Will the Cardinals, Rays, and Braves extend their seasons? [Monday Division Series Preview and Live Thread]
The first game of the day is that tied series, Game 3 of the A's and Tigers (1:07, MLB Network). This series has been incredibly tight and dominated by pitching. Both teams have scored a total of three runs in the first two games. The Tigers have the horse to keep that going, turning to Anibal Sanchez on the mound. Sanchez quietly sported a 2.57 ERA, and actually had a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a metric that concentrates on things pitchers directly control: homers, walks, and strikeouts) lower than presumed Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. Oakland counters with Jarrod Parker, a second year pitcher. Parker started Game 1 and Game 5 in last year's Division Series against the Tigers. He pitched OK but lost both games. He'll likely need to step it up to keep those Tiger bats quiet.
The first elimination game of the day will take place in Pittsburgh, with Game 4 of the Pirates and Cardinals (3:07, TBS). St. Louis will turn to Michael Wacha to help stave off elimination. Wacha finished his rookie season with a very good 2.78 ERA, and ended it on a very high note, coming just one out shy of a no-hitter. The Pirates turn to Charlie Morton, who had a surprisingly good year, posting career bests in ERA (3.26) and K/9 and K/BB ratios (6.6 and 2.36 respectively). One thing to watch is despite only throwing 116 innings in the big this year, he actually led the league in hit batters with 16. The Cardinals might be smart to lean in a bit and take one for the team today. This is a big game for the Pirates, who want to avoid going back to St. Louis and facing Wainwright again.
The third game turns back to the AL and Game 3 of the Red Sox and Rays (6:07, TBS). This series has been all Boston so far, and they look for the sweep in Tampa tonight. The Red Sox have the guy on the mound to do it in Clay Buchholz. Buchholz was having a great season until a neck injury kept him out for three months. He came back in September, and while he wasn't as great as before, he was still pretty solid. If the Red Sox lineup keeps hitting like it has been, solid will be more than enough to advance. The Rays turn to Alex Cobb to keep their season alive. He ended the season pretty very well coming off that scary injury when a comebacker hit him in the head. He'll need to be on point or the Rays season is going to end with a whimper.
The night ends with Game 4 of the Braves and Dodgers (9:37, TBS). The Dodgers teed off on Braves pitching last night to take a 2-1 series lead. To keep their season going, Atlanta is counting on Freddy Garcia. Freddy Garcia? Really? Garcia was released in spring training by the Padres, made a couple of terrible starts with the Orioles, and was picked up by the Braves in August. In 6 appearances and 3 starts with Atlanta, Garcia somehow posted a 1.65 ERA. I have no idea how this happened, but I guess stranger things have happened. The Dodgers turn to Ricky Nolasco, acquired midseason from the Marlins. Nolasco pitched well at the beginning of his Dodgers tenure, but struggled down the stretch. On paper, this feels like another slugfest, but obviously, the game has to be played, and anything can happen. [UPDATE: The Dodgers have changed their minds and are going with Clayton Kershaw on short rest. This is a weird move given that historically pitchers on short rest don't do very well.]
Q it up throughout Monday's Divisional Series action. Which of the three teams facing elimination will fight it off?