A day ago, it looked like both league championships could be heading for quick finishes. Last night, though, proved beneficial to neutral observers who want to see long series, or at least to those that don’t want a Boston-Atlanta World Series. In LA, the Dodgers pulled off a stunner, and the Astros shocked the Red Sox up at Fenway.
Things have tightened up in both series, but things can and will change right away, with all four teams in action again tonight.
What happened last night?
NLCS Game 3
Los Angeles Dodgers 6, Atlanta Braves 5
(Braves lead 2-1)
The Dodgers looked, for a time, like they were going to run away with this one. Corey Seager blasted a two-run homer in the first, and LA had the bases loaded later in the frame, but had to settle for just the quick 2-0 lead. Walker Buehler couldn’t hold the advantage, surrendering four runs in the fourth inning as the Braves surged all the way back.
Atlanta tacked on an insurance run to push their lead to 5-2, and the score stayed there through the middle innings, with the Dodgers unable to punish starter Charlie Morton for his six walks issued. With every out, the Dodgers’ title defense seemed to inch closer and closer to its grave.
And then, Cody Bellinger did this in the eighth inning:
LA scraped together a couple baserunners against Luke Jackson, and set the stage for Bellinger to tie things up. Not long after, Mookie Betts doubled off Jesse Chavez to vault the Dodgers back into the lead, and Kenley Jensen came on for the ninth to put the finishing touches on a stunning win.
The Braves still lead this series, but they missed their chance to bury the champs.
ALCS Game 4
Houston Astros 9, Boston Red Sox 2
(Series tied 2-2)
Alex Bregman gave Houston a quick lead in this one, launching a solo homer in the top of the first. Yet Boston responded in kind, with Xander Bogaerts sending a bomb over the Green Monster to immediately seize the lead back in the home half:
Despite having to remove starter Zack Greinke after just 1.1 innings, the Astros did manage to hold the Red Sox there, in large part thanks to three shutout frames in relief from Cristian Javier. Shockingly, though, the vaunted Houston lineup did little against Nick Pivetta, who navigated five effective innings with the Bregman shot the only real blemish on his line.
Boston clung to a 2-1 lead into the eighth, but on the first pitch he saw from Garrett Whitlock, José Altuve leveled the score:
In a surprising maneuver, Alex Cora went to Nathan Eovaldi for the ninth. Carlos Correa tagged him for a leadoff double, and scored when Jason Castro came through with a crucial two-out RBI single. Michael Brantley broke things open with a three-run double soon afterward off Martín Pérez. The Astros tacked on a few more take the score all the way to 9-2 before finally easing off the gas.
On the whole, the Red Sox have felt in control of this series. They haven’t converted that control into a decisive series lead. The Astros stole another game, and it’s now best-of-three to determine the AL champion.
What’s on deck?
ALCS Game 4
Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros
(Chris Sale vs. Framber Valdez)
Time: 5:08 pm ET
Venue: Fenway Park
We haven’t seen officially announced starters at time of writing, though the Astros have very limited options given the state of their pitching staff, and seem likely to roll with Game 1 starter Framber Valdez.
Valdez has not had a smooth postseason, allowing seven runs combined across two starts and seven innings. His control came and went in his appearance against Boston, and he ultimately yielded six hits and three walks while recording just eight outs. The Astros are desperate for any sort of positive performance from Valdez tonight to ease the burden on their taxed bullpen.
On the other side, Sale hasn’t made it out of the third inning in over three weeks. He lasted just one inning in his ALDS start against the Rays, and was pulled after 2.2 innings in Game 1 of this series. He remains one of the most talented pitchers left in these playoffs, but it’s anyone’s guess at this point which version of the lefty shows up on any given night.
NLCS Game 4
(Julio Urias vs. Bullpen Game)
Time: 8:08 pm ET
Venue: Dodger Stadium
After shocking Atlanta last night, the Dodgers will have a chance to even this series tonight. How quickly things can turn, with the Braves having come five outs from taking a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Dodgers will turn to Urías to get themselves back on level turns. The young lefty pitched in relief just three days ago, as manager Dave Roberts used his starters aggressively out of the bullpen. The tactic has backfired during the NLCS, with Urías yielding two late runs to let Atlanta back in the game.
We’ll have to see if the added stress and workload affects Urías in this start, as it seemed to during Max Scherzer’s Game 2 outing. Urias has been tasked with a lot this October, on the heels of a regular season that saw him log a huge career high in innings at 185.
The Braves don’t appear to have any concrete starting plans for this contest. They have three clear top starters in Morton, Max Fried, and Ian Anderson, all of whom have been burned thus far. They could turn to Fried, their Game 1 starter, on short rest, or they could further tax a bullpen that’s carried a heavy load.
No options seem all that appealing from the Atlanta perspective. That should give the Dodgers a good chance to knot up the NLCS.