The Nationals and Dodgers met in last year’s NLDS, won in five games by Los Angeles, and it would surprise no one of they played again this October. Washington is going to win the NL East as it has a double-digit lead there. The NL West race is tight, but L.A. is the betting favorite to win that division for a fifth straight season. It’s lefty Gio Gonzalez (4-1, 3.03) on the mound for Washington in the series opener. He started Game 3 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium and gave up three runs in 4 1/3 innings in a loss. Gonzalez was great this April with a 1.62 ERA but that jumped to 4.37 in May. It’s the first-ever start against Washington for Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-5, 3.91). He had been temporarily demoted to the bullpen but is back in the rotation due to an injury to Alex Wood.
Toronto Blue Jays At Oakland A’s
The Jays, who have reached the past two ALCS, looked dead in the water when they started 6-17. However, Toronto has won 10 of its past 13 games and can get to .500 for the first time in 2017 with a victory in a series opener in Oakland. Jays lefty J.A. Happ was a Cy Young candidate last year at 20-4 with a 3.61 ERA but he has regressed to a 0-3 record and 4.50 ERA, also spending some time on the DL. Many of Happ’s statistics are better than last year but he’s allowing 2.7 homers per nine innings compared to 1.0 in 2016. He’s opposed by fellow lefty Sean Manaea (4-3, 3.91). The “Throwin’ Samoan” has won three straight starts and allowed just three earned runs combined in them. He landed on the DL in late April and had a 5.18 ERA in 24.1 innings at that point. Since returning, his ERA is 2.33.
Deep Dive On 2017 Carolina Panthers
Remember how good the Carolina Panthers were in 2015? They led the NFL with a 15-1 regular-season record, Cam Newton was named the league’s MVP and the Cats were favored to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history against the Denver Broncos. Alas, the Broncos pulled the upset and Carolina appeared to fall victim to the Super Bowl loser’s curse in 2016 in slipping to 6-10 and last in the NFC South. This year’s Panthers have a new defensive coordinator after losing Sean McDermott, who became the Buffalo Bills' head coach. The Panthers promoted Steve Wilks, who had been Carolina's secondary coach since joining the team in 2012. Carolina is very high on first-round pick Christian McCaffrey, the former Heisman runner-up from Stanford. He’ll be used all over the field on offense.