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.

Justin Verlander earns 200th career win

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Astros starter Justin Verlander wasn’t his usual dominant self on Sunday against the Athletics, but he was good enough to get the win. In doing so, he earned the 200th win of his career, becoming the 117th member of the 200-win club.

Verlander went 5 1/3 innings, yielding four runs (all earned) on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts. On the season, Verlander is now 12-8 with a 2.65 ERA and a 223/29 K/BB ratio in 169 2/3 innings. Sunday’s win helped the Astros stave off the surging A’s. The Astros now have a one-game lead in the AL West.

Only two active pitchers have more wins than Verlander: Bartolo Colon (247) and CC Sabathia (244). Zack Greinke will likely be the next member of the 200-win club as he currently has 184 to his name.