Major League Baseball’s postseason began Tuesday with the American League Wild Card Series. Those AL series consist of four best-of-three matchups. (The National League side of things will get started on Wednesday.) Every game will be hosted at the higher-seeded team’s home ballpark. There will be no days off during this round, meaning teams won’t be able to strategize with their pitching staff the way they have in the past. 

Below, you’ll find updated scores of every game. We’ve also selected one storyline worth monitoring for each contest. 

Postseason scores

  • LIVE: Twins 1, Astros 1 (GameTracker)
  • LIVE: White Sox 3, A’s 0 (GameTracker)
  • Blue Jays at Rays – 5 p.m. ET
  • Yankees at Cleveland – 7 p.m. ET
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – AUGUST 18: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers during the second inning of the game at Target Field on August 18, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Hannah Foslien / Getty Images

No. 6 Astros vs. No. 3 Twins (2:08 p.m. ET, ABC)

Can Maeda’s new approach lead to starting success in October? 

Although Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda has had a solid five-year run in the majors, one thing he hasn’t done is record a quality start in October. In three career postseason starts with the Dodgers (all coming in 2016), he recorded more than four innings just once. Otherwise, he was limited to two times through the order to prevent overexposure.

Maeda has looked like a different pitcher in his first season with Minnesota. That’s in part because he’s altered his pitch mix. Maeda has curbed his fastball usage and has leaned more heavily on his slider and his splitter, throwing them nearly 70 percent of the time, according to Statcast. Last season, for reference, he threw the slider and splitter a combined 55 percent.

Maeda’s new look led to an impressive regular season: in 11 starts he compiled a 2.70 ERA and 8.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio while averaging six innings per pop. Presuming he sticks to that same recipe on Tuesday, he could record his first career quality start in the postseason. 

No. 7 White Sox vs. No. 2 Athletics (3:08 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Can Luzardo stymie White Sox?

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson provided Oakland with bulletin board material on Monday when he suggested the Athletics hadn’t done their homework by selecting left-hander Jesus Luzardo as their Game 1 starter. Anderson’s reasoning was straightforward: the White Sox are 14-0 in games this season in which the opposition started a southpaw. The Pale Hose also had the second-highest team OPS against lefties this season, behind only the Tigers.

While those trends bode well for the White Sox, they shouldn’t allow themselves to become overconfident. As journalist Noah Frank pointed out on Twitter, Luzardo’s average fastball clocks in several miles per hour hotter (96.2 on average) than the left-handers that Chicago faced during the regular season. Beyond the heat, Luzardo has a pair of secondary pitches, in his changeup and curveball, that coerced whiffs on more than 40 percent of the swings taken against them this year.

Luzardo, in other words, is not one to take lightly. The White Sox might find that out the hard way on Tuesday afternoon.

No. 8 Blue Jays vs. No. 1 Rays (5:07 p.m. ET, TBS)

Can Shoemaker steal one?

Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo made the most surprising pitching decision on the AL side of things when he tabbed veteran right-hander Matt Shoemaker as his Game 1 starter over prized free-agent acquisition Hyun-Jin Ryu. Now, the question is if Shoemaker can validate the call.

Shoemaker is no stranger to the top-seeded Rays. This will be his seventh start of the year, and it will mark the fourth time he’s faced the Rays. In the previous three contests, Shoemaker held Tampa Bay to a .192/.250/.404 slash line with a 3.60 ERA over 15 frames. 

Perhaps the Jays are banking on Shoemaker keeping up that kind of performance against the Rays, or maybe his start is part of a larger strategy. The Rays have been worse against right-handers this season, which could give Shoemaker the leg up. It’s also possible that the Jays intend to use Shoemaker in a tandem approach with left-hander Robbie Ray, so as to prey on the Rays’ lefty-heavy lineup. Alternatively, the Jays just might want Ryu, who leads the team in innings per start, to open the second game to give their bullpen more of a breather.

The risk in that, of course, is that there’s no guarantee of a Game 3 unless you win Game 1.

No. 5 Yankees vs. No. 4 Cleveland (7:08 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Why is Higashioka starting?

The biggest pregame news out of the Yankees-Cleveland series is that Kyle Higashioka — and not Gary Sanchez — will be New York’s starting catcher in Game 1.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone has elected to continue using Higashioka as Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. Those two were paired together over Cole’s final four starts this season, and the results were quite impressive: in 27 innings, they accumulated a 1.00 ERA and a .147 average against. For reference, Cole had a 3.91 ERA and a .224 average against in six starts with Sanchez behind the dish.

While some of the difference can be attributed to a small sample size, there are two other aspects worth mentioning here. For one, Cole seems more willing to throw breaking balls with Higashioka behind the plate, ramping up the usage of his bendy pitches by about four percentage points relative to his usage with Sanchez back there. For another, Higashioka is the superior framer, giving Cole’s pitches a better chance of being called strikes. It probably doesn’t hurt that Higashioka has outhit Sanchez at the plate this season, either.

Boone can only hope that Higashioka’s defense is a factor on Tuesday. The Yankees will need all the help they can get to scratch out a win against Shane Bieber.

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