With both the Dodgers and Brewers bidding to close out their opponents with three-game sweeps, we could see the National League postseason field whittled down to just two teams before Monday. Six or seven months ago, few would have been surprised about the Dodgers being one of the two teams likely to reach the NLCS, but the Brewers are on the cusp of eliminating the Rockies after winning 11 straight games (tiebreaker and postseason included). They haven't suffered a defeat since Sept. 22; will the Rockies change that on Sunday?
The most important thing of the day: The Braves have yet to score a run in the postseason this year. If they get shut out in Game 3, they would break the record for the fewest runs scored in a postseason series, set by the Rangers, who scored just one run in each of their ALDS matchups against the Yankees in 1998 and 1999.
NLDS Game 3: Milwaukee Brewers at Colorado Rockies
The stakes: The Rockies face elimination in front of their own fans, but have the advantage of playing at altitude for half of this season -- Colorado scores a half-run per game more than its opponents at Coors Field. Opponents' pitchers were thrashed for a 5.43 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in Denver. But are the Brewers, no strangers to a high-offense home venue thanks to Miller Park, the postseason opponent perfectly prepared to go toe-to-toe with the Rockies in their ballpark? The Rockies will have to find out while playing for their postseason existence.
If the Rockies win: They don't just live another day, they have a chance to even things up with top starter Kyle Freeland on the mound Monday. In his career at Coors, Freeland has been remarkably successful, posting a 3.04 ERA with a 16-10 record in 31 starts, thanks in part to a 55 percent ground-ball rate at home.
If the Brewers win: They'll have achieved their first postseason sweep to advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2011 (when they lost to the Cardinals) and get a bunch of days to rest up their bullpen for Game 1 at Miller Park on Friday.
One key stat to know: Most of the attention goes to the Rockies' pair of MVP candidates, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. But it's Trevor Story who ranks third in the majors in home run rate at home, going yard in 6.7 percent of his career plate appearance in Coors, trailing just Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo.
The matchup that matters most: It's hard to envision a scenario in which MIley pitches deep into this game, so assuming he's pulled rather than chased, the key to the game will be how the Rockies' biggest hitters deliver against the Brewers' top relief quartet of Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria and Josh Hader. They scored two runs off Jeffress in Game 1 to force extra innings, the only time they've scored in nine innings against this fearsome foursome in the playoffs; the quartet allowed just one run in 12 innings against the Rockies during the regular season.
The prediction: Miley isn't asked to get through the Rockies' batting order twice as the Brewers again go to their overpowering pen early. The Brewers' lineup leans right, but lefties Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw and Mike Moustakas exploit Marquez's platoon problems (.796 OPS allowed to left-handed hitters) and help build a small early lead for Milwaukee. A late surprise blast from one of the Rockies' big bats sets up a win in extra innings against the the Brewers' second rank of relievers. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com
NLDS Game 3: Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves
The stakes: Will it be a quick, ugly end to the young Braves' breakthrough season, and their ninth straight postseason series or wild-card loss (a streak that goes back to 2001)? Can they at least avoid the ignominy of being shut out for an entire series? The Dodgers have won all five best-of-five series in which they took a 2-0 lead; are they about to make it six?
If the Braves win: They will have done more than just snap their postseason scoreless streak; they will give themselves a shot at knotting up the series in Game 4 and perhaps putting a scare in a Dodgers team expected to advance.
If the Dodgers win: They return to the NLCS to continue their bid to repeat as NL champs and possibly live up to their huge payroll by winning their first World Series since their magical 1988 season.
One key stat to know: Buehler will be making his postseason debut, having already thrown a career-high 153⅓ innings in his age-23 season. That innings total suggests that, as excellent as he has been in the second half (2.03 ERA, 0.88 WHIP), Buehler may not have a long enough leash to pursue the Dodgers' franchise record for strikeouts in a postseason debut -- 11 K's set by Don Newcombe in Game 1 of the 1949 World Series. But if he starts hot, never say never.
The matchup that matters most: Despite manager Dave Roberts' active pursuit of the platoon advantage on the lineup card, the Dodgers' .733 OPS against lefties is actually the worst among NL playoff teams, and ranked 13th in the majors. However, remember that the Dodgers didn't have guys like Justin Turner and Manny Machado -- both of whom own lefties -- for the entire season. It's a risk, but the Braves' decision to switch to Newcomb for the Game 3 start makes sense and could be crucial to keeping L.A. stymied on the scoreboard early on.
The prediction: There's just no stopping the Dodgers, not in this round. Buehler dominates over five, the Dodgers score against Newcomb and the Braves' lack of depth doesn't help them create any midgame opportunities, though they get on the board with a solo homer. The Dodgers tack on another couple of runs against Atlanta's pen to secure the sweep. -- Kahrl