Hawaii’s Kolten Wong and Greg Garcia to meet in National League wild-card round

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Kolten Wong & Greg Garcia

That was quick.

After 67 days, the 2020 MLB regular season has come to a close. Twenty-eight out of 30 teams played just 60 games this year, approximately 37 percent of a standard 162-game season.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers were the two teams that played just 58 games this year due to COVID-19 delays. Heading into Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals had to win to clinch a playoff spot based on win percentage. Were they to lose, they’d face the Tigers in a Monday doubleheader to determine their playoff fate.

The Cardinals took care of business Sunday, topping the Brewers 5-2. Despite three COVID-19 delays throughout the season and the 11 doubleheaders that they’d have to play to make up for it, the 30-28 Cards are playoff bound once again. Their reward? A best-of-three matchup in San Diego against the 37-23 Padres, baseball’s most pleasant surprise and third-best team in the 2020 MLB standings.

The wild-card round matchup will feature two former University of Hawaii teammates in Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong and Padres infielder Greg Garcia. Wong was the star second baseman while Garcia was the standout shortstop on the 2010 UH team, the last ‘Bows squad to make the NCAA tournament. The two were also teammates on the Cardinals from 2014 to 2018. In 2020, they’ll be the only two active players in the MLB playoffs with Hawaii ties.

Here’s how MLB players with Hawaii ties did this week, as well as during the COVID-shortened 2020 season as a whole.

Kolten Wong, second baseman, St. Louis Cardinals (Kamehameha-Hawaii and University of Hawaii): Wong went 1-for-4 with an RBI in Sunday’s win. He finishes the 2020 regular season with a .265 batting average, one home run and a strong case to repeat as the Gold Glove Award winner at second base.

Greg Garcia, infielder, San Diego Padres (University of Hawaii): Garcia was 12-for-60 at the plate for the 2020 season, good for an even .200 batting average. Due to his experience and defensive versatility, it’s likely that he gets multiple opportunities off the bench in the playoffs.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa, third base, Texas Rangers (Mid-Pacific): Kiner-Falefa hit his third home run of the season against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday. He finishes his 2020 campaign with a .280 average, three home runs and 10 RBIs. Although the Rangers were a disappointing 22-38, Kiner-Falefa was a model of consistency for the team at a time when it was sorely needed. Like Wong, Kiner-Falefa has a Gold Glove case to make as well.

Kurt Suzuki, catcher, Washington Nationals (Baldwin): Suzuki finishes his season with two home runs and 17 RBIs with a .270 average. Despite the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers making the playoffs with sub-.500 records, the season is over for the 26-34 Nationals.

Rico Garcia, pitcher, San Francisco Giants (Hawaii Pacific): Garcia was reactivated on Saturday but did not appear in any games. He finishes his 2020 campaign with seven strikeouts and four walks in 10 innings pitched and a 5.40 ERA. The Giants were one of the last teams to get eliminated from playoff contention at 29-31.

Josh Rojas, utility, Arizona Diamondbacks (University of Hawaii): Rojas’ season was done when he was placed on the 10-day disabled list with back inflammation. He finished with 11 hits in 61 at-bats for a .180 batting average. The Diamondbacks finished 25-35 and were the last-place team in the highly competitive National League West.

Other players with Hawaii ties in MLB 60-man player pools:

Jordan Yamamoto, starting pitcher, Miami Marlins (Saint Louis): The 31-29 Marlins are one of the surprise teams in the playoffs due to their preseason expectations. However, Yamamoto’s season is done as he finishes his 2020 with an 18.23 ERA. Although that number came after a sample size of three starts and four total appearances, much more was expected of the former Saint Louis star prior to the season.

David Freitas, catcher, Milwaukee Brewers (University of Hawaii)

Joey Cantillo, pitcher, Cleveland Indians (Kailua)

Kodi Medeiros, pitcher, Chicago White Sox (Waiakea)

Inactive players with Hawaii ties on MLB rosters:

Kirby Yates, closer, San Diego Padres (Kauai)

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