Cleveland Indians (Tomlin 13-9, 4.40) vs. Boston Red Sox (Buchholz 8-10, 4.78), Cleveland leads series 2-0
6pm ET on TBS
After charging to the A.L. East title on the back of an 11-game winning streak, the Red Sox now find themselves on the brink of being swept by the Indians. First the Tribe got to Sox ace Rick Porcello for 3 home runs en route to a 5-4 win, then Boston’s lineup got strangled by Indians ace Corey Kluber, while the Cleveland lineup jumped on David Price for 6 runs, the big blow being a 3-run shot in the 2nd off the bat of Lonnie Chisenhall.
Josh Tomlin will be making his postseason debut with an eye toward wrapping up the series and advancing the Indians to the American League Championship Series. Tomlin got whacked in 3 consecutive starts at the end of August, giving up 18 runs in 10 ⅓ innings. Since getting banished to the pen for one relief stint, however, Tomlin’s been as good a ever, with a 1.75 ERA over 25 ⅔ innings. Those numbers come with the usual caveat that he benefitted from a .224 BABIP during that span, as well as having given up just one home run – it’s hard for anyone to maintain those numbers, let alone a #3 starter.
And with their season on the line, the Red Sox turn to Clay Buchholz of all people. Buchholz’s career has been a decade-long rollercoaster ride of tantalizing talent and disastrous results. Just this season, he pitched poorly enough to be to sent to the bullpen on three different occasions, but in September went 3-1 with a 3.14 ERA. Buchholz got pounded in two previous starts against Cleveland, giving up 9 runs on 11 hits and 7 walks over 10 innings.
Chicago Cubs (Arrieta 18-8, 3.10) vs. San Francisco Giants (Bumgarner 15-9, 2.74), Chicago leads series 2-0 9:30pm ET on FS1
On Saturday, the Cubs starting pitcher and NL ERA champ Kyle Hendricks drove in a pair of runs in the 2nd inning with a bases-loaded single before getting knocked out of the game by a comebacker, only to have reliever Travis Wood come on to record four outs and hit a solo homer in the 4th inning for the final run in a 5-2 win. Wood’s shot was the first homer by a relief pitcher since Rosy Ryan of the New York Giants in 1924. These Cubs are swimming in pixie dust.
And now, up 2 games to none with a chance to finish off this best-of-5 series, they send to the hill last year’s NL Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta. The first half of 2016 saw Arrieta continue his dominance over opposing batters, as he started the season 12-2 with a 1.74 ERA while allowing an OPS of just .498. But on in the second half, starting with a June 27 game against the Reds, Arrieta struggled, going 7-6 with a 4.44 ERA and an opposing OPS of .665 – still pretty good, but not top-of-the-rotation good. The problem was a drop in his strikeout rate from 9.8/9IP to 7.5, possibly the result of a drop in the usage and effectiveness of his slider, as noted by Jeff Sullivan back in August. Sullivan also noted that Arrieta’s begun to have more trouble with lefties, of which the Giants regularly have five in their lineup.
If there’s a man alive who can stand athwart the freight train that is the Chicago Cubs and scream “Stop!”, it’s Madison Bumgarner, the greatest postseason pitcher of his generation. In his last eight playoff starts, MadBum has gone 63 ⅔ innings with a 0.85 ERA. In fact, Bumgarner has already bested the Cubs twice this season, going 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 13 ⅔ innings over two starts, and for his career he’s 8-2 with a 2.25 ERA against the Cubs. He’s also one of the few pitchers who can outdo the offensive production the Cubs got Saturday from the 9-hole.