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10 stats that could decide today's games

@SlangsOnSports and @MannyOnMLB
October 17, 2020

At least one pennant will be clinched today, and there’s a chance for two, as the Astros, Rays and Braves each look to punch their ticket to the World Series, and the Dodgers hope to force a Game 7. There have been 10 days in postseason history where both League

At least one pennant will be clinched today, and there’s a chance for two, as the Astros, Rays and Braves each look to punch their ticket to the World Series, and the Dodgers hope to force a Game 7. There have been 10 days in postseason history where both League Championship Series were clinched on the same day, but the last time it happened was back in 1992. Overall, both pennants have been clinched (including regular-season clinches, before the Divisional Era) on the same day a total of 13 times.

Here are 10 stats to watch on this epic baseball Saturday.

NLCS presented by Camping World, Game 6: 4:30 p.m. ET on FS1
FAQs: Lineups, pitchers, more

Player: Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
The stat: Batting .400 vs. left-handers this postseason

Following a tremendous regular season at the plate, Seager has carried his performance over into October. He had a solid .827 OPS against left-handed pitchers during the regular season, but has been crushing lefties so far this postseason, to the tune of six hits in 15 at-bats. Three of those hits are homers, including a solo shot in the fourth inning of NLCS Game 5 off Atlanta’s Tyler Matzek to get the scoring started for the Dodgers. That bodes well for Seager’s matchup with Braves Game 6 starter Max Fried. Seager has faced Fried six times -- he went 0-for-3 in the regular season and 1-for-3 with a single in NLCS Game 1.

Player: Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
The stat: Braves hit .310 on four-seamers in the regular season

Buehler hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his starts for the Dodgers this postseason, and in NLCS Game 1, he reached 100 pitches for the first time in 2020 (including regular season and postseason). His best pitch this season was his four-seamer, which had a .102 opponent batting average in the regular season. He allowed just one extra-base hit on the pitch: a double. But the Braves are a fastball-hitting team -- with a .310 batting average on four-seamers, the best in the Majors in 2020. He’s allowed three extra-base hits on his four-seamer in the postseason, including a Freddie Freeman home run earlier this series.

Player: Max Fried, LHP, Braves
The stat: Dodgers hit .183 against sliders in the regular season

The Dodgers’ offense has been feast or famine so far in the NLCS, with the star-studded lineup producing two runs or fewer in two of three losses so far, and 22 combined runs in their two victories. One trend, in particular, is something to watch for in Game 6 -- Los Angeles hit just .183 vs. sliders during the regular season, which ranked 27th in the Majors. Meanwhile, Fried has increased his slider usage so far this postseason, and along with that increased utilization has come a significantly higher whiff rate. Opposing batters swung and missed against Fried’s slider 29 percent of the time during the regular season, and that figure is 37.5 percent (9 out of 24) so far in the playoffs. Opponents during this postseason are hitting .182 against the pitch.

Player: Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
The stat: .941 SLG vs. four-seamers in the regular season

Freeman, along with numerous teammates, hit fastballs quite well during the regular season. No player with at least 40 plate appearances ending on a four-seamer had a higher slugging percentage than Freeman’s .941. His .471 batting average was third, behind teammate Marcell Ozuna (.492) and the Mets’ Robinson Canó (.490). As noted above, Freeman hit a Buehler four-seamer for a homer in Game 1. It was the second time he’d hit one of those from Buehler out of the park. Only three other players have multiple homers off Buehler’s four-seamer including the playoffs -- Orlando Arcia, Christian Walker and Trevor Story -- and none has more than two such homers.

Player: Cody Bellinger, CF, Dodgers
The stat: Hitting .143 vs. four-seamers in postseason

Bellinger struggled in the regular season, never regaining his 2019 MVP form, and that’s continued into the playoffs. After crushing fastballs in ‘19, he did not do well against them in the regular season. And in the postseason, nine of his 14 strikeouts have been on four-seamers, and he’s hitt .143 in at-bats ending on a four-seamer. Fried’s most-used pitch in the regular season was his four-seamer, which could spell trouble for Bellinger. Overall, Bellinger was 0-for-3 against Fried with a strikeout in Game 1 of this series.

ALCS presented by GEICO, Game 7: 8:30 p.m. ET on TBS
FAQs: Lineups, pitchers, more

Player: Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Astros
The stat: Rays hit .284 against curveballs in the regular season

In 2020, McCullers threw his curve 37.6 percent of the time, the fourth-highest rate in MLB (min. 500 pitches). The Rays, meanwhile, hit curveballs extremely well. Their .284 batting average in at-bats ending in curves ranked second only to Boston in the Majors, while their .511 slugging was second only to Atlanta. Mike Brosseau (1.083 slugging) and Austin Meadows (1.000 slugging) were particularly dangerous.

Player: Charlie Morton, RHP, Rays
The stat: Astros hit .194 against curveballs in the regular season

By contrast, the Astros hit just .194 in at-bats ending in curves during the 2020 regular season, the ninth-lowest batting average against the pitch in the Majors. Rays starter Charlie Morton threw his curveball 32.7 percent of the time in 2020, the ninth-highest rate in MLB (min. 500 pitches). Morton also relies heavily on his sinker, which he threw 20.9 percent of the time in 2020, and the Astros hit .285 in at-bats ending in sinkers during the regular season. Interestingly, Morton threw more sinkers (33) than curves (27) in ALCS Game 2 against Houston. Astros batters went 1-for-4 with a double against the curveball and 3-for-10 with three singles against the sinker.

Player: Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
The stat: 4 hits vs. breaking balls in the postseason

There are many ways to describe Jose Altuve’s poor performance in 2020, but his performance against breaking pitches might be the best place to start. The 2017 AL MVP hit just .135 in at-bats ending with a breaking ball during the regular year, with a total of seven hits against breakers. He already has four hits off breaking balls in the postseason, and is hitting .307 against the pitch (4-for-13), including a double in Game 6 off a Diego Castillo slider.

Player: Ryan Pressly, RHP, Astros
The stat: Pitched on 3 straight days

The Astros closer has never appeared in four straight games before, which could loom large on Saturday, as he has closed out each of Houston's three straight wins, and might not be available. No other Astros pitcher had more than one save in 2020, with Andre Scrubb, Blake Taylor and Brooks Raley the only hurlers on the roster who earned one. If the Astros take the lead, who will Dusty Baker call on to close it out?

Player: Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays
The stat: .111 BA vs. pitches on inner-third of the plate or off the plate inside

Arozarena has been the Rays’ best hitter throughout this postseason, but the rookie outfielder went 2-for-12 from Game 4 through Game 6 of the ALCS against the Astros. Of his 20 hits so far this postseason, 11 have come on pitches that were located on the outer third of the plate or off the plate away, including two doubles, a triple and three of his six homers. While he’s hitting .440 on at-bats ending in those pitches, he’s hitting just .111 (1-for-9) on pitches on the inner-third or off the plate inside. The one hit was a homer, but in his other eight at-bats ending on pitches inside, he struck out six times. Three of those punch-outs were on pitches low and in.

Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.