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Seven things to know for Monday’s MLB postseason action

Matt Johnson
Max Scherzer
Oct 1, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) looks on from the mound during the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2019 National League Wild Card playoff baseball game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

A new week begins on Monday with an outstanding four-game playoff slate. Four teams sit on the verge of moving on in October as four others fight to stay alive.

Monday’s postseason action opens with Charlie Morton and the Tampa Bay Rays trying to avoid a sweep against the Houston Astros. We’ll then return to St. Louis, where the Cardinals attempt to stave off elimination by the Atlanta Braves.

The Washington Nationals will turn to Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award recipient, in the afternoon with their season on the line. Monday night will then end with the New York Yankees looking to continue a postseason tradition of sweeping the Minnesota Twins.

There will be plenty at stake in Monday’s four-game slate with seasons and celebrations on the line. Now let’s take a look at seven things for everyone to know for Monday’s postseason action.

Zack Greinke enters with a shaky playoff resume

Houston acquired Greinke for October. The Astros seemingly have a considerable advantage with another ace on the mound in Game 3. Of course, Greinke’s history in the postseason might tell a different story.

For all of Greinke’s Hall of Fame accolades, he isn’t known for being reliable in October. Greinke enters Monday with a 4.03 ERA in 11 postseason starts and his last appearance went poorly in 2017 with seven runs allowed in two starts. He’s more than capable of dominating this time of year and this is a great opportunity to prove it, but a strong outing and a sweep are far from a guarantee.

Charlie Morton seeks revenge against old team

Morton’s career changed forever because of his time in Houston. Working with the team’s coaches and tweaking how he pitched unlock greatness and led to a 3.36 ERA in 55 starts with the Astros. While he’s grateful for his time in Houston, Morton would love nothing more than to crush the Astros on Monday.

He had opportunities to do it earlier, but he allowed 10 hits and eight runs in two starts. Now he’s presented the chance to make up for all of that in a bigger moment. While he might finish behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in the Cy Young voting, Morton’s 3.05 ERA and 240 strikeouts show he can lead the Rays to a win.

Adam Duvall is Atlanta’s playoff MVP

In a lineup with All-Star hitters in the first four spots in the batting order, Atlanta’s MVP this postseason comes off the bench. While many of his teammates have gone cold at the plate, Duvall is thriving in the clutch.

Duvall came off the bench in the seventh inning of Game 2 with a 1-0 lead and launched a game-sealing, two-run blast. The Braves called on him in the clutch in Game 3 and he delivered a game-winning, two-run single. A huge part of playoff baseball is unheralded players becoming heroes for a city and fan base, and that is Duvall’s path in 2019.

A.J. Pollock is burning a hole in Dodgers’ lineup

Even on a night when many of his teammates thrived at the plate, Pollock’s horrific postseason continued. He finished Game 3 with three strikeouts in an alarming trend that might put his roster spot in jeopardy if the Dodgers advance.

The 31-year-old has now recorded the hat trick in three consecutive games with nine strikeouts in 11 at-bats. Given he’s just as bad defensively in left field as he is at the plate right now, it’s bizarre that he keeps getting opportunities. It’s time for the Dodgers to admit Pollock’s five-year, $60 million contract was a mistake and bench him until the series or their season ends.

Max Scherzer’s legacy is on the line

There are few people on this planet more competitive than Scherzer. It can often be an asset on the mound, but it could also fuel bitterness if things go poorly in Game 4. The 35-year-old might only have a few good years left in his arm and his legacy could hinge on what happens Monday night.

Scherzer hasn’t been to the World Series since 2012 and the Nationals haven’t made it past the NLDS during his time in Washington. The blame doesn’t rest squarely on Scherzer, but fingers will be pointed if he isn’t outstanding in Game 4 and Washington’s season ends. Of course, these are the games Scherzer lives for and it could fuel him to the best postseason start in his career.

Jake Odorizzi’s fly-ball approach a red flag against Yankees

Minnesota’s manager Rocco Baldelli saved Odorizzi for Game 3 to keep him away from Yankee Stadium. Not only did his Game 2 plan fail, putting Odorizzi in a different park probably won’t make a difference.

Frankly, the Yankees’ lineup is nearly unstoppable wherever it plays. New York led MLB in isolated power (.233) and finished second in OPS (.846) and slugging percentage (.504) on the road. Meanwhile, Odorizzi allowed the third-highest fly-ball rate (44.3 percent) among pitchers in 2019. There’s a chance this works out for Minnesota, but the numbers suggest New York crushes its way to a sweep.

Edwin Encarnación’s historic woes against Odorizzi

Encarnación enters Game 3 as New York’s hottest hitter. While the slugger hasn’t left the yard in the first two games, he racked up four hits in only nine at-bats. He’s locked in with the bat right now, but Odorizzi might be able to slow him down.

The veterans have met quite often throughout their careers. Encarnación has taken Odorizzi deep twice and that’s primarily the only time he has been successful. Odorizzi held Encarnación to a .186/.265/.395 in their frequent meetings, an incredible achievement given Encarnación’s resume. It will be a subtle storyline to watch on Monday.