Four takeaways from four Division Series games
Over 10 hours and four games, the Major League Baseball playoff arc was significantly altered on Friday, as every divisional series in both leagues was in action. At least a triple title awaits you on Monday, while the National League will take center stage with two games on Saturday, the AL on Sunday.
For now, only the Houston Astros are lined up for a sweep in the AL, with the specter of a strong Game 5 in the other ALDS.
So what did we learn from a long day traveling from Houston to Milwaukee to Tampa Bay and then to San Francisco? Here are four takeaways from Friday’s action:
Less than Max effort
Lost in the haze of the chaotic final day of the MLB season might have been his most important development: an elbow injury that will likely sideline Max Muncy throughout the playoffs.
And after two games without their most disciplined hitter, there’s a good chance the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stint in these playoffs will be short.
Don’t take anything away from Logan Webb, whose playoff debut evoked memories of San Francisco Giants legends Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain as he knocked out 10 Dodgers in a 7 shutout in the shutout. 4-0 victory for the Giants.
Still, you combine Game 1 of this NLDS with the helpless performance of the Dodgers in scoring a 3-1 win over St. Louis in Wednesday’s wildcard game, and it’s possible they have a Muncy issue.
Webb was fabulous, walking no one and allowing five hits, just one for extra bases. It is likely that no one hit him on that freezing night in the Chinese Basin.
Still, it was also probably a little too easy. Webb only needed 92 shots to eliminate nearly eight innings, with the Dodgers rarely working even a three-ball count. This is in stark contrast to Webb’s last two starts against the Dodgers, in which he spanned five and six innings, respectively, with the Giants winning those late July games 2-1 and 4-2.
Muncy started in both and in the July 21 game saw 18 shots in four home plate appearances in one; only Chris Taylor has seen more (19).
It was a similar story in two recent games against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. The Dodgers scored him for four runs in 8-1 / 3 innings of a 5-4 loss on September 8. Wainwright threw 104 shots and Muncy saw nearly a quarter, absorbing 22 shots, a high for the team and hitting a sixth inning. Homer.
In the game of jokers, without Muncy? Wainwright had 5 â innings but allowed just one run – Justin Turner’s solo homerun, the Dodgers’ only extra-base hit until Taylor came out against reliever Alex Reyes.
Muncy placed sixth in the major leagues in StatCast’s overall plate discipline metric, and his .973 OPS placed third in the NL. He’s not always essential to the Dodgers’ offense, but with waving Taylor and Cody Bellinger a shell of himself, the Dodgers are a much easier lineup to navigate these days.
Taylor missed Game 1, but manager Dave Roberts decided to start Game 2 in the middle with Bellinger going first. Perhaps Kevin Gausman’s two-length repertoire will be more to the liking of the Dodgers in Game 2. Or Julio Urias and Max Scherzer make sure they don’t climb from the jump in Games 2 and 3, thus easing the burden. pressure on hitters.
But big or small, the Dodgers are a no-punch group. And right now, the defending World Series champions are on the ropes.
savior of the Red Sox
If it hadn’t been invented by an advertising agency to sell auto insurance, âLife Comes To You Quicklyâ would make a decent mantra for October baseball.
Speaking of which, Tanner Houck, how do you feel about being the No. 2 Boston Red Sox starter?
In just a few innings, the Red Sox went from crushing to commanding their AL Division series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Their Game 1 and 2 starters left-handed Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale combined to record eight strikeouts, stressing their pitching staff and pushing them deep into what looked like a 2-0 hole in a best-of-five series. .
Then they handed the ball to Houck in the second set of Game 2 and got out of the way.
Houck chewed up five innings and gave just two hits, allowing a record-breaking offensive performance to turn a three-point deficit into a two-point advantage and, ultimately, a 14-6 victory for the Red Sox that tied the series.
How decisive was Houck’s performance?
Well, the Red Sox went from an elimination game in Game 3 to handing the ball over to ace Nate Eovaldi at Fenway Park with a chance to push the Rays to the brink of elimination.
Here’s a pair of not-so-bold predictions: This series is set over five games and Houck will start Game 5 for Boston.
He certainly won so much by saving the Red Sox season not one, but two. In Game 161, Houck started three days after a 41-pitch relief performance and completed five perfect innings against the Washington Nationals, being taken off the biker jacket against his will.
Between his perfection in Washington and his dominance in Tampa, he pitched a clear seventh inning against the New York Yankees in Tuesday’s wildcard game. So in essentially three games up for grabs, that’s 11 innings pitched, two hits, 15 strikeouts and no walks.
“Great decision that got him (coming out) in the perfect game, right, so we can use it later?” Cora said after Game 2. “He was amazing. He was amazing.”
Cora’s aggressiveness in October paid huge dividends in 2018, in the way it deployed back-up starting pitchers. He ignored Sale’s track record by quickly hooking him up in both Game 162 and Game 2 of the ALDS and essentially saved both games.
A potential decision for Game 5 will be much easier – Houck, in essence, made it for him.
Churn and burnt
Maybe you’ve heard a thing or two about the Rays’ bizarre ability to pull fringe players out of baseball’s oblivion, sprinkle them with analytics, and watch the magic unfold. A hundred wins, a tiny payroll – like never before.
But the benefits and dangers of churn were exposed in their 14-6 loss to the Red Sox.
As the trade deadline craze came to an end on July 30, the Rays struck a typically quiet deal, acquiring Cleveland outfielder / first baseman Jordan Luplow.
In Game 2, Luplow notched a grand slam against Sale late in the first set, giving the Rays a 5-2 lead and what appeared to be complete mastery of their ALDS.
It was a 5-5 game when Matt Wisler entered the fifth with a runner. Wisler was nominated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants on June 9, and the Rays acquired him in the trade soon after despite a 6.05 ERA. It’s clear what intrigued the Rays – Wisler’s 12 strikeouts in nine innings – and of course, he magically reduced his ERA to 2.15 in a 29 â inning with Tampa Bay.
Yet the playoffs are often when pedigree catches up with a player. And in the blink of an eye – a single from Xander Bogaerts, an impressive home run from JD Martinez – it was 8-5 in Boston and the series suddenly took on a whole new tenor.
This is the risk of rolling with newbie rookies in games 1 and 2 – it will likely leave a lot of innings for the lifters to absorb. And Shane Baz, who is only making his fourth career start on Friday, has recorded just seven strikeouts. This resulted in the Rays’ rare failure of their depth.
Big man clinic
So many fantastic athletes on the Milwaukee Brewers, former MVP Christian Yelich, season savior Willy Adames and Gold Glove outfielder Lorenzo Cain. None contributed materially to the Atlanta Braves’ conquest by the Brewers 2-1.
No, it was a scoreless game until the end of the seventh inning, when Avisail Garcia, all 250 pounds of him, absorbed a Charlie Morton throw on his wrist to put a man on the base. Rowdy Tellez, the 250-pound first baseman acquired from Toronto in July, followed with a two-run homerun right, providing the Brewers’ only score.
Combine these guys with Dan Vogelbach, who took a walk a sleeve earlier and carries 270 pounds on his 6ft frame, and the lesson here is obvious: Big is beautiful.
And it never hurts for a team to acquire players who seem to be their mascot.