It was not a good start to the Major League Baseball postseason for those who don’t believe in curses.
The Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics extended their string of postseason futility on Tuesday with losses in the openers of their respective best-of-three, wild-card series. If they don’t win Game 2 on Tuesday, it’s another quick trip home for two franchises that have been consistently great in the regular season, only to fall apart when the postseason arrives.
Count the Cleveland Indians, too. Losers of seven straight playoff games, they’re hoping to fight off elimination against the New York Yankees.
Also up: The Atlanta Braves, who have lost in 10 straight postseason rounds dating to 2001. They’ll host their opener against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday.
Braves manager Brian Snitker turned to humor when discussing fall futility.
“I’d love to win this series,” he said. “I’m not going to sacrifice a child to get it done, but I guess it just depends on what you want to make of it.”
The 64-year-old Snitker has been with the Braves’ organization since 1977, so he’s well aware of the club’s recent postseason failures. He also doesn’t believe it has much bearing on what’s about to happen over the next two to three days.
“I don’t think those guys in there feel that at all,” Snitker said. “They weren’t around here for all those ones that everyone is talking about.”
Of course, the same could be said for the Twins and A’s, and both those teams still lost on Tuesday. Minnesota extended its all-time postseason record losing streak to 17 games by falling 4-1 to Houston. The Astros scored three runs in the ninth inning after a two-out error by Jorge Polanco.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli also said he doesn’t feel the need to address the postseason problems.
“I don’t think there’s really anything to talk about,” Baldelli said. “I think if I brought that up, they’d look at me funny and wonder what the hell I was saying.”
As for Oakland, it had the misfortune of trying to gets hits off White Sox ace Lucas Giolito. The 26-year-old right-hander, who threw a no-hitter earlier this season, had a perfect game through six innings on Tuesday before giving up two hits and a run in the seventh. The White Sox beat the A’s 4-1.
Oakland has lost 12 of its past 13 postseason rounds dating to the 1990 World Series.
“We wanted a series. We lost the first game of it. Now it’s time for us to respond tomorrow,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’re going to have to do more offensively. We can’t score one run and think that we’re going to win tomorrow and put that much pressure on the starter.”
Cleveland’s futility is more recent. Its skid dates to 2017 — one year after losing to the Chicago Cubs in a memorable World Series. Presumptive AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber was shelled by the Bronx Bombers on Tuesday, but the Indians are hoping veteran Carlos Carrasco can end the losing streak with the season on the line.
GAME OF INCHES
Minnesota reliever Sergio Romo is a veteran of the postseason, but he hasn’t been in many moments bigger than Game 1 against the Astros: Ninth inning. Tie game. Two outs. Bases loaded. Full count.
The pitch from Romo was a little high to the 5-foot-6 Jose Altuve, but it was close.
It was ruled ball four by plate umpire D.J. Reyburn and forced home the go-ahead run. Michael Brantley followed with a two-run single to extend the lead to 4-1 and ultimately secure a win over the Twins.
“I know it’s extremely difficult to umpire, to call balls and strikes,” Romo said. “I understand, especially with the stuff that pitchers have these days. The velocity, the movement. All the tricky stuff the catchers do behind the plate to either steal a strike or make sure the (pitcher) looks even better.”
The grumbling over the strike zone brought new life to the debate about the merits of “robot” umpires behind home plate. MLB has experimented at lower levels with an electronic strike zone — most notably in the Arizona Fall League — and the reception was relatively positive.
It makes sense that Day 1 of the playoffs was dominated by pitchers. MLB hitters batted just .245 during the regular season — even with the introduction of the universal designated hitter — which was the lowest mark since the late 1960s.
Giolito was awesome for the White Sox and Blake Snell threw five no-hit innings for the Rays in their 3-1 win over the Blue Jays. Framber Valdez, who started 10 games for the Astros this year, came out of the bullpen to throw five scoreless innings against the Twins. Capping it off, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole struck out 13 without a walk in seven innings against Cleveland.
Out of eight teams that played on Tuesday, seven scored four runs or fewer. The Yankees beat the Indians 12-3.
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