Clayton Kershaw, David Price and Jon Lester are scheduled to headline a star-studded day of pitching Friday as the two American League Division Series roll on and both National League Division Series get underway after an entertaining first few days of playoff action.

Runs will likely be hard to come by throughout Friday’s action, with Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber and Yu Darvish among the other starting pitchers slated to take the mound. Expect to see plenty of tactics from managers with an eye toward scratching out two or three runs, knowing that could be enough.

Let’s check out the important information for all of the day’s contests. That’s followed by a quick preview and prediction for each game on tap.


Friday’s MLB Playoff Schedule


Game Predictions

Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers

If the Texas Rangers are going to make a World Series run, Darvish must be the X-factor. While he made only 17 starts during the regular season, he finished with a flurry when healthy, giving up just one run with 21 strikeouts over 13 innings in his final two starts.

The 30-year-old is also one of the few pitchers to tame the high-powered Blue Jays offense over the past three years. He’s racked up a microscopic 1.88 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 28.2 innings against Toronto during that span.

That’s not a promising sign for a Blue Jays offense that sputtered down the stretch. The typically reliable lineup generated just 100 runs in September, which ranked 29th in MLB. A major resurgence is necessary to turn Toronto back into contenders.

Prediction: Rangers win, 6-2.


Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians

Earlier this year, Peyton Manning capped a Hall of Fame career by winning the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. Now, Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz is trying to complete a similar storybook ending after a remarkable final regular season in which he posted 38 homers and 127 RBI.

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe noted the Red Sox are doing everything possible, including embracing superstitions, to send Big Papi out as a champion:

Although the designated hitter is crucial to the team’s success, the Red Sox also need Price to pitch like an ace during their playoff run. They signed him to a massive contract in the offseason, but he hasn’t lived up to the hype, finishing with a 3.99 ERA in the regular season, the second-highest mark of his career.

Friday’s start is not only important for the series, but it could also say a lot about how dangerous he will be in the playoffs. Shutting down a Cleveland Indians offense that ranked fifth in runs during the regular season would be a major statement.

Prediction: Red Sox win, 3-2.


Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals are best equipped to challenge the Chicago Cubs in the NL. They ranked second in starters’ ERA during the regular season and scored the fourth-most runs in the NL. Surviving a five-game series in which they likely have to face Kershaw twice won’t be easy, though.

The 28-year-old left-hander made only 21 starts, but he was as dominant as ever when healthy. It’s almost hard to comprehend his 1.69 ERA and 0.72 WHIP, especially in a year with a historically high home run rate.

Washington can still win its series against the Los Angeles Dodgers without beating Kershaw, but the margin for error in that scenario is razor-thin. The Nats will have to hope Scherzer can match him frame for frame long enough to steal at least one of his starts.

Prediction: Dodgers win, 4-1.


San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs

This is one of those “if not now, when?” situations for the Cubs. The team, which is attempting to break a World Series drought dating back to 1908, won 103 games during the regular season, eight more than any other club, and accumulated a tremendous plus-252 run differential.

Chicago’s rotation is stacked, its bullpen is reliable and its offense ranked third in runs during the regular season. Despite the seemingly large advantages all over the field, manager Joe Maddon stressed the importance of overcoming adversity, per Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago.

“You have to be able to maintain your focus,” Maddon said. “When things are going well, it’s easy. We all can do that. I just want to remind them to be able to maintain our focus, maintain our methods, even if something goes awry.”

On the flip side, there’s something about the San Francisco Giants and even-numbered years. They won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 while missing the playoffs in 2011, 2013 and 2015. There’s no direct correlation, but any mental edge can help at this time of the year.

It’s going to take a special effort to upset the Cubs, though. Chicago has taken a steady approach to rebuilding the organization under president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, and it’s starting to pay off in a massive way.

Prediction: Cubs win, 3-0.


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