Four takeaways from four Division Series games


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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 awaits 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 the maximum 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.

Take nothing 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 4-0 win. of 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 played 5 inning but allowed just one run – Justin Turner’s solo homerun, the Dodgers’ only extra-base hit until Taylor exited 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 said he would start Game 2 at center, 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 really on the ropes.

savior of the Red Sox

If it hadn’t been invented by an advertising agency to sell auto insurance, “Life Comes To You Quickly” 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 allowed 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 Red Sox victory that tied the game. 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. So in two essentially winning games, that’s 10 innings pitched, two hits, 13 strikeouts and no walks.

The aggressiveness of Red Sox manager Alex Cora in October paid huge dividends in 2018, in the way he deployed his enclosure. He ignored Sale’s track record by quickly hooking him into both Game 162 and Game 2 of the ALDS.

This decision 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’ uncanny 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 squad attrition were exposed in their XX-X loss to the Boston 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 unleashed 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 ⅓ 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 newbies 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, savior of the season 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 homer to the right, delivering the Brewers’ lone goal.

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.

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