Pedro Alvarez’s eighth-inning RBI single helps Pirates take 2-1 lead in NLDS

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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.

Dodgers plan to tab Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of World Series

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.

Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.

Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.

The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.