Key facts, storylines for each LCS

October 11th, 2020

There have already been plenty of amazing facts to come out of the 2020 postseason. From National League Wild Card Series Game 1 between the Reds and Braves -- which was scoreless for 12 innings, the longest scoreless game in postseason history -- to Mike Brosseau’s home run off a 100.2 mph pitch to help send the Rays to the American League Championship Series, and more.

We saw 24 home runs hit in the AL Division Series matchup between the Astros and A’s, the most in any postseason series of five games or fewer, and another 21 home runs hit in the ALDS between the Rays and Yankees, which comes in at third on that list. Overall, 50.9 percent of runs this postseason have been scored via home runs, which is tied with 2017 for the third-highest rate in a single postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

But there’s still a lot of baseball left to play, and there will be many more notes worth remembering. Here are five things in each LCS to keep an eye on.

ALCS: Astros vs. Rays
Astros' last World Series appearance: 2019 (lost in 7)
Rays' last World Series appearance: 2008 (lost in 5)

1. The Astros have already pulled off two historic upsets this postseason, beating both the Twins and A’s despite having a regular-season winning percentage (29-31, .483) that was .117 lower than both 36-24 foes. Those are tied for the third-largest such differences in an upset in a postseason series all-time. That’s right, the Astros have done it twice this postseason.

They’ll need to pull off an even more historic upset to get to the World Series. The Rays (40-20, .667) had a winning percentage .184 higher than the Astros in the regular season. An Astros win would break the record for the largest upset in postseason history -- a .147 difference between the White Sox (.616) and Cubs (.763) in the 1906 World Series.

2. Considering that both ALDS were homer-happy, as noted above, it’s worth keeping the home run record for a postseason series on the radar. That number is 26, by the Rays and Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS. That series went the distance, with the Rays winning Game 7 to head to the World Series for the only time in franchise history.

3. Speaking of home runs, made it into the top 10 all-time in postseason homers with his two in ALDS Game 2, so his totals are worth keeping tabs on. He has 17 career postseason home runs, tied for seventh with Nelson Cruz, David Ortiz and Jim Thome. With Springer's next home run, he’ll tie Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson for fifth place on the list. And the active leader, Albert Pujols, is within reach, too -- at 19 home runs in fourth. Derek Jeter sits third with 20, Bernie Williams is in second with 22 and Manny Ramírez is the all-time leader with 29.

4. is hitting .500 this postseason, with 10 hits in 20 at-bats. Its unlikely he maintains that pace for the entire postseason, but the context is worth keeping in mind. Only five players have hit .500 or better over the course of an entire postseason in which they got at least 20 at-bats. The record under those parameters is .520, by Ramírez in 2008. The only other player to hit .500 for a postseason with at least 20 at-bats since there were multiple rounds beginning in 1969 was Billy Hatcher in 1990.

5. The Rays’ top offensive performer so far has been , who was hitting .600 through the team’s first five postseason games this year before going hitless in each of the last two. His six extra-base hits are already tied for third-most in a single postseason in Rays history. Only 2008 Evan Longoria and Melvin Upton Jr. had more, with nine each -- and that season included a World Series appearance.

NLCS: Braves vs. Dodgers
Braves' last World Series appearance: 1999 (lost in 4)
Dodgers' last World Series appearance: 2018 (lost in 5)

1. Neither team has lost a game this postseason, so something will have to give. The Braves and Dodgers both enter on a five-game winning streak to start the postseason. For Atlanta, that’s the longest postseason-opening streak in franchise history. For Los Angeles, it’s behind only 2017 -- when the Dodgers won six straight to start the playoffs. The longest streak all-time -- keeping in mind that a team couldn’t even win more than four straight to start the postseason until 1969 -- is eight straight by the 2014 Royals, who went on to lose the World Series.

2. The Braves’ pitching has been phenomenal. They’ve allowed just five runs through five games, tied for the second-fewest by any team through five games in a single postseason. And they’ve turned in four shutouts -- joining the 1905 Giants as the only teams to do that. If they notch another shutout, they’ll tie the 2016 Indians for the most in a single postseason. Only five teams prior to 2020 had even four shutouts in a single postseason: the 2016 Indians, 2012 Giants, 2010 Giants, 1998 Yankees and 1905 Giants. The Indians were the only one of those teams not to win the World Series.

3. Rookie has been a key contributor to that pitching prowess. He’s yet to allow a run in his postseason career, going at least five innings and striking out at least eight batters in each of his first two appearances -- both starts. He’s one of six pitchers with a scoreless start of at least five innings in each of his first two postseason appearances. But if he can do that again in his next start, he’d join a far more exclusive list. The only pitcher to do that in his first three career postseason appearances was Christy Mathewson -- who threw shutouts in Games 1, 3 and 5 of the 1905 World Series.

4. Dodgers Game 1 starter Walker Buehler is chasing a record, too. He’s had at least seven strikeouts in each of his eight career postseason outings. That is the second-longest stretch in postseason history -- not just to start a career, but ever. The only streak longer belongs to Randy Johnson, who had at least seven strikeouts in nine straight games from Game 4 of the 1997 ALDS through Game 6 of the 2001 World Series.

5. Braves catcher is having a postseason to remember. He’s hitting .421 with seven RBIs, all of which he racked up in the NLDS. Those seven RBIs set a record for a catcher in a Division Series, so what could be in store for an NLCS encore? The postseason record for RBIs by a catcher is 10, by Ivan Rodriguez in 2003. The Braves’ record for RBIs in a single postseason is 16, by Fred McGriff in 1996.