The World Series picture took a significant turn on Tuesday.
The Houston Astros used a seven-run ninth inning to level the ALCS with the Boston Red Sox. The Los Angeles Dodgers got on the board in the NLCS thanks to a four-run eighth inning.
Los Angeles appears to be in a better position to cash in on Tuesday's momentum since it can line up its top three starters for the final four games against Atlanta.
Houston will try to gain an edge over the Boston Red Sox before heading back home, but that could be difficult with Framber Valdez going up against Chris Sale.
Wednesday's winner at Fenway Park will have a great chance of clinching a spot in the World Series. Houston could earn the advantage, but Boston's bats have not been kind to its starting pitchers.
World Series Schedule
Game 1: Tuesday, October 26 (Fox)
Game 2: Wednesday, October 27 (Fox)
Game 3: Friday, October 29 (Fox)
Game 4: Saturday, October 30 (Fox)
Game 5: Sunday, October 31 (Fox)
Game 6: Tuesday, November 2 (Fox)
Game 7: Wednesday, November 3 (Fox)
World Series Matchup Prediction
Boston vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Boston lost the edge it gained in ALCS Games 2 and 3 during Houston's late Game 4 rally.
However, the Red Sox can gain the momentum back through Sale and another potential early exit from a Houston starter.
Boston chased Zack Greinke in the second inning of Game 4. That forced Astros manager Dusty Baker to call on Cristian Javier for three innings and Kendall Graveman for two frames.
If the Red Sox bats get to Valdez, like they did in the third inning of Game 1, the Astros may be stuck in a tough situation with two key bullpen assets potentially not available.
Valdez did not make it out of the third inning in Game 1. He gave up three runs, two of which were earned, on six hits and walked three batters.
Sale lasted the same amount of time as Valdez in the series opener, but he only let up one earned run on five hits.
Sale allowed more than two earned runs once in nine regular-season starts. The only major blemish on his resume in 2021 is the five-run concession against Tampa Bay in the ALDS.
If Sale contains the Houston lineup for four or five innings, Boston has a chance to gain back the momentum in Game 5.
The Red Sox scored their only runs of Game 4 in the first inning. They have scored 22 of their 27 runs in the first three innings against the Astros.
If Boston keeps up the early pressure, Houston's pitching staff could be stretched thin, even with a day off in between Games 5 and 6.
The Astros could take advantage of their Game 4 win, but to do so, they must strike early to counter Boston's production in the first three frames.
The NLCS has the more fascinating pitching situation at play. Los Angeles will start Julio Urias in Game 4. It can bring back Max Scherzer for Game 5 or 6 and Walker Buehler for Game 7.
Los Angeles earned its first NLCS win despite Buehler being pulled in the fourth inning. The Dodgers bullpen conceded a single earned run on five hits.
Conversely, the Atlanta bullpen, which has been great in the postseason, showed some cracks, as Luke Jackson allowed a game-tying three-run home run to Cody Bellinger and a single to Chris Taylor, who scored on Mookie Betts' go-ahead RBI double.
Atlanta will have to use up its bullpen in Game 4 to bridge the gap to Max Fried in Game 5. Drew Smyly and Huascar Ynoa, who have not pitched yet in the NLCS, are the likely pitchers to get most of the work in the first five innings.
Los Angeles has the clear pitching advantage in Game 4 with Urias, who allowed four earned runs in 14.2 innings over his last three postseason starts.
If the Dodgers ride Urias and their suddenly hot bats to a Game 4 win, they can save Scherzer and Buehler for Games 6 and 7 in Los Angeles.
Scherzer has not allowed more than three earned runs in his last eight postseason starts with the Washington Nationals and the Dodgers.
Buehler has not allowed multiple earned runs in back-to-back playoff appearances since his first two appearances back in 2018.
Scherzer and Buehler in consecutive games could be a terrifying sight for the Atlanta lineup. The good news is Atlanta got six earned runs off both starters, but it only won one of those games.
Fried and Charlie Morton are capable of matching any strong performances against their team. Morton battled through five innings while Atlanta took the lead in Game 3. Ian Anderson is Atlanta's starting wild card. He lasted three frames in Game 2 after giving up three hits and walking three batters.
Atlanta needs to win one game in Los Angeles, most likely behind Fried in Game 5, but even then it could be hard to chase Scherzer and Buehler early for the second time in the series.
Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference.