The league championship series started with a bang as the Milwaukee Brewers ran their winning streak to 12 games and handed Clayton Kershaw the shortest postseason start of his career to seize a quick lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Can Milwaukee expand on it in Game 2? And now the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros join the fray with a showdown between their aces on tap, as both ballclubs aim to gain that same advantage.
The most important thing of the day: Going back to their days pitching for the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central, Justin Verlander has won six of seven matchups with Chris Sale. That includes their matchup in Game 1 of the American League Division Series last year, when Verlander beat Sale in the Boston beanpole’s postseason debut. Will history repeat itself, or will Sale even the score?
National League Championship Series Game 2: Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers
Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 ERA), 4:09 p.m. ET, Fox and ESPN Radio
The stakes: The Dodgers do not want to fly home in an 0-2 hole and perhaps wonder if they’re going to get the series back to Milwaukee. The Brewers want to make sure that they do.
If the Dodgers win: Not only will they have achieved a split to help erase the multiple embarassments of their Game 1 loss, they’ll head back to a ballpark where their advantage in starting pitching might tell with Walker Buehler, Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw potentially lined up for the L.A. assignments.
If the Brewers win: They’ll head to L.A. with a significant advantage and the rest day they’ll need to help stretch their bullpenning plan for their “out-getters” across the full series.
One key stat to know: The Dodgers may have won an MLB-best 40 regular-season games in matchups against opposing left-handed starters, but they may not get to add another easily if Miley exits quickly. The question for the Brewers is whether they can afford to take Miley out quickly after already asking for seven innings from their bullpen — including three from Josh Hader alone — in Game 1.
The matchup that matters most: Ryu blanking the Braves for seven innings in the NL Division Series, so he’s somebody who might get through the order more than a couple of times. The Brewers’ hitters don’t have a lot of direct experience facing the injury-prone South Korean southpaw, just 24 career plate appearances between them, which makes Jesus Aguilar’s first career at-bats against him in this game so important. Aguilar crushed lefties this year for a .929 OPS and ranked ninth in MLB in home run percentage. After taking lefty Julio Urias deep in Game 1, does he have more of that on tap in Game 2?
The prediction: Did you see what the Brewers did after falling behind early in Game 1? I certainly did, and there’s no way I’m picking against this team in their ballpark while they’re on the run that they are on. Who will play the role of Babe Woodruff in Game 2? I don’t know, it could be anyone in the lineup — or not in it — but I see the Brew Crew heading to L.A. with a 2-0 NLCS lead. Brewers 4, Dodgers 2. — Dan Mullen, ESPN.com
American League Championship Series Game 1: Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox
Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA), 8:09 p.m. ET, TBS and ESPN Radio
The stakes: You don’t want to be down a win against either of these teams, but something’s gotta give.
If the Astros win: The pressure will increase dramatically for the Red Sox with David Price and his subpar postseason track record starting Game 2.
If the Red Sox win: There will be at least a bit of a safety net for Price when he takes the mound in front of Fenway fans who will have little patience with him.
One key stat to know: Sale’s career 5-2 record and 1.83 ERA in seven starts against the Astros might sound overpowering, but after not giving up more than one earned run in any of his first five starts against them, Sale gave up four in both of his past two turns against them. And while Sale has held the current Astros to a combined .674 OPS, Alex Bregman has two home runs in eight career plate appearances against him, while Jose Altuve has three in 30.
The matchup that matters most: AL MVP favorite Mookie Betts clearly is the catalyst for the Red Sox’s offense, but Betts is 1-for-16 in his career against Verlander, the one hit a double in last year’s division series.
The prediction: A few Red Sox fans got on me for picking the Yankees in all four games in the ALCS. So I guess it’s time to pick the Red Sox. I think we get a good duel between Verlander and Sale, and this one is decided late between the bullpens — and Boston’s group of right-handers comes up big against Houston’s righty-heavy lineup. I think it’s more imperative the Red Sox win the opener — and they will, in a walk-off. Red Sox 3, Astros 2. — David Schoenfield, ESPN.com