Must-win home games for the Dodgers and the Giants.
The Nationals moved up 2-1 on the Dodgers with Monday’s decisive 8-3 victory. To celebrate, both teams have decided to make my life a living hell and put off announcing their Game 4 starters until well after my deadline. Seriously, we don’t know which of Best Pitcher in the World Clayton Kershaw or Wunderkind Julio Urias will be taking the ball for Game 4, nor do we know if Dusty Baker will line up Joe Ross or Reynaldo Lopez to face L.A. We don’t know anything, other than that the Dodgers are in the hot seat.
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Gio Gonzalez vs. Kenta Maeda in Los Angeles, Josh Tomlin vs. Clay Buchholz in Boston, and Jake Arrieta vs. Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco.
The first two games of this series have been long and somewhat messy, but they’ve both been close and competitive. The starting pitchers haven’t been so dominant as to choke off the action of the game. Neither game has seemed to get away from either team. The depth of each team, in the lineup and on the mound, has been on display. That’s why this series is tighter than any of the other three Division Series have been through two games. Now both sides will have their depth tested even further, having traveled across the country without a day off, and having used six pitchers apiece on Sunday.
The Prospect Team checks in with a look at the best tool they saw this year.
Javier Guerra, SS, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore): Glove
Guerra’s prospect stock took a hit this year after a tough campaign in the Cal League, but his glove certainly wasn’t the culprit. In my looks Guerra showed as a heads-and-shoulders defender at the six spot, and the class of the league. He leverages lateral agility and quickness to offset notably unimpressive foot speed, and his range is an above-average asset in spite of the fringy speed tool. The hands are exquisitely soft, and the actions are as fluid as they get, highlighted by a quick and controlled transfer from tough body angles on the move. That transfer helps his plus arm strength play up even higher, and solidifies the profile as that of a potentially plus-plus defender at shortstop. —Wilson Karaman
Michael Gettys, OF, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore): Arm
I find that recalibrating my eye and taking in some higher-level minor league or major-league games in person really helps my evaluations for Low-A. It's important to see players at all stages of development and it helps keep the mind sharp. One of the main differences that stands out is what the warm up procedure looks like in the majors versus what it looks like at Low-A. In the majors the throws are crisp, the actions are sharp, and it looks like a polished and finished product. Low-A provides a rawer look at defensive actions and tools, so when a major-league double-plus arm comes across during infield/outfield, it has a tendency to stand out. A lot. Gettys has a special arm, the kind of arm you share videos of on YouTube if you can find a good angle, the kind of arm that makes you twist in your seat in excitement as the complete story of the individual throw, from gather to release to carry to glove to tag, is played out in front of you. It's the kind of arm whose gif or video could end up as a twitter bio one day. It's a damn good arm and it helps complete a profile which, if the hit tool gains he showed throughout the year are real, can be a really fun and special player with power, speed, defensive chops and a damn cannon for an arm. —Mauricio Rubio Jr.
Chicago's pitchers at the plate played unlikely Game 2 stars.
For the observer, to be traded away from a team on the cusp of success after miring for years in their rebuild seems the stuff of Langston Hughes. But we are usually not privy to these private thoughts of baseball players, and it's possible that Jeff Samardzija doesn't care.
Rich Hill vs. Tanner Roark in Washington and Jeff Samardzija vs. Kyle Hendricks in Chicago.
The Nationals, with Tanner Roark taking the mound, look to even the series in Game 2 after their Game 1 comeback came up one run short. Rich Hill, previously disabled by blisters, will take the mound for the Dodgers.
Ben and Sam banter about the Madison Bumgarner-Noah Syndergaard wild-card duel, their favorite types of playoff games, and their favorite playoff rounds, then discuss whether the Dodgers are more dangerous than the Cubs and how to weight postseason performance in Cooperstown candidacies.
Can the Indians overcome their beat-up rotation? Can the Red Sox offense carry them?
This should be a pretty fun series. The Red Sox are up against their old manager, their old “high-leverage specialist” and their old first basemen. The Indians are up against the best offense in baseball and one of the best postseason performers of all time. And also against some very good dances.
There is little nuance in the names we use for baseball’s positions—they describe, simply and directly, either what you do or where you stand. The pitcher pitches; the right fielder is in right field; the shortstop stretches this characterization by being a 19th century adaptation of the cricket term “long stop,” but whatever. The logic is, on the whole, satisfyingly and explicitly clear, and it gives us a language that is specific and deliberate.
But sometimes the circumstances of the game force us to question the foundations of that language’s specificity. To wit—the first baseman covers first base. And yet:
That is one moment of extreme caring in a late-September affair that was full of not caring. The bottom of the fourth inning in last Wednesday’s Cubs-Pirates game, the outcome of which meant nothing to two teams with futures already decided. It was Anthony Rizzo (first baseman playing in to defend against a bunt) and Ben Zobrist (second baseman covering first base for this one play) and Clint Hurdle (maybe a fierce defendant of the rules, maybe a frustrating pedant, definitely someone who cared very much about this play in this moment).
The Wildcard round is in the books. The Division Series loom. And fans of 22 teams sit at home, wondering who they can squint at and see something recognizable as their own. Who are your angels in the outfield? Who’s your ace on the mound? Who will keep the darkness at bay? Don’t worry; we’re here to tell you.
Ben and Sam banter about an aged usher, Buck Showalter's decision not to use Zach Britton in the AL wild-card game, and Barry Bonds, then answer listener emails and talk to Saber Seminar raffle winners Armaan and Ishaan about the Red Sox and whether baseball bores kids.