GM 7 of ALCS in Houston; Phillies’ Nola looks to Close out AZ in NLCS
Three teams are one win from the World Series heading into Monday's playoff doubleheader.
First, the Philadelphia Phillies look to close out Arizona at home when they send Aaron Nola to the mound with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NL Championship Series.
Then it's a decisive Game 7 in the ALCS as three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and the Texas Rangers face Cristian Javier and the defending champion Astros in Houston.
Road teams are unbeaten in this Lone Star State showdown, only the second time in baseball history the home side has dropped the first six games in a best-of-seven postseason series. The other time it happened, Scherzer started Game 7 in Houston as well — pitching for the Washington Nationals as they defeated the Astros to win the 2019 World Series.
“Seems a little odd nobody is winning at home,” Rangers designated hitter Mitch Garver said. “And I would like for it to stay that way.”
Texas, one of six major league teams without a World Series title, is trying to reach the Fall Classic for the first time since consecutive trips in 2010 and 2011.
Houston is attempting to become the first club to capture three straight pennants since the New York Yankees took four in a row from 1998-2001.
Jose Altuve and the Astros topped Philadelphia in last year's World Series. A rematch would mark the first time the same two teams squared off in back-to-back years since the Yankees topped the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977 and '78.
Texas took Game 6 of the ALCS to avoid elimination Sunday night, winning 9-2 in Houston. Garver went 3 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs. Jonah Heim hit a two-run shot and Adolis García — at the center of a Game 5 dustup — broke it open with a grand slam in the ninth inning.
Nathan Eovaldi improved to 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA in the playoffs this year.
The Phillies are the current betting favorites to win the World Series at +115, followed by the Astros (+220), Rangers (+250) and Diamondbacks (+1600), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
BACK IN PHILLY
After an off day Sunday, the Diamondbacks start Merrill Kelly (1-1, 3.00 postseason ERA) against Nola (3-0, 0.96) in a Game 6 matchup of right-handers. Arizona dropped the first two games of the NLCS at raucous Citizens Bank Park.
“We’re very respectful of where we’re going and the team that we’re playing,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “I believe in the guys to go out there and execute and play at a higher level and make plays and do things right.”
After the Phillies' 6-1 road win in Game 5, Philadelphia’s starting pitchers have a 1.48 ERA in this postseason with 67 strikeouts and just seven walks in 61 innings.
Houston hopes to have setup man Bryan Abreu available in Game 7 of the ALCS after the reliever was suspended two games and fined by Major League Baseball on Saturday for intentionally throwing at García in Game 5.
Abreu appealed the penalty, keeping him eligible to pitch in Game 6. He worked the eighth inning, striking out García but giving up an RBI double to Garver that increased Texas' lead to 4-2.
Abreu’s hearing is scheduled for Monday before John McHale Jr., special assistant to Commissioner Rob Manfred. The pitcher would be unavailable if the suspension is upheld and the ruling immediately enforced, and that would leave the Astros a player short because they wouldn't be permitted to replace Abreu on the active 26-man roster.
“That could be a huge blow," Houston manager Dusty Baker said Sunday night. “Hopefully some of this will be postponed and we’ll have him tomorrow as well.”
OLD BUT NOT JUST OLD-SCHOOL
Baker and Texas' Bruce Bochy are the two oldest managers in the majors and are squaring off in the ALCS.
Those around the 74-year-old Baker and 68-year-old Bochy say the key to their success isn’t just experience and old-school grit, but also their willingness to adapt in baseball’s analytics age.
Houston owner Jim Crane wasn’t turned off by the fact Baker was 71 when he interviewed to manage the team after A.J. Hinch was fired in the wake of the team’s sign-stealing scandal in 2020. In fact, he believed his reputation and decades in the game were just what the Astros needed to help repair their tattered reputation.
“His experience and the experience of dealing with pressure and players and a lot of different situations — that was very appealing,” Crane said. “He’s a smart guy. Once you visited with him a couple of times, you realized how bright he was, how well he knew the game. And he embraces the analytics, but he also goes old-school. So you’ve got a good blend.”
Rangers GM Chris Young said people asked him about hiring an “old-school manager” when he brought Bochy to Texas this offseason. He pushed back on the assertion that Bochy was old-school simply because he was old.
“I feel the exact opposite,” he said. “I think that if you’re stuck in your ways, you don’t last. And these old managers who have lasted last because they evolve and they’re open-minded and they grow. I think that’s an important attribute to recognize with Boch. He’s been wonderful. I absolutely love working with him."
Should the Phillies win the World Series, save a spot at the end of the Broad Street parade route for Calum Scott.
The British singer with the pop hit about loneliness and heartbreak insists he’s coming to Philly and wearing the jersey the team sent him last season as a thank you for his part in making “ Dancing On My Own ” a staple of the postseason soundtrack at Citizens Bank Park.
Scott is as amazed as anyone the song has improbably bloomed into a playoff anthem for the Phillies, who won the National League pennant last year before losing to Houston in the World Series.
“They win the World Series, I’m there, man,” Scott said. “I think at that point, you’ll have to hold me back.”
HOW TO WATCH
TBS is broadcasting the NLCS. Fox and FS1 are carrying the ALCS.
League Championship Series: Oct. 15-24
World Series: Oct. 27-Nov. 4