David Shovein

Baseball Daily Dose

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Postseason Dose: Well Rested

Saturday, October 6, 2018


Well Rested


Some questioned the decision of Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts to hold back star left-hander Clayton Kershaw for an extra day of rest, rather than throwing him in Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday. I’d say it worked out pretty well.


A day after Hyun-Jin Ryu fired seven shutout innings en route to a Game 1 victory, Kershaw delivered the longest and best postseason start of his career as the Dodgers took Game 2 to capture a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Braves.


It looked like the Braves could have had Kershaw on the ropes early, as Ronald Acuna lined the game’s very first pitch for a leadoff double, then advanced to third with only one out. Kershaw was able to strand him there though, getting Freddie Freeman on a hard ground ball to second base, and freezing Nick Markakis with a called third strike.


From there, he was off and running. That started a string of 14 consecutive hitters that Kershaw would retire until an infield single by Ender Inciarte with two outs in the fifth inning. After that, he would set down 10 more Braves’ hitters in order to end his night, resulting in eight spectacular innings of two-hit, shutout baseball.


Kershaw became just the fourth hurler in postseason history to pitch eight or more innings and allow two or fewer hits without walking a batter. The fact that he only struck out three in the contest doesn’t do justice to just how dominant he was on Friday. He needed only 85 pitches (63 strikes) to navigate through his eight innings.


Roberts sent him back to the hill for the start of the ninth inning, but it was only to give him an extra curtain call, allowing him to walk off to a raucous standing ovation from the Dodgers’ home faithful. Kenley Jansen then came on to work a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the shutout.


With their second straight shutout, the Dodgers joined the 1921 Yankees as the only teams to begin a postseason series without allowing a single run in its first two games. It won’t get any easier for the Braves, as they’ll have to contend with star rookie right-hander Walker Buehler when the series shifts to Atlanta on Sunday.


On the offensive side of the ledger, Manny Machado provided all of the offense that the Dodgers would need with a two-out, two-run blast off of Anibal Sanchez in the first inning. For all of the BvP truthers out there, Machado came into the contest having gone 7-for-15 (.467) with three homers and a double against Sanchez in his career. Yasmani Grandal chipped in with a solo home run in the fifth inning to add an insurance run that wouldn’t be needed.


The Braves will now turn to Kevin Gausman as they look to stave off elimination when the series shifts to SunTrust Park in Atlanta on Sunday night.



Star Power


The Astros began their defense of their World Series title in impressive fashion on Friday, as they slugged four home runs in a decisive 7-2 victory over Corey Kluber and the Indians.


Alex Bregman opened the scoring in the contest with a solo shot off of Kluber in the fourth inning, the fifth postseason home run in 19 career postseason games for the 24-year-old third baseman.


The Astros then added back-to-back homers from George Springer and Jose Altuve in the fifth inning, eventually chasing Kluber from the game. For Springer, it was the fifth straight playoff game in which he has homered, tying former teammate Carlos Beltran for the second longest streak in MLB history.


The Indians’ right-hander has now allowed nine home runs over his last four postseason starts, the most for any pitcher during a four-game stretch in MLB history.


Martin Maldonado tacked on a solo homer off of Cody Allen in the seventh inning, extending the Astros’ lead to 5-2 with their fourth homer of the ballgame. This after the club smashed a World Series’ record 15 home runs as they captured their first championship a season ago.


On the Astros’ side, Justin Verlander continued his postseason dominance with another gem against the Indians. He allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out seven over 5 ⅓ innings of two-run baseball.


He cruised through five shutout innings, before running into trouble and loading the bases with one out in the sixth inning. It’s there that manager A.J. Hinch turned to the bullpen, where Ryan Pressly allowed a run to score on a wild pitch, and a second on a ground out off the bat of Jose Ramirez. That would be the extent of the Tribe’s offense in the ballgame as Pressly, Lance McCullers and Roberto Osuna combined on 3 ⅔ innings of one-hit baseball to close it out.


There’s another outstanding pitcher’s duel on tap for Saturday as Carlos Carrasco will take the ball against Gerrit Cole. Jose Altuve has had a particularly good history against Carrasco, going 10-for-23 (.435) with a homer and three RBI while Josh Reddick is 6-for-12 (.500) with a homer.





Redemption


Brewers right-hander Jeremy Jeffress was saddled with a blown save and ruined a chance at a shutout when he allowed a pair of runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 on Friday. Fortunately for the Brewers, they were still able to come back and win in the 10th inning.


It took less than 24 hours for Jeffress to have his shot at redemption. After five shutout frames from starter Jhoulys Chacin, Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell patched together the sixth and seventh innings with Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria and Josh Hader. After that, he was going to win or lose with his go-to guy.


Jeffress was called upon to protect a 1-0 lead against the heart of the Rockies’ lineup in the eighth inning. He would allow a one-out single to Nolan Arenado, but no further damage in a scoreless frame. The Brewers would tack on three insurance runs during the home half of the eighth, but Counsell would stick with his closer to finish things out. The right-hander would give up a leadoff single to Gerardo Parra, but nothing more as he completed the shutout and gave the Brewers a massive 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.


While the top half of the Brewers’ lineup carried them for the majority of the season, it was the bottom half of the order that did the damage in this one. Back-to-back doubles from Mike Moustakas and Hernan Perez produced the game’s first run in the fifth inning. Moustakas then delivered a run-scoring single in the eighth inning, and veteran backstop Erik Kratz came through with a two-out, two-run single to cap off their offensive output.


Jeffress and the rest of the Brewers’ key bullpen components that have been heavily taxed down the stretch, will now get a much-needed day of rest as the series shifts to Colorado for Sunday’s Game 3. It’s there that the Brewers will look to win their 11th consecutive ballgame and put the final nail in the coffin for the Rockies’ season.


To do so, they’ll need to knock off right-hander German Marquez who will oppose Brewers’ southpaw Wade Miley on Sunday afternoon.




Red Sox Hang On


The Red Sox’ bullpen has been a point of contention for much of the season, as they struggled to maintain a trustworthy bridge from their starting pitchers to lock-down closer Craig Kimbrel.


So naturally, once the bright lights of the postseason began to shine on Friday, that struggle would come to the forefront.


The Red Sox jumped out to an early lead in this one, as J.D. Martinez slugged a three-run homer off of J.A. Happ in the opening inning. The Red Sox extended that advantage with a pair of runs in the third inning, chasing Happ after he recorded only six outs in the ballgame.


At that point, it looked like it would be a rout for the Red Sox. Star southpaw Chris Sale had racked up eight strikeouts over four shutout innings to begin the game and looked invincible with a 5-0 lead.


The Yankees wouldn’t go quietly though. They finally broke through against Sale in the sixth. Aaron Judge led off the inning with a single, then Giancarlo Stanton singled with one-out, prompting Red Sox’ skipper Alex Cora to turn to his bullpen. Ryan Brasier came on and allowed an RBI single to Luke Voit. Didi Gregorius then hustled out a ground ball that the Red Sox were unable to turn two on, hanging a second run on Sale’s line. Brasier then walked Miguel Andujar, bringing the tying run to the plate.


It was there that Cora turned to Brandon Workman to relieve Brasier. He came on and issued a four-pitch walk to free-swinging backstop Gary Sanchez to load the bases, setting the stage for rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres. Torres got himself into a dream 3-1 count before taking a juicy fastball that caught a substantial portion of the plate for a called strike. He then flailed at a breaking ball to end the threat.


The Red Sox weren’t out of the woods though. In the seventh inning, the Yankees came charging back again. Workman allowed back-to-back singles to Andrew McCutchen and Aaron Judge to begin the inning, before turning the ball over to Matt Barnes. Barnes then walked Brett Gardner to load the bases with no one out, and the heart of the Bombers’ lineup coming up.


He battled back though, striking out Giancarlo Stanton. Luke Voit was able to put the ball in play, pushing a third run across on a fielder’s choice to trim the Yankees’ deficit to two. Didi Gregorius then grounded out to end the threat.


With no other trustworthy options to turn to in the eighth inning, Cora called upon Game 3 scheduled starter Rick Porcello to begin the frame. This isn’t the first time that the Red Sox have gone in that direction, as Porcello worked a scoreless eighth inning out of the bullpen during Game 1 of the ALDS a season ago. This couldn’t have been the plan going in though, as Porcello had already thrown 20-25 pitches in his regular side session prior to the game.


The right-hander did a nice job though, retiring the first two hitters he faced before allowing an infield single to Gleyber Torres. He then gave way to closer Craig Kimbrel to get the final four outs. Kimbrel got out of the eighth just fine, but served up a leadoff homer to Aaron Judge to begin the ninth, cutting the lead to one. One of the game’s best closers though, Kimbrel roared back to strike out Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit in succession to put the game away.


These two teams will meet again on Saturday as David Price will do battle against Masahiro  Tanaka. Gary Sanchez had owned Price in his career, going 6-for-13 (.462) with five homers and 11 RBI. Luke Voit also has a nice history against the Red Sox’ southpaw, albeit in a much more limited sample, going 3-for-5 with a pair of homers. On the other side, J.D. Martinez is 8-for-18 (.444) with three homers and eight RBI against Tanaka while Andrew Benintendi  is 8-for-24 (.333) with a pair of long balls.





American League Quick Hits: Aaron Hicks was forced to leave Friday’s game in the fifth inning due to right hamstring tightness. It’s an issue that plagued HIcks over the final few weeks of the regular season as well and could call his availability for the remainder of the postseason into question. He’ll undergo an MRI on Saturday to determine the severity of the injury. If the Yankees are forced to replace him on their roster for the ALDS, he would not be eligible to return for the ALCS should the Bombers’ advance… Red Sox’ right-hander Steven Wright was unavailable out of the Red Sox’ bullpen on Friday after complaining of right knee soreness. He underwent an MRI on Friday, the results of which are not yet known… Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that Clint Frazier (concussion) is at home resting and has seen significant improvement. It doesn’t seem as though he has progressed to the point where he could be called upon to replace Aaron Hicks on the postseason roster if needed though… Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone announced that Luis Severino will start Game 3 of the ALDS against the Red Sox while CC Sabathia will start Game 4 if necessary… Athletics’ pitching prospect Grant Holmes has been shut down and will have his right shoulder examined after he experienced renewed soreness… The Blue Jays officially acquired Julian Merryweather from the Indians to complete the Josh Donaldson trade. Jon Berti was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster…


National League Quick Hits: Braves’ manager Brian Snitker confirmed that Kevin Gausman will start Game 3 for the Braves on Sunday, as they attempt to stave off elimination as the series shifts to Atlanta… The Rockies announced that German Marquez will start a must-win Game 3 of the NLDS against the Brewers, while Kyle Freeland will get the ball in Game 4 if the Rockies are able to force one… MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reports that the Mets reached out to the Twins for permission to speak with Thad Levine about their general manager job, but Levine declined to be interviewed… The Cardinals announced that Paul DeJong had surgery this week to remove the plate from his previously fractured left hand. They also announced that Kolten Wong will not require surgery on his ailing left knee.



Dave Shovein is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveShovein.
Email :David Shovein



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