<
>

MLB Playoffs Daily: Houston Astros look to seize control of ALCS

With the Washington Nationals' stunning sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series complete, the ALCS is the only game in town -- and even that isn't a sure thing Wednesday, thanks to Mother Nature.

What's on tap

Wednesday's schedule

8:08 p.m. ET: Astros at Yankees, ALCS Game 4

The most important thing of the day: The weather forecast for New York. With heavy rain likely and the Nationals finishing off the Cardinals on Tuesday, we might have an unexpected postseason day off.

The view from inside the ballpark

NEW YORK -- Will there be a Game 4 tonight? Not if you believe local meteorologist Joe "Joestradamus" Cioffi, who told ESPN.com, "My guess is yes they will cancel. Rain develops by 5 p.m. then heavy rain [Wednesday] night." Who are we to argue with Joestradamus? -- Matt Marrone

A stat to impress your friends: On May 31, the Tigers and Nationals both had 33 losses. The Tigers finished the season 47-114; the Nationals are going to the World Series.

Predictions

Astros-Yankees

For this exercise, let's argue with Joestradamus. If Game 4 isn't postponed -- which, just to be clear, it almost certainly will be -- it's a bullpen day for the Yankees. They really need this one, so we'll give them the edge. Yankees 6, Astros 5 -- Marrone

If the game is played, both sides are planning for a bullpen game, which should give the Yankees the edge. After being embarrassed Tuesday night, the Yankees' offense is bound to wake up against the Astros' bullpen, which despite its recent success, gave up 11 hits and 10 earned runs over 16 innings (5.63 ERA) against Tampa Bay in the division series. Yankees 8, Astros 5 -- Marly Rivera

About last night

Stud of the night: How about studs? You've got to hand it to the Nationals for going from a 19-31 start to an NLCS sweep and the first World Series appearance for a franchise that goes back to the days of the Montreal Expos. Bon travail, Nats!

Dud of the night: Dakota Hudson had a fine season for the Cardinals, but the 25-year-old right-hander was overwhelmed Tuesday, recording only one out as the Nationals scored seven first-inning runs en route to their sweep-capping win.

Highlight of the night:

Off the diamond

Social media says:

Quote of note: "I don't know if it was the ball or if it was the wind. It was a little chilly tonight. I'm not quite sure exactly how this park plays; I've only pitched here one other time. But it's baseball. Did Jeter's ball really go out or did the guy reach over and pull it out?" -- Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole on the warning-track fly balls in Game 3 and whether the balls in the postseason aren't sailing the way they did in the regular season

Best of the playoffs so far ...

Our running postseason MVP: How good is Gerrit Cole right now? Everyone agrees he was a little off in Game 3 of the ALCS, yet he nonetheless shut out the Yankees over seven innings for a huge Astros win. For the postseason, Cole is 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts, giving up one run, 10 hits and eight walks in 22⅔ innings. Needless to say, he's on track for one of the best postseasons ever for a starting pitcher.

The play of this October: We're going to cheat and make this plays: the back-to-back home runs by the Nationals' Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto off the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Kershaw in the wake of Soto's tying bomb could end up as the lasting image of these playoffs.

Game of the postseason so far: Nationals-Dodgers, Game 5 of the NLDS. The Dodgers ambushing Stephen Strasburg, Strasburg settling down and keeping the Nats in it, Walker Buehler's mastery, Kershaw's big strikeout before his eighth-inning implosion, Howie Kendrick's 10th-inning grand slam, questions for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. There's a lot to unpack here, and this was a true postseason classic.