How Strider, Kershaw, Kelly, Carter and more made history: Weird & Wild on Day 1 of Division Series

I don’t know how you spent your Saturday. But I can tell you how I spent mine. Mostly, I was stretched out on my sofa, watching postseason baseball games for a leisurely 10 hours and eight minutes.

Yes, I went wire to wire so you didn’t have to — from a Kyle Bradish 95.9 mph two-seamer in Baltimore at 2:16 pm to a 96.8 mph Luis Frías four-seam smokeball at 24 minutes after midnight ET.

So if you used your day to go foliage-touring, or pumpkin-shopping, or college-football spectating, you’ve come to the right place. Because I’m here for you, as always, to fill you in on all the Weirdness and Wildness you missed, on Day 1 of the Division Series. And we might as well begin with this important lesson from a long day of ball-watching, by which I mean …

1. Postseason baseball: It makes no sense!

Dave Roberts takes the ball from Clayton Kershaw, who allowed six runs and recorded only one out. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

If you didn’t know better, you would think October baseball was just like regular baseball, only with more sweatshirts. If you didn’t know better, you would think the stuff that happens in regular baseball would happen just like it’s always happened once it was time for October baseball.

So … do you know better yet?

Just like you, I watched those two National League Division Series games unfold Saturday night. My reaction, after both of them, was: C’mon. Did that really happen?

Phillies 3, Braves 0. Well, that made no sense. A Braves team that got shut out zero times all year at home got shut out at home in the first game of the postseason? And the team spinning that shutout used seven pitchers in a nine-inning game to do it? Really?

Diamondbacks 11, Dodgers 2. And this game made even less sense. One of the greatest Dodgers pitchers of all time (Clayton Kershaw) gave up five runs before he even got an out? Tommy Pham had three hits before the Dodgers’ No. 9 hitter, Miguel Rojas, had even made it into the batter’s box? And Arizona marched 41 batters to home plate before the Dodgers scored their first run? Really?

But unreal as all that was, none of it was even the Weirdest or Wildest part — because crazy games happen. Illogical games happen. Shutouts of the greatest offenses in baseball happen. But here comes the Weird and Wild part: Just based on the pitching matchups alone …

These were two of the most humongous upsets in postseason history.

Now let’s tell you exactly how humongous they were.

HE BROKE HIS STRIDE(R) — Wagering on baseball seems like the kind of thing that could mess with your sanity, not to mention your checking account. That’s not something I personally know anything about. But I got to thinking about that again last night, all because of Spencer Strider.

Strider versus the Phillies in Not October Baseball: The Braves’ human swing-and-miss assembly line has faced the Phillies eight times in the regular season. His record is 8-0. His team’s record is 8-0. His ERA in those games is 1.90. That seems good. That also would seem to qualify as “a good bet.” Except for this …

Strider versus the Phillies in October Bizarro Baseball: Strider has started against the Phillies in each of the last two postseasons — and lost both of those games. Not that you can hang much of the blame for that second loss Saturday night on him. But here’s where we’re going with this …

Has anything like that ever happened? Think about how impossible this ought to be. 8-0 in the regular season … 0-2 in the postseason … against the same team? How could I not ask my friends from STATS Perform if there was any precedent for that!

And the answer was: Of course not!

• There is no other pitcher in baseball history who is undefeated (8-0 or better) against a team in the regular season and also winless (0-2 or worse) against that same team in the postseason.

• And the next-closest pitcher on the list doesn’t even qualify as “close.” That’s Justin Verlander (4-0 versus the Nationals in the regular season, 0-2 in the postseason).

• Or what if you take “pitcher wins” out of it and just look at “team record” in that pitcher’s starts? Nope. Still an all-time all-timer. Closest call to the Phillies’ 0-8/2-0 record in Strider starts is Yovani Gallardo, also against the Phillies back in the day (5-0 regular season, 0-2 postseason).

So how the heck do we explain this? You know how. It’s …


Except … this wasn’t even the biggest upset of the night, because you have to lay that at the …

FEET OF CLAY(TON) — Whatever was going on physically with Clayton Kershaw in that Dodgers-Diamondbacks game seems like a story unto itself. But over here in the Weird and Wild column, our gig is to focus on the part of this nobody could have seen coming. By which we mean this …

Kershaw versus the Diamondbacks in Not October Baseball: We have a long body of regular-season work to draw from here, solely in the scene of this monstrosity, Dodger Stadium. Kershaw’s record against Arizona, just in this stadium, before Saturday night, pretty much qualified as a landslide — as in 14-1, with a 1.80 ERA. But meanwhile, there was the guy he was pitching against …

Merrill Kelly versus the Dodgers in Not October Baseball: Can you say, “Kryptonite?” Facing the Dodgers was Kelly’s Kryptonite. Before this game, he’d made 16 career regular-season starts against that team he was lined up to pitch against in Game 1. And he was 0-11 in those starts, with a 5.49 ERA. Plus he had a 7.03 ERA in eight starts at this stadium. So naturally …

Kershaw versus the Diamondbacks on Saturday in October Bizarro Baseball: Yikes. It hurts my fingers to even type this. But his evening went: Double, single, single, double, homer, groundout, walk, double … for six runs … and one out … with every hit in the inning leaving the bat at 98.8 mph or harder. It was the first time, according to Inside Edge, that Kershaw had ever allowed six balls hit that hard in any inning of his career. Youch! But then there was …

Kelly versus the Dodgers in October Bizarro Baseball: It was up to Kelly to make sure the world turned completely upside-down in this game, so of course he did. He unfurled 6 1/3 innings of three-hit, no-run artistry, because the baseball gods thought that would be a cool way to mess with all our minds. So that just brings us to the Weird and Wild question of the night:

Has anything like that ever happened? Ha. Baseball is the wackiest, most illogical sport ever invented. So you know the answer, right? Let’s start with …

How Kershaw made history: Earned runs became an official stat in both leagues in 1913. Want to take a wild stab at how many other pitchers had at least 10 regular-season wins and a sub-2.00 ERA against any team in any park — and then lost to that team in that park in a postseason game?

Uh-huh. Thanks to late-night work by STATS’ Jake Coyne, we can report that the answer is nobody.

Coyne did find a small group of pitchers with sub-2.00 ERAs against certain teams in certain parks who then lost to those teams in October: Greg Maddux versus the Cubs at Wrigley Field, David Price versus the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Jerry Reuss versus the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium, Ray Burris versus the Phillies at Veterans Stadium.

But the closest anybody came to double-digit wins in that group was Johnny Cueto, who had eight wins and a 1.90 ERA against the Pirates in PNC Park before he self-destructed in the 2013 Wild Card Game. And even he didn’t approach Kershaw against Arizona. So let’s turn to …

How Kelly made history: You know where this is headed, too. Who else in the live-ball era has ridden an 11-game losing streak (or worse) against any team into a postseason start against that team and then won it? That answer would also be nobody. The closest anyone came: Sterling Hitchcock had lost eight in a row against the Diamondbacks, then beat them as a Yankee in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series.

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Merrill Kelly and the Diamondbacks turned history on its head. (Kiyoshi Mio / USA Today)

But now let’s add all that up! We had a pitcher who was 14-1 against a team in his home park and then lost to that team in that park.

We had another pitcher who was 8-0 in the regular season against a team and then lost to that team for the second straight October.

And we had a third pitcher who was 0-11 against the team he was facing and then spun a shutout into the seventh and beat that team.

And somehow, we had all of that happen on the same night, in back-to-back postseason games? And thanks to the great work of STATS, we know that all three of them did something no pitcher had ever done before?

Now that makes no sense at all, except wait. Hold on. We just remembered something. The only part of it that does make sense is that it’s …

Baseball! (In October!)

2. Jose can you see

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Jose Altuve heads home after yet another Game 1 home run. (Erik Williams / USA Today)

Some day, the great baseball historians will have a heck of a time trying to explain Astros mini-mite Jose Altuve. He’s 5-foot-6, you know. He makes Yogi Berra look like Yao Ming. He makes Kirby Puckett look like Andre the Giant.

But here it is October, and that guy is reminding us again that he’s one of the greatest October mashers who ever lived.

Let’s stuff the trash-can jokes and buzzer quips for now, OK? You can think whatever you want to think about that other stuff. I’m not here to talk you out of it or into it. I’m just here to let you know that there has never been a 5-6 dude in the history of baseball who even approached what Jose Altuve has done, especially this time of year.

On the very first pitch his Astros team saw in this postseason Saturday, Altuve did that thing he seems to do every darned October, whether we’re ready or not.


So what’s the big deal about that? Let me tell you.

He homered on the first pitch of his team’s postseason! And how many other hitters in the pitch-count era (now 36 seasons old) can say they did that? You guessed it. Not one.

OK, how about homering on the first pitch of any series? At least Altuve has company in that feat — but not much. The only other three men who did that in any series (just not their team’s first of that postseason) were Brady Anderson (1997 ALCS, Orioles), Alcides Escobar (the wild leadoff inside-the-parker off Matt Harvey, for the Royals, in the 2015 World Series) and Chris Taylor (2017 World Series, Dodgers).

It’s his eighth Game 1 homer! I know the Astros have played in a gazillion postseason series in Altuve’s time with Houston. But whatever! He has now launched eight home runs in assorted Game 1s of those series. And I thought I should drop this minor point on you:

Nobody else in history has ever done that.

Here’s your all-time Game 1 leaderboard:


Jose Altuve — 8
Manny Ramirez — 7
Chipper Jones — 6
Andruw Jones — 6

(Source: Baseball Reference / Stathead)

He joined the 100-20-50 Club! With that homer, Altuve gained admission to one of October’s most exclusive clubs: the all-time Postseason 100-Hit, 20-Homer, 50-RBI Club. Check out the four members:

Player Hits HR RBI

Derek Jeter




Bernie Williams 




Manny Ramirez




Jose Altuve  




(Source: Baseball Reference / Stathead)

He homered off a 6-foot-9 guy! All right, there’s one more thing. I know the great baseball historians won’t care about this, but this is the Weird and Wild column. So of course we care about this. We basically exist for moments like this.

So when Altuve went deep off 6-foot-9 Twins starter Bailey Ober, was that the largest pitcher/hitter height differential in postseason history? I couldn’t help but ask my friends from STATS that question. And here’s that all-important answer: Yes!

Biggest HR height differential, postseason history

15 inches — Altuve (5-6) vs. Ober (6-9), Saturday
14 inches — Altuve (5-6) vs. Tyler Glasnow (6-8), twice
12 inches — Altuve (5-6) vs. Chris Sale (6-6), twice

Bonus note — FYI, this was not Altuve’s personal record if you include the regular season. He once homered off Chris Young, all 6-foot-10 of him, on June 25, 2016. So is Altuve redefining the meaning of “small ball,” or what? And in Game 1 of this Astros postseason, he just did that again.

3. Hang 10

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Evan Carter has had a prodigious start to his postseason career. (Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)

Six weeks ago, he was still in Double A, playing baseball against the Midland RockHounds. A little over four weeks ago, he was still in Triple A, going 2 for 4 in a game against the El Paso Chihuahuas.

But now, here we are in the second week of October. And it’s safe to say Evan Carter is a little easier to find. That’s because …

After watching him play three postseason games for Texas, I’m ready to declare him The Greatest Player I’ve Ever Seen (whom I’d practically never heard of on Labor Day).

So why would we be saying something that over the top about a rookie outfielder who only turned 21 a month and a half ago, and who only arrived in the big leagues on Sept. 8? Well, how about this:

After Saturday’s 3-2 win in Baltimore, Evan Carter is three games into his postseason career. He has been to the plate 12 times — and reached base in 10 of them. And if that seems like a lot, I can prove that to you.

Active players who have not reached base 10 times in their postseason careers (min. 25 PA):

Player PA Times on base

Nolan Arenado



Luis Arraez



Bo Bichette  



Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 



(Source: Baseball Reference / Stathead)

But really, that’s just the warmup act for this:

With his selectivity and sweet left-handed swing, Carter could inspire the Rangers to close their eyes and dream on his vague resemblance to Ted Williams, right? Except here comes a stunner of a tidbit that would cause them to quiver just a little. Would you believe that …

Evan Carter has already reached base as many times in the first three games of this postseason (10) as Ted Williams did in his entire career? That’s a true fact — and yes, those are still the best kind of facts. Ted got 30 postseason plate appearances in his career — and reached base 10 times. Go ahead. Look it up.

(This quick note to the Ted Williams Fan Club: Yeah, yeah, I realize I’m exaggerating. Yeah, yeah, I realize all those Red Sox teams Ted played for got him to the postseason only once. Yeah, yeah. I realize Williams wasn’t fully healthy in that one postseason. Got it. I’m really only making a point about Evan Carter, not about Ted. So no need to fill up the comments section below.)

Look, I don’t know what’s ahead for Evan Carter. Nobody does, from Bruce Bochy to Chris Young to Carter himself. I just know these first three games of his postseason ride have been amazing.

I also know that the only men in history who ever reached base more times than he did in the first three postseason games of their lives went on to be Hall of Famers: Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas (11 apiece). And finally, I know this:

Evan Carter is, officially, The Greatest Player I’ve Ever Seen (whom I’d practically never heard of on Labor Day).

4. Party of Five

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The Braves were shut out at home for the first time since Aug. 28, 2021. (Brett Davis / USA Today)

Hey, wait. We’re not quite done here. Just a few more things I wanted to mention …

THE MAGIC NUMBER WAS 177 — It’s hard enough to shut out the Braves anywhere on our beautiful planet. But you know where it’s really hard? At Truist Field.

The Braves weren’t shut out at home all season. They also weren’t shut out at home all season in 2022. So Saturday was the first time any team had held them scoreless at home in any game since Aug. 28, 2021. But that, in and of itself, isn’t even the Weird and Wild part.

The Weird and Wild part is this: The Braves had played 177 games in a row at home without being shut out (or 187 if you count the 2021 and ’22 postseasons) — and then they got shut out in the first game of the postseason? That’s not just shocking. It’s historic.

According to STATS, that’s the longest streak in baseball history by any team, of not being shut out in its home park before that streak was ended in the postseason. The old record belonged to Joe DiMaggio’s 1948-49 Yankees, who ran off 155 in a row before Preacher Roe blanked them in Game 2 of the ’49 World Series.

NO, WAIT. THE MAGIC NUMBER WAS SEVEN — It isn’t every day in October that you get to see a seven-pitcher shutout — in a nine-inning game yet. In fact, before the Phillies decided to play “Meet the Bullpen” on Saturday, it was just about unheard of.

So I took a journey through Baseball Reference’s indispensable Stathead search engine Saturday night to discover how unheard of. And here’s what I learned.

This was the 265th nine-inning shutout in postseason history. And only once, in the previous 264, had any team used seven pitchers or more to finish off that shutout. So it figures that in that one — a 4-0 shutout by the Padres over St. Louis in Game 3 of the fan-free 2020 Wild Card Series — that phrase, “or more,” definitely applied.

The Padres actually used nine pitchers in that game. None of them got more than five outs. And one of them, Pierce Johnson, also appeared in Saturday’s game, just not for the team throwing the shutout.

Ohbytheway, the Phillies have been playing baseball for 133 seasons — and they’d never thrown one before, regular season or postseason. So at least their timing was excellent.

YOU GUYS LOOK FAMILIAR — It isn’t breaking news that Carlos Correa has played postseason baseball in Minute Maid Park before Saturday. Except this time, there was one slight difference. This time, he was playing against the Astros, not for them.

He played 79 postseason games for the Astros in his previous life. So by playing against them, while wearing a Twins uniform Saturday, he set a record that I basically just made up.

Most postseason games for a team before facing that team

Carlos Correa: 79 (Astros)
Albert Pujols: 73 (Cardinals)
Joc Pederson: 64 (Dodgers)

Correa and Altuve were the Astros’ double-play combination in all 79 of those games. So it was kind of perfect that Correa lined out to Altuve in this game … and Altuve grounded out to Correa.

THERE’S ALWAYS A CATCH — Us civilians barely know catcher’s interference when we see one. But the Braves’ Sean Murphy and his Phillies catching cohort, J.T. Realmuto, got mixed up in this one Saturday night — and both seemed to recognize it instantly.

But now here comes the Weird and Wild part: What we had here was catcher’s interference with the bases loaded. And not to say it had been a while since that had happened in a postseason game. But the last time it happened was during the Calvin Coolidge administration!

According to the always-informative Codify Baseball, it was just the second bases-loaded catcher’s interference in postseason history — and the first since the first inning of Game 1 of the 1925 World Series, when Pirates catcher Earl Smith interfered with the Senators’ Roger Peckinpaugh.

And was that a more clear cut call than this one? Good question. The YouTube video of that one doesn’t seem to be available!

WHAT THE HECTOR — When Justin Verlander called it a day after six shutout innings and a 5-0 lead Saturday, the Astros probably wondered what could possibly go wrong. Ha. Really?

In stalked Hector Neris, to serve up back-to-back home runs to Jorge Polanco and Royce (The Babe) Lewis. And next thing Dusty Baker knew, it was a 5-4 game. Except that wasn’t the Weird and Wild part.

Here comes that part: Before that inning, Neris hadn’t allowed more than one home run in any inning since June 29, 2018. And then … he allowed two to the Twins in three pitches.

That seems Weird. And also Wild. But mostly just …


(Top photo of Spencer Strider: Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

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