MLB playoffs 2023: Questions for ALCS Game 7, NLCS Game 6

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It’s elimination in the Championship Series round of the 2023 MLB playoffs on Monday.

First, the Arizona Diamondbacks will try to stay alive against the Philadelphia Phillies as the National League Championship Series returns to Citizens Bank Park for Game 6. Then, it’s time for two of the best words in sports: Game 7! This time, it’s Texas style, with the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros meeting up once again with a World Series trip on the line in the American League Championship Series.

To get ready for all the excitement in Philly and Houston, we asked ESPN MLB experts who cover these series to answer the biggest questions for each team looking to enter the Fall Classic.


Arizona Diamondbacks at Philadelphia Phillies

NLCS Game 6, 5:07 pm ET (Meryl Kelly vs Aaron Nola)

What can the D-backs do to avoid being overwhelmed by Philly’s environment?

David Schoenfield: Well, the simple answer is to score in the top of the first inning and then put the Phillies off the board in the bottom of the first inning. In Game 1, Kyle Schwarber And Bryce Harper Homered in the first inning. In game 2, Tree Turner Homered in the first off by Merrill Kelly, who got the ball again in Game 6. But the noise is going to be there.

If there’s a key for Diamondback, I’m looking Corbin Carroll. He is 2-for-19 with one walk in the series, and after going 54-for-59 on stolen bases in the regular season, he did not attempt a steal in the NLCS. He needs to get on base and be aggressive. The Diamondbacks aren’t going to play it safe here and win two games.

Jeff Passan: They get those back. During the regular season, the Diamondbacks’ offense thrived when it dared opponents to shut down its running game. So far in the NLCS, Arizona has swiped just one bag — by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. In Game 3. Neutralizing Arizona’s base-stealing presence — especially from Corbin Carroll, who had 54 bags in the regular season — was a priority for the Phillies, and one they did well, with quick times from their pitchers to the plate and quick delivery to the Phillies’ catchers. JT Realmutowhose pop times are the best in the big leagues.

The Diamondbacks don’t usually outscore the Phillies, so when they make a run, they’ll have to be at their best to beat Philadelphia and better embody the word they’ve embraced all year: chaos.

Jesse Rogers: Learn from Games 1 and 2 there is By means of something that has already happened. Really, it all comes down to Meryl Kelly. The D-backs have often gone down early in games in this series. It’s not the Milwaukee Brewers they’re playing here. Kelly will have to give them three to five solid innings in Game 6, and then Arizona’s left-handed relievers will have to shut down some of the best left-handed sluggers on the planet. If ever the cliché “one inning at a time” applied, it’s now. And it starts with Kelly.


How should the Phillies set up their bullpen for the rest of this series?

Schoenfield: It seems pretty obvious Craig Kimbrel Probably got himself out of a high-leverage situation. It’s not just that he lost Games 3 and 4 thanks to poor outings, but even with four scoreless appearances in the postseason, he’s induced just nine swinging strikes on 111 pitches, a very low total for a high-leverage reliever. Rob Thomson still has plenty of good options though and will be relied upon Jeff Hoffman and leftist Matt Strahm And Jose Alvarado As his top three guys, with Seranthony Dominguez And Gregory Soto As deep reserves. It’s still a lot of depth to deploy.

Thomson should use Alvarado and Hoffman against the top half of the order, matching lefties with the way he’s working with Carroll and using them as needed based on the situation and allowing Strahm or Soto to shut down if necessary. A good manager is flexible with the bullpen, and Thomson should proceed with close-by-committee at this point. This group has been good this season: in 25 innings, just one home run and five runs allowed.

Pass: With duct tape and superglue. Yes, Kimbrel and Orion Karkering They’ll go on two days’ rest if they take the mound in Game 6, but does Rob Thomson believe that? If not, it’s likely going to be the Aaron Nola show as long as possible, with Hoffman stepping in if a leverage situation presents itself early — Thomson uses him in a fireman role — and perhaps a heavy dose of Alvarado innings late.

Thompson seems to trust the left-handed Strahm and the right-handed Dominguez, so he has options if he needs to match up. But the possibility of throwing Taijuan Walker or Michael Lorenzen Game 6 of the NLCS for the first time this postseason only seems to be saved if they fall behind and need to eat innings to preserve those in the circle of confidence for a potential Game 7. Ranger SuarezThe projected starter for Tuesday’s game, is not an option out of the bullpen in Game 6, Thomson said Sunday.

Rogers: Unlike the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, the Phillies don’t have to play matchup games very often. Short of ensuring that Carroll will face Alvarado or Strahm, Thomson can deploy his rights as he sees fit while away from Kimbrel. And honestly, if there’s ever a time to send Walker or Lorenzen to the mound, it should come in Game 6. Not that the Phillies can mess up, but it seems like Thomson has missed an opportunity or two to use them so far. He won’t have that luxury in a win-or-go-home Game 7, but with a one-game cushion, it’s a possibility — especially if Aaron Nola starts less than expected. Kerkering could probably use a high-leverage moment as well. Otherwise, Hoffman, Dominguez, Strahm and Alvarado will bring home the pennant.

Texas Rangers at Houston Astros

ALCS Game 7, 8:03 pm ET (Max Scherzer vs Christian Javier)

What will Bruce Bochy’s plan be for his pitchers?

Bradford Doolittle: Nathan Eovaldi Going into the seventh on Sunday was huge because it allowed Bruce Bochy to deploy his standard late-inning contingent without overdoing them. Now for Game 7, he hopes to do the same thing — only the path from inning 1 to inning 7 might be less clear than rolling Eovaldi through the Houston lineup three times. Max Scherzer Will be on a short leash, and even if he’s on — around his usual velocity, with a better slider than in Game 3 — you’d think 80-85 pitches would be his ceiling.

Bochy has a number of retooled options to go from Scherzer to his high-leverage crew. Picking who matches up best with whom is, well, an open question, but it’s one that Bochy has answered correctly many times during his playoff career. If Scherzer’s outing is short, it gets pretty bad and Bochy needs to get multiple innings from someone, no matter what. Cody Bradford, Martin Perez, John Gray or someone else. Gray, for one, is someone I thought could play a bit more of a role in the ALCS than he did, so maybe Game 7 will be his time.

Alden Gonzalez: When the top of the ninth Adolis Garcia Hitting the grand slam that sent Astros fans filing for the exits was one of the best things to happen to the Rangers — it meant Jose Leclerc I didn’t have to return to the bottom half to record three more outs. It’s become increasingly clear as this postseason has played out that Bochy doesn’t trust his bullpen much. That was never more evident than in Game 6, when he started Eovaldi in the Astros’ lineup for the fourth time and then returned. Josh Green And Leclerc (not even used) for the rest of the game Aroldis Chapman in the mouth Jordan Alvarez) Leclerc and Sborz will likely count heavily again in Game 7. And if the Rangers need a big outing against Alvarez, it will be interesting to see if Bochy turns to fellow lefty. Jordan Montgomerywho started Game 5 — recording 16 outs and throwing 82 pitches — but could technically make a relief appearance instead of his usual mid-start bullpen session.

Buster Olney: It’s true, the circle of confidence seems small for Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, and what happened in Game 6 really sets him up well to respond if Scherzer struggles. If he needs to call on a reliever mid-inning, he might call on Green. If he needs a face reliever Kyle TuckerMaybe that would be Chapman. If he needs multiple innings, he can give the ball to Jordan Montgomery early in the innings after Scherza’s exit. And it seems Bochy won’t hesitate to use Leclerc for three to six outs — and remember that no manager in the past 15 years has used a bullpen with more success than Bochy.


Can the Astros turn around their offensive woes at home?

Doolittle: They might — but the outrageous pain in their homes doesn’t make sense, so who knows? There are a lot of struggling hitters in Houston’s lineup right now, which makes it a lot easier to navigate if you can survive. Jose AltuveAlex Bregman-Alvarez Gauntlet. I’m guessing we’ll see a tight game that will be determined by two or three key sequences, as are most postseason games. But these being the Astros, would we really be shocked if they hung five runs off the bat of Scherzer and rolled from there? I don’t think Houston’s freak home-road reversal is anything more than an interesting fluke. Still, the way these teams are coming off of Game 6, the Rangers look more explosive right now. Houston needs to change this narrative, whether it’s real or not.

Gonzalez: Certain hitters are getting right for the Astros — and none better represent that than Kyle Tucker, who will get some down-ballot MVP love this year but has struggled mightily throughout the season with five hits in 35 at-bats and 10 RBI. through the game. money, Jeremy Pena And Martin Maldonado — hitters 6, 8 and 9, respectively, in the No. Astros’ Game 6 lineup — slashed .165/.277/.206 in these playoffs and accumulated eight hits in 56 at-bats in this series, only two of them for extra bases. The Astros need more production from the bottom half of their lineup. But Tucker is the one who can change the dynamics of their offense. And a Game 6 at-bat might provide a window into his confidence right now. With runners on first and second with no outs, the Astros trailed by two, and Tucker squared on the first pitch to get a hit from Eovaldi, who he had already seen twice. The next pitch produced a half-swing that resulted in a harmless ground out. That’s a far cry from the money that grew through the summer — but it could turn at any moment.

Olney: Scherzer believes his slider was better than it portrayed in Game 3, but the bottom line is that if he doesn’t have that pitch, he’ll be extremely vulnerable to Houston hitters, who seem too aggressive against him. Regardless of Scherzer’s feelings, the Rangers will be very wary of Altuve, Bregman and Alvarez, so there will likely be some opportunity for those who follow them: The main hitters in this lineup could be Jose Abreu and Tucker. Tucker has had some hits and a few walks in this series, but he hasn’t looked anywhere near the confident, dangerous hitter he was during the regular season. As Dusty Baker said, one swing can change everything.

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