After Saturday’s NLDS games, we have played two games in each of the four MLB Division Series contests.
Three of the teams now can’t afford another loss.
Red Sox need to rally
The first two games of the Boston-Houston series have been early starts. That’s been a blessing for UK-based Astros fans and a curse for Red Sox followers.
Boston are 2-0 down and have been comprehensively outplayed at Minute Maid Park. The pitching’s not been there as hoped, the batting line-up hasn’t fired and they’ve even dished-up some fielding miscues, such as the bizarre ‘where’s the ball gone’ non-throw by the normally excellent Mookie Betts in Game Two.
You have to be at your best when competing against this Astros lineup and in both games Houston have jumped out ahead in the early going to put the Red Sox in trouble immediately. Even when they were able to level it at 2-2 in the top of the fourth in Game One, the Astros hit back straight away with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Houston couldn’t have hoped for better from the first two games, whilst Boston will need to rely on the switch to Fenway Park to help start a comeback. It sums up the Red Sox’s season that their must-win Game Three starter is Doug Fister.
Yankees hoping for a Bronx bounce
The Red Sox’s bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, are in the same predicament in the other ALDS as their series moves to the Bronx with Cleveland winning the first two games at home.
If Boston can bemoan how they’ve been outplayed to be 0-2, the Yankees can be similarly downcast based on the knowledge that they should have been heading home with a 1-1 split.
An 8-3 lead was chucked away and whilst attention inevitably will fall on the two replay review situations that contributed to the deafeat – Joe Girardi not checking the hit-by-pitch that lead on to Francisco Lindor’s grand slam, and Ronald Torreyes being picked-off at second base after a review in the eleventh inning – they were linked to more traditional mistakes (poor subsequent pitch to Lindor, Torreyes straying at all when in scoring position with no outs) so that technology can’t take the blame.
Cleveland can look at Game Two and brush off Corey Kluber’s poor performance. When your ace gets hit around, you trail 8-3 and still end up coming back to win in extra innings, you’ve got every right to have confidence that whatever else this post-season throws at them they can find a way to deal with it.
Confidence is also flowing for the team that won the most games during the regular season. The Los Angeles Dodgers followed the leads of Houston and Cleveland by winning the first two games of their series at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The D-Backs gave them a fright in Game Two on Saturday night, firstly with Paul Goldschmidt launching a two-run homer in the first inning off Rich Hill and secondly when the battle of the Brandons was won by Arizona’s Drury hitting a three-run homer off the Dodgers’ Morrow (the first homer he had given up in 2017) in the seventh inning. The latter brought Arizona back into the game at 7-5 down, but the Dodgers tacked on another run in the bottom of the frame and Kenley Jansen pitched 1.2 innings to shut the game down.
Game Three takes place on Monday night and will see Zack Greinke taking the mound against his former team. The Dodgers reportedly thought that they had a deal to bring Greinke back when he hit the free agency market in the 2015/16 off-season, only for the D-Backs’ owners to jump in and slap a six-year, $206.5m contract on the table that unsurprisingly diverted Greinke’s attention their way.
He will be determined to ensure that even if the Dodgers do make it through, they have to do it the hard way rather than via a three-game sweep.
All to play for between the Cubs and Nationals
The one series we know won’t end in quick order is the other NLDS between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs.
It looked like the Cubs were going to fly out of Washington with a 2-0 lead; however Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmermann completely changed the complexion of the series in the eighth inning of Game Two on Saturday, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 lead.
When you factor in that the series is now heading to Wrigley Field, and the Nationals’ much-discussed Division Series woes (their three play-off appearances over the past five seasons prior to this have all resulted in a DS defeat), Washington’s eighth-inning rally was as important as they come. They simply couldn’t afford to lose the first two games at home.
What’s to come?
The odds are that at least one of the 2-0 series will end thanks to the result of Game Three. Based on what we’ve seen so far, the most likely opponent to fall victim to a sweep is the Boston Red Sox and they are first up on Sunday with a 19.30 BST start.
However, it would be just like this MLB season for the Red Sox to rally and show that – once again – we should expect the unexpected.