Cardinals’ bullpen shines as St. Louis wins Game 3, takes 2-1 NLCS lead

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Game 3 of the NLCS was supposed to be a classic duel of two great pitchers: the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo against the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter.

But it’s not often that things go as they’re expected to in Major League Baseball’s postseason.

Gallardo was hammered for four earned runs in the first inning and didn’t make it to the sixth. Carpenter yielded three runs on six hits and was also pulled after five innings. He threw just 48 of his 89 pitches for strikes. Gallardo threw 95 pitches, 47 balls.

The battle of two elite National League Central starters soon became a bullpen game. And while both relief corps held strong, the Cardinals were playing with the lead — a lead they did not relinquish.

Setup man Fernando Salas threw a scoreless sixth inning, retiring all three batters he faced. Bearded right-hander Lance Lynn then delivered a perfect seventh inning before retiring Ryan Braun to open the eighth. Left-hander Marc Rzepcynski entered to face Prince Fielder and struck him out with a sharp slider.

Then it was the Jason Motte show.

Featuring a fastball that jumps to 99 and sometimes 100 mph, Motte registered three strikeouts against the final four batters of the game, giving the Cardinals a 4-3 victory in Game 3 of the seven-game NLCS.

St. Louis carries a 2-1 series lead into Thursday’s Game 4. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.