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Astros and Mariners scoreless in tense extra-innings duel, Guardians up early on Yankees in ALDS

MLB’s 12-team postseason bracket has already been whittled down to eight contenders. Now, the top two seeds from each league have joined the fray in the Division Series. After advancing directly to their ALDS and NLDS slots via byes, the Astros, Yankees, Dodgers and Braves are taking on challengers.

Some of those challengers are proving more than worthy. In the National League, the top-seeded Dodgers and Braves will both stare down elimination on Saturday. The Phillies took a 2-1 series lead on Friday with a major statement win in front of their home fans. They will hand the ball to trade deadline acquisition Noah Syndergaard in a bid to upset the 101-win Braves and the October-tested Charlie Morton. Meanwhile, the Padres might be an even bigger surprise. A resurgent bullpen has helped San Diego frustrate the Dodgers — who have gone cold with runners in scoring position — and get within a game of the NLCS. Local native Joe Musgrove, who wiped out the Mets in a memorable wild-card series performance, will get the ball against the Dodgers’ Tyler Anderson.

In the AL, the Astros are looking like the favorites they are. Yordan Alvarez’s huge homers have them up 2-0 on the Mariners as the series heads to Seattle. Houston mainstay Lance McCullers Jr. will get the ball looking to make up for missing the 2021 playoffs with injury. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Guardians are a day behind after a rainout. Tied at 1-1, that ALDS will shift to Cleveland with the upper hand on the line. The Yankees’ Luis Severino will take on ascendant Cleveland No. 2 Triston McKenzie. Here’s the full slate:

Game 4: Braves (Morton) at Phillies (Syndergaard) – 2:07 p.m., FS1

Game 3: Astros (McCullers Jr.) at Mariners (Kirby) – 4:07 p.m., TBS

Game 3: Yankees (Severino) at Guardians (McKenzie) – 7:37 p.m., TBS

Game 4: Dodgers (Anderson) at Padres (Musgrove) – 9:37 p.m., FS1

[Full updated MLB playoff TV schedule]

Follow all the action live on Yahoo Sports.

Phillies wax Braves in Game 4, advance to NLCS

The last team in the postseason is the first team in the Championship Series. The Philadelphia Phillies trounced the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves, 8-3, in Game 4 to win the NLDS and move on. The No. 6 seed Phillies wipe out the No. 2 seed Braves in the first full season where MLB’s playoff format admits six teams from each league. The Phillies finished 14 games behind the Braves in the regular season.

None of that matters now, though. Under manager Rob Thomson — who took over for Joe Girardi in June — the Phillies are 70-47 including their burst of success to begin this postseason. They have eliminated the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals and now the NL East champion Braves.

The Phillies once again put the Braves on the ropes with a key early homer. This one came from midseason trade acquisition Brandon Marsh, whose three-run shot in the second opened the scoring. In the third, J.T. Realmuto put an exclamation point on the early surge with an inside-the-park home run. Bryce Harper finished it off with a homer in the eighth inning — his third of the postseason.

Atlanta may look back on this series as an unfortunate string of compromised pitching performances. In the three games they lost, Max Fried was ill, Spencer Stride wore down in his first game back from an oblique injury, and Charlie Morton exited after being hit by a comebacker. It doesn’t change the fact that the Phillies pounced, pounding out hits against starters and relievers alike.

After a fine start from ace Aaron Nola in Game 3, the Phillies turned to a bullpen-centric approach in Game 4. Noah Syndergaard went three innings, then handed it off to a total of five relief arms to finish off the game and the series.

No matter who wins the Dodgers-Padres series, the Phillies will travel to meet them for Game 1 of the NLCS starting Tuesday.

Need to catch up on the major October storylines? We’ve got you covered.

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