The unusually compelling playoffs continued with a pair of 1-0 games on Saturday.
St. Louis had just two hits in its 1-0 win over Los Angeles, taking a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series.
Boston was nearly no-hit in its 1-0 loss to Detroit in the opening game of the American League Championship Series.
The Tigers-Red Sox game was a most bizarre 1-0 affair. The game took just under four hours, hardly uncommon this year for the postseason.
There were all sorts of story lines. Anibal Sanchez was pulled after six innings with a no-hitter. At that point, he had struck out 12, walked six and already thrown 116 pitches.
Four more Detroit pitchers combined to strike out five in the final three innings. Joaquin Benoit was within two outs of the third postseason no-hitter until Daniel Nava singled with one out in the ninth.
At that point, the no-hitter was secondary. After Quintin Berry ran for Nava and stole second, the Red Sox had the tying run a base hit away from scoring. Berry, a high school teammate of Adam Jones in San Diego who has tutored him on base stealing stole his 28th base without being thrown out in his major league career.
Benoit escaped with the save, and now Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are ready for Boston.
This game will be long talked about. Sanchez struck out four batters in the first inning due to a wild pitch, the first Tiger to struck out four in an inning. Boston was shut out at home in the postseason for the first time in 95 years.
Tim McCarver, analyzing the game on television, said it had the feeling of a 9-8 game rather than 1-0. He was the catcher in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series when Bob Gibson struck out 17 Tigers hitters.
In the NLCS, the potent Dodgers have been held scoreless for the last 19 innings. Yasiel Puig, the much hyped rookie Cuban defector is 0-for-10 with six strikeouts.
Cardinals pitchers have allowed 14 hits in 22 innings, striking out 24 while Dodgers pitchers have given up just nine hits and lost both games.
Zack Greinke didn’t get a decision in Friday’s 13-inning loss and Clayton Kershaw, the heavy favorite for NL Cy Young was pinch hit for after he allowed one run on two hits in six innings.
That series resumes on Monday night in Los Angeles. Adam Wainwright faces Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Detroit and Boston play again on Sunday. Scherzer and Clay Buchholz are the starters. They have combined regular season records of 33-4. Scherzer won two of the Tigers’ three wins in their Division Series triumph over Oakland. Verlander won the other.
A year ago tonight, the Orioles magical 2012 season ended with their fifth game loss to the Yankees, and watching the outstanding pitching that we’ve seen in this postseason, it’s easy to see why the Orioles fell short.
There’s no Scherzer, Verlander or Kershaw on the Orioles. Chris Tillman had a terrific season, but he’s still a little short of those guys. And, the rest of the Orioles starters, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Scott Feldman and Bud Norris, well, it’s hard to see them pitching the Orioles past any of the four teams left.
It’s a totally different game in the postseason. A year ago, CC Sabathia was the difference between the two teams in the Division Series, then the Yankees were swept away by Detroit.
The Orioles lineup is a strong one, but Boston’s is underrated, and the Tigers are loaded with outstanding hitters. In the crucible of the postseason, great pitchers certainly seem to dominate. Great hitters, not so much.
While I’ve often commented on the length of games, and they are too long, television ratings for the postseason are up handily. The larger markets and national followings of the four remaining teams help, and so does the competitiveness of the games.
Baseball isn’t the great national sport it was once was. Now the followings are more regional, but these great pitching performances are obviously enticing the audiences.