Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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Playoff Reset: Dodgers vs. Nationals NLDS Game 1


The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Washington Nationals, NLDS Game 1
The Time: 5:30 PM EDT
The Place: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) vs. Max Scherzer (Nationals)

The Upshot:

  • Max Scherzer (20-7,  2.96 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw ( 12-4, 1.69 ERA)? Yes please. One of the top Cy Young candidates for 2016 and the league leader in strikeouts facing off against the best pitcher on the planet is my kind of party. Kershaw is 10-2 with a 2.02 ERA in 14 games against Washington in his career and faced them once this season, allowing one run on seven innings in June. A couple of Nats — Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman — hit Kershaw pretty well. Most others don’t. Scherzer has faced Los Angeles ten times in his career, but not even once this season.
  • After the aces, things get a lot more uncertain for each team. Dusty Baker has been cagey about his rotation, but will probably go with Tanner Roark in Game 2 and then Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross. Although if their backs are up against the wall, Baker may call on Scherzer on short rest for a Game 4. The loss of Stephen Strasburg is looming large. For L.A., Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda are named for Games 2 and 3. Game 4, if necessary, would feature either Julio Urias or a short-rest Kershaw, again, depending on the state of the world.
  • Health is definitely an issue for Washington. I just mentioned Strasburg. Wilson Ramos, the catcher on whose offense the Nats so greatly depended for much of the season, is out for the duration with a torn knee ligament. 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper is in the lineup but has fought all manner of ailments this season and has not been himself at the plate. Infielder Daniel Murphy, who just missed snagging the batting title after hitting .347 this year, has missed the past couple of weeks with a strained glute, but he took BP and ran a bit yesterday and is expected to play.
  • There are a lot of familiar faces on these two teams, from Kershaw to Scherzer, Adrian Gonzalez to Jayson Werth, Yasiel Puig to Bryce Harper and so on. But one person you may not know unless you watched a lot of Nats games this year is a rookie, Trea Turner, who may have a bigger impact than anyone in either lineup. Turner, the Nats’ center fielder and leadoff hitter, hit .342 with 13 homers and 33 steals in 39 attempts in 73 games after his midseason callup. The Nats are really going to want Turner to get on base and distract Kershaw as much as possible.
  • Both of these teams have playoff demons to exercise. The Dodgers have won the past four NL West titles, but could not get past the NLCS in 2013 and have been bounced from the NLDS each of the past two seasons. The Nationals, for their part, won NL East titles in 2012 and 2014 but failed to advance past the NLDS. One of these two teams has to win this series, right?

Like the two ALDS pairings, this one is a pretty even match. Today we’ll see two of the best pitchers in baseball go at it. After that things get a little more . . . uncertain.

Playoff Reset: Red Sox vs. Indians ALDS Game 2

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The Game: Boston Red Sox @ Cleveland Indians, ALDS Game 2
The Time: 4:30 PM EDT
The Place: Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: David Price (Red Sox) vs. Corey Kluber (Indians)

The Upshot:

Being up 1-0 is great, but the manner in which the Indians went up 1-0 — relying heavily on ace reliever Andrew Miller — puts added pressure on Tribe starter Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA). Though getting the Game 2 start instead of the Game 1 start, Kluber is the Indians’ ace, however, and averages 6.7 innings a start. Terry Francona will want to get at least seven innings out of him today, one figures. Favoring that approach: Kluber is on 10 days’ rest. Working against it: all that extra rest came because Kluber strained his quad.

For Boston it’s David Price (17-9, 3.99). Price has 14 career starts against the Indians in which he is 10-2 with a 2.24 ERA. Most of those starts came against much poorer Indians teams, however, and none of it came in the playoffs, where Price has never found much success. This year Price and Kluber went head-to-head on Opening Day. There Price pitched six innings, allowing two runs on five hits with 10 strikeouts and two walks. Kluber was knocked around a good bit. Kluber faced Boston again on May 20 and put up the same two runs on six innings Price did in the earlier matchup.

Homers will be the order of the day, one assumes. Each club hit three yesterday. Kluber allowed 22 on the season which is fairly respectable. Price, however, allowed a career high 30 dingers in 2016.

Playoff Reset: Blue Jays vs. Rangers ALDS Game 2

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The Game: Toronto Blue Jays @ Texas Rangers, ALDS Game 2
The Time: 1:00 PM EDT
The Place: Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: J.A. Happ (Blue Jays) vs.Yu Darvish (Rangers)

The Upshot:

Well, Game 1 was a butt-kicking, eh? An ineffective Cole Hamels and multiple mistakes, all capitalized on by the Blue Jays, led to their shellacking of the Texas Rangers. Now the clubs get an early wakeup call for a noon local time Game 2.

The somewhat good news for Texas is that they “only” used three relievers in that blood bath yesterday, and only one of them — Alex Claudio — went long, burning him for today. Still, Jeff Bannister is going to want as long an outing as possible from starter Yu Darvish (7-5, 3.41 ERA) to make up for yesterday’s disaster. Darvish is on six days’ rest. In his last two starts of the regular season, he allowed one earned run in 13 innings, allowing five hits and striking out 21. Cole Hamels may be the Rangers’ ace, but Darvish needs to be their horse this afternoon.

For Toronto, it’s J.A. Happ, (20-4, 3.18), making his first postseason appearance since losing to the Yankees in the 2009 World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies. Happ faced the Rangers once this year, giving up one run on six hits in seven inning and getting the W. That was back in May, though, so it may as well have been a billion years ago.

Another bit of good news? The Blue Jays lost Game 1 in last year’s ALDS matchup between these two clubs but went on to win the series. It’s not what you really want, but hold all of your “pivotals” and “crucials” for a few more hours.

But really, if the Rangers play in the same kind of fog they played in yesterday, this one is going to be over before it even really begins.