Dallas Keuchel is no Andy Williams. But like the late crooner, the Astros left-hander can deliver a line that sums up a season, albeit with a slight lyrical alteration from the Williams tune you hear on the radio every December."This," Keuchel said Thursday, "is the most magical time of the
Dallas Keuchel is no Andy Williams. But like the late crooner, the Astros left-hander can deliver a line that sums up a season, albeit with a slight lyrical alteration from the Williams tune you hear on the radio every December.
"This," Keuchel said Thursday, "is the most magical time of the year."
• Postseason schedule
We've already had some meaningful magic in the American League and National League Wild Card Games -- from the Yankees' bullpen brilliance in the one-and-done to Archie Bradley's out-of-nowhere two-run triple, and the launch of the Division Series on Thursday showed us we're in for a magical ride this October. In the early game, Astros All-Star and possible AL Most Valuable Player Jose Altuve became just the ninth player in history to launch three home runs in a postseason game as the Astros took Game 1 from the Red Sox, 8-2. After "Al3ve's" heroics, Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees in the nightcap, rewarding the faith that manager Terry Francona showed by handing him the ball instead of ace Corey Kluber, and the Tribe took an early series lead with a 4-0 win.
Those were some timely tricks, but on Friday we've got a "quadrupleheader" lined up from the ALDS presented by Doosan and NLDS presented by T-Mobile. It's a true October energy field. May the four be with you.
Here's a rundown of the star-powered spectacle ahead:
Red Sox at Astros, 2 p.m. ET, FS1
The atmosphere in Minute Maid Park on Thursday was special, and that was before Altuve went all Mr. October on Chris Sale and the Red Sox. Now it's up to Boston to regroup and respond, and the pressure's on Thomas Pomeranz to cool Altuve and the rest of that loaded Astros lineup, just as he did when he pitched six innings of one-run ball against them during the final weekend of the regular season at Fenway Park.
"You kind of have an idea of what the guys do," Pomeranz said. "They got to see me, I got to see them."
Houston counters with Keuchel, who was undoubtedly their ace before Game 1 starter Justin Verlander was acquired. He'll be looking to get his ground balls against a Boston lineup trying to avoid an ugly 0-2 hole -- and the Red Sox have to piece that lineup together without Eduardo Nunez, whose aggravated knee injury was a bummer within a bummer in Game 1.
Yankees at Indians, 5 p.m. ET, MLB Network
It's a matchup of pitchers who won an AL Cy Young Award while pitching in Cleveland, as Carsten Sabathia leads the Yankees against Kluber, who could add another Cy Young this season. The Indians' unorthodox decision to wait a game before unleashing their ace upon the Yankee bats looked pretty wise when Bauer stepped up with his electric Game 1 outing. Kluber posted a 1.62 ERA with a .495 opponents' OPS in his last 23 starts of the regular season, so the Yankees have their work cut out for them to avoid an 0-2 hole.
Sabathia is nowhere near the ace power pitcher he was the last time he pitched at Progressive Field in the postseason (2007 ALCS), but he's reinvented himself as a crafty lefty and put up a respectable 2.91 ERA in his last eight starts of the regular season. We'll see if he can seize the moment in his former home.
"I kind of grew up here," Sabathia said. "To be able to pitch in a playoff game here is going to be a lot of fun, even if it's on the other side."
Cubs at Nationals, 7:30 p.m. ET, TBS
Last year, it was the Cubs trying to overcome 108 years of organizational angst. This year, it's the Nationals, led by former Cubs skipper Dusty Baker, perhaps feeling baseball's greatest sense of urgency given their organizational inability, thus far, to escape the first round of the postseason. Whether the narrative of a potentially pressure-free Cubs club opposing a pressured situation on the Potomac means anything inside the lines at Nationals Park is anybody's guess, but at least it makes for good conversation.
"I would want to believe that coming into this year, we have an eagerness about us without an anxiety about us," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
More fundamental to this series are Jacob Arrieta and Max Scherzer's hamstring injuries that have affected the rotation alignments. So for Game 1, it's Kyle Hendricks vs. Stephen Strasburg. The latter has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, but don't let Hendricks' overall statistical step back from last year's showing as an NL Cy Young finalist distract you from the 2.19 ERA he's posted in his last 13 starts. Another key here will be the condition of Bryce Harper's bat after missing 46 games with a hyperextended left knee and going 3-for-18 upon his return.
D-backs at Dodgers, 10:30 p.m. ET, TBS
The D-backs were responsible for 19 percent of the mighty Dodgers' 58 losses this season and outscored them 99-71 along the way. So maybe don't get too caught up in their status as a Wild Card team here. Arizona comes in confident that it is far more than a one-game, one-trick pony.
But yes, that wild NL Wild Card Game did fundamentally change the D-backs' equation for this best-of-five series, because Arizona had to burn both Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray to get past the Rockies. That puts the ball in the hands of 25-year-old Taijuan Walker opposite the great Clayton Kershaw, a tough but fun opponent for the kid, who had a bit of a breakout year with a 137 ERA+ in 28 starts.
"I think the biggest thing is to just focus on myself, focus on my game plan, focus on the pitches I have to execute," Walker said. "Kershaw is the best in the game. It's definitely going to be a fun one, but I think I've just got to focus on myself."
As for Kershaw, well, when is one of his starts not appointment viewing? He went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA against the D-backs this year, but, notably, both of those starts came before the D-backs made their game-changing acquisition of J.D. Martinez. Twenty-nine homers later, they've got another right-handed force for Kershaw to contend with.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.