(CBSNY/CBS Local) — Pitching wins championships, and in MLB’s American League and National League Championship Series that’s certainly been the case. All four games so far have been dominated by pitching, with expected and unexpected names toeing the rubber and delivering when it mattered.
Masahiro Tanaka opened the ALCS with a one-hitter that the New York Yankees bullpen ensured remained a shutout. Justin Verlander answered for the Houston Astros in Game 2, with yet another strong playoff performance in his Hall of Fame career.
The NLCS has been dominated by the Washington Nationals rotation so far, including their oft-ignored fourth starter. Anibal Sanchez took his no-hitter bid deep into the eighth inning of Game 1. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer followed it up with his own attempt at a no-hitter in Game 2. The St. Louis Cardinals’ bats remain quiet.
This week’s baseball report looks at the ALCS and NLCS after two games.
ALCS: Yankees And Astros Tied
The Yankees cruised through their division series, dispatching the Minnesota Twins in three games. The Astros, who let the Tampa Bay Rays take them to five games, won’t go so quickly or quietly in the ALCS. Though it looked like they might in Game 1.
Saturday night the Yankees shut out the Astros, 7-0, in Houston, to open the series. Masahiro Tanaka pitched six innings of one-hit ball, with that one hit leading to a double play on the next batter. The Astros didn’t even hit one out of the infield until the fourth inning.
Second-baseman Gleyber Torres also turned in a big night for the Yankees, with a home run and a double off of Astros’ Zack Greinke. Torres had five RBI on the night. Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela also homered.
Brought in mid-season to boost the exceptional pitching duo of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, Greinke has been good, if not other-worldly. And so he was in Game 1, giving up three runs on seven hits in six innings. Even one run was going to be too many, given the Astros’ disappearing act at the plate.
Game 2 of ALCS played out better for Houston. Verlander, who was MLB’s first 20-game winner this season, went 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven and giving up just two runs. Those two runs came on a fourth-inning Aaron Judge home run. (Verlander also finished among MLB’s leaders for most home runs allowed.) This was Judge’s first of this year’s playoffs.
Yankees left-hander James Paxton only allowed one run on a Carlos Correa double in the second inning. Then again, he only pitched 2 1/3 innings before the game was handed over to the bullpen. The Yankees then cycled through eight more pitchers, who collectively gave up just two additional runs. (Using nine pitchers tied a championship series record.)
One of those additional runs came on George Springer’s fifth-inning shot to tie the game. The other run came on Carlos Correa‘s walk-off HR in the 11th inning, which also included a bat flip and a pause to enjoy the adoration.
With the ALCS tied a one game apiece, the series continues Tuesday afternoon in New York. Luis Severino draws the start for the Yankees. Gerrit Cole will take the mound for the Astros.
NLCS: Nationals Rolling
The Nationals entered the MLB Playoffs as one of the game’s hottest teams, winning nine of their last 10 games. Taking down the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card game put them in the Division Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s where the run appeared it would end.
The Dodgers came into the 2019 season as the odds-on favorite to represent the National League in the World Series. And 162 games didn’t change that perception. They were one game from knocking out the Nationals. But strong pitching and timely hitting kept Washington alive long enough to win it in Los Angeles.
The Nats’ road act continued on to St. Louis, where they took a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series with the Cardinals.
In Game 1, Nationals starter Anibal Sanchez, the odd man out in the team’s slimmed-down playoff rotation, tossed 7 and 2/3 innings of no-hit ball. Placement and pitch selection stifled a Cardinals offense that can be inconsistent. Pinch-hitter Jose Martinez ended the run with an eighth-inning single.
His counterpart Miles Mikolas was solid for the Cardinals, giving up one run on seven hits in six innings. That run came early, when Yan Gomes doubled in Howie Kendrick in the second inning. The Nationals added another in the seventh inning. But Game 1 was all about the strong performance from the overlooked member of the Nats rotation.
Game 2 saw more pitching exploits, this time from an unsurprising source. Nationals ace Max Scherzer pitched six innings before allowing the Cardinals to get a hit — a single to Paul Goldschmidt. He also struck out 11.
Adam Wainwright turned in a strong outing for Cardinals, also striking out 11 batters in 7 1/3 innings. Wainwright, however, let Michael Taylor take him deep in the third inning and gave up an Adam Eaton two-RBI double in the eighth. But, save for a Martinez double that Taylor misplayed, the Cardinals’ bats remained missing in action.