MLB playoffs highlights: Phillies, D-backs win to cap off postseason's opening day

PHILADELPHIA – Try as they might, the Philadelphia Phillies can’t simply run it back.

Oh, they’d love to recreate last autumn’s “Red October” almost to a T, just with two more victories that would ensure a World Series championship. Yet the glorious moments of spontaneity, the cavalcade of clutch hitting, the roars from their adoring throng – it doesn’t come in a bottle.

“Last year was last year. It was a great run,” manager Rob Thomson said before Tuesday’s Game 1 of the National League wild card series at Citizens Bank Park. “We had a lot of fun. We've got to get back after it this year, and it's a different team.

“I believe it's a better team, to be honest with you.”

And then the Phillies went out and proved that different can be better.

'MADE FOR THIS MOMENT': Twins Rookie Royce Lewis shines in postseason debut

With quiet contributions from new faces and raucous ones from their pennant-winning holdovers, the Phillies subdued the Miami Marlins, 4-1, and can advance to the NL Division Series against Atlanta with another victory Wednesday night.

Phillies starter Zack Wheeler, continuing a narrative of October reliability, struck out eight and walked none and took a shutout into the seventh inning, before ace reliever José Alvarado stranded the potential tying runs on base.

Bryce Harper celebrates after scoring a run in the eighth inning.
Bryce Harper celebrates after scoring a run in the eighth inning.

And perhaps of greater import, a club that featured six 20-home run guys cranked out a playoff win without the longball – yet replete with their adolescent hijinks that endear this club so strongly to Philly.

A game-deciding two-run, fourth inning rally was keyed by the first of two Nick Castellanos doubles – after which he appeared to flip the bird to his hollering and hooting teammates as the crowd of 45,662 at Citizens Bank Park roared.

Never mind. It was just the ring finger – appropriately enough for a bunch obsessed with a World Series win.

The rally was capped by an RBI single from Cristian Pache, in the lineup only because lefty Jesús Luzardo was on the mound for Miami. But the Phillies squeezed Luzardo for 90 pitches in just four innings, and after Pache’s hit got through a drawn-in infield, he turned and pointed at his pals in the dugout like he’d been here for years.

He’s only been a Phillie since March 29, with 84 at-bats and 11 RBI coming in. But these Phillies are ready to celebrate heroes new and old – and already crafting a different chapter.

Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY Sports

Diamondbacks power past Brewers in Game 1

MILWAUKEE — The offense slammed three home runs off Brewers ace Corbin Burnes and the bullpen picked up where it left off late in the regular season, leading the Diamondbacks to a momentum-grabbing 6-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of their National League wild card series on Tuesday night at American Family Field.

Three swings in the early innings — one each by Corbin Carroll and Ketel Marte in the third, another by Gabriel Moreno in the fourth — helped flip the script on this series, putting the Diamondbacks in the driver’s seat to advance to the division series.

At the time, the Brewers had a 3-0 lead with Burnes on the mound. It was early, but it felt like the Brewers were going to have little trouble holding serve: winning the game they were supposed to with their ace on the mound.

The homers changed that. Carroll’s two-run shot made it a one-run game, Marte’s tied it one pitch later and Moreno’s put the Diamondbacks in front, where they would stay the rest of the game despite regular threats from the Brewers.

With Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff sidelined due to a shoulder injury, the Diamondbacks will have a clear advantage, at least on paper, when they send right-hander Zac Gallen to the mound in Game 2.

– Nick Piecoro

MLB wild card series Game 1 scores

Full MLB postseason schedule, all the way through the World Series.

Marlins pull one back – but Phillies get out of it

Miami left fielder Bryan De La Cruz hit an RBI single in the seventh inning to cut the Phillies' lead to 3-1, but reliever Jose Alvarado struck out Yuli Gurriel with runners on second and third to limit the damage.

Alvarado came on to replace Zack Wheeler, who finished with eight strikeouts and no walks in 6 ⅔ innings, after the Phillies starter gave up the run-scoring hit. Alvarado threw a wild pitch with Gurriel at the plate that put the two runners in scoring position – before whiffing the veteran.

Diamondbacks escape bases-loaded jam

Leading 4-3 with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, Arizona reliever Ryan Thompson got Tyrone Taylor to line into an inning-ending double play with a full count, preserving the Diamondbacks' advantage.

Thompson came in to relieve Ryne Nelson, who allowed three singles to start the frame. Nelson struck out Brice Turang for the first out before Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo made the pitching change.

Phillies take the lead over Marlins

Alec Bohm's RBI double in the third inning gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

Bohm set career-highs with 20 homers and 97 RBI in 2023. Zack Wheeler got the start for Philadelphia, striking out four in his first four innings of work, while lefty Jesús Luzardo started Game 1 for the Marlins – making their first postseason appearance in a full season since 2003.

Gabriel Moreno home run puts Diamondbacks in front

Arizona catcher Gabriel Moreno hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth off Corbin Burnes – the Diamondbacks' third home run of the night – to give his team a 4-3 lead in Game 1 of the NL wild-card series.

Moreno was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in a trade last winter, joining the Diamondbacks along with left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Arizona trailed 3-0 after two innings, but tied it up with back-to-back homers from Corbin Carroll and Ketel Marte in the top of the third against Burnes, the 2021 NL Cy Young winner.

Diamondbacks get even with back-to-back homers

After falling behind 3-0, Corbin Carroll (two-run homer) and Ketel Marte (solo) hit consecutive home runs in the top of third off Brewers ace Corbin Burnes to get Arizona even.

Carroll, the favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year award, is playing in his first career postseason game after hitting .285 with 65 extra-base hits, 54 steals and an .868 OPS in the regular season – earning an All-Star nod.

Marte, 29, hit 27 homers in the regular season for Arizona and is under contract through 2028 with Arizona.

Tyrone Taylor's home run extends Brewers' lead

Brewers right fielder Tyrone Taylor drilled a two-run homer down the left field line in the bottom of the second inning to make it 3-0 in favor of Milwaukee at American Family Field. The 29-year-old's homer came on an 0-2 pitch against Arizona right-hander Brandon Pfaadt

It was Taylor's first career postseason hit, going 0-for-7 in the playoffs with the Brewers in 2020 and 2021.

Twins finally snap postseason losing streak with win vs. Blue Jays

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins no longer have to hear about it.

They no longer have to talk about it.

The agonizing 18-game postseason losing streak is over.

Royce Lewis, who was five years old the last time the Twins won a postseason game, single-handedly brought it to a merciful end Tuesday afternoon with one of the greatest performances by a rookie in playoff history.

Lewis became only the third player in baseball history to homer in his first two postseason at-bats, driving in all three runs in the Twins’ 3-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 38,450 at Target Field.

After taking the opener of the best-of-three wild-card series, the Twins now have the opportunity to win their first postseason series since 2002 on Wednesday.

– Bob Nightengale

Brewers out in front of Diamondbacks early

Carlos Santana's RBI single in the bottom of the first gave the Brewers an early lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Milwaukee.

The Brewers acquired Santana from Pittsburgh ahead of the trade deadline and hit 11 homers with 33 RBI in 52 games for the Brewers.

Rookie right-hander Brandon Pfaadt got the start for the Diamondbacks in the series opener after posting a 5.72 ERA in 96 innings during the regular season. He had a rough first inning, giving up two hits and a walk – but struck out three.

Batting champion Luis Arráez returns to Marlins lineup

PHILADELPHIA — Luis Arráez was the most dynamic player on a Miami Marlins team that qualified for the playoffs in a full season for the first time since 2003, the greatest pure hitter in the game right now driving the offense with a batting average that hovered near .400 all the way through the first half.

But Arráez, a second baseman whose .354 average led all the major leagues, had not started a game since Sept. 23 due to an ankle injury. Yet when Phillies ace Zack Wheeler delivers the game’s first pitch on Tuesday, Arráez will dig into the batter’s box – and really, there was no question.

“If I'm here with one leg, I'll go play with one leg,” Arráez said before Game 1. “I need to be there to help my team win.”

– Gabe Lacques

Read Gabe Lacques' full story on the Marlins' wizard here

Michael Taylor catch keeps Twins in front

With the Twins leading 3-1 in the top of the sixth inning, Minnesota center fielder Michael Taylor made a leaping catch at the wall that saved two runs on a ball hit by Matt Chapman, ending the frame.

Kevin Kiermaier's RBI single earlier in the top of the sixth got the Blue Jays on the board.

Taylor, 32, won a Gold Glove win the Royals in 2021 and helped the Nationals win the World Series title in 2019.

Rangers beat Rays 4-0 behind Jordan Montgomery's gem

The Texas Rangers shutout the Tampa Rays 4-0 behind a dominant pitching performance from Jordan Montgomery to take Game 1 of the American League wild-card series.

The Rangers starter tossed seven scoreless innings and allowing no walks to earn the victory.

Third baseman Josh Jung got the Rangers on the board with a sacrifice fly in the second inning.

The Rays defense self-destructed, allowing four errors and a wild pitch from Tyler Glasnow that scored a run in the fifth inning.

Tampa Bay, wearing throwback Devil Rays jerseys, lost its sixth straight postseason game since winning its 2021 Division Series opener against Boston. The Rays have reached the postseason for the fifth straight season but have one run in their last three playoff defeats, hitting .133.

The Rangers will have a chance to wrap up the best-of-three series on Wednesday.

– Scott Boeck

Royce Lewis launches second homer in three innings

After a two-run shot in the first inning, Twins rookie Royce Lewis hit a solo shot in the third inning off Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead.

Lewis is the third player in MLB history to homer in each of his first two career postseason plate appearances, joining the Rays' Evan Longoria in 2008 and Twins' Gary Gaetti in 1987.

The AL Central champion Twins are seeking to snap an 18-game postseason losing streak that dates back to 2004.

Royce Lewis home run puts Twins ahead in first inning

In Minneapolis, Royce Lewis hit a two-run homer off Kevin Gausman in the bottom of the first to give the Twins a 2-0 lead over the Blue Jays.

Starting at designated hitter in Game 1, Lewis missed the final several weeks of the regular season – but was still named AL Rookie of the Month for September, hitting .313 with six home runs and 23 RBI.

Lewis was the first overall pick in the 2017 draft and made his big-league debut in 2022.

Rays trail Rangers 4-0 after fourth error

Tampa Bay's sloppy play proved costly again in the sixth inning, with Jose Siri's throwing error – the team's fourth of the game – allowing a second run to score on Corey Seager's single, making it 4-0 in favor of the Rangers.

The Rays' season-high was three errors in a single game entering the playoffs. Yandy Diaz, Rene Pinto and Taylor Walls made previous errors for Tampa Bay.

Rangers score again, but Rays limit damage

Texas made it 2-0 when Corey Seager scored on a wild pitch by Tyler Glasnow, but the Rangers were able to any more – squandering an opportunity with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning.

Seager led off the inning with a double and the bases were loaded two batters later following a Robbie Grossman walk and Adolis Garcia single. Glasnow got Nathaniel Lowe to pop out (infield fly rule) but then uncorked the run-scoring wild pitch with Jonah Heim at the plate. Heim walked to re-load the bases but Glasnow struck out Leody Taveras and Josh Jung to escape the jam.

Pablo López rocks jersey honoring Twins' last playoff win

Game 1 starter Pablo López arrived at Target Field wearing a throwback Johan Santana jersey. What's the significance?

Santana was the last Twins pitcher to win playoff game in 2004. The Twins have lost 18 postseason games since – the longest postseason losing streak in any of the four major North American professional sports.

"He likes history and nostalgia. I think it fires him up," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of the Santana jersey. "We wear what makes us feel good. And the Johan selection for Pablo, it's hell of a choice."

– Scott Boeck

Rangers get on the board first vs. Rays

Rookie third baseman Josh Jung hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the second inning to open the scoring at Tropicana Field, driving in Nathaniel Lowe who led off the inning with a single.

Jung was the first rookie in Rangers history to start the All-Star Game and he finished the season with 23 homers and 70 RBI in 122 games, missing time late in the season due to a thumb injury.

Randy Arozarena's mom throws out the first pitch

It will be an emotional Game 1 for Tampa Bay Rays' Randy Arozarena.

His mother Sandra Gonzalez was granted a visa last week and flew in from Mexico and to watch him play in the majors for the first time of his career.

She also threw out the first pitch.

Arozarena is also going up against his minor league roommate – Adolis Garcia of the Rangers.

− Scott Boeck

Tropicana Field, unsurprisingly, not at capacity

Not surprising, but attendance for Game 1 between the Rays and Rangers is well below capacity crowd at Tropicana Field. Even with their success, the Rays don't draw well. They averaged less than 18,000 fans per home game during the regular season – fourth worse in the majors.

The Rays are set to announce a new stadium that will be built near Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., which is expected to be ready by the 2028 season.

– Scott Boeck

How does the MLB wild-card round work?

The best-of-three wild card format is in its second season. The format was changed in 2022 from the sudden death one-game format that was in place since 2012 with the exception of the COVID-19 pandemic-affected 2020 season.

Six teams each from the American League and National League qualified for the postseason, including the three division winners in each league. The three wild card teams in each league are the teams with the best records that didn’t win their division.

The top two division winners with the best records in each league got a bye and don’t have to play in the wild card round. One big advantage for the higher seed in those wild card series is they get to host all three games.

The Rangers-Rays winner faces Baltimore in the Division Series, the Twins-Blue Jays winner plays Houston, the Phillies-Marlins winner starts at Atlanta and the Brewers-Diamondbacks winner gets a matchup with the Dodgers. − Associated Press

Four pivotal players for MLB wild card series

Sometimes, the superstars shine, thrilling the TV networks that hyped them, and the fans that adore them. But so often in Major League Baseball’s playoffs, the pivotal performers are ones you could not have imagined.

USA TODAY Sports takes a look at four players that will almost certainly be pivotal in each of the four series, which begin Tuesday and conclude either Wednesday or Thursday:

  • Rangers-Rays: Nathaniel Lowe

  • Blue Jays-Twins: Pablo López

  • Diamondbacks-Brewers: Corbin Carroll

  • Marlins-Phillies: Trea Turner

Read Gabe Lacques' full breakdown here

MLB wild-card starting lineups today

Rangers at Rays

Twins out to finally end postseason losing streak

It has been 6,937 days.since the Minnesota Twins have won a postseason game – back on Oct. 5, 2004.

They have been to the postseason seven times since that 2-0 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the 2004 AL Division Series, playing 18 postseason games.

And they have lost them every single one of them. The 18-game playoff losing streak is the longest in North American team sports.

Now, here they are, with another shot to end their dreaded drought, playing the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League wild-card series on Tuesday (4:38 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Target Field.

Mercifully, they’re not playing the Yankees, who are responsible for 13 of those 18 losses.

Read Bob Nightengale's full story on the Twins' losing streak.

Texas rivalry takes odd turn over Rangers' celebrations

One of the oft-used admonitions in sports is a desire to "act like you've been there." As a way to focus on the ultimate goal of winning a championship, the saying reminds athletes not to celebrate their accomplishments prematurely.

But what if you haven't been there? How should you act then?

The Houston Astros are the defending World Series champions. The Texas Rangers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Both teams clinched postseason spots last Saturday. And while the Rangers ended up squandering the AL West division title on the final day of the regular season, they still had reason to be proud of their accomplishments.

But then the teams' intrastate rivalry took an odd turn when Astros beat reporter Brian McTaggart of sent out a social media post that seemed to criticize the Rangers, saying they "partied" on Saturday while the Astros were focused on claiming the division title the next day. "Houston's 'been-there-done-that mentality paid off, it seems." McTaggart wrote.

However, Rangers beat reporter Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News called the observation "inaccurate."

And from there, things escalated -- with each team's fanbases getting involved in the debate online and on sports talk radio. Even Rangers GM Chris Young was asked about it during an interview Monday on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan.

While it may be much ado about nothing right now, the Rangers and Astros could eventually meet in the AL championship series. If that happens, the winner can certainly claim bragging rights – and the right to a slightly bigger celebration – on the way to the World Series.

– Steve Gardner

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB playoffs highlights: Phillies beat Marlins, D-backs top Brewers