Sunday October 9th, 2011

Taking a look at Sunday's playoff action ...

Series: NLCS, Game 1

Time: 4:05 p.m. EST


Starters: Jaime Garcia (0-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (0-0, 7.20 ERA)

• The Brewers had a rather extreme home/road split in the regular season, and the home team won every game of their just-completed Division Series against the Diamondbacks, but when the Cardinals last came to Wisconsin at the end of August, they swept the Brewers in three games at Miller Park. The first game of that set was a pitchers' duel between Edwin Jackson and Shaun Marcum. The other two were blowouts in which the Cardinals beat up Randy Wolf and Yovani Gallardo.

• Greinke went 11-0 at Miller Park this year, two of those wins coming against the Cardinals, and turned in a 3.15 ERA with three quality starts in as many tries and 18 strikeouts against just one walk in 20 innings against St. Louis on the season. However, only one of his last four starts at home was quality, a quartet that includes his Game 2 start in the Division Series, in which he gave up four runs on a trio of home runs in five innings, though he also struck out seven against no walks. That was the first time all season that Greinke had given up three home runs in one game. Before that start, he had gone 9-3 with a 2.61 ERA, 9.8 K/9 and just nine home runs allowed over his final 16 regular season starts.

• Garcia's road ERA was more than two runs higher than his road mark this season, though awful luck on balls in play was the primary culprit. Garcia's BABIP on the road was .374, more than one hundred points higher than his home mark, but he actually had better strikeout and walk rates on the road. In his lone Division Series start, which came at home, he held the Phillies scoreless for six frames, four of them 1-2-3 innings, before giving up a decisive three-run homer to righty pinch-hitter Ben Francisco with two outs in the seventh. During the regular season, he made two starts against the Brewers, shutting them out on two hits at home in May, then giving up seven runs (four unearned) in five innings in Milwaukee in August. In those two starts he struck out 14 against just one walk in 14 innings.

LEMIRE: Cards, Brewers don't like each other

• Garcia has actually handled both Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun well in his brief career. The two Brewers sluggers have hit a combined .256/.250/.372 in 44 total plate appearances against Garcia with no walks and a sac fly.

• Matt Holliday has just one single in seven at-bats since returning to the Cardinals lineup in Game 4 of the Division series, but he's 5-for-12 with two home runs and a walk against Greinke in his career.

• The Cardinals are expected to leave Skip Schumaker off their NLCS roster due to the strained right oblique he suffered in the final game of the Division Series on Friday. That will leave second base in the hands of the right-handed Ryan Theriot and switch-hitting Nick Punto. Theriot, who started Games 2 and 3 of the Division series, went 6-for-10 with a pair of doubles against the Phillies. St. Louis is also expected to add right-handed pitchers Kyle McClellan and Lance Lynn to the roster, with Jake Westbrook, who didn't appear in the Division Series, being removed to clear the additional roster space.

Series: ALCS, Game 2

Time: 7:45 p.m. EST


Starters: Max Scherzer (1-0, 1.23 ERA) vs. Derek Holland (1-0, 1.42 ERA)

• The Rangers' victory in Game 1 on Saturday night was significant not only for the win, but because they beat Justin Verlander, who may only start once more in this series (though the use of Game 4 starter Rick Porcello in relief and the fact that a pair of rain delays limited Verlander to 82 pitches opens up the possibility of Verlander coming back on short rest in Game 4). If they can beat Max Scherzer tonight, they'll head to Detroit knowing that their season will extend past Verlander's next start, and that they'll either clinch the pennant on the road or come back home.

• Scherzer was one of the stars of the Division Series against the Yankees, twirling six shutout innings as the Tigers' Game 2 starter and winner and impressing in 1 1/3 innings of relief in the decisive Game 5, the only run he allowed scoring after he was removed in favor of Joaquin Benoit. That performance, which took place entirely in the new Yankee Stadium and included seven strikeouts in those 7 1/3 innings, belied his regular-season home/road split, which saw his ERA swell to 5.23 away from Comerica Park due in part to a home-run rate of 1.9 per nine innings, nearly twice the league average. Scherzer's three regular-season starts against the Rangers fell in line with that split as he twice held the Rangers to two runs in six innings at home but gave up five runs in five innings in his lone start in Arlington.

• Holland had a similar division series to Scherzer, winning his Game 2 start and throwing 1 1/3 innings of relief in the clincher, though he was less impressive in his start, allowing three runs (two unearned) in five innings while striking out just two. Holland had a significantly higher ERA at home this season, but park factor and luck on balls in play explain away a lot of that. Holland didn't face the Tigers at all this year, his last appearance against them coming in a start last September in Arlington, and the only Tiger with more than six career plate appearances against Holland is the injured Delmon Young. Given how well Holland pitched in the second half of this season, going 10-1 with a 2.77 ERA and three shutouts in his final 15 starts, it's likely that the Tigers will see a very different Holland tonight than they saw more than a year ago.

• The Rangers and Tigers have combined for seven wins in this postseason. Five of them, including Game 1 of this series, have been one-run games, and the other two were both two-run games.

• How close was Game 1? The Tigers had more hits and more walks and just as many hits with runners in scoring position (one) as the Rangers, but the Rangers had the game's only home run, a solo homer by Nelson Cruz off Verlander, and that was the difference. It didn't help that the Tigers struck out 14 times and thus left more runner on base and in scoring position, though you can credit the fine work of the Rangers' pitchers, particularly relievers Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz, who combined for six of those strikeouts in three innings of work, as much as you can blame the Tigers for all of those Ks.

• Ramon Santiago had more hits in Game 1 of this series (three) than he had in 14 at-bats in the Division Series (two). He was the only player on either team with multiple hits in Game 1.

• The rain delay on Saturday night was the first time rain had interrupted a game in Arlington since May 24.

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