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Rockies capitalize on Brewers’ loss to secure a wild card spot

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Thanks to the Cardinals’ timely 7-6 win over the Brewers on Saturday, the Rockies will return to the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Brewers fell out of postseason contention despite an impressive run on Saturday, putting up five runs in the third inning to secure a two-run lead over the Cardinals.

Orlando Arcia got things started for the Brewers with a sac fly in the second, but was left stranded when Brett Phillips flew out to end the inning. Things weren’t so easy for Cardinals’ rookie Luke Weaver in the third inning. Ryan Braun clubbed an RBI double, his 27th of the season, while Shaw collected an RBI single and scored on Domingo Santana‘s first-pitch, two-run blast:

Leading 6-0 in the bottom of the third, it looked like the Brewers were poised to hang on for at least another day (barring a Rockies’ win on Saturday night, that is). The Cardinals had other ideas. Paul DeJong and Jose Martinez cut Milwaukee’s advantage down to two runs with a pair of doubles, and Stephen Piscotty returned in the eighth to tie it up with a two-run single.

Harrison Bader took care of the rest, plating Piscotty for the go-ahead run while Juan Nicasio effectively quashed the Brewers’ attempt to rally in the ninth. Following the Cardinals’ win, the Rockies will advance to the wild card tiebreaker against the Diamondbacks next Wednesday. The winner will go up against the Dodgers in the NLDS, who entered Saturday’s contest against the Rockies with a league-best 102-58 record.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.