Playoff Reset: The Dodgers and Nationals backs are against the wall

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source: AP

The Giants and Dodgers let games get away from them yesterday with bad decisions and bad bullpens, respectively. The Giants can still put Washington away today. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have the Dodgers’ backs against the wall. But while both L.A. and the Nats face elimination, each have hope based on the starting pitching matchups. The Dodgers because they have Clayton Kershaw going. The Nats because the Giants have pretty much the polar opposite of Clayton Kershaw going. Both series could end tonight or everyone could live on to play another day. I feel like we’re going to be playing another day in both cases.

The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals, National League Division Series Game 4
The Time: 5:07 PM Eastern
The Place: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
The Channel: Fox Sports 1
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw vs. Shelby Miller
The Upshot: The decision to pitch Clayton Kershaw on short rest seems like and even better one now than it did yesterday. Sure, he may not have his usual amount of stamina, but there is no better way for Don Mattingly to avoid his bullpen than to get a lot of innings from the best pitcher in baseball. Of course, last time out Kershaw tuckered out, abandoned his curve and melted down. Either way, the Dodgers would probably rather take their chances with his arm than with the guys down in that pen. For what it’s worth, Kershaw is 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA in three career starts on three-days rest. The Cardinals, meanwhile, counter with Shelby Miller, who is working on two-weeks’ rest. It’s his first career playoff start.

The Game: Washington Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants, National League Division Series Game 4
The Time: 9:07 PM Eastern
The Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
The Channel: Fox Sports 1
The Starters: Gio Gonzalez vs. Ryan Vogelsong
The Upshot: Runs continue to come at a premium this series, with the Nationals’ breakthrough yesterday coming as a result of Madison Bumgarner’s curious decision to throw to third rather than first on a Wilson Ramos bunt, leading to all the runs the Nats would eventually need. In Gonzalez, the Nats have a guy going who was pretty hot down the stretch, putting up a 4-1 record with a 2.36 ERA in his last seven starts of the year. Such is not the case for the shaky Ryan Vogelsong. One gets the sense that the Giants have ridden him too long based on his nice run in 2011-12. On paper anyway, he may be the worst starter we’ve seen in the postseason thus far. The Nats, particularly, have feasted on him. He’s 1-2 with a 7.94 ERA in five career starts versus Washington. This year against the Nats he’s allowed nine runs and 13 hits over 11 and a third innings across two outings.

Giolito spins 4-hit gem, White Sox shut out Astros

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HOUSTON (AP) Lucas Giolito was forced to speed up his pace near the end of his last start for the Chicago White Sox because of rain. The results were so good he decided to try it again Thursday night against the Houston Astros, even though there was no need to rush in the climate-controlled confines of Minute Maid Park.

The tactic certainly paid off.

Giolito pitched a four-hitter for his first major league shutout, rookie Eloy Jimenez hit his third homer in two games and the White Sox beat the Astros 4-0.

“In the last game in the fifth inning, I really picked up the tempo because it started raining,” he said. “I was like, why not just try and do that every time? So I was just getting in attack mode early, filling up the zone, and luckily I had my good stuff and we were able to mix sequences really well. It was a good one.”

Chicago manager Rick Renteria was asked what superlative he would use to describe Giolito’s performance.

“Every one that’s in your book that you can put on a page,” he said. “If there was 1,000 of them, use all 1,000.”

Yoan Moncada had an RBI double and Tim Anderson added a run-scoring single for the White Sox, who earned a four-game series split by handing Houston its first set of consecutive losses since May 1-2.

Giolito (6-1) struck out a season-best nine and walked one in winning his fourth start in a row and fifth straight decision.

“He was doing really anything he wanted to,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. “He was really good, so hats off to him for coming in and throwing all of his pitches for strikes. He’s changed his delivery, his arm action a little bit. He came in and really commanded the game from the very beginning.”

It was the first nine-inning complete game by a White Sox pitcher since Chris Sale beat Kansas City 7-4 in September 2016, and their first complete-game shutout since Sale threw a two-hitter in a 1-0 win at Tampa Bay on April 15, 2016.

In his previous outing last Saturday, Giolito was credited with his first career complete game when he beat Toronto 4-1 in a game called after 4 1/2 innings because of rain. After that one, the 24-year-old right-hander said he didn’t consider it a complete game until he went nine innings.

Didn’t take him long to check that box, too.

Giolito threw 82 of his season-high 107 pitches for strikes against a first-place team that began the day leading the majors with an .860 OPS and had homered in 19 consecutive games.

All the hits Giolito allowed were singles. Previously, his longest start was 7 1/3 innings.

“The Astros are a team I always look forward to facing,” Giolito said. “A lot of good hitters in that lineup. It’s always a fun challenge. They won a World Series a couple of years ago so when you do well against them, it makes you feel pretty good about yourself.”

Jimenez, who was 0 for 7 in the first two games of the series before hitting two homers in a win Wednesday night, connected off fellow rookie Corbin Martin (1-1) for a solo shot in the fourth inning that made it 4-0.

Martin gave up six hits and four runs over 3 1/3 innings in his third career start.

Yolmer Sanchez, who had three hits, doubled to start the third before Martin walked Charlie Tilson. Moncada followed with an RBI double to put Chicago up 1-0. A single by Anderson came next to score Tilson. Moncada scored on an error by Martin when his pickoff attempt to first was high.

Missing injured sluggers Jose Altuve and George Springer, the Astros couldn’t get anything going on offense. Their streak of 19 straight games with at least one home run was tied for the longest stretch in franchise history.

Michael Brantley hit his second single for Houston with two outs in the sixth. Giolito retired Carlos Correa to end that inning and pitched a perfect seventh before Max Stassi singled to start the eighth. Giolito struck out Jake Marisnick and Josh Reddick before Alex Bregman lined out to end the inning.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: Springer, who has missed the last four games with stiffness in his lower back, took batting practice on the field and will likely return Friday night, Hinch said. … Altuve (hamstring) continues to make improvement but there still isn’t a target date for his return.

TOUGH ON RIGHT-HANDERS

Anderson had two hits and a walk and is batting .344 against right-handers, which leads the AL.

THEY SAID IT

Jimenez on hitting three home runs in two games: “It’s been good. It means a lot. It’s more fun coming (to the park). It’s just the beginning of something good.”

UP NEXT

White Sox: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (3-4, 5.14 ERA) starts Friday when Chicago opens a three-game series against the AL Central-leading Twins. Lopez has been strong in his last three starts, posting a 2.29 ERA.

Astros: LHP Wade Miley (4-2, 3.51) is scheduled to start Friday in the opener of a three-game series with Boston. He didn’t factor in the decision last time out when he allowed seven hits and three runs – two earned – in five innings of a 4-3 loss to the Red Sox.

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