NLCS opens tonight after ALCS' roaring start

NLCS opens tonight after ALCS' roaring start

The 2014 postseason reached the next level Friday night with the start of the American League Championship Series, yet it was really just more of the same level of electricity that has defined this October party on display. Chalk it up as another slice of drama going late into the night, and another unpredictable outcome that fits right in with the road to the World Series that has been paved so far.

Two teams craving for a World Series ticket for the first time since the 1980s got off to a perfectly thrilling start with a Royals victory in Game 1 of the ALCS in Baltimore, and now the first pitch of the National League Championship Series is on the slate tonight as postseason ball hits another high note with two steps toward the ultimate prize sharing the schedule.

The ALCS got off to a roaring start Friday, with the Royals picking up their record fourth extra-innings victory of the postseason, this one an 8-6 win over the Orioles in 10.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

"These games, we've played so many of them that we're kind of used to them a little bit. And we still have a lot of confidence," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.

The Royals smacked the fewest homers (95) in baseball in the regular season, but they continued to pile up some of the most memorable long balls in recent postseason memory in Friday night's opener of the LCS round. A solo shot by Alex Gordon and a two-run missile by Mike Moustakas in the 10th put Kansas City in the driver's seat heading into Game 2. It was the franchise's eighth consecutive postseason victory, dating back to its 1985 World Series title.

Today, we'll have the first doubleheader of LCS action, with Game 2 of the ALCS leading it off at 4 p.m. ET on TBS. Young fireballer Yordano Ventura will take the ball for the Royals against Orioles veteran Bud Norris. Then it'll be time to start things up in the NLCS with a matchup of All-Star aces -- left-hander Madison Bumgarner for the Giants and Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals -- in an 8 p.m. start on FOX.

Figure on things being close and going late. Friday's ALCS opener proved to be another in a long line of games that have taken things to the limit throughout this postseason. A look back in time:

• NLDS Game 4: The Giants claimed the 10th one-run game of this postseason to win the NL Division Series with a 3-2 victory over the Nationals.

• NLDS Game 4: The Cardinals got into the NLCS with a one-run game of their own, holding off the Dodgers in another 3-2 outcome.

• ALDS Game 3: A two-run homer by Nelson Cruz in the sixth inning held up in a 2-1 clincher for the O's over the Tigers.

• NLDS Game 2: Matt Kemp's eighth-inning homer evened up the series with the Cardinals.

• NLDS Game 2: After 18 innings, matching the longest postseason game in history, Brandon Belt provided the winning blow for the Giants.

• NLDS Game 1: The Cardinals staged a remarkable rally against Clayton Kershaw and then held on for a 10-9 victory.

• ALDS Game 2: The Royals took the Angels into extra innings and won, 4-1, in 11 on the strength of Eric Hosmer's two-run shot.

• NLDS Game 1: A tight, low-scoring series started off with a 3-2 victory by the Giants over the Nationals.

• ALDS Game 2: Delmon Young delivered in a pinch for the Orioles, clearing the bases with a double for a 7-6 win over the Tigers.

• ALDS Game 1: Moustakas led off the 11th with a solo homer to give the Royals a 3-2 win over the Angels.

• AL Wild Card: This is where it all began, and where the Royals put their stamp on the 2014 postseason with a ninth-inning comeback and another one in the 12th to beat the A's, 9-8.

In all, the 2014 postseason has seen 10 one-run games in the first 17 played and is still very much a threat to break the all-time record of 13, which was set in '11 and '13. The Royals have become the first team to win four extra-inning games in a single postseason (via ESPN Stats and Info), and the first with three homers to take the lead in extras (via Elias). And, yes, they did it on just another normal night in a 2014 postseason session that has been routinely stunning.

In St. Louis, there was a calm before the storm Friday. The Giants arrived into town preparing for the second meeting between the two storied National League franchises in three years, and the fourth overall. The Giants have prevailed in two of the first three, most recently in 2012 en route to the World Series title. But really, this is a whole new ballgame between two teams that have made '14 special already.

  Date Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 11 SF 3, STL 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 12 STL 5, SF 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14 SF 5, STL 4 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15 SF 6, STL 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 16 SF 6, STL 3 video

"There are a lot of players from 2012 on both sides, and I think you learn from that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Both clubs, I'm sure, have learned from that, our pitchers, their pitchers, our hitters facing their guys, vice versa. It's a different year, though. Guys learn, they become better players. You've got to make adjustments in this game."

Said Wainwright: "You have just two winning organizations that believe they're going to win and get the job done, so you see that both teams are doing that."

By dispatching the Dodgers and overcoming Kershaw for a second time in the series, the Cardinals reached the LCS round for the fourth consecutive year, with Matt Adams' three-run homer proving to be the difference this time. The Giants got there with a squeaker over the Nationals in a series in which runs were at a premium and neither team scored more than four in any of the four games.

Now, they're both 0-0 as the next round begins today and a trip to the World Series hangs in the balance for two teams that have represented the NL in each of the past four years. One of them will make it five.

And, more than likely, there will be another few doses of postseason drama in store before they figure out which one.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.