After the American League Division Series owned Saturday — and saw both series move a step closer to sweeps with the Astros and Yankees each leading 2-0 — Sunday belongs to the National League. Both series are tied at a game apiece, and both the Dodgers-Nationals and Braves-Cardinals matchups have featured plenty of drama.
What’s on tap
4:10 p.m. ET: Braves-Cardinals Game 3
7:45 p.m. ET: Dodgers-Nationals Game 3
The most important thing of the day: Can the Nationals win a game in their series with the Dodgers if Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer don’t pitch? Or will the Nats risk exhausting their aces to keep their hopes of a postseason series win alive?
The view from inside the ballparks
St. LOUIS — We’re down to a best-of-three, as the Cardinals get the next two at home, which the Braves might not mind so much, as both teams get some relief from 90-plus-degree temperatures in Atlanta. The heat played a factor in managerial decisions — and perhaps late-in-outing performances by some pitchers. It also doesn’t hurt that the Braves were 13 games over .500 on the road. — Jesse Rogers
LOS ANGELES — A massive scrum formed around Max Scherzer‘s temporary locker late Friday night, partially blocking a path that led to the showers of Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse. Washington Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton wore a towel around his waist and struggled to get through. “Come on,” he said, “it’s only one inning!” Eaton then turned and smiled. He knew Scherzer’s inning — the bottom of the eighth, which bridged the gap to closer Daniel Hudson and helped earn a split to begin this NL Division Series — meant much more than that. The Nationals were suddenly feeling good about themselves as they headed back home. — Alden Gonzalez
WASHINGTON — With the proceedings knotted at one game each, the next two games in D.C. and Max Scherzer starting one of them, the Nationals are feeling good about their chances of winning a playoff series for the first time. But the Dodgers, who start Cy Young candidate Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 3, didn’t win a franchise-record 106 games by playing rollover. This series has all the makings of a classic. — Eddie Matz
A stat to impress your friends: ESPN Stats & Information notes that the Nationals have won both playoff games Scherzer has appeared in this year after his team lost seven straight postseason games in which he appeared from 2013 to ’17. Keep that in mind in case Scherzer comes out of the pen again in Game 3.
I love this matchup: The 22-year-old rookie making his postseason debut against the 38-year-old vet who will be making his 25th postseason appearance and 13th start. I think Soroka pitches a little better and the Braves’ bullpen plays with fire again but holds on. Braves 5, Cardinals 4 — David Schoenfield
Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed one run in 14 2/3 innings against the Nationals this season. He is precisely the man the Dodgers need in this situation, and he will come through. Dodgers 6, Nationals 2. — Gonzalez
Momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. Same goes for predictions. Washington’s starter is TBD — either Scherzer or Aníbal Sanchez — so I’ll take a stab and say Dodgers 5, Nationals 3. — Matz
A friend of mine who roots for the Dodgers texted me “The season is over” after the Game 2 loss. Please stop with the panic, Dodgers fans. The NL’s best offense will step up in Game 3, and even if Scherzer starts, it will tack on some late runs against the Nats’ bullpen. Hyun-Jin Ryu will show why he led the majors in ERA this season with a solid effort. Dodgers 6, Nationals 3 — Schoenfield
About last night
Stud of the night: Gerrit Cole, step right up. If the Rays got Verlander’d in Game 1, what the Astros’ other ace showed off while notching 15 strikeouts among his 23 outs in Game 2 was just Cole’d. Until he walked his last batter, his 15 strikeouts without a walk would have set a postseason record, topping the 13 K’s Tom Seaver recorded without a free pass in the 1973 NL Championship Series. Cole settled for being one of just seven pitchers in MLB history to strike out 15 or more batters in a postseason game, joining Bob Gibson (17), Kevin Brown (16), Roger Clemens, Livan Hernandez, Mike Mussina and Sandy Koufax (15).
Dud of the night: Randy Dobnak fever? The former Uber driver got lit up by the Yankees in his postseason debut.
Highlight of the night:
Didi Gregorius blasts a grand slam into the second deck as the Yankees drop seven runs on the Twins in the bottom of the third inning.
Off the diamond
Social media says:
Alex Bregman has 7 postseason home runs. All of them are against All-Stars. Snell, Kershaw, Jansen, Sale 2x, Kluber, Bauer.
— Robert Ford (@raford3) October 6, 2019
Quote of note: “I don’t think anything he did was surprising. He’s just that good.” — Rays manager Kevin Cash on Cole’s dominance in Game 2
Best of the playoffs so far …
Our running postseason MVP: We said it was Verlander’s title to lose after he became a verb by blanking the Rays for seven innings in Game 1. But after Cole’s night, it looks like the two Astros aces are co-MVPs.
The play of this October: Juan Soto‘s single/Trent Grisham‘s error with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning of the NL wild-card game, which turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 Washington lead. Unfortunately for Grisham, the play will be part of those postseason blunders lists — and it could take on a life of its own if the Nationals end up winning it all.
Game of the postseason so far: Still Brewers-Nats, though the Nats’ gritty Game 2 win in their NLDS against the Dodgers deserves some consideration. The first game of this postseason set the bar pretty high, with a truly unexpected comeback via an unusual turn of events. What a start to October.