Road to the World Series: Oct. 12, 2013
Cardinals walk off to take NLCS opener; Tigers, Red Sox meet tonight
Sometimes, the Road to the World Series requires some extra work.
Such was the case for the Cardinals and Dodgers on Friday night, when nine innings weren't enough to settle Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium. In the first extra-innings contest of the 2013 postseason, St. Louis -- aided by the continued heroics of Carlos Beltran -- outlasted Los Angeles, 3-2, in 13 frames.
With the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Tigers not set to begin until Saturday night, the Cardinals and Dodgers took center stage and put on quite a dramatic show.
Beltran, of course, played a starring role. Padding his resume as one of the best performers in postseason history, Beltran slugged a game-tying two-run double off Zack Greinke in the third inning, hitting a ball to deep right-center field that Andre Ethier couldn't quite haul in at the wall. He then saved the game with his arm in the 10th, catching Michael Young's fly ball and unleashing a beautiful throw to nail Mark Ellis at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
"As soon as the ball was hit in the air, I told [center fielder] Jon Jay, 'I got it, I got it, I got it,'" Beltran said. "He let me catch the ball, and I knew I had a better angle than him, so thank God I was able to make a good play and [Yadier Molina] was able to catch the ball and tag the guy out."
Seeking his first World Series berth, Beltran put an end to a four-hour, 47-minute thrill ride in the bottom of the 13th. The Dodgers brought in closer Kenley Jansen to put out the fire with two runners on and one out, but Beltran laced a shot down the right-field line to bring home Daniel Descalso.
"To me, it was a pitch right down the middle," Beltran said. "I don't blame him, because he's trying to make a pitch. He's behind in the count and he's trying to make a pitch. But in that case, like I said, I was trying to hit the ball hard. I wasn't really looking for anything else more than a hit."
Meanwhile, it was a night of frustration for the Dodgers, who had chances to build a big lead early against Cardinals starter Joe Kelly, but got only Juan Uribe's two-run single in the third. They went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base, while six St. Louis relievers combined for seven scoreless innings.
"We had a couple opportunities to get a run in and we didn't do it," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "If the rest of the series is like this game, it should be a pretty good one."
What an incredible game! Great start!- John Axford (@JohnAxford) October 12, 2013
The traffic increases on the Road to the World Series on Saturday, when the Red Sox and Tigers re-enter the fray.
After the Cardinals and Dodgers play Game 2 of their series at Busch Stadium at 4 p.m. ET on TBS, Boston and Detroit will tangle in Game 1 of the ALCS at Fenway Park, set for 8 p.m. on FOX. Amazingly, this is the first postseason meeting between two storied franchises that have been facing each other since 1901 and now have combined for 36 playoff appearances.
The Red Sox come in with the luxuries of home-field advantage and rest, having closed out the Rays in Game 4 of the AL Division Series on Tuesday. The Tigers, on the other hand, outlasted the A's, 3-0, in a Game 5 on Thursday night in Oakland, then hopped on a plane for the East Coast.
"It was a little rough, to be honest with you," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said on Friday. "But probably the best long flight we've ever had, obviously, for the right reasons. A little tired. A little worn out. But we'll be fine by tomorrow. We'll recoup, had a little workout today and go about our business."
Of course, additional time off isn't the only advantage the Red Sox gained by avoiding an extra game in the previous round. Manager John Farrell also was able to set up his starting rotation just the way he wants it, meaning left-hander Jon Lester will take the ball in Game 1, ahead of righties Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy.
Current Tigers players have combined to hit .378 in 156 at-bats against Lester, but the veteran also has posted a 2.54 ERA over nine career postseason games.
"You don't really care how your body feels anymore," Lester said of pitching in October. "You're just trying to keep that ultimate prize in front of you and think about that, don't think about how your body feels, just go out there and whatever you have that day."
The Tigers survived their Game 5 on the back of Justin Verlander, who won't be available until Game 3 of the ALCS back in Detroit on Tuesday. But don't worry too much about the Tigers' rotation -- not with AL ERA leader Anibal Sanchez going on Saturday and wins leader Max Scherzer ready for Sunday.
"I feel very confident in him," Leyland said of Sanchez, who had a rough ALDS start against the A's. "I think he was probably a little rusty, as [Doug] Fister was the other day, it took him a couple of innings to get going. I think he'll be back in the groove now."
Earlier on Saturday, Busch Stadium will play host to an intriguing pitching matchup as the Dodgers try to even the series before it heads back to Los Angeles for Monday's Game 3.
In one corner is NL Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw, who held the Braves to one earned run over 13 innings in the NLDS, including a solid Game 4 start on three days' rest. In the other corner is rookie Michael Wacha, who has toyed with a no-hitter in consecutive outings, including his postseason debut on Monday in Pittsburgh.
"(Koufax) is the best of all-time. I have a lot of time to screw it up. It's humbling to say the least." -Kershaw on the Koufax comparisons.- Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 11, 2013
"Why he's been able to be successful so far is that he has trusted himself," Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny said. "He's trusted the game plan that's put in front of him. He's trusted his catcher. He's trusted his stuff. Then it comes down to taking the distractions and minimizing them. He's done a nice job of that."
Both clubs will be coming back after a long night that ended less than 15 hours before the first pitch of Game 2. And if the opener was any indication, it's going to be a wild ride.
"That's a preview," Beltran said. "Today was a good game, and that's what it's all about. They didn't want to lose, and we didn't want to lose and it came down to  innings."
Saturday's Championship Series games
Dodgers (Kershaw) at Cardinals (Wacha), 4 p.m. ET (TBS) Preview >
Tigers (Sanchez) at Red Sox (Lester), 8 p.m. ET (FOX) Preview >
2013 MLB POSTSEASON MATCHUPS
Division Series: Red Sox beat Rays, 3-1 | Tigers beat A's, 3-2
Championship Series: Tigers at Red Sox
Division Series: Cardinals beat Pirates, 3-2 | Dodgers beat Braves, 3-1
Championship Series: Dodgers at Cardinals, St. Louis leads, 1-0
2013 postseason schedule
NL Division Series
Game 1: Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
Game 2: Pirates 7, Cardinals 1
Game 3: Pirates 5, Cardinals 3
Game 4: Cardinals 2, Pirates 1
Game 5: Cardinals 6, Pirates 1, Cardinals win series, 3-2
Game 1: Dodgers 6, Braves 1
Game 2: Braves 4, Dodgers 3
Game 3: Dodgers 13, Braves 6
Game 4: Dodgers 4, Braves 3, Dodgers win series, 3-1
AL Division Series
Game 1: Red Sox 12, Rays 2
Game 2: Red Sox 7, Rays 4
Game 3: Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Game 4: Red Sox 3, Rays 1, Red Sox win series, 3-1
Game 1: Tigers 3, A's 2
Game 2: A's 1, Tigers 0
Game 3: A's 6, Tigers 3
Game 4: Tigers 8, A's 6
Game 5: Tigers 3, A's 0, Tigers win series, 3-2
NL Championship Series (All games on TBS)
Game 1: Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2 (13 innings)
Game 2: Dodgers at Cardinals, Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Game 3: Cardinals at Dodgers, Monday, 8 p.m. ET
Game 4: Cardinals at Dodgers, Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET
*Game 5: Cardinals at Dodgers, Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET
*Game 6: Dodgers at Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 18, 8:30 p.m. ET
*Game 7: Dodgers at Cardinals, Saturday, Oct. 19, 8:30 p.m. ET
* - if necessary
AL Championship Series (All games on FOX)
Game 1: Tigers at Red Sox, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Game 2: Tigers at Red Sox, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
Game 3: Red Sox at Tigers, Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET
Game 4: Red Sox at Tigers, Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET
*Game 5: Red Sox at Tigers, Thursday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m. ET
*Game 6: Tigers at Red Sox, Saturday, Oct. 19, 4:30 p.m. ET^
*Game 7: Tigers at Red Sox, Sunday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m. ET
* - if necessary
^ - game time subject to change
World Series begins: Oct. 23