Royals take a 2-0 lead in the ALCS with a 6-4 victory over the Orioles in Game 2

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Games taken into the ninth inning and later usually provide a slight edge to the home team, but don’t tell that to the Royals. The Royals have already played four games that have gone extra innings in the post-season and won them all, including last night’s 10-inning 8-6 win in ALCS Game 1. They went into the ninth inning of Saturday’s Game 2 and rallied to push across two runs, winning another game late.

It was a back-and-forth affair through the first five innings, as Orioles starter Bud Norris and Royals starter Yordano Ventura both struggled. Norris was inefficient, throwing 90 pitches before departing with one out in the fifth inning. He allowed at least one run in three of the first four innings, but the bullpen was able to bail him out once he departed. Overall, he yielded four runs on nine hits (including a Mike Moustakas solo home run) while walking none and striking out three. Ventura went 5 2/3, departing in the sixth due to tightness in his right shoulder. He gave up four runs on five hits (including an Adam Jones two-run home run) and three walks while striking out three.

From there, both bullpens squelched the opposing offenses going into the ninth inning. Orioles reliever Darren O’Day took the hill to start the top of the ninth, and quickly allowed a lead-off single to Omar Infante, who was replaced on the base paths by Terrence Gore. O’s manager Buck Showalter brought in closer Zach Britton, one night after he walked three batters in a row to start the ninth inning. While he didn’t have the same control problems, the Royals were still able to rally just the same. Mike Moustakas bunted Gore up to second base, and Gore promptly came around to score when Alcides Escobar pushed a ground ball double down the right field line. Jarrod Dyson then reached on a fielding error by third baseman Ryan Flaherty, allowing Gore to move to third base. Gore scored the Royals’ sixth run when Lorenzo Cain grounded a single to left field.

In the bottom of the ninth, closer Greg Holland slammed the door on the Orioles, getting Alejandro De Aza to pop up weakly to shortstop and Adam Jones to ground out to third base for two quick outs. Nelson Cruz kept hope alive with a ground ball single up the middle, but Steve Pearce struck out swinging to end the contest.

The Royals had several offensive standouts, but Cain shines brightest, finishing 4-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a pair of runs scored. He’s 6-for-8 in two ALCS games. A night after going 3-for-4 with four RBI, Alex Gordon took a golden sombrero, striking out four times in four at-bats.

Now with six post-season games under their belt, the Royals are still undefeated. They’re the fourth team to start the post-season with six consecutive victories and the first since the 2007 Rockies.

Both clubs will enjoy a day off on Sunday, as they’ll be traveling to Kansas City for Game 3 on Monday. Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen gets the start against Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie.

Phillies’ 6-run ninth tops Cardinals in 6-3 wild-card win

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ST. LOUIS — Philadelphia scored six times in the ninth inning off the stingy St. Louis bullpen, highlighted by a bases-loaded single by Jean Segura, and the Phillies beat the NL Central champion Cardinals 6-3 on Friday in the opening game of their National League wild-card series.

The Cardinals, who were 74-3 on the season when leading after eight innings, were poised to put away another close game after Juan Yepez connected for the first go-ahead pinch-hit homer in franchise history with two outs in the seventh inning.

But after struggling all afternoon against Jose Quintana and the St. Louis bullpen, the Phillies finally got their powerful offense going against Ryan Helsley. JT Realmuto began the ninth-inning rally with a single, and walks for Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos loaded the bases before the All-Star closer plunked Alec Bohm to score a run.

The Cardinals training staff came out to check on Helsley, who had jammed the middle finger on his pitching hand earlier in the week in Pittsburgh. He tried to throw another warmup pitch but was pulled for Andre Pallante, who gave up Segura’s hit through the right side of the infield that put Philadelphia in front.

Edmundo Sosa added a run when he brazenly scored on Bryson Stott‘s grounder to first base, and Brandon Marsh drove in another run when a tough hop got past Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong.

By the time Kyle Schwarber added a sacrifice fly, Phillies reliever Zach Eflin had plenty of wiggle room in the ninth.

It looked as if Eflin might need it, too, when Nolan Arenado and Dylan Carlson reached base and Nolan Gorman hit a two-out single to right. But Eflin responded by striking Yadier Molina to end the game, leaving Philadelphia a win away from facing NL East champion Atlanta in the divisional round.

There was a sentimental breeze sweeping through Busch Stadium before the game. Ozzie Smith cheerfully walked to the mound to deliver a ceremonial first pitch, and if the flag-waving Cardinals fans packed into every nook and cranny closed their eyes during introductions, they might have thought they were watching a game a generation ago.

After all, some familiar faces were in the lineup from the last time St. Louis and Philadelphia met in the playoffs.

That was 11 years ago to the day Friday, when the Cardinals beat the Phillies in a dramatic pitchers’ duel between Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the NL divisional series. Molina and Albert Pujols played for St. Louis that night while erstwhile ace Adam Wainwright, pitching out of the bullpen this series, also was there to celebrate.

Just like that night in Philadelphia, pitching dominated most of Friday’s series opener.

Quintana, who arrived in a deadline trade from Pittsburgh, was masterful for the Cardinals, allowing only a single to Matt Vierling and a double to Bohm while pitching into the sixth. His day was done after fanning Schwarber for the second time on his 75th pitch, handing the game over to a relief corps that had been downright dominant this season.

Zack Wheeler was the equal of Quintana, allowing a leadoff single to Lars Nootbaar and nothing else until Tommy Edman‘s leadoff single in the sixth. Edman was left stranded on third when Paul Goldschmidt grounded out.

Wheeler departed after retiring Arenado to start the seventh. He struck out four and walked one on 96 pitches, his most since Aug. 20, shortly before the right-hander landed on the injured list with forearm tendinitis.

Then it came down to the bullpens, and the Phillies managed to overcome one of the best in the game.

UP NEXT

The Phillies will try for the wild-card sweep on Saturday night when they send right-hander Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA) to the mound. He was stellar his last time out against Houston in clinching Philadelphia’s wild-card playoff spot.

The Cardinals will turn to right-hander Miles Mikolas (12-13, 3.29 ERA) to force a decisive Game 3. Mikolas struggled in a tune-up out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh but allowed one earned run over his last two starts.