Howard wins NLCS MVP after record-setting run

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Ryan Howard failed to drive in a run last night for the first time in this year’s playoffs, but it didn’t stop him from being named NLCS MVP after hitting .333/.524/.933 with two homers and eight RBIs in the Phillies’ five-game series win over the Dodgers.
Howard’s streak of consecutive playoff games with an RBI was snapped at eight, which ties him with Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez for the all-time record (pending what A-Rod does tonight).
He also joins the following list of this decade’s NLCS MVP winners:
2009 – Ryan Howard
2008 – Cole Hamels
2007 – Matt Holliday
2006 – Jeff Suppan
2005 – Roy Oswalt
2004 – Albert Pujols
2003 – Ivan Rodriguez
2002 – Benito Santiago
2001 – Craig Counsell
2000 – Mike Hampton
Lots of big names on that list, with the occasional Suppan or Counsell thrown in as a reminder of how unpredictable the playoffs can be. Philadelphia is the first NL team to play in back-to-back World Series since Atlanta in 1995 and 1996, and the NLCS MVPs those two years were Javy Lopez and … Mike Devereaux.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.