The Opener: NLCS, ALCS, Scherzer

With a couple of postseason games on the docket, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around baseball today:

1. NLCS Game 3:

After a rough couple of games at Citizens Bank Park, the Diamondbacks are headed home to Chase Field. The change of scenery could be just what they need to regain their momentum and slow down the red-hot Phillies. Across the regular season and the playoffs, Philadelphia has gone 55-32 (.632) at home this season. However, they’ve been far more vulnerable on the road, with a 42-41 (.506) record.

The rookie Brandon Pfaadt will start for Arizona, while Ranger Suárez takes the hill for Philadelphia. Pfaadt has looked capable in his first two postseason outings, pitching to a 3.86 ERA in seven innings of work. Suárez, however, is starting to look like a playoff legend in the making, with a career 1.16 ERA in 23 1/3 innings over the past two postseasons.

While D-backs manager Torey Lovullo has kept Pfaadt on a short leash thus far, he might have to ride his no. 3 starter a little harder this time around. The team is planning a bullpen game for Game 4, so Lovullo would surely like to give his relievers a little rest today. At the same time, he will need to be aggressive to avoid putting his team in a 3-0 hole. It will be a difficult balancing act for the longtime Diamondbacks skipper.

First pitch is set for 4:07 pm CT.

2. ALCS Game 4:

Following a momentum-shifting 8-5 victory in Game 3, the Astros will look to even up the series with the Rangers tonight at Globe Life Field. Meanwhile, the Rangers will look to bounce back after suffering their first loss of the postseason.

Andrew Heaney will take the mound for Texas against José Urquidy of Houston in a battle between two starters who have moved back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen this season. Neither looked as sharp in 2023 as he did the year before, but both pitched well in their first postseason outings. Heaney held the Orioles to one run in 3 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the ALDS, while Urquidy gave the Astros 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball in a series-clinching Game 4 victory over the Twins.

The game begins at 7:03 pm CT.

3. Scherzer struggles in his return:

Max Scherzer wasn’t exactly sharp in his return to the mound on Wednesday, giving up five runs in four innings against the Astros. The veteran starter had not pitched in over a month, and he made a remarkably speedy return from a teres major strain, so one can hardly blame him for looking a little rusty. Still, the Rangers need more from the eight-time All-Star if they’re going to hand him the ball in a potential ALCS Game 7.

On a positive note, manager Bruce Bochy had enough confidence in Scherzer to let him finish four innings despite his struggles. After the game, Scherzer told reporters (including Julia Kreuz of MLB.com) that his arm felt “really good” and that it “responded well.” However, the Rangers will surely keep close tabs on the future Hall of Famer in the coming days, before Bochy makes any decisions about his potential Game 7 starter.

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