Seven things to know for Friday’s MLB playoff action

© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After the National League delivered two exciting games to open the divisional round, baseball fans can look forward to four divisional series games on Friday.

It starts with the Houston Astros taking on the Tampa Bay Rays in a battle of David vs. Goliath. The Atlanta Braves will follow that up by looking to rebound from their loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in an afternoon clash.

Fans will get to see a historic clash on Friday evening when the Minnesota Twins face the New York Yankees in the hopes of reversing years of misfortune. MLB will then wrap it up with Game 2 between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers.

All eight teams playing means some of the game’s best players will be on the national stage. The bright lights and added intensity from baseball in October will give fans everything they could hope for from America’s pastime.

Now before the games begin, let’s take a look at seven things for everyone to know about Friday’s playoff action.

Tyler Glasnow will decide Tampa Bay’s fate

Blake Snell and Charlie Morton deserve a lot of credit for their greatness. Statistically, though, Glasnow is the best pitcher in the Rays’ rotation. The 26-year-old emerged as a Cy Young candidate in the first half with a 1.86 ERA across eight starts and performed even better upon his return from elbow discomfort.

Glasnow faced 47 batters after his return in mid-August and made them look like Triple-A hitters. He recorded a 1.46 ERA in four starts and struck out 44.6 percent of the opponents he faced. Glasnow can shut down Houston’s lineup for five-plus innings and put its bullpen in position to take a 1-0 lead and close it down. If Glasnow brings his best stuff on Friday, don’t be surprised if Tampa Bay steals a game in Houston.

Jack Flaherty is Cardinals’ unheralded ace

St. Louis has gone through a few faces atop its rotation in recent years. It’s the only explanation for why Flaherty doesn’t get more national attention as one of the game’s best, young hurlers.

Flaherty won’t turn 24 until Oct. 15 and he’s already frustrating hitters with 10-plus years in the majors. He posted a 22.8 percent K-BB rate this season and held opponents to a .190 batting average. St. Louis took a gamble by saving him for Game 2 and now it could be in a position to steal two games in Atlanta.

George Springer is Mr. October

Dominant performances in the regular season earn players individual trophies. Those same types of performances earn a player nicknames and championships in October.

This is the time of year Springer lives for. He won the World Series MVP in 2017 with five home runs, 11 hits and seven RBI. He took his game to another level in the 2018 postseason with a 1.276 OPS and 14 hits in eight games. While many will focus on the Astros’ dominant pitching and the likes of José Altuve and Alex Bregman, look for Springer to become their best player once again this postseason.

Stephen Strasburg faces LA on short rest

It’s no small task for a starting pitcher to make the first relief appearance of his professional career in a wild-card game. Strasburg did that and paved the way for Washington’s comeback win. Now he faces an even tougher challenge 72 hours later.

Strasburg will face Los Angeles on two days’ rest. It’s already a challenge to face the league’s fifth-best lineup (886 runs) on regular rest. Washington won’t even be putting its co-ace on a pitch count. This is a monumental moment for Strasburg on the verge of free agency. A stellar performance from Strasburg can fire up his team and help even the series, but a rough night can practically end Washington’s year.

Yankees own the Twins in October

The regular season surpassed every dream Minnesota’s fans held for the 2019 season. Unfortunately, the dream could become a recurring nightmare that will bring up painful memories.

This year will mark the sixth meeting between the Yankees and Twins in October. New York won 13 of 15 games and took home all five series. This series will undoubtedly feature a lot of runs, but questions surrounding Minnesota’s rotation could yield another bitter playoff exit at the hands of the Yankees.

Dodgers are practically unbeatable at home

Even when the crowd at Dodger Stadium is quiet by playoff standards, the Dodgers make their stadium a special place. The best team in the NL always takes its game to another level in Los Angeles.

While the Dodgers .654 winning percentage this season is impressive, it’s nothing compared to their .728 winning percentage at Dodger Stadium. The wins are backed up by the numbers with a .821 OPS and 2.82 ERA at home compared to a .797 OPS and 3.95 ERA on the road. Home-field advantage is already a critical factor in October and that swings a series significantly in the Dodgers’ favor.

José Berríos enters postseason on a cold streak

Minnesota will turn to its best starting pitcher to try and quiet New York’s record-breaking bats in Game 1 of the ALDS. Minnesota’s rotation behind Berríos is underwhelming, so this series could hinge on his Game 1 performance. It probably won’t feel quite as confident in Berríos as it would have a few months ago.

Berríos came out of July feeling great after registering a 2.80 ERA, 133/30 K/BB ratio and 16 home runs surrendered across 141.2 innings. The calendar flipped and he posted a 5.83 ERA with a 62/21 K/BB ratio and 10 home runs in his next 58.2 innings. Now Berríos is set to face the Yankees for the first time this season at Yankee Stadium.