The Cardinals provided starter Michael Wacha with a big ol’ pile of runs but he sure didn’t need it. The 22-year-old right-hander continued to show poise and dominance with seven shutout innings, out-dueling presumptive NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw in the process. Wacha finished with a line that read: 7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 5 K. He lowered his career post-season ERA to 0.43 in 21 innings, and has yet to allow more than one run in any playoff start.
Kershaw wasn’t his usual dominant self, laboring through a third inning in which the Cardinals asserted themselves. They batted around, hitting a trio of run-scoring singles and seeing 48 pitches as they went up 4-0. They put the game out of reach in the fifth inning, scoring five more times to go up 9-0. From there, the Cardinals were counting outs.
Carlos Martinez tossed a perfect eighth inning to bridge the gap to closer Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal retired pinch-hitter Michael Young, Carl Crawford, and Mark Ellis to wrap up the ninth inning and the NLCS to send the Cardinals to the World Series. Molina and Rosenthal met each other halfway between the mound and home plate and embraced before the dugout cleared in jubilation.
The Cardinals will play the winner of the ALCS between the Red Sox and Tigers. Games 1 and 2 of the World Series will be played at an American League park, so the Cardinals will have to wait to purchase their plane tickets. Game 1 opens on Wednesday night, with the Cardinals enjoying four full days of rest.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.