If ALCS opener is any indication, more fun awaits

If ALCS opener is any indication, more fun awaits

After surviving a spectacular Division Series round, the four teams left standing on the bridge to the World Series had to figure they were in for something special, something truly shocking as the postseason marched forward.

One game into the League Championship Series round, you can check those boxes already.

With the second four-run rally in as many ninth innings of postseason play, something special already has happened, even if it didn't play out Saturday night the same as it did the night before.

ALCS

And, unfortunately, the truly shocking moment came in the form of one of the game's all-time postseason heroes being helped off the field: Derek Jeter, out for the rest of the postseason with a fractured left ankle.

On many levels, Game 1 of the American League Championship Series picked up where the fittingly frantic National League Division Series finale in Washington the night before left off, as the Tigers and Yankees battled long into the night once the team in home pinstripes bolted awake with a pair of two-run homers in the ninth to tie the game.

Unlike the Cardinals did in clinching the last spot in the NL Championship Series by catching and passing the Nationals with their four-spot in the ninth Friday night, the Yankees were unable to finish the job and the Tigers responded with two runs in the 12th to win it, 6-4, to take a 1-0 ALCS lead.

"If we are going to be good enough, we have to be able to take a punch, and we took a big punch. We took a right cross in the ninth inning, but we survived it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

NLCS

With a nearly five-hour opener, the next leg of the October journey began Saturday night and into Sunday morning, but it wasn't just in the Bronx that baseball's 2012 postseason tale continued to spin toward the World Series.

It was getting in gear along the shores of McCovey Cove, too, where the host Giants and the Cardinals hit AT&T Park for off-day workouts Saturday, both bleary after all-night flights across three time zones following the Cardinals' improbable ninth-inning comeback over the Nationals.

Game 1 of the NLCS will go off at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX, with Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner meeting Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn in an opener between franchises that met previously in the NLCS twice before, each team earning one ticket to the World Series.

But even before that one begins, it'll be Game 2 of the ALCS, with Hiroki Kuroda making the first start of his career on three days' rest for the Yankees against the Tigers' Anibal Sanchez, starting at 4 p.m. on TBS -- just a matter of 15 hours after the 12-inning Game 1 extended until 1 a.m.

It was in that decisive 12th inning that Jeter, who earlier collected his 200th career postseason hit to extend his record, ranged to his left, stumbled while grasping a grounder and grimaced in pain as he tried to flip the ball to his teammate.

Mere minutes later, after the Tigers had closed out the victory, manager Joe Girardi uttered the words.

"His ankle fractured, so he's out. He's out," Girardi said. "They talked about a three-month recovery period. Won't jeopardize his career, but he will not be playing anymore for us this year."

Before that horrible shock, it was the magical October swing of Raul Ibanez that had provided the biggest blow of the night. Ibanez blasted his third homer in the ninth inning or later this postseason that either tied the game or gave his team the lead. That's something no one has done before in a single postseason, and something only Johnny Bench has done in a postseason career.

The flip side is the Tigers' ninth-inning relief was nothing but trouble -- again. Between Saturday night's disaster and the Game 4 comeback by the A's in the ALDS, Jose Valverde has allowed seven earned runs on seven hits while retiring just four batters, and Leyland said afterward he and his staff has some talking to do about it. If not for Delmon Young, who earlier homered, delivering a go-ahead double in the 12th, that ninth-inning right cross might have been even more devastating for Detroit.

In San Francisco, where the bell has yet to ring, the two teams preparing for Game 1 of the NLCS were a bit bleary from red-eye flights, the result of the Cardinals' crazy comeback at Nationals Park on Friday night.

The Cardinals flew coast to coast -- yes, they used an airplane -- after their amazing comeback in Game 5 in Washington that earned them a spot in the NLCS. And the Giants watched the end of that one on iPads and such on their plane in Cincinnati, first thinking they were going east to D.C. and then finding out they were headed west, homeward.

Now that they're on the ground, it's a battle between the 2010 World Series champions and the 2011 champs, and a matchup of proud organizations with rich history.

More to the point, they're two teams that can provide quite the challenge to the opposition, with strong pitching staffs guided by two of the best catchers in the game in the Cardinals' Yadier Molina and the Giants' Buster Posey, and talent in all facets of the game -- all of which is why they're where they are.

"They can beat you in different ways," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of the Cardinals. "They have power. They run. They get those timely hits. They won a World Series last year because of being a balanced ballclub that can do a lot of things."

The Giants showed many of the same qualities in their three-game surge in Cincinnati, the bats breaking out with timely and powerful hits.

"I see a knockdown, drag-out ahead of us," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I'm certain Major League Baseball has to be very pleased with the caliber of baseball that's happened so far this postseason, and I don't see any reason why the excitement wouldn't continue."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.