The St. Louis Cardinals erased a six-run deficit and scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals 9-7 on Friday and advance to the National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Also on Friday, the New York Yankees, spurred by the powerful pitching of CC Sabathia, beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 to win their Division Series 3-2 and advance to the American League Championship Series.
Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma each had two-out, two-run singles in the ninth for the Cardinals, to silence the record Nationals Park crowd of 45,966 and win the best-of-five N.L. Division Series 3-2.
Washington, in the playoffs for just the second time in the franchise's 44-year history, cruised to a 6-0 lead after three innings but could not close the door on the Cardinals.
On five separate pitches, the Cardinals were down to their last strike but managed to come through.
The Cardinals chipped away at the deficit and pulled to within 6-5 on a Descalso homer to right in the eighth inning.
An RBI single by Kurt Suzuki in the bottom half of the inning gave the Nationals what seemed like a comfortable 7-5 lead for closer Drew Storen.
But Storen gave up three hits and two walks in the ninth, and when Kozma lined a two-run single to right to score Descalso and David Freese and give St. Louis a 9-7 lead, the once-raucous crowd turned eerily silent.
Jason Motte shut down the Nationals in order in the ninth, and when Zimmerman popped out to Descalso at second to end the game, the Cardinals met at the mound to mob each other.
St. Louis will travel to San Francisco for the first of the best-of-seven NLCS today.
Yankees outgun Orioles
CC Sabathia, who also won the opener in the best-of-five series, gave up four hits and struck out nine in his complete-game victory.The big left hander was backed by a run-scoring single by Raul Ibanez in the fifth, an RBI double off the wall by Ichiro Suzuki an inning later, and a long home run in the seventh by Curtis Granderson.
Baltimore mounted a serious challenge in the eighth, scoring a run and loading the bases with one out, but Sabathia struck out Nate McLouth and retired JJ Hardy on a soft grounder to end the threat.
"He's a great pitcher and we had very few opportunities against him," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We had a shot there in the eighth, and he took it to another level, if there is such a thing."
Sabathia, who had given up just one hit through seven innings, passed his toughest test in the eighth. Lew Ford singled to scored Matt Wieters and then the bases were loaded, but Sabathia regained his composure and completed the game.
"He was pitching so well that I wasn't going to pull him," said Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager."He is our ace. That's the bottom line. He has been there, done that."
The victory lifted the Yankees into a best-of-seven playoff against the Detroit Tigers.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now