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MLB playoffs: Rangers, Twins, D-Backs, Phillies sweep Wild Card series

That makes seven sweeps in eight Wild Card Series during the first two years of the expanded playoff structure.
MLB playoffs: Rangers, Twins, D-Backs, Phillies sweep Wild Card series
Posted at 12:21 PM, Oct 05, 2023

Two and done. Across the board.

Texas, Minnesota, Arizona and Philadelphia finished off postseason sweeps Wednesday as all four best-of-three Wild Card Series ended in two games.

A pair of road teams advanced — the Rangers and Diamondbacks — while the Twins and Phillies won at home. That makes seven sweeps in eight Wild Card Series during the first two years of expanded playoffs.

In the American League, Texas will play AL East champion Baltimore in the Division Series, and AL Central champ Minnesota takes on defending World Series champion Houston, which won the AL West, as Twins star shortstop Carlos Correa faces his former team.

In the National League, the young Diamondbacks square off against the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, and the defending NL champion Phillies head to Atlanta for a playoff rematch with the major league-best Braves, who won their sixth straight NL East title this year.

The schedule is quiet for two days before all four best-of-five Division Series begin Saturday.

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Betting favorites

The Braves are the current betting favorites to win the World Series at +260, followed by the Dodgers (+440) and Astros (+490), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Job interview

Now that the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers have been eliminated, speculation will intensify about Craig Counsell's future.

The most successful manager in franchise history, Counsell is a free agent of sorts. He doesn’t have a contract beyond this season and wasn’t interested in discussing his plans after the team’s 5-2 loss to Arizona on Wednesday.

“That ain’t for tonight, man,” he said.

Counsell has guided Milwaukee to five playoff berths in the last six years — although his hometown team remains in search of its first World Series title.

Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio has said the club wants Counsell to stay.

Song birds

The Orioles may be Big Shots this year as they make their first playoff appearance since 2016, but they’ll try to stay out of the Piano Man’s way this weekend.

Baltimore announced that Game 1 of the AL Division Series at Camden Yards is scheduled for just after 1 p.m. Saturday. Then it will be time for the Orioles and Texas Rangers to Stand Back, because Stevie Nicks and Billy Joel are playing a concert at 7 p.m. that night at M&T Bank Stadium next door.

The two big events in close proximity could create all sorts of parking issues.

Swing and a miss

Tampa Bay looked like the team to beat this season when the Rays opened 13-0 while outscoring opponents 101-30.

Two days into the playoffs, they were quickly dispatched for the third straight year with a 7-1 loss to Texas.

Curtis Mead’s seventh-inning RBI single stopped Tampa Bay’s 33-inning postseason scoreless streak dating to last year. It was the second-longest streak in major league history, trailing only a 34-inning drought for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1966-74.

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Snake bit

Arizona hopes to get catcher Gabriel Moreno back soon. Moreno left Game 2 of the Wild Card Series at Milwaukee after he was struck in the helmet by a backswing.

When Brice Turang struck out swinging to lead off the second inning for the Brewers, his bat hit Moreno’s helmet. The game was delayed for several minutes to allow Moreno to get examined.

Meanwhile, manager Torey Lovullo said Diamondbacks outfielder Jake McCarthy strained his oblique while taking batting practice Tuesday and is weeks from being healthy enough to play.

Arizona removed McCarthy from its Wild Card Series roster about 10 minutes before the start of their 6-3 Game 1 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday. Utilityman Jace Peterson replaced him on the roster.

In other Diamondbacks news, general manager Mike Hazen has received a new contract through the 2028 season with a club option for 2029, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal hadn’t been announced.

Stealing the show

Baseball changed this year — especially for guys with game-changing speed, like Atlanta star Ronald Acuña Jr.

Fans only now turning their attention to baseball for the postseason will find a sport with a different pace. Following the implementation of new rules like a pitch clock and limits on pitcher disengagements from the rubber, players are running much more than a year ago. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, a dramatic jump of more than 1,000 from a year ago. It’s the highest total since 1987’s record of 3,585.

The rampant running is expected to continue throughout the playoffs.

“Guys are going to be turning it loose like they have all year,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, whose team earned a bye to the Division Series. “Teams like Arizona are going to be flying all over the place. I don’t really see a change from the season.”

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How to watch

After the wild-card rounds were broadcast on ABC and ESPN, the later rounds will be split among Fox, FS1 and TBS.

Postseason schedule

Division Series: Oct. 7-14

League Championship Series: Oct. 15-24

World Series: Oct. 27-Nov. 4

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