The Boston Red Sox are in the strongest position after they jumped on the Tampa Bay Raysâ€™ ace David Price for seven runs on Saturday to take a 2-0 series lead.
Big Papi David Ortiz has lost none of his flair for the dramatic as his big hits have led a strong Boston offence that has been too good for the Rays in the first two games. Frustratingly for Tampa Bay, they havenâ€™t helped themselves by committing several defensive miscues, most notably in Wil Myerâ€™s â€œIâ€™ve got it, Iâ€™ve got it … oh no I havenâ€™tâ€ turn in Game One.
The Rays donâ€™t have to forage far back in the memory bank to remind themselves of their ability to recover from adversity and their scheduled starter for Game Three, Alex Cobb, has been one of their most influential players in that regard of late. Weâ€™ll have to see whether a change of scenery will lead to a change in fortune for Tampa Bay on Monday.
The other American League Division Series will move to a Game Three on that day too. It will be an early start for the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Aâ€™s making for a very convenient 18.07 first pitch for us in the U.K.
The series is perfectly poised at 1-1, something that Aâ€™s fans (including myself) are mightily relieved about. Max Scherzer got the better of Oakland in Game One, carrying on his tremendous regular season form, and that didnâ€™t bode well for the Aâ€™s with their 2012 nemesis Justin Verlander taking the mound for Detroit in Game Two.
Verlander was his excellent normal self, but he was matched by rookie Sonny Gray in an enormously impressive eight inning performance by the 23-year-old.Â Stephen Vogt then added his name to the list of relative unknowns getting big postseason hits by singling home the gameâ€™s only run in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 1-0 victory.
After facing Scherzer and Verlander, it doesnâ€™t get any easier for the Aâ€™s in Game Three with Anibal Sanchez scheduled to start. Oaklandâ€™s Jarrod Parker had a couple of poor outings during September after pitching brilliant in August and heâ€™ll need to re-find that form if the Aâ€™s are to take a 2-1 lead.
Before then, the two National League Division Series will move on to Game Three on Sunday.
The Los Angeles had the perfect start to the series in Atlanta with the perfect starter on the mound in Clayton Kershaw. There are some very talented pitchers around but if I had to pick one to pitch a crucial game for me then Iâ€™d struggle to look past Kershaw. He was terrific in Game One and gave his team a 1-0 advantage before the Braves hit back in Game Two to level the series.
The post-game analysis largely focused on whether Dodgers manager Don Mattingly handed over the hard-won 1-0 advantage with his tactical pitching changes in the crucial seventh inning in Game Two. The sky-high expectations that come with skippering the most expensively-assembled team in the Majors mean some are already speculating that Mattingly will be shown the door if his team goes on to lose this series. Â The best way to put those comments to one side will be to win Game Three and thatâ€™s what the Dodgers will try to do behind Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.
As for the Pittsburgh Pirates, their magic carpet ride hit some turbulence in Game One of their NLDS as the St. Louis Cardinals bashed A.J. Burnett aside in a comprehensive 9-1 victory. However, the Buccos havenâ€™t simply flown into the postseason on a hot streak and a bit of luck. Theyâ€™ve proved themselves to be a resilient team over the course of the season and their Game Two performance was testament to that.
They could have been swept up by the home crowd and feared the worst for their postseason coming to an early end. Instead, rookie Gerrit Cole took control with six strong innings that showed he already has the composure to go alongside his undoubted talent.
Now itâ€™s the Cardinals that will have to dig deep, heading to what will be a raucous PNC Park to face the Piratesâ€™ ace Francisco Liriano in Game Three. That game will start at 21.37 BST and kicks off what will be several days of gripping baseball. Here are the current scheduled start times in BST for the remaining Division Series games.
Sunday 6 October
21.37. St. Louis at Pittsburgh (Kelly â€“ Liriano) ESPN
01.07. a.m. Atlanta at LA Dodgers (Teheran â€“ Ryu) ESPN
Monday 7 October
18.07. Oakland at Detroit (Parker â€“ Sanchez) ESPN
20.07. St. Louis at Pittsburgh (Wacha â€“ Morton) ESPN?
23.07. Boston at Tampa Bay (Buchholz â€“ Cobb) ESPN?
02.37. a.m. Atlanta at LA Dodgers (Garcia â€“Nolasco) ESPN?
Tuesday 8 October
22.07. Oakland at Detroit (Straily â€“ Fister) ESPN
01.37. a.m. Boston at Tampa Bay (Peavy â€“ Hellickson)*ESPN
Wednesday 9 October
22.07. Pittsburgh at St. Louis (Burnett â€“ Wainwright)* ESPN
01.37. a.m. LA Dodgers at Atlanta (Kershaw â€“ Medlen)* ESPN
Thursday 10 October
22.37. Tampa Bay at Boston (Moore â€“Lester)* ESPN
02.07. a.m. Detroit at Oakland (Scherzer â€“ Colon)* BTSport1
It looks like all of the games will be on ESPN, with the exception of a potential Game Five in the Tigers-A’s series that would be covered on BT Sports 1. On Monday, it’s probable that ESPN will simply switch to the next game when the previous one comes to an end.