MLB Playoffs on Sling: Indians Take Another Shot at Closing Out Blue Jays, Cubs Hoping to Pull Even With Dodgers
Cleveland Indians (Merritt 1-0, 1.64) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Estrada 9-9, 3.48)
Cleveland leads series 3-1
4pm ET Wednesday on TBS
Josh Donaldson jacked a third-inning home run to left center off Indians ace Corey Kluber to start the scoring Tuesday night, as the Blue Jays went on to score more runs than they had in the first three games of the ALCS combined, finally beating Cleveland 5-1. And so, because Indians manager Terry Francona opted to go with Kluber on short rest while up 3-0, he now must hand the ball to Ryan Merritt up 3-1.
Not since Matt Moore pitched Game 1 of the ALDS in 2011 has someone started a playoff game with fewer innings pitched than Ryan Merritt, who takes the hill tonight with a grand total of 11 Major League frames under his belt. Merritt’s been good, giving up just 2 runs on 6 hits while fanning 6 and walking none, but again, it’s a small sample size. His lone start came on September 30 against the Royals, as he lasted 5 innings, giving up a run on 3 hits.
With the Blue Jays still in must-win mode, they will hand the ball to Marco Estrada, who’s been their best starter during these playoffs, having pitched 8 and a third innings of 1-run ball against the Rangers for a Game 1 win in the ALDS, before throwing 8 innings of 2-run ball in the Jays’ Game 1 loss to the Tribe. Going back to last year’s playoffs, Estrada is 3-2 with a 2.02 ERA in 35 ⅔ innings.
The Indians may have a commanding 3-1 lead in this series, but if they don’t win tonight – and the deck is very much stacked against them, what with the pitching matchup and being in Toronto – this ALCS is gonna be a lot more interesting.
Chicago Cubs (Lackey 11-8, 3.35) vs. Los Angeles Dodger (Urias 5-2, 3.39)
Dodgers leads series 2-1
8pm ET on FS1
The postseason had been unkind to Rich Hill, but last night the veteran lefty got his mojo back, pitching 6 scoreless innings, and getting more than enough offense, including a 3-RBI night from Yasmani Grandal, to give the Dodgers a 6-0 win over the suddenly hapless Cubbies. The Chicago Cubs have now gone 18 innings without scoring a run, and find themselves in an 1-2 hole in the NLCS.
Though he pitched poorly in his last start, John Lackey did help set the stage for one of the great comebacks in playoff history, by giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 4 innings of Game 4 against the Giants, before the Cubs rallied for 4 in the 9th for a 6-5 win to advance to the NLCS. Somehow one has to think Joe Maddon’s hoping for more than that, something more akin to what the veteran big game righty has delivered in his postseason career, a record of 8-5 with a 3.22 ERA. Lackey’s had success against this current crop of Dodgers, holding them to a collective OPS of .564 in 114 plate appearances for his career.
Next to Ryan Merritt, Julio Urias is a seasoned veteran with 77 regular season innings on his resume, as well as a 2-inning relief stint in the postseason. Urias got the win in the deciding Game 5 against the Nationals, pitching shutout innings in the 5th and 6th, before the Dodgers rallied for 4 in the top of the 7th. Urias started twice against the Cubs this season, faring poorly in June with 6 runs on 8 hits – 3 homers – and a walk in 5 innings, and then doing pretty well in August, as he threw 6 shutout innings, giving up 6 hits and fanning 6. Because Urias is so young and has so much upside, the Dodgers have babied him a bit, as he’s yet to go more than 6 innings, so you can expect to see lots more of the Dodgers’ bullpen.
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