Here it is! It’s our firsta��and potentially onlya��four-game slate. And what it signals is crazy important baseball for the span of like 12 hours. Hopefully your heart can handle it, and the eight starters we’re breaking down for you. Check ’em out!
LHP Drew Pomeranz (BOS) versus LHP Dallas Keuchel (HOU) a�� 2:05 p.m. ET, FS1
This is certainly NOT where the Red Sox wanted to be. Not only as far as being behind in the series, but with a shaky Chris Sale start in the arrears. It gets worse, too. After Pomeranz, the Red Sox are slated to send Doug Fister to the mound in a potentially pivotal Game 3 at Fenway on Sunday.
Furthermore, facing Keuchela��the 2015 AL Cy Young winnera��is no walk in the park. Even when Pomeranz is gooda��and with a 3.32 ERA, that was most of the seasona��he still has a tendency to work deep into counts and run up his pitch count with walks and strikeouts.
We’d never write an early obituary for a team, but if the Astros win this game, it feels like a pretty safe bet this series won’t get to four gamesa��let alone five.
Keuchel was brilliant this season. In fact, the only thing keeping him from significant Cy Young consideration was that he only lasted 145.2 innings. He fanned 125 batters and induced grounders at a career high 66.8 percent ratea��more than five percent above his Cy Young season. That’s the perfect fit for a left-handed pitcher pitching in Houston, where the Crawford Boxes loom large in left field.
If Keuchel brings the money, the Astros will have lots of time to get their affairs in order before the ALCS.
LHP C.C. Sabathia (NYY) versus RHP Corey Kluber (CLE) a�� 5:00 p.m. ET, MLBN
It won’t be billed as sucha��and for good reasona��but it is sort of cool to see Sabathia back where it all started. Head-to-head numbers for players and teams carry little weight either way, but consider how many holdovers there are in Cleveland from Sabathia’s time, anyhowa��that is, none.
But hey, Cleveland most likely holds a place near and dear to Sabathia’s heart. And going back to where it all starteda��while trying to tap into those days on the mounda��is a fun #narrative all the same. The Yankees need that from him with a 1-0 deficit, with hopes of bringing the series to the Bronx tied at a game apiece. He wasn’t the vintage Sabathia this season, but he was pretty dang good: 3.69 ERA, 120-50 K/BB ratio in 148.2 innings.
With Kluber there isn’t much more to say than here’s how he pitched after his return from the DL: 1.62 ERA, 224-23 K/BB ratio in 166.1 innings, .495 OPS against and 17 percent swinging-strike rate.
Good. (REDACTED). Luck.
RHP Kyle Hendricks (CHC) versus RHP Stephen Strasburg (WAS) a�� 7:31 p.m. ET, TBS
Nothing against Hendricks, but that he’s starting in Game 1 sort of signifies why people aren’t as gung-ho about the Cubs’ chances this time around. Hendricks had a fine seasona��3.03 ERA, 123 strikeouts in 139.2 innings and a WHIP of 1.19a��but Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester haven’t been their vintage selves. And as a 1-2-3 it’s just an overall weaker group from a year ago.
It also doesn’t feel like a bullpena��outside of Wade Davisa��that can shut down a terrific Nationals offense.
Oh by the way, they’re getting Strasburg in Game 1 besides. Strasburg was absolutely brilliant this seasona��2.52 ERA, 204 strikeouts in 175.1 inningsa��and a fast start to the series could mean that Max Scherzer’s hamstring issues don’t loom as large by the time he’s slated to take the mound in Game 3.
Here’s a hot take: this series could play out a lot like the Astros-Red Sox one has thus far. A three-and-out by the previous champions would not be a good look.
RHP Taijuan Walker (ARI) versus LHP Clayton Kershaw (LAD) a�� 10:30 p.m. ET, TBS
The a�?all hands on decka�? approach of the Wild Card game has the Snakes digging a bit deeper into their bag of tricks for this one, but it isn’t all bad. Walker quietly had a very nice season for the Diamondbacksa��3.49 ERA, 146 strikeouts in 157.1 inningsa��and he was especially good on the road this season.
Away from Chase Field, Walker posted a 2.92 ERA with almost a strikeout per inning. With that said, these aren’t your older brother’s Dodgers. It will be a great test for the youngster.
What more can be said about Kershaw, who again battled back injuries to post a 2.31 ERA, well over a strikeout per inning and a sub-1.00 WHIP. Here are some things we’ll be watching… First of all, he allowed an uncharacteristic 23 home runs in 175 innings. Second of all, and this is the #narrative speaking, but there’s always going to be the a�?can he pitch in Octobera�? crowd that’ll point to his 4.55 career ERA in the postseason.
Here’s to hoping he can get that going in the right direction so people quit beating it to death.