There’s enough blame for the Dodgers’ failure to advance to go around, but here’s what sticks with me: the offense was 8 for 41 with runners in scoring position in four games. Three of those four games were decided by one run, and the fourth was decided by two. Had the offense just gotten two, three or four more timely hits the result might have been exactly the opposite of what it was.
Dodgers at Cardinals, 2:00PM PT, TV: Fox Sports 1
This is it for the Dodgers. They must win today. If not, they’ll go home, lick their wounds and hunt for reliable middle relief in the offseason. Recognizing that, they’re sending Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in either league, out to do battle with Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74 ERA), who’ll be making his first appearance of the postseason. Kershaw has to get past his uncharacteristic failure in Game One. Assuming he does, he still has to rely on the Dodgers’ offense, which has been anything but scintillating. In Game Three they were a dreadful 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. They desperately need Gonzales (.167 for the series), Gordon (.154), Uribe (.077) and Puig (.250) to get untracked, and they need them today.
Nationals at Giants, 6:00PM PT, TV: Fox Sports 1
The Nationals must also win today or take the winter off early. In hopes of doing so they hand the ball to Gio Gonzales, who got on a roll in September, going 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA and righting what had been a forgettable season. His opponent will be Ryan Vogelsong, who did just the opposite in the last month, going 0-4 with a 5.53 ERA.
The Nationals too have a hitting problem. Third-baseman Anthony Rendon is 7-for-15 (.467) this postseason. The rest of the Nats’ starting position players have combined to go 13-for-96 (.135).
Nationals at Giants, 2:00PM PT, TV: MLBN
The Nats have their backs against an 0-2 hole and need both a good outing from Doug Fister and some luck in order to beat the Giants and Madison Bumgarner. Fister has plenty of postseason experience, as does Bumgarner. The Nationals may start Ryan Zimmerman for the first time in the playoffs after two pinch-hitting appearances, which would add a potentially stronger bat to the lineup in left field and allow Bryce Harper to move to center, while putting the light-hitting Denard Span on the bench.
Dodgers at Cardinals, 6:00PM PT, TV: Fox Sports 1
The Dodgers rest their hopes on Hyun-Jin Ryu, who hasn’t pitched for nearly a month while resting a shoulder. Based on a simulated game he threw last Wednesday and two bullpen sessions, they think he’ll be fine. The Cardinals hope that the John Lackey who’s been a star during previous postseasons with the Angels and Red Sox is the one who shows up today, rather than the guy who went 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA after they acquired him at the trading deadline.
Orioles at Tigers, 12:30PM PT, TV: TBS
The Tigers, down 2-0 in a five-game series, send out David Price, their mid-season acquisition who was 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA after coming over from the Rays at the trade deadline this summer. The Orioles ask Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65 ERA) to close out the series.
Price needs to go really really deep in this game, because the Tigers’ bullpen has been awful so far.
Angels at Royals, 4:30PM PT, TV: TBS
The Angels, down 2-0 in a five-game series, send out C.J. Wilson in the hope he can stop the unlikely juggernaut that is the Royals, while the KC team sends James Shields to the hill and asks him to put an end to the Angels’ frustration.
The history of teams falling behind 2-0 and coming back to win three straight is short: it’s only happened five of the 44 times it’s happened. But the Angels have had 13 winning streaks of three or more this year, so they and their fans are hanging their hopes on that.
Giants at Nationals, 2:30PM PT, TV: Fox Sports 1
After winning Game One the Giants hope Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57 ERA; 1-3, 3.46 ERA postseason) can keep the momentum going. They’re facing Jordan Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66 ERA; 0-1, 11.25 ERA postseason), and all he did his last time out was pitch a no-hitter for his fourteenth win.
The Giants have won nine straight postseason games. The record is twelve, held by the Yankees (twice), the As and the Red Sox.
Cardinals at Dodgers, 6:30PM PT, TV: MLBN
The Dodgers have to shrug off yesterday’s stunning loss and regroup, and they’ll send Zack Greinke (17-8, 2.71 ERA; 2-2, 4.30 ERA postseason) out to face Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.74 ERA; 5-4, 4.81 ERA postseason).
Giants at Nationals, 12:00PM PT, TV: FS1
The Giants start 13-year veteran Jake Peavy, the mid-season acquisition who was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA for the Red Sox but 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA when he got back to the National League with the Giants. Their ace, Bumgarner, pitched and won the wild card game on Wednesday and won’t be available until Game 3 of this series on Monday. The Nationals have had their rotation set for two weeks, and tomorrow they start Stephen Strasburg, who was 14-11 with a 3.14 ERA this season. He’ll be making his postseason debut; in a controversial move the Nats’ management shut him down before the season ended in 2012, the last time the Washington team made the playoffs. (They missed the wild card by four games last season, and Strasburg was recovering from Tommy John surgery anyway).
Cardinals at Dodgers, 3:30PM PT, TV: FS1
Clayton Kershaw vs. Adam Wainwright. The best pitching matchup of any of these four series. We could see a double no-hitter.
Can Molina stop Dee Gordon and the other Dodger base stealers? Can the Dodgers keep from going into another hitting slump like they did last year?
We’ll find out this afternoon.
Tigers at Orioles, 9:00AM PT, TV: TBS
Down one game to none, Detroit sends the second of their three former Cy Young winners, Justin Verlander, out to stop the Orioles and their third-year big leaguer Wei-Yin Chen. Chen was 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA in the regular season, while Verlander had an uncharacteristically bad year, going 15-12 with a 4.54 ERA.
If Detroit loses, they’re in serious trouble. They’d be down 0-2 in a five-game series, and only five times in 44 tries has a team in that position turned the series around and won.
Royals at Angels, 6:30PM PT, TV: TBS
The Royals, fresh off two extra-inning wins, ask rookie Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20 ERA) to keep their streak going. The Angels, in an 0-1 hole, ask star rookie Matt Shoemaker (16-4, 2.94 ERA) to plug the dike and send the series to Kansas City tied at one game apiece.
The same caveat applies to the Angels as to the Tigers: if they go down two games to none their chances of winning the five-game series are pretty bad.
Tigers at Orioles, 2:30PM PT, TV: TBS
Royals at Angels, 6:00PM PT, TV: TBS
The Os-Tigers matchup appears at first to come down to whether the Tigers’ pitching, starting with Max Scherzer tonight, can hold down the Orioles’ penchant for home runs (they were the only team to hit over 200 dingers this season in either league). Chris Tillman starts for the Orioles.
The hook for the Angels-Royals game tonight is that the starters were college teammates at Long Beach State back in 2004 and took the 49ers to the Super Regionals in the runup to the College World Series. The Angels send out Jared Weaver while the Royals counter with Jason Vargas.
Giants at Pirates, 8:07PM ET, TV: ESPN
The Giants send out Madison Bumgarner and his 18-10, 2.98 ERA to face the Pirates’ Edinson Volquez, who was 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA during the regular season. Bumgarner only faced the Pirates once this season and it was a forgettable outing. On July 28 he gave up five earned runs on six hits in four innings. Volquez (who was briefly a Dodger last season, you may recall) didn’t face the Giants this season, and he’s had minimal success against them over the past few years: he’s winless in nine starts against the Giants since beating them twice in 2008. He’s had a renaissance this season with the Pirates, though.
The Pirates have the second-best home record in all of baseball: they’re 51-30, one back of the Angels’ 52-29. To counter that, the Giants’ Bumgarner has an 11-4 record and a 2.22 ERA in 18 starts away from AT&T Park.
For further discussion of the matchups, I again refer you to Bleacher Report. That’s the same post I linked to yesterday; just scroll down to see the National League discussion.
Athletics vs. Royals, 8:07PM ET, TV: TBS
The As acquired Jon Lester to pitch big games like this one. The Royals did the same with James Shields.
The As were suddenly terrible after the trading deadline in July, and they were 10-16 in September. The Royals weren’t burning up the league either, but they did manage a winning record in the last month, going 15-12.
Bleacher Report has a comprehensive look at the matchups in this game (and the Pirates-Giants game tomorrow).