For the first time in postseason history, a pair of 1-0 outcomes fell on the same day, with Michael Wacha and the Cardinals shutting down the Dodgers in the afternoon and Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers flirting with what would have been the third postseason no-hitter ever in the evening.
"There's two playoff games today, both 1-0 scores," Tigers veteran manager Jim Leyland said. "That tells you the quality of pitching in the postseason."
As the Road to the World Series took a couple of giant leaps forward, the men on the mound were in control, dictating every moment of both games. In a word, they were dominant.
As in, four strikeouts in an inning en route to 17, a postseason record. As in, a no-hitter going into the ninth. As in, 19 straight scoreless innings.
This was a day-night double-dip of pitching prowess, and it put St. Louis solidly in early control of the NLCS and Detroit in the driver's seat in the ALCS.
Once again for the Cardinals, their brand of dominance came from a band of youngsters that has been simply amazing this October, led by starter Wacha and finished off with a loud pop of the catcher's mitt from Trevor Rosenthal's fastball. These Kiddie Cards, including relievers Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez, recorded 26 of the 27 outs Saturday, and none of them is older than 23.
Stretching back to the third inning of Game 1, it has been 19 innings since the Cardinals have allowed the Dodgers to touch home plate.
Wacha, who flirted with a no-hitter in Game 4 of the Division Series against the Pirates, wasn't unhittable this time around, allowing a single to Mark Ellis in the first inning. But he was plenty stingy, and he showed some mettle in the sixth inning, loading the bases but going for back-to-back strikeouts to get out of it.
Wacha outlasted and outshined NL Cy Young front-runner Clayton Kershaw, a feat in itself. Dating to his near no-hitter in his regular-season finale, Wacha has allowed just one run on seven hits in his last 22 2/3 innings, striking out 26 while walking five.
"The way this kid has gone about it has been -- it's really hard to describe," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I don't want to keep describing it, because I'd like to watch it happen a few more times. But he's going about it the right way, there is no question. Just watching him continue to improve is pretty impressive."
With that, all the Cardinals needed was a double by David Freese, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly, making it only the seventh 1-0 postseason game in which the only run was unearned.
Once the action shifted to Boston, two teams that have a combined 36 postseason appearances and have been around since the AL was formed in 1901 played each other for the first time on the October stage.
And there was an early hint that Sanchez was going to make Saturday's game something to remember. He managed to strike out four batters in the top of the first inning -- Shane Victorino reaching on a wild third strike for one of them -- marking only the second time that feat has been accomplished in the postseason, the first in 105 years. It was in the 1908 World Series that the Cubs' Orval Overall pulled it off against the Tigers.
But that rarity was just the beginning of the strikeouts and the zeros on the scoreboard for Sanchez and, as it turned out, four relievers. Sanchez would strike out 12 in six innings, leaving the no-hitter and, more important to him, the chance to take the opener of the ALCS in the hands of the Detroit bullpen.
"You know, at this point especially in this series, it's not about throwing a no-hitter," Sanchez said. "As soon as you get some zeros inning by inning, and you face hitter by hitter, and get him out, it's more important."
It wasn't until Daniel Nava floated a single into short left-center field with one out in the ninth against Joaquin Benoit that the Sox hit safely, and that was the only hit on the night for Boston.
That became the second time in postseason history that a no-hitter was broken up in the ninth. It was the Yankees' Bill Bevens in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series who was one out away from what would have been the first no-no in the postseason, but he lost that and the game on a Cookie Lavagetto two-run double.
Jon Lester and the Sox pitchers didn't fare all that much worse, scattering nine hits and allowing just one run, with hobbled slugger Miguel Cabrera scoring on a Jhonny Peralta single.
But, on this day, one run was enough. Twice.
* * *
On a travel day for the National League, the Road to the World Series continues to unfold at Fenway Park with Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Sunday night.
And there's absolutely no reason to think the mound mastery on display this weekend will subside.
With 21-game winner Max Scherzer, fresh off a heart-pounding relief effort in Game 4 of the Division Series against Oakland, meeting Sox ace Clay Buchholz in a crucial start for his club at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
Scherzer might still be a little wound up over his relief appearance Tuesday in Detroit, a thrill ride that included working out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam. But this guy's a starter, and Sunday's outing marks his next huge assignment, and he brings a deep sense of confidence that he'll keep the zeros rolling.
"I believe confidence is a choice," Scherzer said. "And I always choose I'm going to believe that I'm always going to come out on top. It doesn't matter if you're struggling or matter if you're on top. You've always got to believe that you're going to have success."
While Scherzer won with consistency all year long, Buchholz was on the shelf for much of the 2013 campaign. But he was magnificent when he was not sidelined with a shoulder injury, carding a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts.
After months of rehab to get back, Buchholz is on the mound in what suddenly stands as Boston's biggest game of the year.
"This is what baseball is all about," Buchholz said. "This is where you want to be."
Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Cardinals will work out at Dodger Stadium in advance of Game 3 on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS, with Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals squaring off against Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers.
Sunday's Championship Series game
Tigers (Scherzer) at Red Sox (Buchholz), 8 p.m. ET (FOX) Preview >
2013 MLB POSTSEASON MATCHUPS
Division Series: Red Sox beat Rays, 3-1 | Tigers beat A's, 3-2
Championship Series: Tigers at Red Sox; Detroit leads, 1-0
Division Series: Cardinals beat Pirates, 3-2 | Dodgers beat Braves, 3-1
Championship Series: Dodgers at Cardinals; St. Louis leads, 2-0
2013 postseason schedule
NL Division Series
Game 1: Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
Game 2: Pirates 7, Cardinals 1
Game 3: Pirates 5, Cardinals 3
Game 4: Cardinals 2, Pirates 1
Game 5: Cardinals 6, Pirates 1, Cardinals win series, 3-2
Game 1: Dodgers 6, Braves 1
Game 2: Braves 4, Dodgers 3
Game 3: Dodgers 13, Braves 6
Game 4: Dodgers 4, Braves 3, Dodgers win series, 3-1
AL Division Series
Game 1: Red Sox 12, Rays 2
Game 2: Red Sox 7, Rays 4
Game 3: Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Game 4: Red Sox 3, Rays 1, Red Sox win series, 3-1
Game 1: Tigers 3, A's 2
Game 2: A's 1, Tigers 0
Game 3: A's 6, Tigers 3
Game 4: Tigers 8, A's 6
Game 5: Tigers 3, A's 0, Tigers win series, 3-2
NL Championship Series (All games on TBS)
Game 1: Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2 (13 innings)
Game 2: Cardinals 1, Dodgers 0
Game 3: Cardinals at Dodgers, Monday, 8 p.m. ET
Game 4: Cardinals at Dodgers, Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET
*Game 5: Cardinals at Dodgers, Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET
*Game 6: Dodgers at Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 18, 8:30 p.m. ET
*Game 7: Dodgers at Cardinals, Saturday, Oct. 19, 8:30 p.m. ET
* - if necessary
AL Championship Series (All games on FOX)
Game 1: Tigers 1, Red Sox 0
Game 2: Tigers at Red Sox, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
Game 3: Red Sox at Tigers, Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET
Game 4: Red Sox at Tigers, Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET
*Game 5: Red Sox at Tigers, Thursday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m. ET
*Game 6: Tigers at Red Sox, Saturday, Oct. 19, 4:30 p.m. ET^
*Game 7: Tigers at Red Sox, Sunday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m. ET
* - if necessary
^ - game time subject to change
World Series begins: Oct. 23