At last, the postseason proper has arrived. The Yankees are certainly not a part of it, but we’ve reached the divisional stage of the playoffs, and that means five-game series. It also means quadruple headers, the first of which comes today, with all four division series in action starting this afternoon. It’s sure to be a fun day of baseball.
What happened last night?
ALDS Game 1
(HOU leads 1-0)
The Astros just seem relentless sometimes. Houston got out to an early lead and never looked back, hounding White Sox ace Lance Lynn through the entirety of his 3.2-inning outing. The Astros ultimately bruised Lynn for five runs, while Lance McCullers made short work of the talented Chicago lineup. Houston’s de facto ace, McCullers shut out the White Sox through 6.2 innings, striking out four and walking none. The Sox put one across late against Kendall Graveman, but otherwise never really threatened as Houston cruised to a 1-0 series lead.
ALDS Game 1
(TBR leads 1-0)
Much like the earlier game, the Rays took an early lead and were hardly troubled en route to a comfortable Game 1 victory. Shane McClanahan navigated five scoreless before giving way to the deep Tampa bullpen, with former Yankee David Robertson notably chipping in a shutout seventh inning. The only major threat the Red Sox put together was in the eighth against ex-Yankee farmhand J.P. Feyereisen, but Boston couldn’t cash in after loading the bases with one out.
Nelson Cruz and Randy Arozarena hit dingers, but the highlight of the game may have come when Arozarena did this:
What’s on deck?
ALDS Game 2
Houston Astros vs. Chicago White Sox
(Framber Valdez vs. Lucas Giolito)
Time: 2:07 p.m. EST
TV: MLB Network
Venue: MinuteMaid Park
The White Sox send out their second horse, while Houston responds with the lefty Valdez. Houston’s rotation really doesn’t look all that intermediating on paper, not with the decline of Zack Greinke forcing them turn in Game 2 to a pitcher with a limited track record in Valdez. But this is the Astros, and they’ll probably make it work; Valdez danced around poor control to run a 3.14 ERA in 22 starts this year.
Giolito, though, should still give the White Sox an edge. The right-hander is a true four-pitch hoss in his prime, and an absolute luxury to throw out in anything other than the first game of a series. He’s established himself as one of the most solid pitchers in the AL over the past three years, and will look to get the Pale Hose even in this series.
NLDS Game 1
Time: 4:37 p.m. EST
Venue: American Family Field
The NL side of the bracket kicks off with the #2 seed Brewers hosting the #3 seed Braves. Milwaukee possesses a pitching advantage on paper in this game, and simply looks like the better team overall. Burnes owns a strong NL Cy Young case, having led the senior circuit in both adjusted ERA and FIP. For his part, Morton is no slouch, having run a 3.34 ERA and 4.0 rWAR in his age-37 season, and Yankee fans obviously need no reminder of what Morton can do in a postseason setting. This should be a fun pitchers’ duel, but look for Milwaukee’s superior depth to prevail.
ALDS Game 2
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox
(Shane Baz vs. Chris Sale)
Time: 7:02 p.m. EST
TV: Fox Sports 1
Venue: Tropicana Field
This matchup of AL East rivals pits a recovering ace against a young gun. The Rays send out Baz, who has just three career starts and 13.1 innings to his name. The top prospect impressed in the minors this year, running a 2.07 ERA across 78.2 innings, eventually earning a late-season call-up to the bigs. Baz sports a strong four-seamer that sits at 97 mph, to go along with a full secondary arsenal, complete with slider, curve, and change.
On the other side, Sale needs little introduction, but the lefty has looked shaky recently. His overall numbers on the year are excellent, including a 3.16 ERA and 11.0 K/9 rate, but Sale turned in a few uneven starts in September, namely a clunker in his final outing of the season against the Nationals. Sale’s control deserted him at times in that start, which saw him use 62 pitches to record just seven outs. Bet on him to improve upon that performance, but perhaps not to approach his Cy Young-caliber ceiling.
NLDS Game 1
Time: 9:37 p.m. EST
Venue: Oracle Park
And now, the heavyweight NL West showdown. Perhaps some fans are as tired of Giants-Dodgers as they are of Yankees-Red Sox, but this series features some serious starpower, and of course, the two winningest teams in the league this season.
Webb is a pretty low-profile name to front the rotation for a 107-win purported juggernaut, but the righty did turn in an outstanding 2021. In his third big league campaign, Webb managed a 3.03 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 148.1 innings, despite unintimidating pure stuff. He’ll be countered by one of the NL’s best in Buehler. Like Burnes, Buehler has a credible Cy Young argument, having run a 2.47 ERA in 207.1 innings and holding opponents to a .199 batting average against.