Playoff Recap – 10/13

A hit-stealing scandal rocks the Astros.

The championship series rolled along on Tuesday night, much to the dismay of the Astros and Dodgers. Let’s see what went down… and what didn’t.

 

Braves 8, Dodgers 7

 

If all you’re seeing is the score, you probably think this was a much closer game than it was. But there are plenty of small victories here for the Dodgers. Of course, now down 2-0, those little victories only have so much more time to add up into actual wins.

This one started with Clayton Kershaw being scratched because of his balky back. They’re saying he’s going to be ready to start Game 4, and he better be. The Dodgers have dwindled away any margin for error they might have had in this series, and they’ll need Kershaw to be at his best when he does return.

In the meantime, they need their offense to get started sooner. The Dodgers trailed 7-0 in the 7th inning before Corey Seager finally put them on the board.

Ozzie Albies added a ninth-inning home run for the second consecutive game. When the Dodgers came to the plate for last bats in the ninth, they trailed 8-3.

Still, remember those small victories I mentioned? Getting Mark Melancon into the game was one of them. The Dodgers hammered Josh Tomlin, including from Max Muncy a – in the parlance of one Mr. Pedro Martinez – ding dong Johnson:

Cody Bellinger would triple off Melancon to put the tying run on third base, but the Braves closer retired AJ Pollock on a grounder to end the ballgame. The Dodgers will send Julio Urias to the hill with their season suddenly in deep trouble.

As for the Braves, I mean what else is there to say but this:

Ian Anderson.

He only went four innings in this game, but that’s an amazing feat for the rookie. Not only is he throwing blanks at the biggest time of the year, but he’s doing it for the team that needed it most. The Braves pitching staff was completely decimated, to the point where we still don’t know who’s going to start Game 4. And yet, even with a giant question mark set to face off against the greatest pitcher of this generation in game four, the Braves are sitting pretty — largely because of Ian Friggin’ Anderson.

Credit the offense as well. “MVFree” Freddie Freeman continues to get the biggest hits in the biggest moments, as he kicked off the game’s scoring for the second consecutive night with a home run, this one coming with a man on against Dodgers’ emergency starter Tony Gonsolin. Albies also came through with a three-hit night, while rookie Cristian Pache notched his first postseason RBI with a double to drive in a run that sparked a four-run frame in the fifth.

Let’s not forget the Death Star, Tyler Matzek. The Braves’ secret weapon pitched a perfect fifth inning to get the win. Nor Chris Martin, who Coldplay’ed the eighth inning after a couple Braves relievers combined to allow the Dodgers back into the game.

Late rally aside, everything has gone the Braves way so far this series. Now their task turns to stealing one non-Max Fried/Anderson game. I’m not about to bet against them.

Braves 2, Dodgers 0

 

Rays 5, Astros 2

 

Relish this moment because we don’t get to say it that often: Tuesday’s Game 2 was all about outfield defense.

Hell yeah.

If there’s a more “Rays” way to win a game — or a series— I don’t know it. Kevin Kiermaier was at his absolute finest, not only stealing a home run, but making an incredible diving catch to strand the bases loaded in the third:

Kiermaier eventually left the game after taking a pitch off the hand, but X-rays were negative and it seems he’ll be able to return. Now leading the series 3-0, they could give him a day off just to be cautious. His heroics didn’t even get the most play on Tuesday evening. That would be his replacement, Hunter Renfroe, who came in to play right field, and, well, he played right field like a fiddle.

The above had just a 20% catch probability, but it was actually the less impactful of a pair of stellar defensive plays from Renfroe, who also charged in to steal a potential bloop hit with the bases loaded. He even popped up fast enough to keep the runner from tagging.

For three games now, the Astros have hit the ball hard, and no matter where it goes, there is a Ray to steal that hit.

Controversy? Not this time for Houston. This thievery is legal.

Joey Wendle and Willy Adames have been great on the left side of the infield. We already know about Manuel Margot‘s heroics in right. His ability to slide over to centerfield in Kiermaier’s absence is no less important. Mike Zunino has called great games behind the plate, and his bat has come alive this postseason.

The pitching for the Rays has been equally impressive. Ryan Yarbrough gave them a fine outing, going five innings and giving up just two runs. The bullpen locked it down the rest of the way with five pitchers combining for four scoreless innings. Ryan Thompson got in a bit of trouble in the eighth, but he got the biggest out of the night by throwing this water balloon at Alex Bregman.

Aaron Loup got the final two outs of the inning, while Diego Castillo made it look easy in the ninth. The Rays boast a talented and varied pitching staff, plus an absolutely elite group of defenders. They have no weakness right now.

The Astros, simply, have no wins.

Rays 3, Astros 0

TC Zencka

TC Zencka contributes regularly to Pitcher List, and MLB Trade Rumors. Come say hi on Twitter.

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