x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

MLB playoffs: Giants rally to set up decider against Reds as Cardinals rout Washington

Two home runs from veteran Raul Ibanez gave the New York Yankees the initiative over Baltimore in their latest playoff encounter, while St Louis moved closer to retaining their World Series title with an 8-0 win over the Nationals.

St Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran slides home past Kurt Suzuki of the Washington Nationals
St Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran slides home past Kurt Suzuki of the Washington Nationals

Defending World Series champions the St. Louis Cardinals took a step closer to retaining their title after routing the Washington Nationals 8-0, spoiling the first home postseason game in the nation's capital since 1933.

St. Louis now lead the best-of-five National League Division Series 2-1 and can advance to the next round with a victory tonight at Nationals Park.

The Cardinals wasted little time in dampening the spirit of the home crowd by scoring a run in the first on an Allen Craig double, while adding three more in the second on a Pete Kozma homer into the left-field stands.

A sacrifice fly by Daniel Descalso in the sixth hiked the Cardinals' advantage to 5-0, before Yadier Molina's bases-loaded walk an inning later had the record Nationals Park crowd of 45,017 searching for the exits.

Chris Carpenter scattered seven hits over 5-2/3 innings to get the win, while Edwin Jackson, who was with the Cardinals during their World Series run a year ago, suffered the loss.

With the Cardinals leading 6-0 and the once-boisterous crowd looking ahead to tonight's game, Matt Holiday banged a single to left, scoring Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran to end the scoring.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson refused to believe his club was ready to throw in the towel, saying there are "a couple more battles we need to win."

"We are not out of this by a long shot," he said. "Keep us in the ballgame tomorrow, get a few key hits, we're right back in it. Shoot, I've had my back to worse walls than this."

The New York Yankees rallied to beat the Baltimore Orioles in sensational fashion, getting two home runs from Raul Ibanez in a 3-2 win that put them on the brink of reaching the American League Championship Series.

The 40-year-old Ibanez, pinch-hitting for slumping slugger Alex Rodriguez, delivered a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth and then led off the 12th with another blast deep into the right-field seats to win it.

Starting pitchers Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees and Baltimore's Miguel Gonzalez duelled until the late innings with the Orioles leading 2-1 going into the ninth on solo home runs by second baseman Ryan Flaherty and rookie third baseman Manny Machado.

The victory gave New York a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five AL Division Series with a chance to finish it off at Yankee Stadium tonight.

Meanwhile the San Francisco Giants blasted three home runs and overcame a shaky start from Barry Zito to beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-3 and set up a final game showdown for a place in the National League Championship Series.

After losing the opening two games of the division series at home, the Giants fought back with a pair of road wins to set up a decisive fifth game on Thursday at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.

Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval each crushed two-run homers while Angel Pagan added a solo shot to stun the capacity crowd that had been expecting to celebrate the Reds' first trip to the NLCS since 1995.

Zito allowed four hits, fours walks and two runs in 2-2/3 innings and it was Tim Lincecum who came to the rescue for the Giants, registering the win after allowing just one run and two hits in 4-1/3 innings of sparkling relief.

"It's probably hard for them to believe that we were up 2-0 (in the series)," Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters. "So they reversed on us what we did to them ... and we have a big game, the rubber match, tomorrow.

"If we win tomorrow, it doesn't matter how many games you were up but they're a quality team and we knew it was going to be a fight when we got here."

The Oakland Athletics built on their growing reputation of a team that refuses to give up with another ninth-inning rally that shocked the Detroit Tigers 4-3 on Wednesday and sent their playoff series to a decider.

Trailing 3-1 and on the brink of elimination, Seth Smith hit a game-tying RBI double and Coco Crisp delivered the winning single to give Oakland a second straight win at a rowdy Coliseum to even up the best-of-five AL Division Series at 2-2.

Crisp made a spectacular catch that sparked a 2-0 triumph in Game Three a day earlier, where the A's avoided being swept, and he came through again to set up Thursday's decider in Oakland.

Detroit had appeared on target for a berth in the American League Championship Series after starter Max Scherzer held Oakland to just one run on three hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Prince Fielder blasted a home run in the fourth, making up for being denied by Crisp's Game Three catch, for a 2-0 lead and the visiting Tigers added an insurance run in the eighth to re-establish a two-run lead.

However, a nervous-looking Jose Valverde was unable hold off the Athletics, who tapped into the inspired late-game play that has characterised their improbable run to the American League West title in the second half of the season.

The A's recorded an MLB-leading 14 walkoff wins in the regular season with the 15th setting up a winner-takes-all showdown for the right to face either the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles.

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