Our final weekend of baseball’s regular season! It has been a fun ride, my friends.
Here’s a quick look at what to watch for this weekend:
Game of the day: Brewers at Rockies (8:10 p.m. ET)
After the American League wild-card picture became much clearer on Friday night, the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals battling for the National League Central title is the big story of the weekend despite both teams stumbling in their final series openers. Brandon Woodruff starts for Milwaukee, but this will be another bullpen game, as Woodruff has gone only two innings in each of his two starts since coming off the injured list.
There is also the matter of home field for the wild-card game. Entering Saturday we have:
With a win and a Brewers loss, the Cardinals clinch at least a tie for the NL Central. The Cardinals won the season series with Milwaukee 10-9, so if a tiebreaker game is required Monday, the Cardinals will host it. The Cardinals and Brewers both hold the tiebreaker over the Nationals, so the Nationals need to finish with the better record.
Other games to watch
Cubs at Cardinals (7:15 p.m. ET): It’s fitting that Adam Wainwright will get the start (the Cardinals moved Wainwright up from Sunday to start here instead of Miles Mikolas). The 38-year-old has had his best season since 2014, going 14-9 with a 3.98 ERA — oh, and he’s 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA in September. The most recent pitcher to go 6-0 over the final month? Felix Hernandez in 2009, although it took him seven starts, and the seventh one actually came in October. Before that: Jose Contreras for the White Sox in 2005 (all six starts in September). Guess who won the World Series that year?
Yankees at Rangers (8:05 p.m. ET): Luis Severino has looked good in his first two starts of the season, giving up no runs over nine innings against the Angels and Blue Jays. The Rangers will be a little better test. Severino threw 80 pitches in five innings against Toronto, so the Yankees might try to get him in the 90-to-100 range in his final start before the postseason.
Astros at Angels (9:07 p.m. ET): Justin Verlander makes his final tune-up start ahead of next Friday’s Game 1 of the division series. Teammate Gerrit Cole makes his final start Sunday. Without digging into the next layer of stats, it looks like a toss-up for the American League Cy Young Award:
Verlander: 20-6, 2.53 ERA, 217 IP, 133 H, 42 BB, 288 SO, 34 HR, 7.8 bWAR/6.2 fWAR
Cole: 19-5, 2.52 ERA, 207⅓ IP, 138 H, 46 BB, 316 SO, 28 HR, 6.7 bWAR/7.3 fWAR
Split the difference in WAR and you get … a dead heat. Cole has fanned 39.7% of the batters he has faced, the single-season high for a starting pitcher. He also has won 15 decisions in a row, posting a 1.78 ERA over 21 starts. Verlander has the no-hitter and 10 more innings. Cole has made 20 of his 32 starts against teams under .500, while Verlander has made … 20 of his 33 starts against teams under .500. Can we call it a tie?
Game of the day: Dodgers at Giants (3:05 p.m. ET)
We should still have at least a couple games that matter for playoff positioning, but nothing will be more emotional than this. The San Francisco Giants host the Los Angeles Dodgers in Bruce Bochy’s final game as manager … and Madison Bumgarner will be taking the mound in what could be his final start in a Giants uniform if he leaves as a free agent.
Other games to watch
Indians at Nationals (3:05 p.m. ET): Washington is going to the playoffs. Cleveland is not. But the Nats still have the matter of where the wild-card game will be played at stake. Just don’t expect them to pitch anyone named Scherzer, Strasburg or Corbin here.
Rays at Blue Jays (3:07 p.m. ET): 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell will make his third start since coming off the IL. The Rays have 2019 ace Charlie Morton ready to go on full rest for Wednesday’s wild-card game.
A’s at Mariners (3:10 p.m. ET): Tanner Roark starts the final game for Oakland. He has struggled over his past three starts, with a 9.45 ERA and including eight home runs in 13⅓ innings. After losing wild-card games at Kansas City in 2014 and at Yankee Stadium in 2018, the A’s hope they’ll get this one at home. Sean Manaea, who has dominated since his return from the IL, will be the likely starter for that game.
Brewers at Rockies (3:10 p.m. ET): Adrian Houser starts for Milwaukee in a finale with potential NL Central and wild-card implications.
Cubs at Cardinals (3:15 p.m. ET): The Cardinals obviously hope they clinch Saturday so they wouldn’t have to start Jack Flaherty (and his 0.97 ERA in the second half) on Sunday — and thus have him available to start the division series opener next Thursday. If the division title is still up for grabs Sunday, however, manager Mike Shildt hinted that Flaherty would get the ball. That’s not necessarily the worst thing, as Flaherty could then start Game 2 of the National League Division Series on regular rest Friday and then, thanks to the off days, also start Game 5 on regular rest. Of course, if Flaherty pitches Sunday and the Cards end up tied with the Brewers, that takes Flaherty out of the equation for not only the tiebreaker game Monday but a potential wild-card game Tuesday.
Author: David Schoenfield