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Monday ALCS/NLCS game thread

The Dodgers and Braves, both undefeated in October, square off in the NLCS, while the Rays try to take a 2-0 series lead over the Astros.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve got double-barrel action in the MLB playoffs today as the ALCS continues and the NLCS gets underway. Join us here for the action!

Today’s schedule:

ALCS: Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays, Game 2 (Rays lead, 1-0)

4:07 PM, TBS

The Astros are undoubtedly the villains of this year’s Championship Series, so it was nice to see them come up short in Game 1 last night, 2-1. The Astros, who had scored five or more runs in all four of their Division Series games against Oakland, managed only a Jose Altuve first-inning homer before the Rays shut them down. Today they’ll take on former teammate Charlie Morton, the 36-year-old righty who had an unimpressive 2020 regular season — a 4.74 ERA in nine starts — but pitched well in his first postseason start this year, holding the Yankees to one run in five innings in the ALDS. He also pitched well in his one career postseason start against the Astros, giving up just one run in five innings in last year’s ALDS. Altuve has two career homers against Morton.

He’ll be opposed by 27-year-old right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who was the opposite of Morton in that he pitched well in the regular season (3.93 ERA in 11 starts) but struggled in his first postseason start, giving up four runs in four innings to the Athletics. Current Rays hitters have only five hits in 34 career plate appearances versus McCullers.

NLCS: Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers, Game 1

8:08 PM, FOX

The NLCS kicks off with two teams that have run roughshod through the playoffs this year. The Braves and Dodgers each swept their first two postseason rounds — the former over the Reds and Marlins, the latter against the Brewers and Padres — and are a combined 10-0 this October. Tonight, something has to give.

Neither of tonight’s starters, Max Fried and Walker Buehler, has lost a game this year, either. Fried was a perfect 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 11 starts, the undisputed ace of an injury-ravaged Braves staff. The 26-year-old lefty followed that up with seven scoreless innings against the Reds in Game 1 of the Wild Card series, but stumbled with four runs in four innings against the Marlins in the next round. The last time he faced the Dodgers in the playoffs, he was working in relief in the 2018 NLDS; he pitched all four games of the series, with a Max Muncy homer his only blemish.

Buehler, coming off an All-Star 2019 campaign, averaged less than five innings per start during the 2020 regular season as he battled blister problems, then worked four innings apiece in his first two postseason starts this year. The righty, 26, will be making his ninth career postseason start and second against the Braves, who tagged him for five runs in five innings in the 2018 NLDS.

I’m not strongly invested in who wins this series, although I find the Braves a much more tolerable team to cheer for when there’s no fans in the stands and thus no Tomahawk Chop. Plus they’ve got former Orioles Nick Markakis and Darren O’Day, who are both seeking their first championship ring.