MLB Playoff Recap: Aces Down

Several aces were on the mound on Friday, but none pitched up to their reputations on a day that featured a full slate of playoff baseball. Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg all had disappointing outings. We rundown the day’s action.

ALDS: Tigers In Deep Hole Thanks To ‘Pen

Score: Orioles 7 – Tigers 6

Series: Orioles up 2-0

Game Hero: Delmon Young, pinch-hit, game-winning three-run 2B

Game Summary: A five-run fourth-inning put the Detroit Tigers in a position to take Game Two of the ALDS, but the porous Detroit bullpen once again couldn’t hold a late lead.

The Orioles won Game One of the series, 12-3, using an eight-run outburst in the eighth inning to stretch a 4-3 lead into a rout. In Game Two, the Orioles once again came alive in the eighth inning. Trailing 6-3, the Orioles jumped all over Tigers’ relievers Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria for four runs. After Alejandro De Aza grounded out to start the inning, Baltimore’s rally was jump-started when Chamberlain hit Adam Jones with a pitch. Nelson Cruz followed with a single and Jones scored on a Steve Pearce single.

Soria took over for Chamberlain and walked J.J. Hardy to load the bases with one-out. Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter called on pinch-hitter Delmon Young even though it was a righty-righty match-up. The veteran Young came through on the first pitch, lining a ball down the left-field line. All three runners scored, with Hardy sliding in just ahead of the throw, to give the Orioles a one-run lead. Zack Britton retired the side in order in the top of the ninth to give Baltimore the win.

Justin Verlander and Wei-Yin Chen started the game and both looked strong early. Verlander was the first to crack, allowing a two-run homer off the bat of Nick Markakis in the bottom of the third. However, the Tigers would roar back in the top of the fourth, scoring five runs in the span of 10 pitches thanks to an RBI single from Victor Martinez and back-to-back homers from J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos. The homer for Martinez was his second in two games. The Orioles would answer with one in the bottom of the fourth.

The game remained at 5-3 until the eighth, thanks to relief work from starters-turned-relievers Kevin Gausman and Anibal Sanchez. Gausman took over from Chen in the fourth and worked three scoreless innings before allowing a run in the eighth. He finished with one run allowed in 3.2 innings. He struck-out five. Sanchez took over for Verlander, who lasted just five-plus innings, in the sixth and worked a scoreless sixth and a scoreless seventh, giving his bullpen a chance to close it out.

What’s Next: The Orioles will travel to Detroit, where they will have two chances to close out the series at Comerica Park. The series is idle on Saturday and resumes on Sunday. Tigers’ mid-season acquisition David Price will take on Baltimore right-hander Miguel Gonzalez on Sunday.

NLDS: Giants Overcome Strasburg, Harper

Score: Giants 3 – Nationals 2

Series: Giants up 1-0

Game Hero: Joe Panik, two hits and an RBI; scored winning run

Game Summary: Having used their ace in the Wild Card game, the San Francisco Giants entered Game One of the NLDS at a distinct disadvantage facing ace Stephen Strasburg. However, veteran Jake Peavy put together a gutty start and the Giants strung together hits at the right time to overcome Strasburg and the Nationals in a Game One win.

The Giants got to Strasburg in the third inning with the bottom of their order. Eighth-place hitter Travis Ishikawa singled to lead-off the inning. Peavy then laid-down a bunt that first baseman Adam LaRoche fielded. He fired to second and the initial ruling was that Ishikawa was out. The Giants challenged, however, and the play was over-turned, giving the Giants two-on and none-out. Gregor Blanco lined out for the first out, but after a passed ball moved the runners up to second and third, Joe Panik singled home the first run.

Strasburg was able to limit the damage to one run in the third, but he was touched for another run in the fourth. Pablo Sandoval hit a lead-off single. Hunter Pence followed with a groundball that looked like a double-play, but Pence beat it out. He would then steal second and came around to score on a single by Brandon Belt.

Strasburg lasted only into the sixth inning, when he left with two-on and none out. Jerry Blevins pitched well in relief of Strasburg, getting out of the inning unscathed. However, the Giants would get to Nationals’ reliever Craig Stammen in the seventh. Panik hit a lead-off triple and quickly scored on a single by Buster Posey that trickled away from Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond. That run proved the game winner.

The Nationals mounted a threat in the sixth, loading the bases with two-outs. The Giants called on hard-throwing rookie Hunter Strickland to face Desmond and Strickland struck Desmond out with an over-powering fastball. Strickland remained in the game in the seventh and he was touched up for two solo homeruns off the bat of Bryce Harper and Asdrubal Cabrera. Harper’s homer went into the third deck and woke up the quiet Washington crowd. The Nationals would threaten against Sergio Romo in the eighth, but they couldn’t score and Santiago Casilla shut the door for the Giants in the ninth.

What’s Next: The series resumes on Saturday with Jordan Zimmerman taking on Tim Hudson. Zimmerman is coming off of a no-hitter thrown on the last day of the regular season. The series is off on Sunday and will resume in San Francisco on Monday.

NLDS: Kershaw, Wainwright Pummeled in High-Scoring Thriller

Score: Cardinals 10 – Dodgers 9

Series: Cardinals up 1-0

Game Hero: Matt Carpenter, two hits and four RBI, including a bases-clearing double

Game Summary: In a game that was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers traded offensive punches in a 10-9 thriller. Aces Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw were battered in the game.

Kershaw was the first ace to show a crack in the armor, allowing a solo homerun to Randal Grichuk in the first. However, it was Wainwright who was battered early. In the third inning, sparks flew when Wainwright hit Yasiel Puig to lead-off the inning. Puig walked to first, but the next batter, Adrian Gonzalez, and Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina started jawing at each other. The benches cleared, although no punches were thrown. The Dodgers took advantage of the raised emotions, mounting a two-out rally. Hanley Ramirez singled home Puig with two outs and then stole second when Molina couldn’t find a grip on the ball to make a throw. That base ended up being important, as Carl Crawford would hit a ground-rule double to score Ramirez.

The Dodgers would score twice more in the fourth and in the fifth to chase Wainwright. He finished with six runs allowed on 11 hits in just 4.1 innings. The Dodgers looked in control with Kershaw on the mound and a 6-1 lead. Kershaw was cruising until the sixth, when he coughed up a homer to Matt Carpenter. Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly stuck with Kershaw into the seventh and that proved a costly decision. The Cardinals chipped away at Kershaw, stringing together five singles to bring the score to 6-4. After Kershaw struck-out pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras with the bases-loaded to get to two-outs in the inning, Carpenter got to Kershaw again, doubling home all three runners.

That gave the Cardinals the 7-6 lead, but the Cardinals weren’t done. Pedro Baez replaced Kershaw and he walked Grichuk, bringing up Matt Holliday with two-on. Holliday launched a three-run homer, giving the Cardinals a 10-6 lead.

The Dodgers didn’t give up, however. In the bottom of the eighth, Gonzalez hit a two-run homer to bring LA to within two runs. Then in the ninth, the Dodgers had runners on second and third with one-out. Dee Gordon grounded out to drive-in a run, but Puig struck-out with the tying run at third to end the game.

What’s Next: The series resumes on Saturday in LA with Zack Greinke taking on the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn. After an off-day on Sunday, Game Three will be in St. Louis on Monday.

ALDS: Royals Extra Work Continues To Pay Off

Score: Royals 4 – Angels 1, 11 innings

Series: Royals up 2-0

Game Hero: Eric Hosmer, three hits and a walk; hit the game-winning homer in the top of the 11th

Game Summary: The Los Angeles Angels scored the most runs in the AL during the regular season, but they are still trying to figure out the Kansas City Royals’ pitching staff. Yordano Ventura, Wade Davis, Jason Frasor, Brandon Finnegan and Greg Holland combined to limit Mike Trout and the Angels to one run on six hits and two walks in 11 innings. The Royals then used some extra-inning offensive magic to take home another win.

Ventura took the mound just three days after he was rocked by the Oakland A’s in a relief appearance during the AL Wild Card game. Not shaken by the experience, Ventura smothered the Angels, allowing just a run on five hits and a walk in seven innings. He pitched deeper into the game than any other starter to pitch in the playoffs on Friday. Albert Pujols’ sixth inning RBI single was the only blemish against Ventura.

Ventura’s counterpart Matt Shoemaker was also outstanding. Back from a strained oblique that cost him the final two weeks of the season, Shoemaker allowed just an unearned run in the second in six innings of work. He struck-out six and didn’t walk a batter. The run came on an Alex Gordon single that scored Eric Hosmer. Hosmer had singled to start the inning and then advanced to second when Kole Calhoun couldn’t field the single cleanly.

The Angels and Royals’ bullpens traded zeros until the 11th inning. Los Angeles used Jason Grilli in the seventh, Joe Smith in the eighth and then received two scoreless innings from Huston Street to get the game to the 11th. The normally reliable Kevin Jepsen couldn’t keep the string going, however. With one out, Lorenzo Cain beat out an infield hit to shortstop. Then Hosmer broke the tie with a laser line-drive homer to right. The Royals added an insurance run with a two-out rally. Gordon walked, stole second and then took third on a throwing error. Gordon would then score on an infield single to short.

Holland recorded a save for a second straight night. Calhoun reached on an Omar Infante throwing error with two outs, but Holland struck-out Trout to end the game.

What’s Next: The Royals travel home to KC with two chances to end the series at Kauffman Stadium. Wild Card starter James Shields will take on veteran left-hander C.J. Wilson, who has had an erratic season for the Angels.

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