Baseball’s crackling playoff schedule yields more action as Tuesday provides the second of this week’s league championship series doubleheaders in the 2020 MLB playoffs.
The action starts with Game 2 of the National League Championship Series after the two teams saw their starting pitchers shut down two high-powered offenses Monday, only to witness the Braves bust out against the L.A. bullpen to grab a 1-0 series lead. The nightcap is Game 3 of the Rays-Astros American League Championship Series, with Houston already behind 2-0 and hoping to get in the win column before Tampa Bay can break out the brooms.
Here’s a breakdown of the games, some numbers to know, a hot take of the day and more as you prep for Tuesday’s twin bill.
Key links: Power Rankings | Predictions | Schedule, bracket | Playoff Baseball Classic
What’s on tap
All times Eastern; all series best-of-seven played at neutral sites
Game 2: No. 2 Atlanta Braves (Ian Anderson) vs. No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw), 6:05 p.m. in Arlington, Texas
Clayton Kershaw makes his 28th career postseason start while Braves rookie Ian Anderson makes his third. Anderson didn’t allow a run in his first two, with 11⅔ scoreless innings and just five hits allowed against the Reds and Marlins. Of course, the Dodgers’ offense will be a much tougher test. It will be fascinating to see the Dodgers’ approach as Anderson has three plus pitches, including a changeup batters have hit .079 against (including the postseason). He throws it a lot to right-handed batters, which helps his sinking fastball play up.
The big story with Kershaw this year is that he regained some velocity on his fastball (90.3 mph average to 91.6). He is somewhat vulnerable to the home run, and allowed two in his previous start, against the Padres. If the Braves are to get to him, it will likely be a couple long balls in a tough home run park in Arlington. — David Schoenfield
Game 3: No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays (Ryan Yarbrough) vs. No. 6 Houston Astros (Jose Urquidy), 8:40 p.m. in San Diego
The Rays become the visiting team for Game 3 and will go with lefty Ryan Yarbrough, and not go with an opener like they did for Yarbrough’s game against the Yankees in the division series, when he allowed two runs over five innings as the long man out of the bullpen. The Tampa Bay pen is in pretty good shape. Nick Anderson, after a day off in Game 1, threw 18 pitches in getting a shaky save in Game 2. Pete Fairbanks pitched two innings in Game 2 but threw just 20 pitches. Diego Castillo got the game off, so Rays manager Kevin Cash should have all three of his top relievers available if needed.
Alex Bregman is key for the Astros. He went 0-for-5 in Game 2, but it was a great 0-for-5: He hit all five balls at 98 mph or higher. Maybe he just needs to hit one or two over the fence. — Schoenfield
Updated odds for every series
Based on projections of ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle
Astros-Rays: Rays 63.4% to advance
Braves-Dodgers: Dodgers 71.6% to advance
Running World Series odds
NL: Dodgers 54.8%, Braves 15.0%
AL: Rays 21.3%, Astros 8.9%
Hot take of the day
Now, the easy Hot Take here would be to declare the Astros dead. After all, the team that leads 2-0 in a best-of-seven series has won 85% of the time (72-13). So the Astros have a 15% chance to come back and win the series. That means they are not dead!
The best sign is that the Astros have run into some bad luck in the first two games, with several balls hit right at the Rays. A hard-hit ball is classified as 95 mph or higher, and the Astros had 16 in Game 2 compared to eight for the Rays. In Game 1, they had nine compared to four for the Rays. “You just know that we keep hitting the ball like that we’re gonna get some breaks and we’re gonna get a lot of them,” manager Dusty Baker said after Game 2. Indeed, the Astros are due. They take Game 3. — Schoenfield
Stat of the day
Sarah Langs of MLB.com noted that Dodgers Game 1 starting pitcher Walker Buehler has now had at least seven strikeouts in each of his nine career postseason appearances. That’s tied with Randy Johnson (1997-2001) for the longest streak of postseason appearances with at least seven K’s in MLB history.
About last night …
Thanks to Charlie Morton and four relievers, the Rays stymied Astro bats a second time to expand their ALCS lead to 2-0. Key to the victory on the offensive side was Manuel Margot, whose three-run home run keyed a 4-2 victory. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve committed two throwing errors, one of which set up Margot’s blast; postgame, Astros manager Dusty Baker talked about how Altuve needs to avoid a case of the yips.
In the nightcap, the Dodgers and Braves had a nice little pitching duel going on, tied 1-1 going into the eighth inning before Atlanta’s potent offense busted out for four runs, starting with Austin Riley’s home run, to romp to a 5-1 victory.
Social media post of the day
Best moment of the MLB playoffs to date
The stage was set for another Fernando Tatis Jr. moment, but Cody Bellinger snatched it away. Bellinger’s home run robbery, plucking what would have been a go-ahead shot by Tatis in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the National League Division Series, kept the Padres at bay — barely — and will take its place in Dodgers lore, particularly if L.A. wins it all.
The running MLB playoffs MVP
The Astros’ offensive juggernaut has been in high gear, and the leader of the pack is Carlos Correa, who hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the division series clincher against the A’s. Through six games, the numbers are staggering: 11-for-26, five home runs, 13 RBIs, a 1.559 OPS. Correa’s 11 RBIs against Oakland is tied for the most by a shortstop in any series in postseason history (matching Boston’s Nomar Garciaparra, 1998 LDS vs. Cleveland), and his five homers is one shy of tying the single-postseason record for a shortstop (Rich Aurilia hit six in 2002).
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