The postseason slate was packed from early afternoon to late night on Friday, and the two clubs that took early series leads the prior day found themselves reeled in by their opponents.
The day opened with Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium, where the Pirates jumped out to an early lead before denying the Cardinals, 7-1, behind the power arm of rookie Gerrit Cole, who hit 100 mph on the 75th pitch of his first career postseason outing. Cole held St. Louis to a run on two hits over six innings, drawing praise from his manager and teammates.
"There's been a young, elite group of pitchers burst on the scene, and we're fortunate to have one," skipper Clint Hurdle said after the win, also powered by Pedro Alvarez's second homer in as many games and Starling Marte's long ball off Cards phenom Shelby Miller.
"Gerrit Cole was absolutely outstanding," Pirates infielder Neil Walker said. "Unbelievable, spotting down in the zone with his fastball and getting ahead with sliders -- using it early, middle, late [in the count]. That's how he's been successful the last several outings."
In Atlanta, the Braves avenged Thursday's Game 1 loss to the Dodgers, tying their NLDS at a game apiece with a 4-3 win fueled by a dependable formula: an effective start from Mike Minor, a late two-run hit by Jason Heyward and a four-out save from Craig Kimbrel.
The biggest moment of the game, though, may have come courtesy of catcher Gerald Laird, who caught Dodgers speedster Dee Gordon attempting to steal second for the second out of the ninth.
"[Gordon] looks safe from our point of view, but I think we're that far away," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Just looks like Dee gets there before the ball gets there. And I know our replays feel like they're fairly clear, but I'm sure other people see it another way."
The Road to the World Series got off to a strong start for the Red Sox and Tigers, who took different paths to Game 1 victories in the American League Division Series.
Facing a two-run deficit and appearing overmatched against fireballer Matt Moore heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Red Sox swung momentum in their favor and never looked back, plating five in the fourth and three more in the fifth en route to a 12-2 thumping of the Rays.
The standout play in the fourth -- one that allowed Boston to open the floodgates -- came on a catchable ground-rule double to right-center by David Ortiz that fell between center fielder Desmond Jennings and right fielder Wil Myers, who took blame for the miscue after the game.
"It was totally my fault -- I messed it up," the rookie said. "[Jennings] didn't say anything at all. The reason why I [stopped short] is it's so loud, the crowd, I thought he may have called something."
Not lost in Boston's victory was a steady outing from ace left-hander Jon Lester, who scattered a pair of solo homers across his 7 2/3 innings, allowing just one other hit all afternoon.
11 straight retired for @JLester31! He strikes out Escobar for 6th K on day. Bullpen looking good. He's through 7th on 94 pitches.- Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) October 4, 2013
"Setting aside the two [home run] mistakes to [Sean Rodriguez] and [Ben] Zobrist, Jon was strong," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He stayed out of the middle of the plate. That's as powerful of stuff as Jon has had for us all year long, and it came at a very good time."
Rounding out Friday's action were the A's and Tigers, who opened their rematch of last season's ALDS with a nailbiter at O.co Coliseum that went to Detroit, 3-2, thanks to a key three-run top of the first. That would be plenty for AL Cy Young front-runner Max Scherzer, who earned 11 of the 16 strikeouts recorded by Tigers pitchers and made just one mistake: a booming two-run homer in the seventh by Yoenis Cespedes, who also tripled.
Once Scherzer was done, however, Detroit's bullpen picked up where he left off, recording five strikeouts in the final two innings and securing a hard-fought win with closer Joaquin Benoit's perfect 1 1/3 innings.
The Road to the World Series continues early Saturday evening in Boston, where ace David Price will try to pull the Rays even with the Red Sox five days after he ousted the Rangers with a complete-game gem in the AL tiebreaker game.
In a game airing on TBS at 5:30 p.m. ET, Price will be up against veteran right-hander John Lackey, who has posted a 3.12 ERA in 14 career postseason appearances (12 starts).
"Everything is about fastball command to me," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who served as the Angels' bench coach while Lackey was with the Halos during his first four seasons in the Majors. "When your pitchers have that, then everything kind of works off of that."
The action will remain in the AL later Saturday, when Justin Verlander, set to make the 13th postseason start of his career, will try to give Detroit a commanding 2-0 ALDS lead over the A's at 9 p.m. on TBS.
Opposing Verlander will be rookie right-hander Sonny Gray, who has never pitched in October but gained valuable big-game experience as a standout at Vanderbilt University.
"I mean, the College World Series tournament is very similar," Gray said. "You have to do some things off the field that you normally wouldn't do for a regular game. I would say leading up to the game, it's probably very similar."
All four NL clubs will have an opportunity to rest on Saturday and prepare for their respective Game 3 matchups on Sunday, with the Cardinals and Pirates scheduled to get under way on TBS at 4:30 p.m. before the Braves and Dodgers square off from Chavez Ravine at 8 p.m. on TBS.
Joe Kelly will start for St. Louis on Sunday against left-hander Francisco Liriano, who denied the Reds in Tuesday's NL Wild Card Game, and rookies Julio Teheran and Hyun-Jin Ryu will start for Atlanta and Los Angeles, respectively, at Dodger Stadium.
"He's such a smart, intuitive guy who has a great feel for the game of baseball," catcher A.J. Ellis said of Ryu, who signed a six-year deal with the Dodgers in the offseason, leaving his native South Korea. "We've really grown together, him and I working together. He's grown with a lot of guys on the team."
Saturday's Division Series games
Rays (Price) at Red Sox (Lackey), 5:30 p.m. ET Preview >
Tigers (Verlander) at A's (Gray), 9 p.m. ET Preview >
2013 MLB POSTSEASON MATCHUPS
Division Series: Rays at Red Sox | Tigers at A's
Division Series: Pirates at Cardinals | Dodgers at Braves
2013 postseason schedule
NL Division Series
Game 1: Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
Game 2: Pirates 7, Cardinals 1, NLDS tied at 1
Game 3: Cardinals at Pirates, Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET
Game 4: Cardinals at Pirates, Monday, 3 p.m. ET
Game 5*: Pirates at Cardinals, Wednesday, 5 p.m. ET
* - if necessary
Game 1: Dodgers 6, Braves 1
Game 2: Braves 4, Dodgers 3, NLDS tied at 1
Game 3: Braves at Dodgers, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
Game 4: Braves at Dodgers, Monday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Game 5*: Dodgers at Braves, Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET
* - if necessary
AL Division Series
Game 1: Red Sox 12, Rays 2, Red Sox lead ALDS, 1-0
Game 2: Rays at Red Sox, Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET
Game 3: Red Sox at Rays, Monday, 6 p.m. ET
Game 4*: Red Sox at Rays, Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Game 5*: Rays at Red Sox, Thursday, 5:30 p.m. ET
* - if necessary
Game 1: Tigers 3, A's 2, Tigers lead ALDS, 1-0
Game 2: Tigers at A's, Saturday, 9 p.m. ET
Game 3: A's at Tigers, Monday, 1 p.m. ET
Game 4*: A's at Tigers, Tuesday, 5 p.m. ET
Game 5*: Tigers at A's, Thursday, 9 p.m. ET
* - if necessary
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 11
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 12
World Series begins: Oct. 23