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Indians, Dodgers seek to wrap up division series today

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The Astros and Red Sox are underway at the moment, with Houston holding a 2-1 lead in the second inning. The rains are starting to make their way to Boston, however, so we may have a delay in our future. Thankfully, though, there is a wondrous bounty of playoff action today, with all eight remaining teams in action. Two of these series, however, could end today.

In New York the Indians take the field leading the Yankees two games to one. As we mentioned this morning, they’ll do with a less-rested-than-usual Trevor Bauer taking the ball against Luis Severino, who was shelled in the Wild Card game last week. Bauer, of course, allowed only two hits in six and two-thirds innings as Cleveland won 4-0 in Thursday’s Game 1. The last time Severino faced the Indians he allowed two homers to Jose Ramirez and one to Carlos Santana in a 6-2 loss to at Yankee Stadium in late August. If the Yankees win, they’ll get another crack at Corey Kluber in Game 5, who they beat up in Game 2 before the Indians came back to win it in extra innings.

Out in Arizona the Diamondbacks will pitch their ace Zack Greinke against Yu Darvish of the Dodgers. Greinke had a short outing in the Wild Card game last week, requiring manager Torey Lovullo to go to Robbie Ray in relief. That may have cut into Ray’s effectiveness in Game 2, when Ray allowed four runs in four and a third. As such, Greinke isn’t just pitching to keep the Dbacks alive in this series, he’s hoping to pitch deep into the game to help rest the bullpen in the event there is a Game 4.

Darvish has not pitched since September 25 — a 13-day layoff. He’s faced the Dbacks once this year, striking out 10 Arizona hitters in five innings of a 5-2 victory at Chase Field on August 10.  He’ll certainly be fresh for this one. The Dodgers have scored 17 runs in their two playoff games thus far, so if form holds, Darvish need not be great to help the team advance, he merely needs to not break.

If you’re able, tune in the Astros-Sox game right now. If not, that’s OK. We have about 11 more hours of baseball action in front of us on this Columbus Day. Enjoy.

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.