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.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.