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Everyone’s Having Fun Without Us: There’s Only One Game Tonight, But It’s A Big One

Given the likely Game 4 pitching matchup, Game 3 of the NLCS is as important as ever.

Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres - Game Two Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Welcome to Everyone’s Having Fun Without Us: An Occasional Postseason Diary. The Sox are done, but baseball isn’t and, on most nights — when we’re not too bitter to watch the Yankees, or too tired for the West Coast games, or when the people we live with don’t tell us “enough with the goddamn baseball, already! This has been going on for six months!” — we’ll be here, providing some quick thoughts about the postseason.

A Massive Game 3 In Philly

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Here’s a stat you’re going to see a lot tonight during Game 3 of the NLCS between the Padres and Phillies (possibly even more than commercials aimed at men with low-functioning penises): in MLB history, there have been 97 best-of-seven series tied at one game a piece, and in those 97 series, the winner of Game 3 went on to win the series 67 times, a success rate of 69% (I know: nice — especially if you bought some of that penis medicine).

Frankly, this stat doesn’t mean all that much. All it really tells us is that it’s harder to win three games than two. There’s an old cliche in baseball that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, and it’s largely true: put your ace on the hill after losing Game 3 and you’ve got a golden opportunity to tie the series back up and render the outcome of the previous day’s game irrelevant. But here’s the problem: for these two particular teams, the next day’s starting pitcher is, well, let’s just take a look.

For Game 4, the Padres will be choosing between Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea. If you’ve spent most of the year sleeping through West Coast baseball, then maybe you just saw those names and figured that the Padres are in pretty good shape — they’ve got two talented pitchers with track records of recent success. Not so fast. While Clevinger was outstanding in Cleveland, twice finishing the season in the top 10 of pitching bWAR, he’s been working his way back from Tommy John surgery this year and it hasn’t been pretty. He’s been particularly awful on the road, where hitters have a produced a 117 OPS+ against him. Sean Manaea’s been bad everywhere, and it hasn’t been because of bad luck — he finished in the bottom 20th percentile this year in average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and barrel percentage. There really isn’t anything he’s done well on a mound in 2022.

The Phillies will be turning to Noah Syndergaard. Hey, Thor! Cool! Except that he, too, is still trying to recover his old form after Tommy John. He was league average at best this year, with his once deific fastball averaging just 94 MPH.

There’s no predicting baseball, ever. But there’s really no predicting it when you’ve got a pitching matchup between complete question marks. Tonight’s game, in other words, is really, really important.

More Awful Athlete Cliches

Championship Series - New York Yankees v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Professional athletes almost never say anything interesting after a game. Frankly, it often seems like they don’t even think when they’re talking. Here’s Aaron Judge, after the Yankees lost to the Astros last night, falling behind in the series two games to none: “We’ve been in this spot before. Every single guy in this room knows what they need to do to get us to the next step.”

Ok, first, has this current iteration of the Yankees ever been down 2-0 in the ALCS? Yes, as it turns out, they have, and it was against the Astros, too. The 2017 Yankees fell behind the Astros 2-0, and, as is the case with this series, they were tough losses, both games finishing 2-1. But here’s the problem, Aaron, you lost that series. You didn’t really know what you needed to do, or, if you did, you didn’t do it. Similarly, they trailed the 2019 ALCS by two games at one point (though it was 3-1, not 2-0), and, again, they lost.

In Judge’s defense, he did once play on a team that started a playoff series down 2-0 and came back to win. It was back in the 2017 ALDS against Cleveland. But, as for the “knowing what they need to do part,” well, Judge went 1-13 with 0 home runs and 11 strikeouts in the final three games of the series. So if that’s what Judge thinks he needs to do to get the Yankees back in this series, then by all means, dude, you go right on ahead.