Both teams managed to stave off elimination on Sunday. So we all know what that means—another super awesome four-game slate. However, this time it is even better. That’s because three of the four games carry knockout potential with some fun pitching matchups. Check ’em out!
RHP Charlie Morton (HOU) versus RHP Rick Porcello (BOS) — 1:08 p.m. ET, FS1
There have been 12 postseason games. Only six have resulted in the winning pitcher being a starter. So in that sense, it seems sort of funny that we focus much on the starting pitcher assignments. But in terms of constants, there aren’t many in the postseason.
But what we do know is who’ll take the ball to start each game.
Speaking of uncertainty in this potential Red Sox elimination game at Fenway Park, there is potential for weather to make this one difficult to get in. There may be a window to start the game with some interruption. But that’ll only fuel the #bullpenning fire we’ve seen on social media, and quite frankly, on the field so far this October.
For all the talk about aces in the postseason, some of them have been absolutely obliterated so far. Corey Kluber, Chris Sale and Luis Severino—the top-three in the AL in ERA this year—each had rough first postseason starts. So teams also turn to guys like Morton, who at age 33 has turned a corner as a fire-baller with more than a strikeout per inning after spending most of his career as a fringe groundballer. The talk is that the Astros have used analytics to help Morton unfurl what was deep within. Regardless, it’s one of the more fun stories of the season. He had a 3.62 ERA in 25 starts with 163 strikeouts in 146.2 innings sandwiched around a lat injury that cost him some time in the middle of the season.
Porcello’s swan song after winning the Cy Young did not go well. He barely out ERA’d Doug Fister—Sunday’s starter when the Red Sox avoided ignominy, if just for a day—with a 4.65 mark in 203.1 innings. It looked a lot more like the Porcello we’d grown accustomed to with the Tigers. At least in some respects. However, he kept the strikeouts and was completely forsaken by grounders, posting a career-low 39.2 percent rate of worm- burners. The ball left the park at an unprecedented rate this season, and Porcello’s shift to fly balls made him a prime candidate to be victimized. And was he ever.
Porcello allowed homers at a rate of 1.68 per nine innings—far above his career rate of 1.06—and that plus a BABIP of .324 led to a .284 average against. And again, an increased average plus the ball in the air can only mean bad things for a pitcher. To say it hasn’t gone to plan for the Red Sox starting Porcello and Fister in elimination games is true. But, getting to a fifth game with Sale looming isn’t the worst thing.
RHP Max Scherzer (WAS) versus LHP José Quintana (CHC) — 4:08 p.m. ET, TBS
This is the only matchup that can’t be an elimination game, thanks to Bryce Harper taking Carl Edwards Jr. deep late in the game on Friday night to send the series to Wrigley Field tied at a game apiece. Now the Nationals have the ultimate trump card with the prohibitive favorite for the NL Cy Young taking the mound against Quintana, a great pitcher who’s had a bumpy season.
It isn’t all rosy for the Nationals though, as Scherzer tweaked a hamstring prior to the series and was held back as a result. His bullpen session in advance of this start reportedly went well, and he can put the Nationals on track to wrap up the series with a win here. Scherzer led the NL in strikeouts (268) and WHIP (0.90) this season and was second in ERA (2.51).
Quintana, on the other hand—literally—posted a 4.15 ERA between both stops in Chicago, fanned more than a batter per inning and was markedly better for the Cubs than the White Sox. Fangraphs pegged Quintana for 1.9 WAR on the south side and 2.0 after moving north, but he pitched exactly 20 fewer innings with the Cubs than the Sox. Regardless, we’re looking at roughly a four-win pitcher, which is nothing to sneeze at in this day and age.
With the Cubs, Quintana posted a 3.74 ERA (3.25 FIP), 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings and just 2.2 walks per nine .It almost feels like he flies under the radar a bit. Which is strange, considering Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester each had their struggles this season as well.
RHP Trevor Bauer (CLE) versus RHP Luis Severino (NYY) — 7:08 p.m. ET, FS1
Of all the pitchers to come back on short rest, Bauer is perhaps the most surprising from the standpoint of where he was viewed starting the season. That is, at best fourth after Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and of course, Kluber. But Bauer reportedly thrives on this sort of thing, and would prefer to work more frequently than his current schedule allows. That’ll be one thing to monitor as the Indians look to eliminate the Yankees in front of the Bronx faithful. Bauer was absolutely dazzling against the Yankees in Game 1, tossing 6.2 two-hit, shutout innings with eight strikeouts, one walk and eight grounders induced.
Severino, meanwhile, looks to exorcise the demons from recording just one out against the Twins in the Wild Card game. The bullpen bailed him out in an elimination game, but so far we’ve seen some bullpens be a bit more fallible than expected this October. Chad Green is showing some signs of overuse. And on the other side Andrew Miller—an arm the Yankees are obviously familiar with—gave up a rare homer to lefty Greg Bird for the only run in Sunday’s game.
Severino was absolutely brilliant as the third horse in the Kluber-Sale Cy Young race this year, and the hope is that the moment won’t be too big for the 23-year-old righty.
RHP Yu Darvish (LAD) versus RHP Zack Greinke (ARI) — 10:08 p.m. ET, TBS
The fun dynamic here is the new friend versus the old friend. As Darvish—who is new to the Dodgers as of late July—faces Greinke, who played for them from 2013-’15. For all the talk about Darvish, he was quite good for the Dodgers after coming over: 3.44 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a WHIP of 1.15. He may be a bit too prone to blow-ups for the caliber of pitcher he is, but by and large he is terrific.
Meanwhile Greinke, who’ll garner some down ballot Cy Young consideration, posted a wonderful season—3.20 ERA in 202.1 innings, 215 strikeouts—but was absolutely obliterated in the Wild Card game as he let the Rockies back into the thing. He was top-five in the NL in innings, strikeouts and WHIP and was sixth in ERA. If the Diamondbacks were to trust anyone to help them avoid elimination, it starts here.