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Sunday MLB postseason thread

The Astros and Phillies could each punch their ticket to the World Series with a win today.

American League Championship Series Game 3: Houston Astros v. New York Yankees
Trey Mancini contributed a sac fly yesterday, which is nice.
Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It’s been a wild MLB postseason so far. But depending on how today’s games play out, we might be in for a four-day hiatus from baseball before the World Series begins on Friday. Both League Championship Series could end today, with the Phillies and Astros each one win away from advancing to the Fall Classic.

I’m not sure how many people would have predicted such a matchup when the season began, or even when the playoffs began. The Astros, sure, but the Phillies? Their 87-75 record — only four games better than the Orioles — was the worst of any of the 12 playoff teams, but they pulled off a stunning two-game sweep of the Cardinals in the Wild Card Series, followed by an upset of the defending champion, 101-win Braves in the NLDS. I guess the Braves, of all teams, should know that an upstart, low-ranked team can get hot in October and storm to the World Series. Those 2021 Braves had only the 12th-best regular season record in the majors that year before winning it all.

But first, the Phillies need one more win to punch their ticket to the World Series. So do the Astros. Both teams are in excellent position to get it done, but it ain’t over until it’s over.

2:37 - Padres at Phillies, Game 5, FS1 (Phillies lead, 3-1)

Starting pitchers: RHP Yu Darvish (SD) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (PHI)

This barnburner of a series has seen a quartet of tense, back-and-forth games, all decided by four runs or fewer. Last night the Phillies bashed their way to victory despite falling behind 4-0 in the top of the first, using home runs by nearly all of their big boppers: Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, and two Rhys Hoskins shots. It was a reversal of Game 2, in which it was the Padres who rallied back from a 4-0 deficit for their first (and thus far only) win of the series.

The Phillies turn to Wheeler for the clinching game at home, fresh off his seven shutout, one-hit innings against the Padres in Game 1 of the series. Darvish will attempt to stand in his way. Darvish also twirled a gem in Game 1 in San Diego, but fell victim to a pair of solo home runs, including a Schwarber 488-foot bomb that I’m pretty sure still hasn’t landed. (I think it’s on its way to Philadelphia to meet the team.) With these two aces on the mound, it’s unlikely we’ll see another 16-run slugfest like last night, but a raucous sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park will be hanging on every pitch.

7:07 - Astros at Yankees, Game 4, TBS (Astros lead, 3-0)

Starting pitchers: RHP Lance McCullers (HOU) vs. LHP Nestor Cortes Jr. (NYY)

This series has been an absolute delight for all the Yankee haters out there. Not only have the pinstripers lost the first three games, but they’ve done so in particularly embarrassing fashion. Their offense has been utterly inept, batting just .128 in the series with 41 strikeouts, and their first home game saw them get shut out while managing just one hit until the ninth. Their defense has been shaky, including a dropped routine fly ball with two outs yesterday that immediately preceded an Astros two-run homer. And the Yanks now face a nearly insurmountable 3-0 series deficit, one from which only one team in baseball history has come back to win (and, hilariously, it happened against the Yankees in 2004).

It’s up to Cortes to keep New York alive for one more day. He pitched superbly against the Guardians in the Division Series, making two starts and giving up just three runs in 10 innings (2.70 ERA). That included a victorious five-inning effort in the series clincher. The Astros counter with McCullers, who worked a brilliant six shutout frames with seven strikeouts in that eventual 18-inning shutout of the Mariners to seal the Division Series. At 29 years old, McCullers has already built a long and successful postseason track record, with a 2.56 ERA in 17 career playoff games, including 10 starts.

McCullers was supposed to start yesterday, but suffered a cut on his elbow after being hit with a champagne bottle during the Astros’ ALDS victory celebration. First world problems!