Cardinals move on to NLCS with Game 5 win over Pirates

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The St. Louis Cardinals are headed to their eighth NLCS since 2000 and their ninth since 1996.

Adam Wainwright did his Adam Wainwright thing, allowing just one run in a nine-inning complete game effort as the Cardinals ousted the Pirates from the postseason with a 6-1 victory in NLDS Game 5 on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The Cards got on the board quickly with a two-run home run in the bottom of the second inning from postseason legend David Freese and then added a run in the sixth and three more in the eighth. Pirates starter Gerrit Cole gave up that Freese blast in the second and didn’t make it beyond the fifth despite impressive stuff and a decent overall stat line.

Pittsburgh’s only run was scored in the top of the seventh inning after three straight infield singles. Pedro Alvarez was the one who drove it in, becoming the only player in major league history to tally an RBI in his first six career postseason games. The Pirates finished Game 5 with just one fewer hit than the Cardinals but Wainwright excels in high-leverage spots and did so again on Wednesday night in front of a sea of red.

Now the Cardinals have a date with the Dodgers in the best-of-seven Championship Series.

That series begins this Friday night in St. Louis. It should be another thriller.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.