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Championship Series Day 2 Preview

NLCS Game 2, ALCS Game 1

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

After a tense and exciting game last night, the Playoffs continue this afternoon with a double header of excitement. The Brewers host the Dodgers for Game 2 of the NLCS, while the Red Sox will kick off the ALCS by hosting the Astros.

Dodgers @ Brewers - 4:09 ET

The Brewers managed to hang on tight to their win last night, as they watched their comfortable lead of 6-1 evaporate into a heart-pounding 6-5 win stranding the tying run at 3B in the top of the 9th. The Dodgers defense was shaky early, allowing extra bases at bad times, but the defense tightened up, and it was the Brewers’ bullpen that looked the weakest over the final 2 innings.

But today is a new day, and new storylines will develop. Kicking things off...

Brewers’ Starter

Left hander Wade Miley heads to the mound for the Brew Crew. After 6 seasons of 30+ starts, Miley only pitched in 16 this season, fighting through an oblique injury for a couple months in the early part of the season. But he came back, and put up a very good season, going 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA. That is a much better showing than what he has done in recent years, especially last season with the Orioles where he had a 5.61 ERA. The biggest difference for Miley this year was the massive reduction in home runs (more than 1 fewer per 9 innings), and a regression back to his normal level of walks, at right around the 3 per 9 mark.

Miley pitched Game 3 of the NLDS against the Rockies, throwing 4.2 shutout innings, falling 1 out short of getting the win. He allowed 3 hits and a walk, getting pulled after going through the order twice very effectively.

Miley faced the Dodgers twice this year, and both times he was very dominant. In the first game, he went 6 innings, allowing just an unearned run on 4 hits and a pair of walks. In the second start, he went 7 shutout innings, allowing a pair of hits and walks. They were arguably his 2 best starts of the year.

Dodgers’ Starter

The Dodgers will counter with NLDS Game 1 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu was swapped with Kershaw to start this series, and judging by the way last night went, we might see Ryu open the World Series if the Dodgers get that far. Ryu was masterful in Game 1 of the NLDS, as he went 7 shutout innings. He allowed just 4 singles while not walking a batter and striking out 8. The Dodgers are looking for that kind of success out of him again tonight, as the more innings they can get out of their starter, the better off they will be.

Ryu had a very good, albeit injury shortened, season in 2018. He went 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA over 15 starts. He struck out more than a batter per inning for the first time in his big league career, while reducing his walk rate to an elite 1.64 per 9 innings, numbers that also showed up in his ALDS dominance.

Other Factors

The Dodgers got to the Brewers invincible bullpen last night, doing relatively well against Cedeño, Soria, Jeffress and Knebel. The two relievers who did have a good game, Woodruff and Hader, will more than likely not be available for this game. So if the Brewers are going to win tonight, they’ll have to do so sending the relievers who struggled last night back out there.

The Dodgers’ defense was the big story early, especially Yasmani Grandal behind the plate, but the poor play wasn’t limited to the veteran catcher as Taylor made an error in LF and Turner made an error at 3B. I don’t expect the defense to be this bad going forward, but if it isn’t significantly better either, the Brewers will take advantage of it.

David Freese started against the lefty last night, and likely will again today. But he was also lifted early in favour of Max Muncy once Gonzalez was out of the game. The announcers made a big deal out of it, but I’m not so sure if there is anything there for a story. But it seemed important, so keep an eye on it I guess.

Astros @ Red Sox - 8:09 ET

The two American League behemoths kick off the ALCS tonight, in what should be a well fought affair. Their combined 211 regular season wins is the second most in any Postseason matchup, behind the 212 from the 1998 World Series between the Yankees and Padres (although that was one of the most boring World Series in recent memory). These 2 teams boast great starting pitching and great hitters. I’m sure it’ll be a fun one, and kicking things off is...

Red Sox Starter

Chris Sale, the Red Sox Ace, gets the ball in Game 1. He had an amazing season, albeit cut a bit short due to injuries in August. In total, he started 27 games, and went 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA. He set a career high in strikeout rate, at 13.50 per 9 innings, also known as half of his outs. He prevented walks at an excellent 1.94 per 9 rate, while allowing home runs at a career best 0.63 per 9. All of this culminated in the best FIP of his career, getting down below 2.00 like an elite NL pitcher, putting up a 1.98 mark (although he did it in a just barely unqualified 158 innings).

Sale faced the Astros just once this year, and got knocked around a little bit. He allowed 4 runs on 6 hits, while walking 1. He allowed a home run to George Springer in that game, and considering it’s the Postseason, Springer will probably do it again.

Astros’ Starter

The Astros counter with an Ace of their own as 35 year old Justin Verlander has re-emerged as one of baseball’s best. In 34 starts this year, he went 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA, posting career bests in strikeouts (12.20 per 9 innings) and walks (1.56 per 9 innings), both the third best marks in all of baseball among qualified pitchers (nobody was better than him in both categories).

Verlander played the Red Sox once this season, earning a no-decision in a quality start. He went 6 solid innings, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and a pair of walks. Nothing really special for Verlander in this game, just a ho-hum dominating experience.

Other Factors

The Red Sox bullpen on paper is considered to be far inferior to the Astros’, and it may very well be their Achilles Heel in a 7 game series. However, the quartet of Barnes, Braiser, Hembree and Kelly threw 9.2 shutout innings against the Yankees, effectively bridging the gap to Kimbrel. But it was Kimbrel who was the shaky one against the Yankees, allowing 3 runs over 2.1 innings.

The Red Sox offense paced the Majors in runs scored this season, averaging 5.41 runs per game. The Astros were a distant 6th, nearly half a run per game less at 4.92 per game.

The Red Sox baserunners ran wild in the regular season, finishing 3rd in all of baseball with 125 stolen bases while being caught just 31 times. However, in anticipation of facing high theft teams like Boston and Cleveland, Houston brought in Martin Maldonado at the trade deadline. Maldonado has a career CS rate of 37.7%, including a very impressive 17 for 35 this year.

George Springer was made for October baseball apparently. He has now hit 7 home runs in his last 7 Postseason games, and is ready to continue destroying the baseball in this series.

Find the Link

Find the link between Miley, Ryu and Verlander, but not Sale.