St. Louis Cardinals players celebrate after beating the Milwaukee Brewers to advance to the playoffs. (Jeff Roberson)
New York – Christian Yelich and the Milwaukee Brewers got off to a shaky start this year. They could never be above .500. And they lost their last game to end up with a negative balance.
Guess what? They have qualified for the playoffs.
“It is a rarity. It's the only way he can find to describe it. It fits with this 2020, ”Yelich said after the regular season closed on Sunday.
A season shortened to 60 games that many people believed could never be completed and with multiple games postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks, protests of racial injustice and a hurricane resulting in an unprecedented 16-team postseason.
And it will have an attractive start: Gerrit Cole vs. Shane Bieber in a duel of aces when the New York Yankees face the Cleveland Indians starting Tuesday in the best-three wildcard series.
On Wednesday, it will be the turn of the series in the National League. It will be the day when the Brewers (29-31) will open their match against Los Angeles ace Walker Buehler at Dodger Stadium.
Milwaukee slipped on the final day despite losing to St. Louis. They seized the last wild card when San Francisco succumbed to San Diego.
Yelich, the 2018 MVP who hit .205 this year after winning the last two National League batting crowns, and the Brewers happily posed for photos on the field at Busch Stadium.
We are in. We are in the playoffs. This is how we see it. You don't have to apologize for making the playoffs. The record is irrelevant “
”Craig Counsell / Head of the Brewers
In his first season with manager Dusty Baker, the Astros rounded 29-31. Houston qualified by virtue of finishing second in the AL West, an automatic ticket.
The only other team in history to make the playoffs with an adverse balance was the Kansas City Royals in 1981, going 50-53. They advanced as the best in the second half of a campaign affected by a strike.
“We are in. We are in the playoffs. That's how we see it, ”said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. “You don't have to apologize for making the playoffs.”
“The record is irrelevant,” he added.
The other crosses of the Americana: Number one Tampa Bay vs. Toronto (8), Oakland (2) vs. Chicago White Sox (7) and Minnesota (3) vs. Houston (6) open Tuesday.
Yadier Molina and the Cardinals were able to play just 58 of the 60 regular season games. They were saved from not having to have played a final doubleheader yesterday when the games were canceled because they would not affect their classification or anyone else. (David Dermer)
In the National they cross like this: Dodgers (1) vs. Brewers (8), Atlanta (2) vs. Cincinnati (7), Chicago Cubs (3) vs. Miami 6) and San Diego (4) vs. Saint Louis (5).
Yadier Molina and the Cardinals qualified despite being inactive for a couple of weeks and a half in August after an outbreak that included the Puerto Rican catcher among those infected. St. Louis played a total of 58 games, and was ready to play a doubleheader in Detroit on Monday if necessary.
“Some of the expectations that were had were discarded by not having certainty about what was going to happen with those two weeks without playing, all those doubleheader and all the new players that arrived,” said Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. “It has been very gratifying to advance to these playoffs.”
All series are the best of three games, and each will be hosted by the top seed. The presence of the public will not be allowed.
Without days off, pitching tactics will be essential, especially for bullpens.
After the wildcard rounds, the remaining clubs will bubble into neutral territories in Texas and Southern California until a champion is crowned.
The arrival of October also ends seven-inning games and putting runners on second base at the start of the 10th innings. But other rule changes remain, such as the designated hitter in the NL and that relievers must face a minimum of three batters or complete the inning.
But no more weird experiments for this 16-team tournament.
“It's going to be crazy, everything,” Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “Anything can happen, we know that, that's why I think it will be very entertaining in both leagues. We will see many surprises, in the American and the National, with the format of three games in the first round ”.