This is the day, folks.
The day many of us consider the best day of playoff baseball. The first day — and only Friday — in which all eight remaining playoff teams will be in action. Monday is poised to have four games as well, but (a) that’s only a potential thing because if the Brewers or Dodgers sweep, their series will be done; and (b) it’s a Monday for crying out loud. If you call in sick to watch four games that day you’ll still be watching the clock and worrying about being ready for work the next day.
Today, in contrast, you can tell the boss you have a massive head cold, turn the TV on at 2PM when the Indians and Astros get going and leave it on until after midnight, when the Braves and Dodgers wrap up. Just remember to hydrate and to get up and take a brief walk during commercials and pitching changes so you don’t get leg cramps or something. Bananas help too. Potassium is your friend. That goes for a real head cold or a postseason baseball-inspired fake one, by the way.
Your viewing guide:
ALDS Game 1
This is easily the best starting pitching matchup of the day and, really, in the entire postseason so far. There are three Cy Young Awards between these two, six non-winning top five finishes and both of these guys will, once again, be near the top of the Cy Young balloting this year. Kluber and Verlander have combined for 16 200-inning and 13 200-strikeout seasons. They have ten combined All-Star Game appearances. Verlander was an MVP and won the Rookie of the Year Award. When the story of American League pitching of this era is told, these two are going to take up much if not most of the ink.
Bullpen days and openers are fun on some level, but the biggest reason teams do that is because they don’t have starters like Kluber and Verlander at their disposal. Seeing both of them match up in this afternoon’s first game is gonna be a treat.
NLDS Game 2
Yesterday’s walkoff win for the Brewers was pretty sweet, but it certainly came at a cost. That cost: ten innings of work from relief pitchers the day before they’re starting Jhoulys Chacin on short rest. Playoff adrenaline and the prospect of heading to Colorado with a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series is likely to give Chacin a boost, of course. Meanwhile, Tyler Anderson hasn’t started since Sunday, putting him on his regular schedule. As it is, he’s been sharp as a tack of late, posting a 1.83 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 15/5 K/BB ration in his last three starts, covering 19 and two-thirds innings.
Runs were at a premium yesterday. My gut tells me that today will see a lot more crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
ALDS Game 1
As you’ll hear 500 times today — and, yeah, I’m posting an article about it later today as well — this will be the first playoff meeting between the Yankees and the Red Sox in 14 years. Brace yourself for many, many replays of Dave Roberts stealing second and Aaron Boone going yard. If TBS manages to get past the nostalgia trip — no safe bet in today’s baseball broadcasting landscape — they’ll realize that this is a fantastic matchup between two outstanding teams filled with young talent that was in grade school the last time these clubs met in the playoffs.
As for the present: while the Red Sox won eight more games than the Yankees this year, they were basically even-up head-to-head, with Boston taking the season series 10-9. They’ve been even over the past three years, in fact, with Boston leading the Yankees 29-28 over that span. They always play each other tough, no matter their respective records.
Chris Sale gets the call for Boston. He has thrown just 17 innings and has not pitched into the sixth inning of a game since the end of July due to a shoulder inflammation. He’s been building his strength back up, however, tossed a bullpen session on Tuesday, is on eight days’ rest since his last outing and Alex Cora said that there are no limitations on him. Worth noting that his velocity was not great in that outing. If he’s not on top of his game tonight the Yankees’ punishing lineup is going to let us all know about it really quickly.
His counterpart, J.A. Happ, has a 2.69 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 63 strikeouts in 63.2 innings since joining the Yankees and, between New York and Toronto, has allowed only five earned runs — but six unearned runs — against the Red Sox in four starts this year. His past success against Boston is part of the reason New York picked him up. So, no, it’s not just the networks which have their mind on history.
NLDS Game 2
The Braves got punched in the nose early last night, never punched back and now they gotta face Clayton Kershaw on an extra day’s rest, which has benefitted him greatly this season. Welcome to the playoffs, upstarts. Facing off against Kershaw is Anibal Sanchez. It’s fair to say that not many people expected Sanchez to be pitching in the playoffs in 2018, but he’s been pretty darn good of late, having given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts. He’ll have to be on point tonight. As the Dodgers showed with their eight walks and three dingers last night, theirs is a patient and powerful lineup.
It’s wake-up time for Atlanta, or else the playoffs are going to be virtually over for them on the first day they really get going in earnest.