Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies hoped to be in this position. Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros probably expected it.
Both playing their best ball of the season, the Phillies and Astros surged Saturday within one win of the World Series.
Harper delivered a go-ahead double as the Phillies, who were eight games below .500 going into June, beat San Diego 10-6 to take a 3-1 lead in the NL Championship Series.
”I believe our team is built for October, I really do,” Harper said.
The 106-win Astros have made it look easy against the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, blanking New York 5-0 for a 3-0 lead.
”Well, I don’t know if dominant’s the word,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. ”I mean, all of ’em are close except tonight. So I don’t think about being dominant. I just think about just scoring one more run than they score and winning the ballgame.”
Only once in MLB history has a team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series – the Boston Red Sox did it against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.
Lance McCullers Jr. is set to start at Yankee Stadium as the Astros try for a sweep. Nestor Cortes starts for New York.
The Phillies try to close out the Padres at Citizens Bank Park.
Both pennants could be decided on same day for first time since 1992.
Here’s what else to know about the MLB playoffs Sunday:
SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE (All times ET)
NLCS Game 5: San Diego at Philadelphia, 2:37 p.m., FS1
ALCS Game 4: Houston at New York Yankees, 7:07 p.m., TBS
All season, Aaron Judge could do no wrong. As he hammered his way to an AL-record 62 home runs, made stellar defensive plays and cheered on his teammates, the New York slugger was showered with standing ovations and chants of ”MVP!” at Yankee Stadium.
It’s been a different story and sound this postseason.
Judge was booed at home after striking out twice in going 0 for 4 on Saturday night. He is batting .156 with 14 strikeouts and two homers and three RBIs in the playoffs, including 1 for 12 against the Astros.
”I definitely understand their frustration. … I understand why there’s boos and why there’s yelling at times. We’ve got to pick it up as a team,” he said.
The pitching matchup for Game 5 of the NLCS is the same as the opener: Yu Darvish for the Padres against Zack Wheeler of the Phillies.
They both pitched well in Game 1, a 2-0 win for Philadelphia. Wheeler allowed just one hit in seven innings, striking out eight with one walk. Darvish also went seven innings and allowed three hits, including home runs by Harper and Kyle Schwarber.
”We only need to win one to get home. That’s what we’re concerned about tomorrow is winning one game. We have Yu on the mound. We have our best relievers available for multiple innings tomorrow, and our focus is to win one game and get it home,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson liked the prospect of a well-rested Wheeler on the mound.
”It’s great, but it’s not over. They’ve got a pretty good guy going, too,” he said.
ON THE BOARD
Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros knew he’d get a hit, sooner or later. And later came in Game 3 of the ALCS.
The three-time batting champion ended the worst slump of his career – and the longest hitless drought ever by a player to start a postseason – at 0 for 25 when he doubled at Yankee Stadium.
Altuve’s hit came off Gerrit Cole. Smiling teammates raised their arms and banged the dugout railing to salute Altuve.
”I think it’s been obviously hard personally because you want to get up there and play good for your team. But it’s been a lot easier, too, because we’ve been winning,” Altuve said.
Previously, the worst drought of Altuve’s career was 0 for 19 in 2018.
The 5-foot-6 Altuve batted .300 with 28 homers and 57 RBIs during the regular season. The eight-time All-Star has 23 career postseason home runs, second in big league history behind Manny Ramirez (29).
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