Two teams will move on to the National League Championship Series, and two teams will be sent home from the MLB playoffs on Wednesday. Will the Dodgers avoid a shocking loss at the hands of the Nationals? Who will have the last laugh as the Cardinals and Braves finish off a drama-filled series?
What’s on tap
5:02 p.m. ET: Cardinals-Braves Game 5
8:37 p.m. ET: Nationals-Dodgers Game 5
The most important thing of the day: Will the Dodgers still be here tomorrow? It’s do-or-die time in the postseason, so every inning of every game is important, but the 106-win NL favorites being sent home early would be the story of October so far.
The view from inside the ballparks
LOS ANGELES — With Stephen Strasburg on the hill and house money in their pockets, the Nationals — still searching for their first playoff series win since the franchise moved to D.C. in 2005 — are as confident as they’ve been for any Game 5. With Walker Buehler on the hill and 106 wins on their résumé (108 including playoffs) the Dodgers are just plain confident. That said, it’s hard to ignore the pressure that comes with high expectations. Just ask the Nats. For his part, Dave Roberts, approaching his sixth win-or-go-home game as the Dodgers’ manager, doesn’t believe his team should feel any more pressure than the Nationals. “I honestly don’t think that, given our path, we feel any more pressure than they do to win a Game 5. It’s a must-win for both teams,” Roberts said. “And I do feel being at home, with Walker on the mound, gives us the best chance to win. I’m very confident that we’re going to come out of this and move on.” — Eddie Matz and Alden Gonzalez
ATLANTA — Max Fried is the difference-maker out of the bullpen for the Braves, but if Adam Wainwright turns out to be the hero, don’t be surprised. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Tuesday that he expects to have Wainwright available for Game 5, and who wouldn’t want someone with his postseason experience? This series has been a grinder — “It’s been exhausting,” according to Braves manager Brian Snitker — but of course it’s all hands on deck for one more night. — Jesse Rogers
A stat to impress your friends: Braves-Cardinals is the second series in postseason history in which three of the first four games were won by teams trailing in the eighth inning or later, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other was the 1988 NLCS between the Dodgers and Mets that L.A. won in seven games.
Asking for a prediction in this series simply isn’t fair. Three games have come down to late-inning heroics, and if run differential is your thing, well, after four games, the Braves have outscored the Cardinals 16-13. Yeah, it has been that close. When in doubt, take the home team. The Braves’ lineup is simply too good — or at least they will be good enough. Braves 4, Cardinals 3 — Jesse Rogers
The Dodgers are at home, where they dominated all season, and they have the pedigree to come through in a make-or-break game such as this. But for some reason, it feels like it’s finally the Nationals’ turn to advance, and Strasburg — the former hyped phenom with impossible expectations — is the perfect guy to pitch them into the NL Championship Series for the first time in their history. Nationals 5, Dodgers 2 — Gonzalez
Generally speaking, home-field advantage isn’t a huge deal in baseball. But Dodger Stadium is an exception. Exactly like in 2016, L.A. edges Washington in Game 5. Dodgers 4, Nationals 3 — Matz
About last night
Stud of the night: Rays manager Kevin Cash, who started a reliever and ended with a starter, pushing all the right buttons along the way. Cash coaxed a combined six-hitter out of Diego Castillo, Ryan Yarbrough, Nick Anderson, Colin Poche, Emilio Pagan and Blake Snell as his “bullpen” crew outpitched Justin Verlander.
Dud of the night: Justin Verlander. Granted, he was going on short rest, but Verlander never looked comfortable. He gave up three first-inning runs and lasting 3⅔ innings, a far cry from his Game 1 gem.
Highlight of the night:
Jose Altuve tries to score from first base, but Willy Adames gets the ball and throws a laser home to beat him.
Off the diamond
Social media says:
The roof about to come off this place as Verlander exits. pic.twitter.com/rho4Z1QhWF
— Emily Jones (@EmilyJonesMcCoy) October 9, 2019
Quote of note: “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be great. There’s a great team over there. … You’ve got to be excited about it. Come on, you got Game 5, win or go home. What’s not to be excited about?” — Cardinals Game 5 starter Jack Flaherty
Best of the playoffs so far …
Our running postseason MVP: The Yankees are still the only team to win their division series. So we’ll give it to Gleyber Torres, who helped the Bombers blast the Bomba Squad with three doubles and a home run in a three-game sweep of the Twins. With three Game 5s in the next two nights, he’ll likely lose the title soon, but for now, it’s Gleyber Day.
The play of this October: Juan Soto‘s single/Trent Grisham‘s error with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning of the NL wild-card game, which turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 Washington lead. Unfortunately for Grisham, the play will be part of those postseason blunders lists — and it could take on a life of its own if the Nationals end up winning it all.
Game of the postseason so far: Braves-Cardinals Game 3. An old-school pitchers’ duel between Mike Soroka and Adam Wainwright had Atlanta down 1-0 entering the ninth. With St. Louis one out from taking a 2-1 series lead, the Cards intentionally walked Brian McCann, Dansby Swanson ripped a double to tie it, and pinch hitter Adam Duvall followed with a two-run single that gave the Braves a 3-1 win.