Cleveland Guardians advance to ALDS after marathon 1-0 victory over Rays
Three changes that MLB made for the postseason had significant impacts on this game and are things to watch in other wild-card series and/or as the postseason continues for the Guardians.
1. The ghost runner that MLB added in extra innings is not a rule in the postseason.
Extra-inning games in the regular season start with a ghost runner on second base. In the postseason, the rules revert back to what they had been previously. The ghost-runner rule significantly limited the number of games that went multiple extra-innings. Extra-inning games in the playoffs may tax bullpens in a way that teams have not prepared for due to the different rules they played with for the past six months.
2. Teams get two challenges in the postseason compared to just one in the regular season.
We saw Rays manager Kevin Cash take advantage of the extra challenge in Game 1. Saturday, we saw both Cash and Guardians manager Terry Francona be more aggressive with challenges. Both managers lost challenges that were either confirmed or upheld and still retained a second challenge. Expect teams to continue to be more aggressive on close plays, and ask for review on plays that during the regular season they would let go. We can also look forward to some potential gamesmanship on close plays where managers may use challenges to disrupt the flow of pitchers who have to wait through reviews from the replay teams in New York.
3. Shorter pitching staffs allow for expanded benches in a short three-game series.
Teams only have to worry about three starting pitchers in the wild-card series, and it makes sense to leave the pitcher who started the previous game off the roster, and shorten the bullpen to allow for an expanded bench. The Guardians took advantage of this rule by adding a third catcher, keeping Bo Naylor on the roster. The Rays kept Vidal Bruján on the roster as primarily a pinch-runner. Bruján had 26 stolen bases in the minor leagues this season, and another five in the majors. However, with a .163 average, he is clearly a specialist. Look for teams to take advantage of the short series to set a roster that may be different from what we see in a longer playoff series.