Toast of two coasts: AL Division Series on tap

Orioles set to host Central champ Tigers, while Royals lock horns with Angels

Toast of two coasts: AL Division Series on tap

After all the noise from the back-and-forth, instant classic of the American League Wild Card Game the previous night, things quieted down on Wednesday. Or to be more accurate, the San Francisco Giants and Madison Bumgarner quieted them down.

The Giants rode Bumgarner's four-hit, 10-strikeout shutout and Brandon Crawford's PNC Park-silencing grand slam to an 8-0 victory in the National League Wild Card Game, and now the final eight teams in the 2014 Major League Baseball postseason are set.

The Giants head to Washington to play the Nationals in one NL Division Series, while the Cardinals and Dodgers meet in the other in Los Angeles.

"There's a lot of work ahead of us," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We know that. We're going to be facing a very good club coming up. All you want's a chance. We said that when we got to this game. We just wanted a chance. That's all you can ask in this game."

The Pirates and their starter, Edinson Volquez, kept things in order through a scoreless first three innings in front of a raucous Pittsburgh crowd wearing all black for the second consecutive year in this game, but Volquez loaded the bases in the fourth and Crawford cleared them. The rest of the story was all about Bumgarner, and now the Giants move on in hopes of adding another World Series title to the ones they won in 2010 and '12.

But that will have to wait, because Thursday is next, and it's all about the AL.

Both AL Division Series begin, and they'll command our attention on both coasts, from Baltimore all the way out to Anaheim.

Out by the Pacific, the Angels will host the Royals.

And at Camden Yards, the Tigers and Orioles will commence their matchup, an intriguing battle that pits the Detroit club that eked out the AL Central against the Baltimore team that boat-raced the AL East.

The Tigers did it with a mix of big-name hitters (Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, Ian Kinsler) and pitchers (Game 1 starter Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, new acquisition David Price). The O's did it with uncanny resilience despite crippling injuries to stalwarts Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, and a suspension that will keep slugger Chris Davis off the field. They also got a lot of home runs.

"A team that swings the bat like that, they're dangerous," Scherzer said. "They're dangerous 1 through 9. That's something I know going into the start. They need to have a good game plan against me and I need to have a good game plan against them."

Scherzer won the AL Cy Young Award last year and will be in the conversation this time around. His adversary in Game 1, Orioles starter Chris Tillman, had a sterling second half this year and should be ready to take the ball on such a meaningful night in front of the hometown fans.

The Tigers have been to the AL Championship Series the last two years and made it to the World Series in 2012. They might have a first-year manager in Brad Ausmus, but they're playoff-tested.

"For guys who have been through it before, I think the experience is an enormous help," Ausmus said. "You understand that the distractions are greater, that the spotlight is brighter and hotter, but ultimately when you step in between the lines, the game is the same."

The O's made a spirited postseason run two years ago and now they're back in the October mix, despite the adversity they faced in 2014.

"I think we all know what it looks like on paper," manager Buck Showalter said. "There's a lot of things that look a certain way on paper for us that we were able to overcome, so thank goodness it's not played by, you know, in fantasy league. I know where we hope our fantasy takes us."

That thought applies to the Angels and Royals, too.

The Angels finished the regular season with the best record in baseball in part because of a lineup that features AL MVP Award front-runner Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

The Royals have been getting it done with speed, defense, balance in the lineup and excellent pitching. They also showed otherworldly guts in coming back from a four-run deficit in the Wild Card Game, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth and then scoring two against the A's to win, 9-8, in the 12th.

The pitching matchup for Game 1 is one with a long history, as in Long Beach State. Angels starter Jered Weaver and Royals left-hander Jason Vargas were college teammates not too far from the mound they'll be toeing at Angel Stadium, they were Angels teammates in 2013, and they're good friends.

They're also good pitchers.

Weaver's velocity has regained a few crucial ticks in recent weeks, which has propelled him back to Cy Young-caliber heights.

"A couple years ago, he won 20 games pitching at 86, 87 miles an hour," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "This year, he got close to 20, and probably his last 10 starts, he looked like he was back in Long Beach State throwing the ball. He really had great stuff."

Vargas isn't necessarily a "stuff" guy, but when his changeup is on, he's tough to hit, and he's familiar with the mound in Anaheim, not to mention the hitters he'll be facing.

"What he does so well is commands his fastball in, commands his fastball down and away, has a tremendous changeup and a nice curveball," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "His last two or three side sessions have been really, really good. He's back to north and south, commanding his fastball, commanding his changeup.

"We like the fact that he's a veteran guy. He's very composed and it's going to be a pretty electric atmosphere. We just thought that he was the right guy to start Game 1."

Thursday's AL Division Series games

Tigers (Scherzer, 18-5) at Orioles (Tillman, 13-6), 5:37 p.m. ET Preview

Scherzer set career-high totals in innings (220 1/3) and strikeouts (252) in 2014. Tillman went 6-1 with a 2.33 ERA after the All-Star break this year.

Royals (Vargas, 11-10) at Angels (Weaver, 18-9), 9:07 p.m. ET Preview

Vargas was 5-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 14 starts on the road this year. Weaver had a 2.72 ERA from Aug. 24 until his last start of the season on Sept. 26, and he pitched into the seventh inning in four of those six starts.


Wild Card Game: Royals 9, Athletics 8 (12 innings)
Division Series: Royals at Angels | Tigers at Orioles

Wild Card Game: Giants 8, Pirates 0
Division Series: Giants at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers

2014 postseason schedule

AL Wild Card Game
Royals 9, Athletics 8 (12 innings)

NL Wild Card Game
Giants 8, Pirates 0

AL Division Series (All games on TBS)
Game 1: Royals at Angels, Thursday, 9:07 p.m. ET
Game 2: Royals at Angels, Friday, 9:37 p.m. ET
Game 3: Angels at Royals, Sunday, 7:37 p.m. ET
Game 4*: Angels at Royals, Monday, Oct. 6, TBD
Game 5*: Royals at Angels, Wednesday, Oct. 8, TBD
* - if necessary

Game 1: Tigers at Orioles, Thursday, 5:37 p.m. ET
Game 2: Tigers at Orioles, Friday, 12:07 p.m. ET
Game 3: Orioles at Tigers, Sunday, 3:37 p.m. ET
Game 4*: Orioles at Tigers, Monday, Oct. 6, TBD
Game 5*: Tigers at Orioles, Wednesday, Oct. 8, TBD
* - if necessary

NL Division Series
Game 1: Giants at Nationals, Friday, 3:07 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1)
Game 2: Giants at Nationals, Saturday, 5:37 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1)
Game 3: Nationals at Giants, Monday, Oct. 6, TBD (MLB Network)
Game 4*: Nationals at Giants. Tuesday, Oct. 7, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
Game 5*: Giants at Nationals, Thursday, Oct. 9, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
* - if necessary

Game 1: Cardinals at Dodgers, Friday, 6:37 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1)
Game 2: Cardinals at Dodgers, Saturday, 9:37 p.m. ET (MLB Network)
Game 3: Dodgers at Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 6, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
Game 4*: Dodgers at Cardinals, Tuesday, Oct. 7, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
Game 5*: Cardinals at Dodgers, Thursday, Oct. 9, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
* - if necessary

AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 10
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 11
World Series begins: Oct. 21

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.