The playoffs get more and more tilted the farther we descend into the depths of October. We’ve reached a tipping point in the NLCS, though. The Dodgers can punch their ticket to the World Series with a win at Wrigley Field.
But before that, we need to see which AL team will take the first step forward in what is now a three-game race to the finish.
LHP Dallas Keuchel (HOU) versus RHP Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) — 5:08 p.m. ET, FS1
The Yankees stemmed the tide after falling behind 2-0 with a pair of wins at Yankee Stadium. But their only reward is this crummy t-shirt—plus having to face Keuchel and Justin Verlander. This is a rematch of Game 1, which went the way of the Astros. But it was a spirited 2-1 duel that saw Keuchel go seven shutout innings, scattering four hits with 10 strikeouts and a walk in as dominating of a performance as we’d see….until the next day when Verlander went ham on the bit.
Keuchel in Yankee Stadium is a perfect mix for the Astros, as he’s groundball-heavy and tough on lefties. He’ll likely be stretched as far as he can go in this one. As we saw, the Astros bullpen showed significant warts in Tuesday’s loss.
Tanaka was terrific at Minute Maid last time out. And it was a bit of a surprise, considering his season ERA on the road was in excess of 6.00. He lasted six innings, allowed two earned runs and got 12 grounders off the bats of 19 hitters who put it in play. Moving back to Yankee Stadium should be helpful (3.22 ERA), though the ball flies out of there at an incredible pace.
It would not be a good spot for the Astros offense to catch their second win. This is a historically good offense, and they’ve scored just nine runs through four games. This is a sleeping giant.
LHP Alex Wood (LAD) versus RHP Jake Arrieta (CHC) — 9:01 p.m. ET, TBS
Here’s a sobering thought: if the Dodgers win this game, there will be no baseball on Thursday. *guh* How’s that for a gut punch? Maybe not as bad as a 3-0 deficit has been for the Cubs, however.
Odd decisions have plagued both managers in this series—seriously, Yu Darvish hitting for himself with the bases loaded? John Lackey facing Justin Turner?—but the Dodgers appear to be flat out just the more talented squad. Neither team seems to trust their bullpen too much, but all that matters right now is that Kenley Jansen is operating like an executioner at the back of it all for Los Angeles.
How good have the Dodgers been? They haven’t even needed Wood yet. He’s making his first appearance since going six innings against the San Diego Padres back on Sept. 26—more than three weeks ago. He probably won’t be long for this one, though. Not only due to the long layoff, but due to the fact that he’s thrown 100 pitches just once all season!
Arrieta was on the short end of the Stephen Strasburg flu game. And he really, really didn’t pitch very well. He lasted four innings and didn’t allow an earned run, but walked five batters against four strikeouts and took the loss due to allowing an unearned tally.
The Cubs will need a whole lot more out of the righty this time around—especially due to the flux of the bullpen—to prevent this from being his last start before he tests free agency over the winter. There’s a lot to unpack here.