LEADING OFF: 4 games on tap; Kershaw vs Mets; Midwest rivals
A look at what’s happening around the major leagues today:
ALL DAY LONG
It’s a jam-packed Friday for baseball fans, with four playoff games on tap one right after the other. The action starts at 12:45 p.m. EDT in Toronto, where Texas tries to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Then it’s Kansas City hosting Houston in Game 2 at 3:45 p.m., before the National League grabs the spotlight at night. Kris Bryant and the Chicago Cubs visit St. Louis at 6:45 p.m., followed by the Mets-Dodgers opener in Los Angeles at 9:45 p.m.
When will a home team finally win a playoff game? Houston’s series-opening victory at Kansas City on Thursday night made it the first time since 1970 that visiting clubs won baseball’s first four postseason games, STATS said. The other times it happened were 1906 and 1923.
SHOT AT REDEMPTION
Clayton Kershaw gets his first chance this October to improve a poor postseason resume. The reigning NL MVP will be on the mound for the Dodgers when they take on 2014 NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom and the Mets. Kershaw, who has won three of the past four NL Cy Young Awards, is 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in six playoff series since 2008. In the left-hander’s last four postseason starts, all against the Cardinals, he is 0-4 with a 7.15 ERA.
YOU LOOK FAMILIAR
In the first postseason meeting between longtime Midwest rivals, Jon Lester and the streaking Cubs face John Lackey and the Cardinals. Lester and Lackey are old pals after forming a successful one-two punch for Boston in the 2013 World Series against St. Louis. ”I’d like to say I was surprised, but I’m not,” Lackey said. ”He’s good. No accident, people running into each other this time of year.” Chicago has won nine straight games.
NORTH OF THE BORDER
After returning from a torn left knee ligament and going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four September starts, Marcus Stroman starts for Toronto against Texas in Game 2 and tries to get the Blue Jays even in the series. Cole Hamels, acquired from Philadelphia in July following his no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs, starts for the Rangers. He is 7-1 with a 3.66 ERA in 12 starts with Texas, which has won his 10 most recent outings.
In a matchup of pitchers acquired during the summer for playoff pushes, Scott Kazmir starts Game 2 for Houston and Johnny Cueto for Kansas City. Kazmir, born in Houston, was 2-6 with a 4.17 ERA in 13 starts after the Astros acquired him from Oakland. Cueto went 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts for the Royals, who obtained him from Cincinnati for three young lefties.
Texas asked Joey Gallo and Ed Lucas to leave its Arizona Fall League team and travel to Toronto after star third baseman Adrian Beltre strained a muscle in his lower back during the Rangers’ 5-3 win Thursday. If Beltre is removed from the Division Series roster, he would be ineligible to play in the AL Championship Series. … Toronto was hoping slugger Josh Donaldson would be able to play after he was kneed in the head by second baseman Rougned Odor while sliding in an attempt to break up a double play. Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista was expected in the lineup after leaving the opener early because of a sore right hamstring. … When the Mets set their NL Division Series roster, they must decide if rookie left-hander Steven Matz (back) is healthy enough to be included. If so, he could start a potential Game 4 against the Dodgers at Citi Field. If not, lefty Sean Gilmartin would likely be added to the pitching staff.
BEHIND THE DISH
All-Star catcher Yadier Molina is on the Cardinals’ roster against the Cubs and will play wearing a splint to protect a strained ligament in his left thumb. Molina was injured Sept. 20 on a tag play at Chicago. He has been working out for three days wearing a molded plastic brace for catching, and with the hand taped for hitting. Molina expected hitting would be more difficult, but said receiving has been a bigger challenge. ”Obviously, it was a serious injury,” Molina said. ”The trainers and doctors did a great job. The pain’s going to be there. So, I’m ready to go.”
THINKING OF YOU
Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully won’t be calling any Los Angeles Dodgers games in the postseason after undergoing a medical procedure. The team said Scully was resting comfortably after a recommended procedure Thursday. Doctors advised Scully to skip the playoffs in order to rest up. Scully, who turns 88 in November, said in August he expects next season will be his last in the booth. His 66 years with the Dodgers are a broadcasting record for one big league franchise. Scully missed the team’s final series of the regular season because of a cold.