If you like baseball (you’re reading this, so you probably do), Wednesday evening already looks rather promising. All four of the National League’s remaining playoff teams will square off then in win-or-go-home contests to conclude their thrilling NLDS matchups. The top-seeded Dodgers will take on the Nationals in Los Angeles, while the Braves will host the Cardinals.
To many, a third straight pennant for the perennially dominant Dodgers looked like a foregone conclusion entering the playoffs. But the 106-win club has had its hands full with the Nationals, a 93-69 team that needed a miraculous comeback over the Brewers in the wild-card game just to reach the NLDS. The Dodgers have led this series twice (1-0 and 2-1), but they’ve been unable to stamp out the Nationals, thanks in part to the heroics of Washington co-aces Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. The latter’s slated to take the ball in Game 5 against Walker Buehler, who has supplanted Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw as LA’s most valuable starter. Buehler put forth his latest ace-caliber effort in the Dodgers’ Game 1 win last Thursday, when he fired six scoreless, one-hit innings.
In Atlanta, the Braves will send Mike Foltynewicz to the mound to battle Jack Flaherty, who – like Buehler – has burst on the scene as an elite young arm. Foltynewicz entered the season as one of the Braves’ clear-cut top starters, though it nonetheless may seem hard to believe they’re turning to him with their season on the line. After all, the team did demote the 28-year-old to the minors in late June on the heels of a horrid few months. To his credit, however, Foltynewicz has rebounded since his early August return, and he continued to roll with seven shutout innings during a Game 2 victory over the Flaherty-led Cards. He’ll again contend with a St. Louis offense that has gotten exceptional production from Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna in the series.
The 23-year-old Flaherty will deal with an Atlanta club that has seen outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. continue to stake his claim as one of the sport’s up-and-coming superstars in October. Runs may be hard to come by for Acuna & Co., though, as Flaherty hasn’t yielded more than three in a start since July 2. Dating back to then, Flaherty has given up a ridiculously low 14 earned runs in 113 1/3 innings and 17 starts.
Of course, it would be foolish to only mention the starters who are lined up for these two games. With all four clubs’ seasons on the line, they’ll likely be in all-hands-on-deck mode (or something close to it) as they attempt to reach the final round of the NL playoffs. As is often the case in the postseason, the teams’ bullpens will probably play integral roles in the outcomes. Which clubs do you expect to advance Wednesday?
(Poll link for app users)
(Poll link for app users)