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 to a single World Series win on Saturday.
Harper delivered a brace as the Phillies, who had eight games under .500 in 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, really,” Harper said.
The Astros, who have 106 wins, made it easy against the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, shutting out New York 5-0 for a 3-0 lead.
“Well, I don’t know if dominant is the word,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “I mean, they’re all close except tonight. So I don’t think about being dominant. I’m just thinking about scoring one more run than they score and winning the ball game.
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 ALCS 2004.
Lance McCullers Jr. is expected to start at Yankee Stadium as the Astros attempt to sweep. Nestor Cortes leaves for New York.
The Phillies try to shut down the Padres at Citizens Bank Park.
Both pennants could be decided on the same day for the first time since 1992.
Here’s what else to know about Sunday’s MLB playoffs:
SUNDAY SCHEDULE (Every hour ET)
NLCS Game 5: San Diego at Philadelphia, 2:37 p.m., FS1
ALCS Game 4: Houston vs. New York Yankees, 7:07 p.m., TBS
All season, Aaron Judge couldn’t be 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 was a different story and sound this playoffs.
The judge was booed at home after striking out two while going 0 for 4 on Saturday night. He’s batting .156 with 14 strikeouts and two home runs and three RBIs in the postseason, including 1 for 12 against the Astros.
“I fully understand their frustration. … I understand why there are boos and why there are shouts sometimes. We have to get it back as a team,” he said.
The pitching game for Game 5 of the NLCS is the same as the opener: Yu Darvish for the Padres versus Zack Wheeler for 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 on walks. Darvish also went seven innings and allowed three hits, including home runs by Harper and Kyle Schwarber.
“We only need to win one to go home. This is what concerns us tomorrow, it is to win a match. We have Yu on the mound. We have our best relievers available for several innings tomorrow, and our goal is to win a game and bring 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 also have a very good guy,” he said.
ON THE BOARD
Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros knew he would 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 no-hitter drought ever by a player to start a postseason — at 0 for 25 when he doubled up at Yankee Stadium.
Altuve’s hit came from Gerrit Cole. Smiling teammates raised their arms and banged the dugout railing to salute Altuve.
“I think it’s obviously been difficult personally because you want to get up there and play well for your team. But it was a lot easier too, because we won,” Altuve said.
Previously, Altuve’s worst career drought was 0 for 19 in 2018.
The 5-foot-6 Altuve hit .300 with 28 home runs and 57 RBIs during the regular season. The eight-time All-Star has 23 career playoff homers, second in Big League history behind Manny Ramirez (29).
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