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Four teams enter, two teams leave: NLDS to conclude tonight

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The Dodgers were the class of the National League all season but now stand on the brink of elimination. The Cardinals have the worst regular season record of the remaining playoff teams but will move on with a win. Such is the life of short postseason series, two of which will conclude this evening. Let’s break ’em down:

The Game: St. Louis Cardinals @ Atlanta Braves
The Ballpark: SunTrust Park, Atlanta, Georgia
The Time: 5:02 PM Eastern
The Network: TBS
The Pitchers: Jack Flaherty vs. Mike Foltynewicz

The Upshot:

Today’s starters matched up in Game 2 and put on a pitching clinic, with Foltynewicz allowing just three hits over seven scoreless innings while Flaherty matched him most of the way before losing, having allowed three runs in seven. As you will no doubt hear many times this evening, the Braves have not advanced in the postseason since 2001, exiting in their first round in all eight postseason appearances they’ve made since 2002 with a chance for a ninth tonight. As you’ll also no doubt hear a lot, they were four outs away from advancing to the NLCS on Monday before woofing the game away and then watching Yadier Molina win it with a walkoff sac fly. Neither history nor momentum seems to be on Atlanta’s side.

But who cares about momentum? Momentum, as they often say, is the next day’s starting pitcher. Flaherty was the National League’s most dominant starter in the second half. Foltynewicz had a great run in his final few starts of the season which carried over to Game 1. It’s not a grand insight to say that whichever team’s starter is sharpest today will advance. We can assign whatever narratives we want to after the fact.

 

The Game: Washington Nationals @ Los Angeles Dodgers
The Ballpark: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
The Time: 8:37 PM Eastern
The Network: TBS
The Pitchers: Stephen Strasburg vs. Walker Buehler

The Upshot:

The Dodgers’ 2019 season seemed magical for months on end. Multiple streaks where they’d break off, like, seven wins in eight games, so many late comebacks and walkoffs that, no matter how dramatic, almost seemed inevitable. The product of the league’s best team just doing what they should do given their native talent and luck that, to quote their former general manager, seemed like the residue of design. Yet, here they are, one game away from elimination after splitting games in both L.A. and in Washington.

They have the guy they want on the hill tonight: Walker Buehler, on full rest. Buehler handcuffed Nats batters in six one-hit shutout innings in Game 1 and will look to do the same tonight. Figure that Clayton Kershaw would be the first man out of the pen if he falters. For Washington it will be ace Stephen Strasburg, who tossed three scoreless innings of relief in the Nats’ wild-card victory over the Brewers and followed it up with six innings of one-run ball in Washington’s Game 2 victory.

Each team has an MVP candidate on offense. Part of me thinks that this will all come down to either Cody Bellinger or Anthony Rendon coming up with a big hit in a big moment.

Joe Kelly’s suspension reduced to 5 games on appeal

Joe Kelly suspended eight
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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly had his suspension for throwing pitches near the heads of Houston hitters reduced to five games on appeal.

Kelly was originally penalized eight games by Major League Baseball on July 29, a day after throwing a 96 mph fastball near the head of Houston’s Alex Bregman and two curveballs that brushed back Carlos Correa.

The players association said Wednesday night it was dismayed by the length of the ban.

“While we understand the concerns raised by the league with respect to a bench-clearing incident during this challenging season, we’re disappointed by the decision,” the union said. “It was an unfair result for Joe Kelly given the cases presented.”

The Dodgers on Wednesday confirmed the reduced penalty that was first reported by Barstool Sports.

Kelly went on the 10-day injured list retroactive to last Sunday with right shoulder inflammation. He will serve his suspension when he returns.

After striking out Corea, Kelly curled his lip into a pouting expression and exchanged words with the shortstop.

Benches cleared after Kelly’s actions during the sixth inning of Los Angeles’ 5-2 win at Houston in the teams’ first meeting since it was revealed the Astros stole signs en route to a 2017 World Series title over the Dodgers.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts served his one-game suspension the same day the penalty was handed down. Astros manager Dusty Baker was fined an undisclosed amount.

Kelly denied that he purposely threw at the Astros. He has previously been suspended in his career for throwing at a batter.

The penalties were imposed by former pitcher Chris Young, MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations, who issued his first ruling since taking over the job from Joe Torre.