Cards Throw One Away, Royals Move Closer

The San Francisco Giants keep finding different ways to score runs, while the Kansas City Royals have used a tried-and-true formula to close out games. Both ways led to wins on Tuesday, as the Giants took a 2-1 series lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Royals grabbed a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Baltimore Orioles.

NLCS: Mistakes Cost Cardinals Again

Score: Giants 5 – Cardinals 4, 10 innings

Series: Giants lead 2-1

Game Hero: Travis Ishikawa, 3-R 2B

Game Summary: One failed sacrifice attempt followed by a successful one was all it took for the San Francisco Giants to walk-off against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 10th inning of Game Three of the NLCS. After failing to get a sacrifice bunt down for the first two strikes of his 10th inning at-bat, Juan Perez singled, and Gregor Blanco laid down a bunt to the left of the mound that reliever Randy Choate threw away to score the game-winning run from second. Now the Cardinals face a must-win Game Four on Wednesday.

In the first inning, it looked like the Giants would win the game going away. St. Louis starter John Lackey left plenty of pitches up in the first inning. With two-outs, the Giants were able to take advantage. Buster Posey singled and Pablo Sandoval followed with a single to move Posey to second. Hunter Pence fell behind in the count, but he lined a two-strike pitch into right center for a run-scoring double. Brandon Belt was intentionally walked, and then Travis Ishikawa took a center-cut fastball out to right field. Off the bat, it looked like a grandslam, but the 17 MPH cross-winds knocked the ball down. Cardinals’ right fielder Randal Grichuk misread the ball and was several feet away from it as it hit off the base of the wall. The double scored all three runs and the Giants had a 4-0 lead before half the stadium had eaten their first bite of garlic fries.

Giants’ starter Tim Hudson was sharp early, but the Cardinals got to him in the fourth. Jon Jay and Matt Holliday connected on back-to-back singles to start the inning. Two outs later, Jay was still at second and Holliday was still at first and the Cardinals were on the verge of blowing a golden scoring opportunity. In stepped Game Two hero Kolten Wong, who had doubled in his first at-bat. He crushed a 0-1 breaking ball from Hudson out to right center. Like Ishikawa’s ball, Wong’s blast first looked like a homer, but the wind knocked it down. Pence had similar trouble tracking the drive, although it hit so high up on the fence, Pence wouldn’t have been able to catch it anyway. Wong wound-up with a two-run triple and the Cardinals were back in the game.

Meanwhile, Lackey settled in after his rough first inning. He would allow just two more base-runners after the first and lasted six innings. He struck-out three and walked one.

The Cardinals continued to chip away at the Giants’ lead in the sixth inning. Jay again started the rally with a single and he came around to score on a two-out single by Jhonny Peralta that bounced over the glove of a sliding Sandoval, who reacted like he thought he should have made the play. The Cardinals then tied the game in the top of the seventh when Grichuk – who was the goat early after his defensive miscue – hit a solo homerun off Hudson with one-out in the seventh. The blast hit high up on the foul pole and ended Hudson’s day. He allowed four runs in 6.1 innings, striking out five and walking none.

The St. Louis and San Francisco bullpens continued to battle into the late innings of the game. Marco Gonzales, Pat Neshek and Seth Maness combined to keep the Giants off the board in the seventh, eighth and ninth, while Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla did the same for San Francisco.

In the top of the 10th, left-hander Javier Lopez came on in relief of Casilla. He retired the first two batters, but then allowed a single to Jay. That brought to the plate the right-handed hitting Holliday and ushered in Giants' set-up man Sergio Romo, who allowed the walk-off homer to Wong in Game Two. Holliday and Romo battled and Holliday hit a hard grounder down the third base line. Sandoval made a diving stop and then fired to first to retire the lumbering Holliday. The play saved the go-ahead run, as Jay was running on the pitch.

In the bottom of the 10th, the veteran southpaw Choate came on to face the lefty Brandon Crawford. He fell behind Crawford early and then walked him on a full count. That brought the light-hitting Perez to the plate. Perez was asked to bunt Crawford to second, but he was unable to get it down before getting to two-strikes in the count. Swinging away, he sandwiched a take around two foul balls before lining a single to left. Blanco then came to the plate to try to bunt both runners over. He got the bunt down toward the third base side of the mound. Choate fielded it with plenty of time to throw out Blanco, but he fired wildly to first and Crawford scored without a play.

The Giants and Cardinals have had contrasting scoring styles in this series. The Giants have only one extra-base hit that drove-in a run in the series, and that was the wind-aided double in Game Three. San Francisco has scored on an infield pop-up that fell between the mound and short, a fielding error, a sacrifice fly, a groundout, three singles, a two-base wild pitch, a wind-aided double and a throwing error. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have hit five homeruns and a two-run triple to account for seven of their nine runs in the series.

What’s Next: The Cardinals need a win on Wednesday at 5pm PST to avoid falling behind 3-1 in the series. They send right-hander Shelby Miller to the mound to face San Francisco right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.


ALCS: Royals Continue to Rule in October

Score: Royals 2 – Orioles 1

Series: Royals lead 3-0

Game Hero: Royals Bullpen; 4 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

Game Summary: The Kansas City Royals didn’t need extra-innings or a late-game rally on Tuesday night. Instead, they road their top horses out of the bullpen and manufactured just enough offense – much like they have for most of the season – to push the Baltimore Orioles to the brink of elimination.

A rainout on Monday did little to slow the Royals’ momentum. Kansas City fell behind, 1-0, in the second inning when starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed back-to-back doubles to Steve Pearce and J.J. Hardy. It took Kansas City until the bottom of the fourth to tie the game up, but once the game was knotted at 1, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Royals moved ahead and won the game. The winning run came in the bottom of the sixth when Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly drove-in Jarrod Dyson. After that, all the Royals needed was Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland to do what they have done all year and the game was their’s.

After plenty of offense in the first two games of the series, the pitching on both sides was excellent in Game Three. Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk in 5.1 innings. He struck-out four. Kevin Gausman took over for Chen with two-on and one out in the sixth. Gausman allowed the go-ahead sacrifice fly to Butler, but didn’t allow a hit or a walk in 2.2 innings, giving Baltimore a chance to comeback.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, the Royals’ bullpen was on its game on Tuesday. Jason Frasor took over for Guthrie in the sixth after Guthrie allowed a run on three hits in five innings. Frasor worked a one-two-three sixth. When Kansas City scored in the bottom of the inning, it meant the Royals had the game just where they wanted it: a lead with Herrera, Davis and Holland lined up. The three lived up to their advanced billing, not allowing a base-runner in those three innings. The Orioles last hit in the game came when Nick Markakis singled to lead-off the third. Baltimore’s last base-runner came with two-outs in the fourth when Ryan Flaherty walked. Only once did the Orioles have a runner get past second base.

The Royals’ defense also shined. Third baseman Mike Moustakas made two highlight reel catches – one when he tumbled over the railing and into the dugout boxes on a foul pop-up and the other stretching into the hole between third and short to make a catch on a line-drive. Omar Infante and Eric Hosmer also made outstanding plays on the right side of the infield. Right fielder Lorenzo Cain made a nice running catch in foul territory on Nelson Cruz’s ninth inning pop-up, taking the bat out of the hands of the Orioles’ top power hitter.

What’s Next: The Royals can clinch the American League pennant with a win on Wednesday. Kansas City will send Jason Vargas to the mound against Baltimore right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. The game will start at 3:00pm CST.


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