Beckett and Kazmir will both need to summon their powers and perform beyond recent levels.
Matchup: Red Sox (95-67) at Rays (97-65), 8:07 p.m. ET, TBS Probable Starters: Josh Beckett (174 1/3IP, 4.13 RA, 1.19 WHIP, 172 K) vs. Scott Kazmir (152 1/3, 3.60, 1.27, 166) Pythagorean Record: Boston, 95-67 (845 RS, 694 RA); Tampa Bay, 92-70 (774 RS, 671 RA) Hit List Rankings: Boston, #1; Tampa Bay, #3 Series Favorite: Red Sox, 72.0% Prospectus: During the regular season, Tampa Bay was 8-0 against Boston in games decided by one or two runs, and the home team in the series won 15 of the 18 games. The Red Sox bucked both of those trends in yesterday's 2-0 decision under the catwalks, starting off this ALCS battle between the two best teams in baseball (per third-order winning percentage) with a tense and well-pitched victory.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
The Dodgers need to knock Myers off his horse and keep the Phillies from hanging Chad.
Matchup: Dodgers (84-78) at Phillies (92-70), 4:35 p.m. ET, FOX Probable Starters: Chad Billingsley (200 2/3IP, 3.41 RA, 1.34 WHIP, 201 K) vs. Brett Myers (190, 4.88, 1.38, 163) Pythagorean Record: Los Angeles, 87-75 (700 RS, 648 RA); Philadelphia, 93-69 (799 RS, 680 RA) Hit List Rankings: Los Angeles, #11; Philadelphia, #5 Series Favorite: Phillies, 60.1% Prospectus: Derek Lowe had given up two home runs in a start just once this year entering yesterday's Game One, but the Phillies smacked a pair against him, accounting for all of their scoring in a 3-2 victory to open what should be an outstanding NLCS. Philadelphia has scored eight runs in the last two playoff games, all of them on the long ball. That is a continuation of the combustion-fueled offense that the NL leader in homers lived by all season, as discussed by Jay Jaffe in his comprehensive series preview. Chase Utley provided the biggest blow of the game, pulling a ball over the right-field wall for a two-run shot that tied the score in the sixth. Utley went through a period of 27 games from late August to late September without a home run (equaling the longest stretch of his career), and intensifying speculation that he is not completely healthy, but he hit two in Philly's last six games of the year before adding another yesterday.
The Rays will try running the ChiSox out of the playoffs, and Lester and Lackey go at it again at Fenway.
Matchup: Rays (97-65) at White Sox (89-74), 4:05 p.m. CT, TBS Probable Starters: Andy Sonnanstine (193 1/3IP, 4.89 RA, 1.29 WHIP, 124 K) vs. Gavin Floyd (206 1/3, 4.67, 1.26, 145) Pythagorean Record: Tampa Bay, 92-70 (774 RS, 671 RA); Chicago, 89-74 (811 RS, 729 RA) Hit List Rankings: Tampa Bay, #3; Chicago, #10 Series Favorite: Rays, 76.2% (Up 2-1) Prospectus: With a win yesterday, the White Sox kept Chicago from being swept clean out of the playoffs in both leagues, salvaging some pride in the Second City. The victory was Chicago's third straight at home when a loss meant certain elimination, after the Sox beat the Tigers in last Monday's makeup game and then the Twins in Tuesday's one-game playoff for the division title. Floyd pitched well in that game against Detroit, giving up one earned run in six innings to pick up his team-leading 17th win of the season. This will be his first career outing against the Rays. Sonnanstine pitched the best game of his career against the White Sox back on April 19, a complete-game three-hit shutout at Tropicana Field, but did not fare as well in his next two outings versus Chicago, giving up 19 hits and seven runs combined in 12 innings.
Three teams try to stave off elimination, but the Brewers could knot up their LDS with a home win today.
Matchup: Phillies (92-70) at Brewers (90-72), 12:07 p.m. CT, TBS Probable Starters: Joe Blanton (197 2/3IP, 5.01 RA, 1.40 WHIP, 111 K) vs. Jeff Suppan (177 2/3, 5.57, 1.54, 90) Pythagorean Record: Philadelphia, 93-69 (799 RS, 680 RA); Milwaukee, 87-75 (750 RS, 689 RA) Hit List Rankings: Philadelphia, #5; Milwaukee, #9 Series Favorite: Phillies, 69.3% (Up 2-1) Prospectus: The Brewers got their first postseason win since 1982 yesterday, extending the series and forcing each team to throw its weakest starting pitcher this afternoon in what could end up being a Miller Park slugfest. Suppan was dreadful in September, giving up 16 runs in 16 innings over four starts, which included a six-run, 3 2/3-inning beating at the hands of the Phillies on September 14. The veteran right-hander has struggled more against the Phils than any other NL squad over the years, with a RA near 7.50 in 12 career starts, and has had particular difficulty with Pat Burrell (9-for-21 lifetime with three homers) and Chase Utley (9-for-19 with one bomb). Suppan will try to channel his success from the 2006 NLCS, when he was named the series MVP after giving up just a lone run in 15 innings. His last elimination-game start was in Game Seven of that NLCS, when he turned in the outing of his life, holding the Mets to one run in seven innings to help St. Louis pull out a 3-1 pennant-clinching win. Blanton meanwhile will be making his first-ever postseason start. He pitched effectively in his only career start versus Milwaukee this year, giving up three runs in seven innings at home in mid-September.
The Cubs and Brewers may be facing the final chapters in their hero's journey, as Philly and LA both go for sweeps.
Matchup: Phillies (92-70) at Brewers (90-72), 5:35 p.m. CT, TBS Probable Starters: Jamie Moyer (196 1/3IP, 3.90 RA, 1.33 WHIP, 123 K) vs. David Bush (185, 4.48, 1.14, 109) Pythagorean Record: Philadelphia, 93-69 (799 RS, 680 RA); Milwaukee, 87-75 (750 RS, 689 RA) Hit List Rankings: Philadelphia, #5; Milwaukee, #9 Series Favorite: Phillies, 82.4% (Up 2-0) Prospectus: Fifty-four teams have gone down 0-2 in best-of-five series prior to this year, and seven of those have come back to win the next three games—just 13 percent. Brewers manager Dale Sveum has been in a similar position before, as he was the third-base coach of the 2004 Red Sox, who of course beat much worse odds to turn around a three-games-to-none deficit in the ALCS. Sveum will entrust the ball tonight to Bush, who faces a stiff challenge in getting his club on the comeback trail, as he is a pitcher prone to giving up home runs (29 this year, or 1.4 HR/9) going up against the National League's best homer-hitting club. Bush gave up four long balls in his two starts against Philly this year, three of them in an April outing at Miller Park.
The upstart Rays look to put the White Sox even deeper in the hole, while the Angels try to break an increasing streak of desperate failure.
Matchup: White Sox (89-74) at Rays (97-65), 6:07 p.m. ET, TBS Probable Starters: Mark Buehrle (218 2/3IP, 4.36 RA, 1.34 WHIP, 140 K) vs. Scott Kazmir (152 1/3, 3.60, 1.27, 166) Pythagorean Record: Chicago, 89-74 (811 RS, 729 RA); Tampa Bay, 92-70 (774 RS, 671 RA) Hit List Rankings: Chicago, #10; Tampa Bay, #3 Series Favorite: Rays, 69.2% Prospectus: The Rays got the win in their first-ever playoff game yesterday, in large part thanks to a pair of homers from their first-year third baseman. Evan Longoria added to his burgeoning rookie ledger by becoming the second player to homer in his first two post-season at-bats, joining another third baseman, Gary Gaetti, who did so for the Twins in 1987. Longoria also picked up an RBI single, making him the fourth player to collect at least nine total bases and three RBI in his post-season debut, along with Ted Kluszewski, Ken Griffey Jr., and Todd Walker. Longoria also stole a bag, and the Rays will likely stay active on the basepaths against a Chicago team inept at holding runners.
Can the Brewers and Cubs rally from losing their NLDS openers?
Matchup: Brewers (90-72) at Phillies (92-70), 6:05 p.m. ET, TBS Probable Starters: CC Sabathia (253 IP, 3.02 RA, 1.12 WHIP, 251 K) vs. Brett Myers (190, 4.88, 1.38, 163) Pythagorean Record: Milwaukee, 87-75 (750 RS, 689 RA); Philadelphia, 93-69 (799 RS, 680 RA) Final Hit List Rankings: Milwaukee, #9; Philadelphia, #5 Series Favorite: Phillies, 65.4% Prospectus: Sabathia will make his fourth consecutive start on three days of rest tonight. Before the 6'7" left-hander's late-September heroics, no pitcher had thrown three straight regular-season starts on short rest since Esteban Loaiza and Danny Graves did so back in 2003. Since 1990, there have been only five pitchers to go on three days' rest four times in a row during the regular season-Dave Stewart in 1991, Randy Johnson, Chris Bosio, and Salomon Torres (now Milwaukee's closer) in 1995, and Graves in '03-so there is not much recent precedent at all for what Sabathia has been asked to do. At some point, all the extra work might wear him down, but there's been no indication that has been the case, for thus far the big man has thrived while carrying his teammates. Sabathia's last two outings have been overpowering: he beat Pittsburgh with a one-run, seven-inning performance with 11 Ks on September 24, and then held the Cubs to an unearned run in a complete-game two-hit effort to clinch the wild-card spot for Milwaukee on Sunday. Sabathia threw 122 pitches in that game, his major league-leading fifth Category 4 start of the season, and pushed his yearly innings total to 253, more than any pitcher has thrown since Livan Hernandez tossed 255 in 2004. There will be a great deal of pressure on Sabathia tonight, not just because he is the ace and expected to pitch the Brewers out of a 1-0 hole in the short series, but also because of how he performed in October last year, when his ERA was right around 9.00 in three playoff starts for Cleveland.
The clash of the Twins and White Sox determines who should stay and who should go now.
Matchup: Twins (88-74) at White Sox (88-74), 6:35 p.m. CT, TBS Probable Starters: Nick Blackburn (187 IP, 4.86 RA, 1.37 WHIP, 93 K) vs. John Danks (187, 3.56, 1.25, 155) Pythagorean Record: Minnesota, 89-73 (829 RS, 744 RA); Chicago, 89-73 (810 RS, 729 RA) Hit List Rankings: Minnesota, #12; Chicago, #7 Prospectus: Thanks to Alexei Ramirez's major league rookie-record fourth grand slam of the season yesterday, the White Sox and Twins will play a 163rd regular-season game tonight at the Cell to determine the AL Central champion. For the fourth straight game, the Sox will be starting a pitcher on three days' rest. It didn't work out with Javier Vazquez on Saturday, but Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd both turned in excellent outings to keep Chicago in the hunt. Danks has never before pitched on short rest in his two major league seasons, but he did throw only 80 pitches his last time out, when he was shelled by the Indians for seven runs in four innings on Friday night. The worst start of the season for Danks came against Minnesota back on April 9 (he allowed seven runs in less than three innings), and for the season he has given up 18 runs in 19 1/3 innings to the Twins across four starts. Blackburn has faced the White Sox five times already, most recently just last Wednesday, when he earned the victory in a game Minnesota won 3-2. That start came after he had allowed six runs in back-to-back outings, a rough patch which may be related to the fact that Blackburn is in uncharted territory in terms of innings,; the 160 1/3 he threw last season was his previous career high.
For the White Sox it's do or die versus a Tigers team trying to avoid finishing last.
Matchup: Tigers (74-87) at White Sox (87-74), 1:05 p.m. CT, WGN Probable Starters: Freddy Garcia (58 IP, 6.05 RA, 1.60 WHIP, 50 K-2007) vs. Gavin Floyd (200 1/3, 4.72, 1.26, 137) Pythagorean Record: Detroit, 78-83 (819 RS, 849 RA); Chicago, 88-73 (802 RS, 727 RA) Hit
List Rankings: Detroit, #17; Chicago, #7 Prospectus: Mark Buehrle helped keep the Sox alive yesterday, beating the Indians 5-1 to snap the team's five-game losing streak, and this afternoon Chicago will host Detroit in a makeup game from a rainout earlier this month to finish up their regular season. Because Minnesota also won its game on Sunday, a victory today would send the Pale Hose to a one-game playoff at U.S. Cellular against the Twins on Tuesday for the AL Central; a loss and Chicago's playoff odds will have fallen from 87.8 percent on September 20 down to zero. Ozzie Guillen is giving the ball to Floyd on three days' rest; he was knocked around by Minnesota for four runs in 5 2/3 innings last Thursday, a game in which he threw 101 pitches. This will be the second time in three starts that Floyd goes on short rest-he also received just three days off in between beating the Yankees on September 16 and giving up five runs over 6 1/3 innings in a loss to Kansas City on September 20. (He is 0-1 with a 7.56 RA in three career starts on short rest.) Floyd no-hit the Tigers for 7 1/3 innings way back on April 12. Both of his first two starts of the season resulted in wins against Detroit, but in two starts versus the Tigers since then he has allowed nine runs in 10 innings.