The utterly interminable ALDS is over, and we’re finally down to the Final Four, which narrowly avoided being the most utterly embarrassing combination of teams possible for Rick Hahn and the White Sox front office by virtue of the Yankees win over the Guardians last night. Zack Wheeler might have opened the NLCS with seven shutout innings last night, but we got 49 starts from Dallas Keuchel, so who’s to say who came out on top?
Phillies at Padres (Game 2)
Aaron Nola (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 2⁄3 IP, 12 K) vs. Blake Snell (1-0, 3.12 ERA, 8 2⁄3 IP, 11 K)
Nola looks to continue a positively electric start to his postseason career, in which he’s posted back-to-back starts of 6+ innings without allowing an earned run. On the opposite side, Blake Snell makes his third start of the postseason after working into the sixth inning with a single run allowed and six strikeouts in his Game 3 start against Los Angeles last week — a significant upgrade on a Wild Card round no-decision that saw him walk six in 3 2⁄3 innings in the Mets’ only victory of the postseason.
Snell’s 2.89 career postseason ERA ranks eighth among active pitchers with at least 40 playoff innings, though his 4.5 BB/9 is 29th among the 30 who have thrown that volume.
Nola posted one of his better starts of the 2022 season in his lone appearance against the Padres this year, working seven innings and striking out 10 while allowing just a single run on June 24, though the Phillies fell 1-0 that day.
On the other hand, Snell struggled in both of his starts against Philadelphia this year, allowing seven earned runs over 9 2⁄3 innings worked. Among Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins, the heart of the Phillies lineup brings excellent plate discipline to the table — and Hoskins, Nick Castellanos, and J.T. Realmuto are among the best in the game at punishing mistakes from left-handed pitchers. Snell is as good as anybody in the game when he has his better command, but that’s always a questionable proposition. If he struggles to hit spots and find the plate, things have the potential to get ugly quickly at Petco Park.
First pitch is set for 3:35 p.m. CT on Fox.
Yankees at Astros (Game 1)
Justin Verlander (0-0, 13.50 ERA, 4 IP, 3 K) vs. Jameson Taillon (0-1, Inf. ERA, 0 IP, 0 K)
Verlander gave up more runs than innings pitched for the third time in his playoff career in a six-run stinker against Seattle last week, and it still didn’t do much to dent his playoff bottom line, which now stands at a 3.62 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning, and quite a few innings at that — more than 190. The last time he gave up six in a playoff start was all the way back in his rookie year, when he started Game 1 of the 2006 World Series against the Cardinals. He followed that up with six innings of three-run ball (just one earned) in a losing effort in Game 5.
In this day and age, however, a similar follow-up act will probably be more than acceptable for the Astros, who are likely licking their chops at the prospect of seeing Taillon, who struggled late in the season, open the series with his first career playoff start after a disastrous appearance in Game 3 of the ALDS in which he failed to record an out in the very first bullpen appearance of his career.
The Yankees are probably wholly sick of seeing Verlander in the postseason — this will be his ninth appearance against the Bombers, making up nearly a third of his 32 playoff outings, including his lone relief appearance. For the most part, he’s utterly dominated: dating back to 2011, he’s gone 8, 8 1⁄3, 9, 7, 6 2⁄3, and 7 innings respectively, allowing 12 runs in that span for a sparking 2.35 ERA in that time, a number that was even lower until his most recent start in Game 5 of the 2019 ALCS — which was also literally the first game he’d ever lost to the Yankees in the postseason.
Lineups will be posted when available. First pitch is at 6:37 p.m. CT on Fox.