Call in sick! It’s MLB playoffs all day and night

 In Sports
It’s baseball nirvana: The one day we’re guaranteed four playoff games. The setup is a little weird. The American League Division Series games will be played first, meaning they’ll have two games in the books before the National League even plays. And how’s this for some big names on the mound: We have four former Cy Young winner starters, plus maybe the hottest pitcher on the planet.

So, who is is playing today? Everyone! The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros begin the day in Houston at 2 p.m. ET, followed by the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians in Cleveland at 5 p.m. Then it’s the NL’s turn — the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals open their series in D.C. at 7:30, and the Arizona Diamondbacks visit the Los Angeles Dodgers in the late game from Los Angeles at 10:30.

The most important thing of the day: One of those former Cy Young winners starting is not Max Scherzer, who tweaked his hamstring in his final start of the regular season, and Dusty Baker decided to play it safe and push Scherzer back to Game 3. That decision was easier to make because Stephen Strasburg posted a 0.86 ERA over his final 10 regular-season starts with seven scoreless outings.

If you’re going to watch only one game, tune in for: Clayton Kershaw on the mound at Dodger Stadium, the best the Dodgers have. His postseason career has been part Shakespearian tragedy. He’s due, right?

ALDS Game 2: Red Sox at Astros (Astros lead 1-0)

Drew Pomeranz (17-6, 3.32) vs. Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90), 2 ET (Fox Sports)

The stakes: Jose Altuve became the ninth player (Babe Ruth did it twice) in postseason history with a three-homer game in Houston’s 8-2 win in Game 1, so the Red Sox need a win to avoid the dreaded 2-0 disadvantage. Pomeranz allowed one run in six innings against Houston in the final series of the regular season, but with David Price available in long relief and a 1-0 series deficit, John Farrell has no choice but to have a quick hook with Pomeranz if he gets into trouble.

Keep up with the latest as baseball’s top teams contend for the title.

Complete postseason guide » | Picks »
• Crasnick: Bauer rewards Francona’s faith »
• Marchand: Can Sabathia save the Yanks? »
• Lauber: Altuve’s 3 HRs rock Sox, Sale »
• Lauber: Sale falls flat in Game 1 »
• Who throws each team’s key pitch? »
• Miller: Grading playoff team memes »
• Quiz: Who should you root for? »
• Insider ranks: Lineups » | Rotations »
• Schedule » | Complete coverage »

If the Astros win: They’re looking good as they turn to secret weapon Brad Peacock in Game 3 (most likely; A.J. Hinch hasn’t officially announced his starter). Peacock was 8-0 with a 2.88 ERA on the road.

If the Red Sox win: They should be happy to go back to Fenway with a split. If you get another split, it’s probably a Chris Sale-Justin Verlander rematch in Game 5, and you’ll take your chance with that, even as poorly as Sale pitched in Game 1.

One key stat to know: Keuchel is the most extreme ground ball starter in the game with a 68 percent ground ball rate, but the Red Sox were third in the majors in OPS against Baseball-Reference.com designation of ground ball pitchers (compared to 25th against fly ball pitchers).

The matchup that matters most: We have to go Altuve versus Pomeranz. Altuve’s home runs came on an 0-2 fastball, 0-0 fastball and 1-1 changeup. During the regular season, Altuve hit .381/.441/.629 against fastballs in the upper half of the zone. Pomeranz throws his fastball in the upper half 74 percent of the time. So …

The prediction: Keuchel scuffled a bit after coming off the disabled list, but looked much better in September. The Boston lineup just doesn’t feel that imposing right now, and Keuchel shuts down the running game. Look for him to pitch a solid game and for Altuve to hit another homer, as the Astros win 5-3.

ALDS Game 2: Yankees at Indians (Indians lead 1-0)

CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69) vs. Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25), 5 ET (MLB Network)

The stakes: The Yankees couldn’t do anything against Trevor Bauer and his steady diet of curveballs, and their reward for Game 2: the pitcher with the best curveball in the game. Heading into the series, Game 1 felt like one the Yankees needed to win, even more so than a typical opener. Now they have to win three of four against the hottest team in baseball.

If the Yankees win: It means they somehow scratched out a couple runs off Kluber or the bullpen, and manager Joe Girardi probably got a lot of mileage from his bullpen. Sabathia had a nice season, but his peripherals don’t match his ERA, so Girardi isn’t going to look for much length from him, even if he’s putting up zeros. If the Yankees do win, they get a day off before Game 3 and a chance to win two at home to close out the series without having to face Kluber again since Cleveland’s ace won’t pitch until Game 5.

If the Indians win: Well, they’ve gone two months since losing three games in a row — July 30-Aug. 1. So good luck, Yankees, even returning home for the next two.

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