We’re only three games into the Division Series round and the Orioles are already eliminated. Like most O’s fans, I never expected it to happen so soon. The amazing, 101-win club that took Major League Baseball by storm didn’t manage a single postseason victory. The Birds’ lethargic October performance looked next to nothing like the energetic, upstart squad that found a new way to win nearly every day of the regular season. Six incredible months were wiped out by three crappy games.
What an absolute bummer. As far as I’m concerned, the rest of the playoffs might as well be canceled. Without the Orioles, they’re not much fun.
Alas, it doesn’t work that way. So the three other Division Series forge onward, two of which could end today. Will you be watching, or are you still too bummed about the Orioles’ early exit to care about baseball right now?
5:07 - Braves at Phillies, Game 3, TBS (series tied, 1-1)
Starting pitchers: RHP Bryce Elder (ATL) vs. RHP Aaron Nola (PHI)
This series certainly took a turn in Game 2. The Phillies led by four runs with just 10 outs to go and Zack Wheeler tossing a no-hitter, on the verge of taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. And then the Braves, as they’ve done all year, broke out the bats. They got their first hit and first run in the sixth. Two more runs in the seventh. And then Austin Riley hit the clutchiest of clutch home runs, a go-ahead, two-run dinger with two outs in the eighth, followed by the Braves pulling off a spectacular 8-5-3 double play in the ninth to seal the victory. Now it’s all even again.
Bryce Elder, an All-Star this year in his first full MLB season, will make his postseason debut. He faced the Phillies twice this year, tossing seven scoreless innings his first time before the Phils tagged him for four runs in 3.2 frames in the encore. He’ll be opposed by the veteran Nola, who tossed seven shutout innings of his own against the Marlins in the Wild Card round. Nola made five postseason starts last year during Philadelphia’s World Series run, pitching well in the first two rounds — including six strong innings against these Braves in the NLDS — before falling apart in the NLCS and World Series with a 9.69 ERA in three outings.
7:07 - Astros at Twins, Game 4, FS1 (Astros lead, 2-1)
Starting pitchers: RHP José Urquidy (HOU) vs. RHP Joe Ryan (MIN)
The Astros, after a big win yesterday, have the chance tonight to punch their ticket to an all-Texas ALCS against the Rangers. It would be Houston’s seventh consecutive ALCS appearance, which is ridiculous. When will this team just die? The Astros tried their hardest to choke away their division lead in September, going 2-7 down the stretch against the woeful Athletics and Royals, yet still wound up with an AL West title and a first-round bye on the season’s final day. It never ends.
They’ll put the clincher in the hands of Urquidy, but maybe not for long. The righty, who missed three months with a shoulder injury, didn’t rejoin the rotation until the final weekend of the season, when he tossed six scoreless in Arizona. Before that, he hadn’t worked more than five innings in a game since April, so the Astros might not be expecting an extended outing from him tonight. Urquidy has made 12 career postseason appearances, six of them starts, with a 3.72 ERA.
Ryan, the Twins’ 27-year-old righty, will be making his postseason debut. He faced the Astros twice this season and while he struck out a lot of guys — 16 in 10 innings — they also tagged him for nine runs. He gave up three homers, including one to Yordan Alvarez, who is scalding hot in this ALDS with six hits and four dingers. It might be time for the Twins to consider just walking him.
9:07 - Dodgers at Diamondbacks, Game 3, TBS (Diamondbacks lead, 2-0)
Starting pitchers: Lance Lynn (LAD) vs. RHP Brandon Pfaadt (ARI)
In a result perhaps even more shocking than the Orioles’ loss to the Rangers, the 100-win Dodgers are on the brink of getting swept by the 84-win Diamondbacks. It’s not much consolation to O’s fans, but another heavyweight division winner getting ousted by a wild card team would give the Birds some company in their misery.
The injury-depleted Dodgers rotation turns to their mid-season trade acquisition Lynn, who lowered his ERA more than 200 points after moving from the White Sox to L.A. (from 6.47 to 4.36) even as his strikeout rate plummeted and he continued to serve up more than two homers per game. Lynn is an experienced postseason arm, pitching in the playoffs five straight years for the Cardinals from 2011-2015 (and less successfully with the Yankees in 2018 and White Sox in 2021). He holds a career 5-5 record and 5.28 ERA in 27 playoff games (eight starts).
The D’Backs counter with the rookie Pfaadt, whose name apparently is pronounced “fought” and not — as I had been saying it — “fat.” It was always good for a chuckle. It’s a little strange that Arizona doesn’t have a better option than Pfaadt, who struggled to 5.72 ERA in the regular season and couldn’t get out of the third inning against the Brewers in the Wild Card series. But here they are, a win away from the NLCS, so who am I to question them?