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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.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.