Gerrit Cole
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2018 Division Series will be one to remember

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It’s only the fourth day of Division Series play, but the eight remaining contenders are already closing in on a number of franchise and MLB playoff records. Here are just a few of the ways the Astros, Indians, Braves, and Yankees are setting themselves apart this postseason:

The starting pitchers in the first two games of a postseason series each racked up 200+ strikeouts during the regular season — a first in MLB history.

In Game 1 of the ALDS, Astros ace Justin Verlander (290 strikeouts) went up against the Indians’ Corey Kluber (222 strikeouts), while Game 2 featured a matchup between Gerrit Cole (276 strikeouts) and Carlos Carrasco (231 strikeouts). Both times, the Astros’ strikeout leaders came away looking far more dominant: Verlander whiffed seven batters across 5 1/3 innings in Game 1, while Kluber made his exit in the fifth with just two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. During Game 2, Cole recorded his first postseason win for Houston while tossing seven innings of one-run, 12-strikeout ball — just a smidgen better than Carrasco’s two-run, three-strikeout performance through the first 5 1/3 innings of the Indians’ eventual loss.

José Altuve and Alex Bregman tied Carlos Beltrán for most postseason home runs in franchise history.

Both Altuve and Bregman have the chance to pull ahead as the franchise leader in postseason home runs: Thanks to Altuve’s fifth-inning solo home run off Kluber in Game 1 of the ALDS and Bregman’s 396-foot blast off Trevor Bauer in Game 2, they’ve each logged eight home runs in their postseason careers, the same as longtime slugger Carlos Beltrán accumulated during his first career postseason run. Beltrán set the record back in 2004, when he decorated his NLCS campaign with a solo shot off of the Cardinals’ Julian Tavarez.

The Braves were defeated in back-to-back postseason shutouts for the first time in franchise history.

Not only is this an unfortunate first for the Braves — it’s also just the second time it’s happened in MLB history. The Braves will enter Game 3 of the NLDS on Sunday night with just nine hits (and zero runs) to their name after getting blanked by the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu in Games 1 and 2, respectively

No other playoff team has been shut out in the first two games of a playoff series since 1921, when the Giants opened the 1921 World Series with an 0-2 record against the Yankees. While the Giants eventually staged a massive five-game comeback to take the Series, it’s not certain that the Braves will be able to muster the same kind of strength to overpower the Dodgers for the next three games and advance to the NLCS — let alone the Fall Classic.

Gerrit Cole recorded the second-most strikeouts in an ALDS game.

Not only did Cole take the edge over Carrasco during Game 2 of the ALDS on Saturday; he nearly tied the all-time record for most strikeouts in an ALDS game to date, too. The current record is held by Hall of Fame southpaw Randy Johnson, who delivered 13 strikeouts for the Mariners in the 1997 ALDS. Cole came just one strikeout shy of that mark after he was pulled in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game, making his exit from the mound with three hits, one run, zero walks, and 12 strikeouts over seven innings. He also placed second to Hall of Fame hurler Tom Seaver, who was the first to strike out at least 12 batters with zero walks during a postseason performance.

Gary Sanchez crushed the longest Division Series home run in the Statcast era.

The Yankees held their own hit parade during Game 2 of the ALDS on Saturday night, led by Aaron Judge‘s 445-foot homer off of Red Sox southpaw David Price in the first inning. Sanchez tacked on two more home runs to become the first Yankees’ catcher since Yogi Berra to record a multi-home run performance in the postseason (Berra earned his stripes during Game 7 of the 1956 World Series).

His second long ball of the evening registered 479 feet — longer than any home run Statcast has tracked in the Division Series since 2015. The current record-holder for longest postseason home run still belongs to the Cubs’ Willson Contreras, however, who clubbed a 491-footer off of Dodgers lefty Alex Wood in the 2017 NLCS.

Entering Sunday and Monday’s games, three of the eight playoff teams are poised for a Division Series sweep. While the Rockies, Braves, and Indians don’t exactly have history on their side, they wouldn’t be the first to claw their way back from an 0-2 deficit. Eight teams have worked their way back from an 0-2 start to the Division Series: the 1981 Dodgers, 1995 Mariners, 1999 and 2003 Red Sox, 2001 and 2017 Yankees, 2012 Giants, and 2015 Blue Jays. Perhaps less encouraging: Only the Dodgers and Giants pushed through their initial disadvantage to lay claim to a World Series.

Dodgers look to join the Red Sox in the World Series

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One team has punched its ticket to the Fall Classic. Two teams are looking to join them, with the Dodgers carrying the distinct advantage. Los Angeles needs only a split in the final two games of the NLCS while Milwaukee needing to win both games at home. Doable? Absolutely. But to do it, the Brewers are going to have to wake up their sleepy bats.

NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:39 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers:  Hyun-Jin Ryu vs Wade Miley
Breakdown:

The Dodgers will give the ball to left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who tossed seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but allowed two runs and tossed 72 pitches, failing to get out of the fifth inning, in Game 2 against Milwaukee. Even if he again turns in a short outing Dave Roberts should feel pretty confident, however, as the Dodgers’ bullpen — considered a question mark coming into this series — has allowed only three runs in in 21 and two-thirds innings of work.

For Milwaukee it’s once again Wade Miley, who was the Game 5 “starter,” but who pitched to only one batter. I suppose it’s possible that Craig Counsell will burn him like that again, but it seems more likely that Miley will actually pitch in this game rather than be used as a decoy.

As I noted the other day, though, the Brewers’ pitching gamesmanship has not really been a factor in this series. The real problem for them has been their offense. They’ve scored only 16 runs in five games while batting .219. That’s actually identical to the Dodgers’ run total and average overall, but L.A. has been better at distributing that meager offense. Milwaukee has been cold at the worst times, too, going 5-for-35 with runners in scoring position in the series, including one for their last 11. If that doesn’t change, their season ends tonight.