Rafael Devers delivered big time for the Boston Red Sox. Aaron Judge did just enough for the New York Yankees. And Buster Posey boosted the San Francisco Giants to the National League West Division championship, dropping the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers into a dangerous wild-card game against the ultra-hot St. Louis Cardinals.
In a flash, Major League Baseball's playoff field was all settled Sunday evening.
No crazy tiebreaker scenarios. No chaos on the final day of the regular season. And for the fans who wanted drama — well, no problem, that's on deck.
Yankees-Red Sox to start the postseason in an all-or-nothing October duel at Fenway Park. Sound familiar?
"We'll be ready," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "It should be fun."
Boston and New York both scored the winning run in the ninth inning in Game 162 to seal their spots in the American League's wild-card matchup Tuesday night, when Yankees ace Gerrit Cole will be opposed by Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi.
So between now and then, count on seeing endless replays of Bucky Dent's home run over the Green Monster that lifted the Yankees over Boston in their famed 1978 one-game meeting for the AL East title.
Shut out of this year's postseason party were the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners, who each needed a loss by either the Red Sox or the Yankees to have a chance.
"Unfortunately, our fate was in the hands of another team," said George Springer, who homered twice in Toronto's win over the Baltimore Orioles. "We were hoping for something, but obviously it didn't happen."
The Giants clinched the NL West with their franchise-record 107th win, routing the San Diego Padress 11-4 behind Posey's three RBIs. They needed all of those victories to hold off the Dodgers, who face a tricky path to repeating as World Series champions.
"You're going to be hard pressed to see another race like this for quite a while," said Posey, the three-time World Series champion catcher who sat out last season because of COVID-19 concerns.
The Dodgers dropped into the NL wild-card game Wednesday night, when they'll host the hard-charging Cardinals. Max Scherzer will get the ball for Los Angeles, Adam Wainwright for St. Louis.
The division round, with best-of-five series, will begin Thursday with a pair of AL games. Those will include 76-year-old Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa leading the Chicago White Sox into Houston to match wits with 72-year-old skipper Dusty Baker and the Astros. The Tampa Bay Rays, the reigning AL champs, will welcome the wild-card game winner in the other.
On Friday, the NLDS start up with Charlie Morton and the Atlanta Braves visiting Corbin Burnes and the pitching-rich Milwaukee Brewers, who are still bidding for their first World Series crown. The Giants will host the wild-card game winner.
By design, all 15 games on the last day of the regular season began at roughly the same time, shortly after 3 p.m. Eastern. That was set up to create an inning-by-inning, back-and-forth scramble.
And the possibility for a tangle loomed large: The Yankees and Red Sox began the afternoon tied for the two AL wild cards, with Toronto and Seattle a game behind.
Down 5-1 going into the sixth inning in Washington, the Red Sox rallied past the Nationals. Devers launched his second homer of the game, a tiebreaking, two-run drive in the ninth that capped a four-hit, four-RBI performance in a 7-5 win.
At Yankee Stadium, it was scoreless until the ninth. With one out and runners on second and third, Judge hit a liner off reliever Andrew Kittredge's glove for a single and, remarkably, the New York star's first career walk-off hit in the majors.
"I wouldn't say we exhaled," Judge said. "We still have a lot of work to do."
Springer hit a grand slam and a solo shot in the Blue Jays' 12-4 romp over the Orioles that wasn't enough. Meanwhile, the Mariners' 20-year postseason drought continued when the Los Angeles Angels beat them 7-3, but their late push for a spot proved exciting.
"Baseball's back in Seattle," said Scott Servais, who completed his sixth season as manager of the Mariners. "We didn't get across the finish line, but I think everybody sees where we're headed, and I'm really excited to see that many people jump on the bandwagon with us because it's going to be a fun ride."