There was plenty of drama and thrills in both National League division series. Now we see what the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals have left in the tank as they meet with a trip to the World Series on the line.
What's on tap
8:08 p.m. ET: Nationals at Cardinals, Game 1
The most important thing of the day: The Cardinals and Nationals barely had a chance to catch their collective breath, but both teams are in the same boat. Neither side has its preferred pitching choice on the mound, but it sure beats sitting at home, and both Game 1 starters have been better than you might think. St. Louis' Miles Mikolas had a 2.81 ERA with 37 strikeouts and nine walks over his past seven starts plus one inning of relief in the NLDS, while Washington's Anibal Sanchez had a 3.28 ERA over his past eight starts, including a solid five-inning start in Game 3 against the Dodgers.
The view from inside the ballpark
ST. LOUIS -- After very different Game 5 experiences, the lead-up to Friday's NLCS Game 1 was as much about catching up on sleep as gearing up for the opener after Washington's late-night thriller in L.A., which the Cardinals watched from Atlanta while waiting to see where they were headed next. When things start up again Friday, it will be a cold, cold night in St. Louis as temperatures are expected to dip into the 30s for Game 1. -- Dan Mullen
A stat to impress your friends: We're guaranteed to see something new and fresh in the World Series as the only possible matchup that could be a repeat is Yankees-Cardinals, and they haven't met for all the marbles since 1964.
There's something about cold October air in The Lou that makes it really hard to pick against the Cardinals. The biggest thing about Game 1 is that St. Louis isn't facing one of the Nationals' top three starters, and I fully expect the Cards to make the most of facing Anibal Sanchez and not Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg. Cardinals 5, Nationals 3 -- Mullen
No, Anibal Sanchez isn't Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg, but he's a quality No. 4 starter and he'll be good enough in the opener. Plus, the Juan Soto home run off Clayton Kershaw is just the beginning of a spectacular postseason for him. He hits two more in this game. Nationals 6, Cardinals 3 -- David Schoenfield
About last night
Stud of the night: It's got to be Gerrit Cole, who crushed the dreams of the underdog Rays to the tune of eight innings, two hits allowed, 10 strikeouts and one trip to the American League Championship Series secured.
Dud of the night: Rays starter Tyler Glasnow gave up hits to the first four batters he faced, and by then the Astros had all the runs they would need.
Highlight of the night:
Off the diamond
Social media says:
I'm not sure I've ever seen a postseason series end with the starting pitcher sprinting to the mound to hug the closer before the catcher gets there. But Gerrit Cole earned that hug.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 11, 2019
54 batters faced in this series
52 swings and misses
Quotes of note: "I don't think you have to look any further than this city to see how big of an impact you can make. We see guys come in, particularly David Freese, gosh, playing against the Dodgers this year. The reception for what he did in the postseason here, you can turn yourself into a legend in a place like this." -- Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller on playing in October
Best of the playoffs so far ...
Our running postseason MVP: There are a lot of ways to break down the dominance of Astros starter Gerrit Cole so far -- a 0.57 ERA and 0.57 WHIP, 25 strikeouts, 3 walks, 6 hits allowed over 15⅔ innings, including eight stifling innings in Game 5 against the Rays. Then there's this: Cole joins Mike Mussina in the 1997 ALCS as the only pitchers with at least 25 strikeouts and one or fewer runs allowed in a single series in postseason history.
The play of this October: We're going to cheat and make this "plays": the back-to-back home runs by Anthony Rendon and Soto off Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the NLDS. Kershaw in the wake of Soto's game-tying bomb could end up as the lasting image of these playoffs.
Game of the postseason so far: Nationals-Dodgers, Game 5 of the NLDS. The Dodgers ambushing Strasburg, Strasburg settling down and keeping the Nats in it, Walker Buehler's mastery, Kershaw's big strikeout before his eighth-inning implosion, Kendrick's 10th-inning slam, questions for L.A. manager Dave Roberts. There's a lot to unpack here, and this was a true postseason classic.