Playoff Reset: Orioles, Royals look to wrap it up

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It’s do-or-die time for two of the clubs — the favorites, to many — on the AL side of the postseason bracket. Let’s break down Sunday’s action …

The Game: Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers, American League Division Series Game 3
The Time: 3:30 PM Eastern
The Place: Comerica Park, Detroit
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Bud Norris vs. David Price
The Upshot: It’s cliché, but here is the reason is the Tigers acquired Price. Detroit’s bullpen has been an embarrassment through the first two games of this series, so Price needs to be both good and efficient versus the O’s, taking his start as deep as possible. He’s gone eight innings or longer in five of his 11 outings since leaving the Rays. The Orioles have scored 19 runs already in this best-of-five and will try to break out the big bats again with the champagne on ice.

The Game: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Kansas City Royals, ALDS Game 3
The Time: 7:30 PM Eastearn
The Place: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: C.J. Wilson vs. James Shields
The Upshot: Kansas City’s second postseason home game in 29 years — the first was Tuesday night’s Wild Card thriller — could be a Division Series clincher. What a story. The scrappy, underdog Royals grabbed two extra-inning wins in Anaheim and now “Big Game James” can pitch them into the ALCS. The Angels probably aren’t overjoyed that Wilson has to play the role of savior. He had a rough 4.51 ERA (81 ERA+) and 1.45 WHIP in 175 2/3 innings during the regular season. The Halos will need some offense.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.