Sunday afternoon the Tampa Bay Rays controlled by Blake Snell took on the Chicago White Sox controlled by Lucas Giolito in the virtual MLB The Show 20 world.
The format of this tournament had every MLB franchise controlled by a Major League Baseball player. In the regular season teams played a round robin format and Snell earned the number one seed for the playoffs by going 24-5.
Players controlled their major league club with live series cards. Games were played without a designated hitter. Games are three innings. For the Rays Yoshimoto Tsutsugo is not in the game.
In the first round of the playoff Snell defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers controlled by Gavin Lux 2-0. After dropping the first game of the semifinals against the New York Mets controlled by Jeff McNeil, Snell came back to win the final two games and take the best of three series 2-1.
The White Sox took out the Toronto Blue Jays controlled by Bo Bichette 2-1 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals the White Sox took out the cross town rival Chicago Cubs controlled by Ian Happ 2-1.
The Player’s League Championship Series is best of five.
Tampa Bay Rays
SS Willy Adames
RF Austin Meadows
RF Hunter Renfroe
1B Ji-Man Choi
C Mike Zunino
2B Brandon Lowe
3B Yandy Diaz
CF Kevin Kiermaier
SP Starting Pitcher
Chicago White Sox
SS Tim Anderson
3B Yoan Moncada
1B Jose Abreu
C Yasmani Grandal
LF Eloy Jiminez
RF Nomar Mazara
CF Luis Robert
2B Leury Garcia
SP Starting Pitcher
As the higher seed the Tampa Bay Rays held home field advantage and home field for games one, two, and five.
On the mound is Charlie Morton for the Rays against Dallas Keuchel for the White Sox.
Tim Anderson led off the game with a routine grounder to shortstop for the first out of the game. Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu flew out to end the first inning.
Willy Adames turned on the first pitch he saw sending the ball to the left field bleachers and giving the Rays a 1-0 lead. After Austin Meadows flew out, Hunter Renfroe walked. Ji-Man Choi flew out to center field for the second out of the inning. Mike Zunino added a two-run homer to give the Rays an early 3-0 lead.
With one out in the top of the second Eloy Jiminez sent a sharp grounder through the left side of the infield to give the White Sox their first hit of the game. The White Sox would strand Jiminez on the bases.
With two outs Adames added a perfect-perfect grounder past a diving second baseman to give the Rays a two out threat. Meadows homered to extend the Rays lead to 5-0.
With one out in top of the third Edwin Encarnacion pinch hit for Dallas Keuchel. Adam Engel came in to pinch run. Tim Anderson lined a double down the left field line to give the White Sox their first significant threat of the game putting runners at second and third with one out.
Nick Anderson comes in relief of Morton. Moncada lines a single to left to cut the Rays lead to 5-1. Abreu ends the game with a routine double play to short.
The Rays win game one 5-1.
Yonny Chirinos and Lucas Giolito faced off for game two.
After two quick outs Abreu came up to bat. Abreu lined a ball off Chirinos’s leg deflecting right to Brandon Lowe who was able to get the out at first. Lucky break for the Rays and fortunately this wasn’t real life as it’s never fun to see a pitcher getting struck by a baseball.
Adames gets things started quickly for the Rays once again with a double off the wall in right field just below the ray tank. Meadows grounded out to first base and Adames moved over to third. Renfroe game through with a lined single to center field to put the Rays up 1-0. Choi followed with a perfect-perfect flyball to right field going 445 feet and putting the Rays up 3-0.
Yasmani Grandal led off the second inning with a shot to dead center cutting the Rays lead to 3-1. After two groundouts, Luis Robert lined a single to center. Leury Garcia put a charge in a fly ball, but Renfroe was able to flag it down on the warning track.
Jose Martinez pinch hit for Chirinos with one out in the bottom of the second. Martinez lined a single to center field, but would be stranded there.
Jose Alvarado comes into the game to try to close out the game and give the Rays a 2-0 lead in this best of five series. Encarnacion leads off the inning after pinch hitting for Aaron Bummer. Encarnacion sends a missile to the left field stands cutting the Rays lead to 3-2. Anderson rolled over a grounder to third base. Moncada sent a weak flyball to right field for out number two. Abreu hit a soft liner to short to end the game.
Rays win game two 3-2.
In game three we see a rematch from game one on the mound. Charlie Morton vs Dallas Keuchel.
The White Sox decide to go with Enarnacion at first base and batting third replacing Abreu in the starting lineup.
For the third straight game Adames get the Rays on the hit column to lead off the game. This time Adames lined a single to left. Meadows quickly grounds into a double play to end the threat. Renfroe grounded out to Keuchel to end the inning. For the first time this series the Rays didn’t score and take a lead in the first inning.
With two outs Encarnacion walks giving a chance for Grandal to give the White Sox an early lead. Grandal struck out swinging and Zunino completed the throw to first base to end the inning.
Choi grounds an opposite field single against the shift to lead off the second. Former Ray Steve Cishek comes into the game to face Zunino. Zunino lines a single up the middle to give the Rays runners at first and second with no outs. Brandon Lowe grounded into a double play quickly subduing the Rays threat. Choi remained at third, but this time the Rays would need a hit to get on the board. Yandy Diaz delivers with a massive homer to left to give the Rays a 2-0 lead.
Jiminez sent a hard hit liner up the middle, but the Rays shift took away a base hit. Nomar Mazara lined a ball to left field, but directly at Renfroe for out number one. Robert lined a single up the middle. Garcia walks giving the White Sox runners at first and second with two outs with their pitcher Cishek due up. Abreu pinch hit, but struck out swinging ending the threat.
Jimmy Cordero came in the game to start the third inning. Initially the Rays kep Oliver Drake in the game to hit. However after the first pitch they sent Joey Wendle up to the plate. Wendle lined a double past Robert in center field for a double. Adames continued his hot streak at the plate with a single moving Wendle to third. Meadows walks to load the bases with no outs. Former Ray Alex Colome enters the game looking to get out of a jam and give the offense a chance to extend the series in their last at bat. However things go off the rails quickly as Renfroe lines a single past the drawn in infield scoring two runs and extending the Rays lead to 4-0. Choi follows with a two run single of his own extending the Rays lead to 6-0.
Diego Castillo enters the game looking to close out the game and series. Anderson hits a weak fly ball to left for out number one. Moncada does the same for out number two. Encarnacion grounds a ball to short and Adames makes the play to end the game.
The Rays win! The Rays win!
The Rays celebrate their victory at Guaranteed Rate Field. Meanwhile in St. Petersburg the Rays were quickly preparing to raise their next banner, Snellzilla 2020 Player’s League Champs.
While seeing Major Leaguers play baseball on a video game isn’t a replacement for real baseball it’s all we have right now. It was a fun event and gave a lot of player’s opportunities to interact with fans and show their competitiveness off the field.
Congratulations Blake Snell for winning the 2020 Player’s League Championship. I know you would prefer it to reward more skill by playing on a difficulty above veteran, but you were a worthy victor.