Time/Place: 3:00 p.m., Busch Stadium
Pitching Matchup: LHP Gio González (21-8, 2.89 ERA) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94 ERA)
González was red hot down the stretch, winning eight of his last 11 starts with a 2.27 ERA in August and September. His three losses during that stretch were due to a lack of run support -- the Nats only scored five runs in those three games. His maturation as a pitcher this season was interesting to watch. He maintained a minuscule rate of 0.41 home runs per 9 innings throughout the year, but helped himself out by decreasing his walk rate to 3.43 batters per 9 innings. He did most of this at home though; his walk rate was 4.307 per 9 innings away from Nationals Park.
Wainwright missed the entire 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery, but returned in 2012 without missing a beat. He "only" logged 198 2/3 innings, but his struggles were largely luck-related. A .315 BABIP, 9.9% HR/FB ratio and 67.8% strand rate were all much worse than career norms. An FIP of 3.10 and xFIP of 3.23 further illustrate that Wainwright was much closer to the ace pitcher he was in 2009-10 than his 2012 numbers indicate.
If there is a franchise that should hate the infield fly rule as much as the Atlanta Braves do right now, it's the Nationals. While they were 4-3 against the Cardinals this year and had the best record in all of baseball, that all goes out the window in the postseason. Add in the fact that the Cardinals -- who are no strangers to the postseason, remember -- have an opportunity to grab a 2-0 series lead before even setting foot in D.C., and this looks like an upset in the making.
St. Louis picks up the first of two wins at home to open the series.
Time/Place: 6:00 p.m., Orioles Park at Camden Yards
Pitching Matchup: LHP CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA) vs. RHP Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43 ERA)
It has been a while since Sabathia had a season where he wasn't in consideration for a Cy Young award, but only winning 15 games for the Yankees will do that to you. He scuffled a bit in late August and September, losing three decisions in four starts (all Yankee losses) before putting together back-to-back-to-back 8 inning outings to finish the season. He didn't fare very well against the Orioles though, posting a 6.38 ERA in three starts against Baltimore in 2012.
Hammel's regular season numbers are largely irrelevant now because he has only started two games since mid-July. However, one of those games was in a pivotal series against the Yankees in September, and Hammel was excellent. He only allowed one run in 5 innings while his offense put up six runs... only to have the bullpen blow the lead before an Adam Jones' home run gave the O's the lead for good in the bottom of the 8th inning.
As have many of the games between these two teams this season, this one will come down to the bullpens. The Orioles are something-stupid-and-oh when leading after 7 innings and have won a ridiculous number of extra inning games. We are all waiting for the other shoe to drop on this miracle run, but only Yankees' fans are hoping that it happens tonight.
Manny Machado makes another big play in an Orioles win.
Series: 1-0, Reds
Time/Place: 9:30 p.m., AT&T Park
Pitching Matchup: RHP Bronson Arroyo (12-10, 3.74 ERA) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (16-11, 3.37 ERA)
Arroyo bounced back nicely from a poor 2011 season by cutting down his walk rate to a ridiculous 1.58 per 9 innings and decreasing his home run rate to a much more respectable 1.16 per 9 innings. He allowed a league-leading 46 (!) home runs last season. His BABIP actually increased slightly, but the other changes were enough for his ERA and FIP to decrease by more than a full run (with his FIP declining from 5.71 to 4.08). Surprisingly, he wasn't that much better away from home and actually allowed more home runs on the road in 2012.
Bumgarner wasn't great for the Giants down the stretch, going just 2-2 with a 5.47 ERA in September and October. However, he has been lights out at home this season. His 10-3 record with a 2.38 ERA is definitely a product of AT&T Park's vast outfield; his xFIP was 3.33, largely due to a HR/FB ratio of 0.42. He only faced the Reds once during the regular season, throwing a complete game one-hit shutout on June 28th.
Tonight is a must-win game for the Giants, who can ill afford to go to Cincinnati down 0-2. Even with the Reds' rotation in shambles, it will be tough enough for the Giants to win two games at Great American Ballpark -- where the Reds were 50-31 this year -- let alone three straight. If Bumgarner doesn't pitch into the 7th inning, San Francisco is in serious trouble.
Arroyo get shelled by a Giants team with its back against the wall.