Around the Major Leagues: Postseason Week 1

Sonny Gray battled Justin Verlander to a draw

All the news from around the major leagues as the four Division Series are fully underway. The Sonny Gray-Justin Verlander battle in Oakland was the highlight of the busy weekend.

National League Division Series

Game 1 Pittsburgh 1, St. Louis 9
Game 2 Pittsburgh 7, St. Louis 1
Game 3 St. Louis 3, Pittsburgh 5
Game 4 St. Louis @ Pittsburgh
Game 5 Pittsburgh @ St. Louis (if necessary)

Despite a Game 1 disaster on Thursday, the Wild Card-winning Pittsburgh Pirates have managed to right the ship in Games 2 and 3 of their divisional series matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals. In Game 1, Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett was lit up for seven runs, all in the third inning, as the Cardinals took an easy 9-1 victory. St. Louis outfielder Carlos Beltran was a major reason for the win, launching a three-run homer in the bottom half of the third to begin the seven-run rally.

It was a much different story on Friday, however, as rookie starter Gerrit Cole took the mound for Game 2. Cole tossed six innings of two-hit, one-run ball and struck out five batters. Pirate rookie starters are now 6-0 all time in postseason play. It wasn't just Cole's arm that had Pirate fans cheering, though. The youngster produced at the plate as well, driving in a run in his first at bat. Pittsburgh slugger Pedro Alvarez and outfielder Starling Marte also added home runs and the Pirates went on to close out Game 2 by a score of 7-1.

Game 3 was a much tighter contest. Carlos Beltran drove in all three of the Cardinals' runs on the evening, including one on a game-tying home run in the eighth inning. But it was Pedro Alvarez who proved to be the hero. The stocky third baseman came back with a go-ahead RBI single to in the bottom of the inning to give the Pirates control of the series. After an insurance run from catcher Russell Martin, the Bucs found themselves with a 2-1 series lead. The Bucs would like to close out the series at home on Monday afternoon and avoid a return to St. Louis and Adam Wainwright.

Game 1 LA Dodgers 6, Atlanta 1
Game 2 LA Dodgers 3, Atlanta 4
Game 3 Atlanta 3, LA Dodgers 5
Game 4 Atlanta @ LA Dodgers
Game 5 LA Dodgers @ Atlanta (if necessary)

In the first game of the Braves and Dodgers' divisional series, Atlanta had the displeasure of running into a completely focused Clayton Kershaw. This year's probable NL Cy Young Award winner threw seven innings, giving up just three hits and an earned run. Kershaw also struck out 12 batters.

In the other dugout, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was left scratching his head by starter Kris Medlen's poor performance. The normally consistent Medlen let the Los Angeles offense walk all over him, giving up five earned runs on nine hits over just four innings. Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez had a home run and second baseman Mark Ellis drove in two runs, leading Los Angeles to a 6-1 win.

Thanks to the steady arm of Mike Minor, the Braves were able to even up the series with a 4-3 victory in Game 2. Minor out-dueled Zach Greinke, tossing 6 1/3 innings, allowing just an earned run while striking out five. Braves infielders Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman each had RBI doubles while outfielder Jason Heyward knocked in two. Craig Kimbrel came in to close it out and struck out a pair, tying up the series.

In Game 3 on Sunday, the Dodgers used their bats to prove they are no underdog, cruising their way to a 13-6 victory and taking a 2-1 edge in the series. Speedy outfielder Carl Crawford went 2-for-5, driving in three runs and scoring three. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez put in an impressive performance of his own, going 3-for-4 with two RBI and finishing just a home run short of the cycle. He also scored three runs. Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe pitched in two RBI each. Game 4 is scheduled for Monday in Los Angeles.

American League Division Series

Game 1 Tampa Bay 2, Boston 12
Game 2 Tampa Bay 4, Boston 7
Game 3 Boston @ Tampa Bay
Game 4 Boston @ Tampa Bay (if necessary)
Game 5 Tampa Bay @ Boston (if necessary)

The Boston Red Sox wasted no time in leaping out to a series lead, taking Game 1 from the Wild Card-winning Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on Friday. An inexplicable mistake by Rays outfielder Wil Myers was the key play. A fly ball that dropped behind him in the fourth inning led to a ground-rule double, after which the Sox tacked on five runs in the frame. With a firm lead, Boston starter Jon Lester hurled 7 2/3 innings, giving up two earned runs, both homers, and striking out seven Rays.

In Game 2, Boston did not get the pitching performance they enjoyed in Game 1, so they turned to their offense to seal the deal... and they did just that. Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits and scored three runs, David Ortiz homered twice against Tampa starter David Price and second baseman Dustin Pedroia drove in three runs, culminating in a 7-4 victory and a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

Game 1 Detroit 3, Oakland 2
Game 2 Detroit 0, Oakland 1
Game 3 Oakland @ Detroit
Game 4 Oakland @ Detroit
Game 5 Detroit @ Oakland (if necessary)

Consistent pitching is a major part of winning a short series and the Detroit Tigers used their ace to make a statement. Max Scherzer dominated the Oakland Athletics in the initial contest, striking out 11 batters over seven innings of two-run baseball to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Oakland starter Bartolo Colon pitched admirably, going six innings, allowing three earned runs. The extra earned run given up by Colon proved to be the difference as the Tigers won a close one, 3-2.

Game 2 was a much different affair, ending with some walk-off magic from second-year catcher Stephen Vogt. The game was dominated by a scoreless pitchers' duel between Oakland's Sonny Gray and 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander. The A's rookie tossed eight innings, giving up four hits and striking out nine batters. The Detroit star threw seven innings, also giving up four hits and striking out 11. But Vogt was the night's hero, lining a bases-loaded single into the outfield, giving the A's a 1-0 walkoff and tying the series at one game apiece.



John Lopiano can be reached at johnlopiano@gmail.com. Follow John on Twitter: @johnlopiano.

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