Wild Card Rounds Have Favored Road Teams
Fervent fans and last at-bats haven’t done the home teams much good in the first eight wild-card games.
As baseball enters its fifth season with its one-game, winner-take-all format prior to the Division Series, victorious visitors have become an unlikely trend. The road team is 6-2 in wild-card games — a good omen for the Orioles and Giants this year.
Baltimore, Toronto, the New York Mets and San Francisco are also trying to become the second team to go from wild-card winner to World Series champion — the Giants were the first, beating the wild-card winning Royals from the AL in the 2014 Fall Classic.
Four of the eight wild-card games have been shutouts. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been the victims twice.
In 2013, Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb, who had missed part of the regular season after taking a line drive off his head, pitched out of jams three times in seven innings before the Rays’ bullpen finished a 4-0 win at Cleveland.
In 2014, the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner (who’ll start against the Mets on Wednesday) struck out 10 and needed only 109 pitches in a four-hit, 8-0 shutout at Pittsburgh.
In 2015, Chicago’s Jake Arrieta gave up four hits in a 4-0 road win over the Pirates, the Cubs’ first postseason victory in 12 years.
Also in 2015, Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees on three days’ rest and allowed three hits over six innings, and three relievers finished up in a 3-0 victory.
The wild-card games got off to an appropriately wild start. The first NL game in 2012 was Chipper Jones’ last contest before retirement, and it included a 19-minute delay while beer cups, popcorn holders and other debris were cleaned off Turner Field following a disputed infield fly call.
Umpire Sam Holbrook made the ruling in the eighth inning when St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma called for a popup in left field, but then Kozma veered away at the last moment and the ball dropped. The Braves thought they had the bases loaded with one out before realizing Holbrook’s decision, and fans responded by littering the field with whatever they could find.
Atlanta lost the game 6-3 and the Cardinals advanced to the NL Championship Series before losing to the Giants in Game 7.
MOST FANTASTIC FINISH
The 2014 AL wild-card game is an easy winner. Kansas City trailed Oakland 7-3 in the eighth inning and 8-7 in the 12th before Salvador Perez’s single down the left-field line produced a 9-8 walk-off victory in the Royals’ first postseason game since 1985.
San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford became the first shortstop to hit a postseason grand slam , going deep against the Pirates’ Edinson Volquez in the fourth inning of what was a scoreless game in 2014.
WHO’D A THUNK?
Anything can happen in a one-game playoff, of course, but the Orioles’ 5-1 win at Texas in 2012 might have been the biggest surprise in the short history of the wild-card games.
Joe Saunders, acquired in a late-season trade, was matched against Yu Darvish and allowed one hit over 5 2/3 innings as the Orioles won their first playoff game in 15 years and knocked out the two-time defending AL champion Rangers.