MLB Tipsheet: Aces galore in Championship Series openers
With the Division Series in the rear view mirror the remaining teams are sitting pretty after a quartet of comfortable series wins. Houston and Milwaukee were undefeated while LA and Boston both ran out 3-1 winners. Ben Steele breaks down the series openers...
"As pitching playoff matchups go Justin Verlander v Chris Sale is about as good as it gets. Verlander is a future Hall of Famer and Sale is on track to join him in Cooperstown if he continues at the same pace."
Different styles set up interesting pitching battle
The only surprise from L.A's 3-1 series win over the Atlanta Braves was that Clayton Kershaw didn't start in the first game of the series. Kershaw, one of only two pitchers to win MVP honours in the last 25 years, has been restored to the role of Game 1 starter and gives the Dodgers a huge advantage as he faces off against Gio Gonzalez.
While Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will rely on Kershaw to put in six or seven solid innings of work, Milwaukee will probably look to use Gonzalez for a couple of innings and then turn to their vaunted bullpen to take control.
Look for LA to take the lead early and then Milwaukee to score a few runs late in the day after Kershaw is withdrawn. The pitching battle will be key tonight as Miller Park is a famously hitter friendly stadium and both sides possess immense batting power.
I expected the Dodgers to build an early lead and despite late pressure from the Brewers they will take the win, and a 1-0 lead in a series Jasmine Baba predicts will go all the way to Game 7.
Two greats go head-to-head
As pitching playoff matchups go Justin Verlander v Chris Sale is about as good as it gets. Verlander is a future Hall of Famer and Sale is on track to join him in Cooperstown if he continues at the same pace. These two faced each other in the Division Series last year, with Houston emerging victorious after Sale gave up seven runs in an 8-2 loss that set the Astros on their way to a World Series victory.
With the likes of Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, George Springer, J.D. Martinez and Alex Bregman stepping in to the batter's box the job of keeping the score down will be a tough ask but the two starters tonight are certainly the men to try. Boston have flashed the ability to dominate games during the playoffs, including a 16-1 win over New York in the ALDS, but these wins masked concerns about the bullpen and the fact that their hitters can get in to slumps.
Look for the Astros to secure an away win and take the home field advantage from the number 1 seed; any time you can bet on Verlander at evens or above it is worth a look.