These playoffs have been weird, huh? For my money, I’ll be glad never to see another best-of-three series in the MLB again. It’s just too quick—it feels like a sucker punch.
Another thing—if you like upsets and big-market behemoths getting their comeuppance, this has not been not a playoff season for you. The Rays, Yankees, and the Dodgers skated into the division series easily, with three teams knocked out on Wednesday: the Twins (poor Twins), the Blue Jays (heh), and the Indians (sad face). Yesterday, three more bit the dust: the Brewers, the White Sox, and the Reds. Brutal.
The AL half of the bracket is already sewn up, but two spots in the NLDS remain open, and these four teams are playing for all the marbles today. So, from a crazy high of eight games on Wednesday, we’re down to a more-manageable two today, starting at 2 pm ET.
There’s three things about this Marlins team that’s made me lean Cubs in this series. One, after missing a week due to a Covid-19 outbreak brought on by their clubhouse’s own carelessness, they retooled their roster and somehow swept the Orioles in four games in August. It was embarrassing and infuriating. That alone would do it for me, but then there’s also the fact that their CEO is Derek Jeter. Plus, as Mark Brown mentioned a couple of days ago, in both of the years that the Marlins made the playoffs (1997 and 2003), they won it all. You’re telling an Orioles fan that a 1993 expansion team has won two World Series and never lost a playoff series? Fuhgeddaboutit. Go Cubs.
Oh, yeah, the matchup. The Cubs are going with the veteran breaking baller Yu Darvish, who’s become kind of an ace in his time with Chicago, with a 2.40 ERA and 211 strikeouts and 21 walks since the second half of 2019. Darvish does not have a great postseason track record, though, as Orioles fans might remember. His postseason ERA is 5.81 in six games. The Marlins are going with Sixto Sanchez, who went 3-2 this year with a 3.46 ERA in a standout rookie campaign. Sanchez had actually posted a crazy 1.69 ERA in his first five starts before imploding at the end. Which Sanchez will the Cubs get today? I know which one I want to see.
I’ve got a clear favorite in this one because the Padres have never won a World Series, and because they’ve become something like a summer home for retired Orioles, including coaches Ryan Flaherty, Bobby Dickerson, and Wayne Kirby, and one Manuel Machado. (Every time I say his name like that I think of announcer Joe Angel saying, “Hasta la vista, pelota!”) If you prefer to root for Matt Wieters to get a ring, I’d understand, though.
This one figures to be a tough one for the Padres, though, who have had trouble scoring runs early in games this series. Not to mention, the Cardinals are starting their ace, 24-year-old Jack Flaherty, who had an up-and-down 2020 (4-3 with a 4.91 ERA in nine starts), but still misses a lot of bats: his 34.5% whiff rate ranked third in the NL behind only Jacob deGrom and Corbin Burnes. In three postseason starts last season, Flaherty posted a 4.24 ERA.
The Padres, meanwhile, still haven’t announced who they’re going with on the mound. Last night, manager Jayce Tingler told reporters he had “no idea” what they were going to do with their pitching, and that most likely, it’d be a bullpen game. Good luck with that! I hope we see a lot of taters from the likes of Machado, Wil Myers, and Fernando Tatis, Jr.