Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez finished the 2013 regular season with a .180/.252/.286 line against left-handed pitching. Not exactly his cup of tea. But he came through in a big spot against lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist, delivering a tie-breaking RBI single to right, putting the Pirates up 4-3 in the eighth inning. Siegrist, by the way, finished the regular season with a 0.45 ERA in 39.2 innings.
The Cardinals made Game 3 of the NLDS a seesaw affair. After the Pirates went up 2-0 in the first inning on a two-run single by Marlon Byrd, post-season legend Carlos Beltran delivered a two-run single of his own in the fifth. The Pirates went ahead in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by Russell Martin. But the Cardinals tied it right back up in the top of the eighth when Carlos Beltran blasted a solo home run to right-center off of Mark Melancon, leaving the score at three apiece.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny went to right-handed reliever Carlos Martinez to start the bottom of the eighth. Andrew McCutchen led off with a double down the left field line, putting the Pirates in great position to take the lead, but he made a base running error when Justin Morneau hit a sharp grounder to the left side. Shortstop Pete Kozma had him dead to rights, making an easy throw to third for the tag. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle brought in Josh Harrison to pinch-run for Justin Morneau. Marlon Byrd drew a walk to put runners on first and second with out out. With Alvarez due up, Matheny — smartly — went to Siegrist, knowing the numbers were overwhelmingly in his favor.
The post-season famously a small sample size affair and Alvarez showed the magic of it when he came through against Siegrist with an RBI single. Russell Martin followed up with a line drive RBI single to left. Closer Jason Grilli came on in the ninth inning, working around a lead-off single by Matt Adams to nail down the save.
The Pirates will look to advance to the NLCS with a victory tomorrow in Game 4 against the Cardinals. Cardinals starter Michael Wacha will oppose Pirates starter Charlie Morton.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.