You know, I almost feel bad for Clayton Kershaw at this point. The poor guy is so stuck in his own head that he can’t be trusted in the playoffs, and he has now cost his team a shot at the World Series for a third consecutive season. Kershaw was notably beaten up early by the Nationals early in game two at home and picked up a loss that allowed the Nationals to tank game three in Washington to set up for last night’s decisive game five. The Dodgers decided to pass on starting Kershaw in the biggest game of the season, and instead decided to go with second-year guy Walker Buehler.
And Buehler did a great job of giving his team a chance to win and advance as he outdueled Stephen Strasburg and left the game with a 3-1 lead intact after throwing 117 pitches. The Dodgers then made what I can only describe as a completely inexplicable decision to bring Kershaw into the game with two outs in the seventh inning. As I watched the game unfold, I thought to myself, wow they are really going to bring Kershaw in to blow the game?
And six pitches later, the damage was done. Kershaw struck out the first batter he faced on four pitches to get the Dodgers out of a jam in the seventh. But in the eighth, he threw two pitches, and both of them left the ballpark as Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto both basted monster bombs off of Kershaw to tie the game up at three runs apiece. It was a devastating blow to the Dodgers, and Kershaw’s future with the team has to be in doubt at this point.
In the top of the tenth inning, the Nats came out strong as they quickly loaded the bases with no outs to start the inning. Howie Kendrick then promptly cleared the bases with a grand slam home run to blow the game wide open and give the Nationals a four-run lead in the extra frame. Then, and only then, did Dave Roberts decide to bring in his closer Kenley Jansen. The final three innings of this game will go down as one of the worst managerial gaffs I have ever seen, Roberts simply gave the game away.
In true LA fashion, the fans started heading to their cars before the Dodgers even came up to bat, and a one, two, three inning in the bottom of the tenth sealed the deal as the Nationals picked up the huge upset, and we cashed a huge underdog ticket (+151)! After winning a franchise-best 106 games in the regular season, the Dodgers fail to advance past the first round of the playoffs. What a disappointing end to a special season in Hollywood. For today’s pick, we will check in on another game five, this time in the American League as the Astros play the Rays.
The Tampa Bay Rays have shown a lot of heart to get back into this series with the Houston Astros after losing the first two games of the series, but that will be all for naught if they can’t find a way to win tonight in game five in Houston. The Rays have managed to claw their way back into this series by shutting down this mighty Houston offense.
The Astros have scored just seven runs in the last three games after finishing the regular season as one of the best hitting teams in the game. For Houston, they are trying to avoid what happened to Los Angeles in the National League, and that is losing at home in game five of the divisional series as the number one overall seed.
Starting for the Astros is Gerrit Cole (1-0 0.00 ERA), and for the Rays it is Tyler Glasnow (0-1 4.15 ERA). The game total over-under is set at seven runs. The Astro are big -260 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:07 PM PST from Minute Maid Park in Houston.
The big question in this game is can Gerrit Cole repeat his performance from game two of this series? If he can, that’s pretty much a wrap for Tampa Bay. Cole had one of the best pitching performances in recent memory in that game as he pitched seven and two-thirds of an inning of shutout baseball, allowing just four hits and striking an Astros playoff record fifteen. If he does anything close to that performance again tonight, the Rays won’t have much of a chance at pulling off the upset.
But that is the same thing we were saying in game four with Justin Verlander on the mound for Houston, and the Rays ran him from the game in less than four innings. Will it be very difficult to slow Cole down? Absolutely. Is it impossible? No way.
The Rays will start Tyler Glasnow in game five, but I wouldn’t expect him to be around too long. The Rays have used their bullpen a lot in this series, and that flexibility allows them to play to specific matchups from the start of the game, and unless Glasnow is really good, I doubt he will pitch more than three or four innings tonight.
In game one, Glasnow pitched four shutout innings, but allowed two runs in the fifth inning, which was enough for them to lose the game. I don’t think the Rays will make that same mistake of leaving him in the game for too long tonight.
I really want the Rays to win this game. It is just good for baseball when the underdogs win. And my heart is certainly pulling for the Rays. But my brain knows that Houston is nearly unbeatable at home, and Cole is at the top of his game right now. So, I won’t force myself to take a stand on the side in this one. But where I will take a stand is on the total.
Seven runs is about as low as you are ever going to see a game total. And as a general rule, I hate taking under a number so low, it is just really hard to stay under. We saw an example of that last night in the Dodgers game where runs were impossibly hard to come by, and it still ended up going over. One big inning and your under is blown. But, that being said, I am still going to jump on the under in this one.
The Rays have figured out that if they empty out their bullpen every game, they can slow this Houston lineup down. And with Cole on the mound for Houston, I don’t see the Rays scoring many runs either. This could end up being one of those 1-1 games that gets decided on a sac fly late. So, I will take the under seven runs and expect another classic of a game.