 2.56 ERA over his last 11 regular-season starts (59 2/3 innings). Aaron Nola starts for the Phillies, and while Nola’s upcoming free agency will be one of the primary storylines of Philadelphia’s offseason, the Phils obviously hope their offseason is still a ways off.
3. Status quo in San Diego?
In the wake of a disappointing Padres season, there has been much speculation that either manager Bob Melvin or president of baseball operations A.J. Preller could be losing their jobs. However, team chairman Peter Seidler gave both men a vote of confidence on Monday, and Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a “productive” meeting took place Monday between Melvin and Preller. There has yet to be a formal announcement from the team on either man’s status for 2024, and it is possible there might not be one if both Melvin and Preller are indeed staying. Acee writes that for now, it seems like both will be keeping their jobs.