The 2022 MLB playoffs are down to just four teams, each vying for a spot in this year’s World Series.
In the National League Championship Series, it will be Game 4 between the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies. After splitting the opening two games in San Diego, the Phillies took a 2-1 series lead with a 4-2 Game 3 victory on Friday night.
Houston Astros at New York Yankees (5:07 p.m. ET, TBS)
Astros lead series 2-0
Astros starter: Cristian Javier
Yankees starter: Gerrit Cole
What to watch for: Yankees ace Gerrit Cole will need to replicate his most recent performance against the Astros, on June 25, when he went seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight batters. (On the flip side: The Yankees still lost that game, as tonight’s Astros starter, Cristian Javier, combined with two relievers to no-hit New York.) After getting roughed up in last year’s wild-card loss to Boston, Cole has had a strong October so far, posting a 2.03 ERA in two starts against Cleveland in the ALDS, allowing three runs in 13⅓ innings. New York will need more of the same to keep from falling into a 3-0 hole.
Meanwhile, Houston’s Javier makes his first postseason start. Javier’s previous postseason experience has come in relief, where he’s accumulated a 3.38 ERA in 12 appearances, allowing eight runs in 21⅓ innings. Javier pitched 1⅓ innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against Seattle, but has not started a game since Oct. 1. Javier replaces Lance McCullers Jr., whose start was pushed back to Game 4 after an errant champagne bottle struck his elbow during the Astros’ ALDS victory celebration.
For the Yankees, there’s no way around it: They have to win on Saturday. This is the biggest start for Cole in his Yankees career, the reason why New York signed him to a nine-year, $324 million contract before the 2020 season. If they don’t win on Saturday, the team should get a head start on packing up their lockers, especially given the strength and depth of the Astros. — Joon Lee
Yankees 5, Astros 3: Like he has so far this postseason, Cole comes through in the biggest start of his Yankees career, and New York’s offense shows some life against Javier. — Lee
Astros 4, Yankees 3: Runs have been hard to come by for the Yankees and their task won’t get any easier against Javier and a rested Houston bullpen. Seems like we’re headed for a short series. — Bradford Doolittle
Yankees 2, Astros 1: Cole almost single-handedly won New York its division series against Cleveland, and for his third act all he needs to do is save the Yankees’ season. Houston picked apart the Yankees over the series’ first two games, and with New York’s bats acting as if they’d hibernated for winter already, anything short of perfection on the mound may not be enough. So the Yankees turn to Cole to oppose Javier, who over his past four regular-season starts threw 23 innings of shutout baseball and allowed six hits. Yes, that’s the Astros’ No. 3 or 4 starter. Yes, this is the task the Yankees — and perhaps ultimately the NL pennant winner — must face. This is what makes Game 3 a must-win for New York. — Jeff Passan
San Diego Padres at Philadelphia Phillies (7:45 p.m. ET, FOX)
Phillies lead series 2-1
Padres starter: Mike Clevinger
Phillies starter: Bailey Falter
What to watch for: It might feel like the Phillies are playing with some house money after beating Joe Musgrove with a back end rotation guy in Ranger Suarez in Game 3. But they could face an uphill battle on Saturday after going with 25-year-old lefty Falter as the surprise starter. By design, he won’t go very long, which means manager Rob Thomson will need his pen again after using them for four innings on Friday. Piggybacking Falter with Noah Syndergaard, and getting a few innings out of him, might be the Phillies’ best-case scenario.
The Padres’ staff is set up better for the next few days, but they’ll need on offensive output like they got in Game 2 to ensure the series returns to San Diego. Padres starter Clevinger has playoff experience but not necessarily great numbers. He gave up five runs (four earned) in just 2⅔ innings against the Dodgers in the last round and has as career 5.74 ERA in nine postseason appearances. For all of the above reasons, expect a high-scoring game. — Jesse Rogers
Padres 7, Phillies 6: It’ll be a wild affair as both teams will use their bullpens early and often in Game 4, but the Padres will survive because the Phillies won’t get the shutdown innings they did in Friday’s win. — Rogers
Padres 7, Phillies 6: Just how quickly San Diego manager Bob Melvin and Thomson have to pull their starting pitchers could be the bellwether for a game that is the likeliest in this series to go sideways. The Phillies have to be careful about overextending their bullpen. The Padres, with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola looming, absolutely need to win Game 4. These teams are too closely matched for the series not to return to San Diego. — Passan
Phillies 6, Padres 5: Clevinger has been trying to pitch through a sore knee — without a lot of success, posting a 7.10 ERA over his past seven starts (including five runs in 2⅔ innings against the Dodgers in the division series). Feels like an early Phillies lead and they hold on to get one win away from the World Series. — David Schoenfield