On a night for debates in Cleveland, Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees made quite an opening statement. Shane Bieber had no rebuttal.
Judge smashed a two-run homer on Bieber's fourth pitch, Cole struck out 13 and the Yankees opened the AL playoffs with a resounding 12-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday.
Just a few miles from where President Donald Trump and Joe Biden made their cases to the nation in their presidential debate, the Yankees made it look easy in teeing off on Bieber, who was baseball's best pitcher during the condensed regular season but got hit hard in his playoff debut — Cleveland's seventh consecutive postseason loss.
"The first inning didn't go as planned," Bieber said. "I wish I would have been with my offspeed stuff in the zone, and challenged those guys a little more. I forced myself into some bad situations and some bad counts on top of not having my best stuff and making mistakes.
"No excuses. It was not good."
Bieber gave up season highs in runs (seven) and hits (nine) over 4⅔ innings — his shortest stint since June 9 last season, also against New York.
When Bieber's final pitch clanged loudly off the empty left-field bleachers on a two-run homer by Gleyber Torres in the fifth, the Yankees were up 7-2 and had delivered a boisterous postseason message to the rest of baseball: Don't forget us.
Staked to an early lead on Judge's homer, Cole showed why the Yankees shelled out $324 million for him in the offseason. The righthander gave up two runs — including Josh Naylor's homer in the fourth — and six hits in seven innings.
"We needed to set the tone for the series," Cole said.
Chicago 4, Oakland 1: Lucas Giolito simply dazzled in his playoff debut, stymieing the host Athletics through six perfect innings and sending the White Sox to a victory in the opener of their wild-card series.
It also brought back memories of Giolito's no-hitter against Pittsburgh on Aug. 25.
"Throwing a perfect game, no-hitter is a great personal accomplishment, but we're in the playoffs, the goal is to win the game," Giolito said.
Oakland didn't have a baserunner until Tommy La Stella's single up the middle to start the seventh. Giolito gave up one run on two hits over seven innings, struck out eight and walked one before giving way to Evan Marshall after a stellar 100-pitch outing.
Giolito got plenty of support: Jose Abreu hit a two-run homer and Adam Engel also connected for Chicago. Yasmani Grandal homered in the eighth.
Tampa Bay 3, Toronto 1: Blake Snell took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and the top-seeded Rays opened the AL playoffs by beating the Blue Jays in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Manuel Margot hit a two-run homer and Randy Arozarena tripled and scored on a wild pitch to give Snell and a dominant Tampa Bay bullpen all the offensive support needed to begin the best-of-three series.
"Tonight was a pretty good representation of the Tampa Bay Rays — our players, how we go about winning games," manager Kevin Cash said.
Snell allowed only two baserunners until Alejandro Kirk singled leading off the sixth. The 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner gave up one hit and struck out nine in 5⅔ innings.
Toronto scored its lone run in the eighth inning against Nick Anderson, the former Brainerd High School and St. Cloud State pitcher who didn't give up a run in 18 of 19 regular-season appearances.