The post-season is here, beginning with the wildcard round and its one game winner-take-all contests.
Yesterday, I looked at the AL match-up. Tonight is the NL’s turn. More after the jump.
Rockies vs D-Backs
The NL wildcard matches two teams returning from the post-season wilderness with Arizona making its first playoff appearance since 2011 and Colorado its first since 2009. Neither team has won a post-season series since 2007, when the Rockies bested the D-Backs in the NLCS.
On paper, home field advantage for Arizona could be crucial as the Snakes’ .642 winning percentage at Chase Field is the second best home mark this season, trailing only the division rival Dodgers. Colorado has historically done poorly in Phoenix, posting an OPS+ below league average in 7 of the past 8 years, including this season with a lowly 65 mark, tied with the 2012 club for the franchise’s lowest season mark since 2000. Add in Arizona starter Zack Greinke‘s home record this season (13-1, 2.87 ERA, 0.957 WHIP) and it could be tough night for the Rox.
Greinke has an extensive history against many of the Colorado starters, recording 30 AB or more against 7 of them. Of those seven, Carlos Gonzalez has fared the best with a .333 BA and 5 homers in 33 AB. Trevor Story has also done some damage against Arizona’s veteran righty with a .333 BA and 4 homers in 24 AB.
Colorado counters with their ace Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67 ERA, 1.296 WHIP in a half-season of work). Gray posted a 2-1 record in three starts this season against the Snakes, with both of those wins coming in Phoenix. None of the D-Backs have faced Gray a lot, with Jake Lamb and David Peralta leading with way with only 13 AB. Only J.D. Martinez has homered against Gray though Peralta has done some damage with a .462 BA. Paul Goldschmidt‘s 0 for 11 is notable among those who have struggled against the Colorado righty.
Tonight will be Gray’s first post-season game while Greinke’s gets the call for his tenth post-season start. Greinke struggled in his first post-season for the Brewers in 2011, but has recorded a nifty 2.38 ERA in 6 post-season starts since then, all for the Dodgers, including pitching into the 7th inning or later in each of his last 5 appearances. In 6 previous home starts in the post-season, Greinke is 3-1 with his team winning the other two contests.
Twins vs Yankees
The upstart Twins take the field against a retooled Yankee club that enters the post-season with solid young talent at 5 positions and on the mound, something not seen in the Bronx in nearly two decades. Minnesota has never beaten the Yankees in the post-season, getting swept in their only meetings in the 2009 and 2010 division series. The Yankees also swept the Twins when Minnesota last visited the Bronx just two weeks ago.
To try to break through against New York, the Twins will have to handle Yankee ace Luis Severino. Severino has faced Minnesota just once in his career, that coming at Yankee Stadium on Sep 20, when he left the game trailing 3-0 after throwing 71 pitches over 3 innings, his second shortest outing of the season (the Yanks won the game 11-3). Severino’s home/road split this season is fairly pronounced, with a 3.71 ERA at home but only 2.24 on the road. However, his 10 highest games scores (73 and up) are evenly split 5-5 home and away. Against .500 or better teams, Severino posted a 3-3 record with 4.19 ERA; that compares to 11-3, 2.40 against weaker opponents.
Opposing New York’s 23 year-old fireballer is Minnesota’s veteran right-hander Ervin Santana. Santana’s 33 starts this season show ERA results of 1.75 for starts 1-11, 5.00 for starts 12-22, and 3.27 for starts 23-33, the last almost identical to his 3.28 season ERA. Santana recorded 5 complete games and 7 more starts of 7 IP, but only two of those twelve games came in the last third of his season. Santana faced New York once this year, allowing two ER over 5.2 IP on Sep 18. For his career at new Yankee Stadium, Santana is 0-5 with a 6.43 ERA, with only a slightly better 5.19 ERA at the Stadium’s previous incarnation. Against current Yankees whom he has faced at least 10 times, Santana has done well against Todd Frazier, Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro (collective .163/.250/.327), but would prefer not facing Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury (.321/.352/.420). Somewhat surprisingly, Matt Holliday is not in the starting lineup, despite a .417/.417/1.083 slash in 12 PA against Santana.
Minnesota has trailed after 5 innings in only 61 games this season, a trait that would serve them well against the Yankees, who are 74-17 this year when leading or tied after 5 frames. While the Yankee bullpen is justly deserving of its stellar reputation for closing out victories, the Twins are actually slightly better over the last 3 innings of the game, with an .833 winning percentage (79-16) when leading or tied after 6 innings, compared to .810 (81-19) for New York. The Yankees have the edge in comebacks, with a creditable .239 mark (17-54) when trailing after 5 innings, compared to .115 (7-54) for the Twins.
Enjoy the game!