The San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers advanced to the NLCS and ALCS, respectively, on Thursday. Just a few days ago, the Giants looked to be dead in the water as they dropped the first two games of the NLDS to the Cincinnati Reds at home. In Major League Baseball’s new playoff format, that meant they’d have to win three games in Cincinnati in order to advance. Even though the Reds lost their ace Johnny Cueto, this would be no small task. The Giants won in dramatic fashion on Tuesday in extra innings while winning convincingly on Wednesday behind starter Tim Lincecum and a good deal of offensive output. With the series tied at 2 and victory within sight, San Francisco came out and took it to the Reds, taking a 6-0 lead after a six run fifth inning, capped by a Buster Posey grand slam. After this miraculous display of postseason baseball, the Giants will take on either St. Louis or Washington in the NLCS, starting on Sunday.
Going into Thursday’s game, the Tigers were flirting with postseason disaster, allowing the Oakland A’s to tie the ALDS at 2 games, after taking a commanding 2-0 lead at home. With a stunning come-from-behind, walk-off win last night, it seemed that the A’s had all the momentum going into Game 5. But, Detroit had their ace Justin Verlander. Dominance is an understatement, as Verlander twirled at complete game shutout, eleven strikeout gem on the way to a 6-0 Tigers victory.
"We had our backs against the wall all year and we're playing our best baseball now when it matters," Verlander said after his clutch performance. The Tigers will play either the New York Yankees or the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series, starting on Saturday.
The Nationals got just what they needed on Thursday: a great pitching performance by Ross Detwiler and some ninth inning magic from Jayson Werth. Despite Werth’s struggles in Washington overall, he was the hero this night, hitting a walk-off homerun against Lance Lynn to give the Nats a 2-1, series tying victory. To lose the series in four games would have been heartbreaking for a Nationals team that has risen from the ashes of the National League to become one of the true feel-good baseball stories this year. Washington will have a chance to win the series at home in Game 5, which features a stellar pitching matchup of Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA) at 8:30 Friday night.
The New York Yankees failed to advance on Thursday night as they were defeated in a battle of pitching staffs by the Baltimore Orioles. With the game tied in the 13th inning, shortstop JJ Hardy hit an RBI double, silencing the Yankees’ home crowd. This proved to be the game winner as the Yankees failed to score in the bottom of the inning. The Yanks had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the eighth inning with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, but failed to capitalize. If they do go on to lose the series, that is what New York fans will remember as the deciding factor. The Yanks and O’s will play a winner take all, Game 5 on Friday at 5:00 (Sabathia vs. Hammel). With the Yankees’ loss on Thursday night, this means that all four division series will go to a deciding fifth game, something that is undoubtedly good for baseball and exciting to even the casual fan.