Drop Everything and Watch 12 Straight Hours of Baseball Friday night

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Joey Bats is back! Bat-flipper Jose Bautista leads the Toronto Blue Jays into an American League Division Series rematch with the Texas Rangers. USA TODAY SPORTS

"Fore!" has given way, seven days later, to "Four!"

Last weekend's major sports event, the Ryder Cup, teed off on a Friday after a day or two of good-natured fan intrusions and practice rounds. This weekend Major League Baseball is on tap, and after a few days that featured a mendacious fan intrusion (in Toronto) and what appeared to be a long-drive contest (in Cleveland), the postseason begins in earnest on Friday with four games between the eight remaining ballclubs.

A quick listing of the matchups: 1 p.m., Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers (TBS); 4:30 p.m., Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians (TBS): 5:30 p.m., Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals (FS1); 9 p.m., San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs (FS1). The Blue Jays and Indians already have 1-0 leads in these best-of-five series.

What's to enjoy on this early October afternoon? Just about everything. Four of the eight starters taking the mound today are former Cy Young Award winners. The Red Sox-Indians contest features a pair of former American League Cy Young recipients in David Price (2012) and Corey Kluber (2014), respectively. The Nationals-Dodgers game pits 2013 National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw against that season's A.L. Cy Young honoree, Max Scherzer.

The mounds will be smoking. A fifth hurler (J.A. Happ, Blue Jays) won 20 games this season, and a sixth, Johnny Cueto of the Giants, is the only National League pitcher who finished in the top five in both wins (18) and ERA (2.79). Jon Lester, who will take the hill for the Cubs, the team that finished with baseball's best record (102-60), was the staff ace for the Red Sox the last two times they won the World Series, in 2007 and 2013. And finally, Yu Darvish of the Rangers led all of baseball in strikeouts three seasons ago.

All four series are dripping with drama. The Blue Jays eliminated the Rangers last season in October, and fans of both clubs recall Blue Jay Jose Bautista's dramatic/egregious bat flip as well as the punch to the face he took earlier this season, courtesy of the fist of Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor. In Cleveland, the Indians are led by manager Terry Francona, who managed the Red Sox to their historic World Series title in 2004—the club's first in 86 years—as well in 2007. It is also possibly the last run for Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, who at 40 is still able to smoke screamers into the gaps or out of the park.

The National League contests are even more compelling. In the nation's capital, two franchises that have perennially failed to meet expectations in the past decade clash. Since 2012, the Dodgers and Nationals are a combined 1-5 in postseason series. The Dodgers have baseball's highest payroll ($223 million), while the Nats have the game's most talented player, Bryce Harper. Neither club has sniffed a World Series in more than a quarter-century (the Nats have never done so).

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Johnny Cueto will take the mound for the San Francisco Giants on Friday evening at Chicago's Wrigley Field. USA TODAY SPORTS

The most dramatic series, however, gets underway in prime time. The Cubs, who last hoisted the trophy while the RMS Titanic was under construction (1908), were the best team in baseball this season. However, they are tussling with a squad whom fortune has favored of late: San Francisco has won each of the past three World Series played in an even-numbered year. And even though the Giants needed to sweep the Dodgers in the final weekend of the season just to advance to the wild card game (beating the Mets, 3-0), this is a veteran club that thrives in pressure moments.

It all gets underway, in earnest, on Friday afternoon. At least 12 consecutive hours and 36 innings of baseball. It is the first of only two days, the other being Monday, when all eight remaining teams will be playing. Pass time with the national pastime.

Drop Everything and Watch 12 Straight Hours of Baseball Friday night | Sports