The postseason has begun, and this year more than ever before, the schedule can be very overwhelming. I’ve decided to breakdown the starting pitching matchups daily every day until the end of the World Series, including which one I think should be the highest priority to watch.
12:08 pm EDT: Luis Castillo, Reds @ Ian Anderson, Braves (ATL leads 1-0)
The vaunted Reds’ pitching was as advertised in Game 1, but they came up just short in a marathon game and will dip into their depth of arms again in Luis Castillo to save their season. An ace in his own right, Castillo was sub-3 in both FIP and xFIP, and punched out 11.44 per 9. He also racks up ground balls and will try to keep the Braves offense as stymied as they were for so long yesterday. While the Braves scored once in 13 innings, the Reds didn’t score at all, and Ian Anderson won’t make it easy to break that trend Thursday. Anderson has been dominant in his abbreviated rookie campaign, with a 1.95 ERA and 2.54 FIP, allowing just a .172 opponent AVG. He does walk a high amount, but also strikes out a boatload, thanks to an utterly devastating wipeout changeup, one he’ll use heavily to try to advance his team to the NLDS.
Where to watch: ESPN
2:08pm EDT: Sixto Sánchez, Marlins @ Yu Darvish, Cubs (MIA leads 1-0)
This will be a fun one, as rookie phenom Sixto Sánchez has the chance to advance the upstart Marlins and keep their perfect Postseason record intact. Sánchez has had the nasty stuff that was advertised in his prospect days, pitching to a 3.50 FIP and 3.46 ERA, though he has managed only 7.62 K/9. Still, his upper 90s heat and filthy change could easily play up against a beleaguered Cubs lineup. Of course, to prevent elimination, the Cubs have a dynamic arm of their own in likely Cy Young finalist Yu Darvish. Darvish famously throws *checks notes* every pitch, so if one weapon isn’t working he has limitless others he can use to give the Marlins fits. He was the NL fWAR leader (among pitchers) for this exact reason.
Where to watch: ABC
3:10 pm EDT: Dane Dunning, White Sox @ TBA, Athletics (Series tied 1-1)
In a winner-take-all Game 3, the White Sox turn to rookie Dane Dunning, an effective but unspectacular option. Dunning provides a solid chance to keep his team in the game, with a 92 ERA- and 88 FIP-, but is unlikely to go very long, averaging under 5 innings per start. He’ll rely on the deep White Sox bullpen, one that was used heavily yesterday, go on to face the Astros. As for the A’s, they’re being very cagey about whom they’ll be using to see if they can face their division rivals in the ALDS. Mike Fiers (4.94 FIP) isn’t a great pitcher, but he’s the best righty available. The other choices are lefties, and the White Sox notably crush them, in Sean Manaea (3.71 FIP) and Mike Minor (4.64). Whomever it is, they’re backed up by a rested bullpen, save for the closer, a huge strength of the A’s.
Where to watch: ESPN
7:08 pm EDT: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals @ Zach Davies, Padres (STL leads 1-0)
With a sparkling 2.81 ERA and 2.73 FIP across 105.2 career Postseason innings, 39-year old Adam Wainwright will get the ball to pitch the Cardinals to the NLDS. No longer the ace he once was, Wainwright provides consistency and depth, valuable traits in a playoff game. He averages over 6.5 innings per start and has put up his best numbers since 2015 this year, mostly due to his tiny 5.7 BB%. For the young Padres trying to avoid elimination will be Zach Davies, an offseason acquisition who’s been great on the surface. The ERA is a shiny 2.73, but it masks an ugly 5.01 xERA and 4.14 xFIP, as Davies neither misses bats nor limits hard contact at elite rates. The Padres will have to hope Davies’s magic to outperform his expected stats and peripherals continues on if they want to see a decisive Game 3.
Where to watch: ESPN2
10:08 pm EDT: Brandon Woodruff, Brewers @ Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (LAD leads 1-0)
The Wild Card Round’s biggest underdog sends out their biggest weapon to see if he can force another day in the powerful Brandon Woodruff. Overshadowed by dominant seasons by a rotation-mate and bullpen piece, Woodruff has quietly been excellent all year. His ERA and its estimators are elite across the board, ranging from 2.97 to 3.29, and, perhaps more importantly, he’s gone 7+ innings in 3 of his last 4 starts, which will be needed after the bullpen game yesterday. Seeking to advance perhaps baseball history’s greatest team to the NLDS is perhaps baseball history’s greatest pitcher, the incredible Clayton Kershaw. Despite no longer being at his GOATesque peak, Kershaw still pitched at an all-star caliber level in 2020, with a 2.16 ERA and 3.05 xFIP, though he has been plagued by home runs all year (1.23 per 9). Of course, there’s the elephant in the room of Kershaw’s former Postseason bugaboos, but his career numbers in October are still 3.49 xFIP in 158.1 IP, indicating that his maligned 4.43 ERA has been the result of some hard luck. Additionally, the short season means less wearing down for the workhorse Kershaw, hopefully granting him more vitality than in playoffs past.
Where to watch: ESPN
Must-Watch Game of the Day
An all-time great pitcher in Kershaw has the chance to be a triumphant hero after being the goat so many times for an all-time great team with the foot on the necks of their opponents. In opposition is the ferocious repertoire of Woodruff leading a massive underdog fighting for their lives. When it comes to narrative, it doesn’t get much better than this. Kershaw is the character this Postseason who will have the most emotional arc, no matter how it plays out. And it starts today against a scintillating competitor.