The 2013 MLB playoffs have been as dramatic as any fan or analyst could've asked for. There have been walk-off hits, late-inning grand slams, dominant pitching performances, and in between all of this, both the American League and National League Championship Series' are at 3-2.
Here's what you need to know about two superstar-studded pitching matchups in Game 6.
The St. Louis Cardinals will host the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch Stadium on Friday, Oct. 18 at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Dodgers won Game 5, but currently trail St. Louis by a margin of 3-2.
L.A. will send its ace to the mound in a season-saving situation, while the Cardinals will trust their rising star.
In the American League, the Boston Red Sox will return to Fenway Park for a Game 6 meeting with the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 4:30 p.m. ET. Boston secured a dramatic 4-3 win during Game 5, and are thus ahead 3-2 as it heads home.
Much like Los Angeles and St. Louis, both Boston and Detroit will send elite pitchers to the mound. Who's ready for some baseball?
Game 6: Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals
Date: Friday, Oct. 18
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Series: 3-2, Cardinals
Michael Wacha (2 GP, 2-0, 17 SO, 0.64 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, .125 BAA)
During the 2013 MLB playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals have turned to 22-year-old pitcher Michael Wacha in key situations. In both of his starts, Wacha was close to flawless, going to 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in critical Cardinals victories.
Now, Wacha will take on a heavy task: beat the best pitcher in baseball. Again.
Wacha was 4-1 in 15 appearances and nine starts during the 2013 regular season, posting an ERA of 2.78. As strong as he was, no one in baseball expected the youngster to be one of the most dominant pitchers of the postseason.
Having already out-dueled Clayton Kershaw once in the NLCS, Wacha has the opportunity of a lifetime to officially enter the ranks of the best in baseball by doing it again.
That may seem like a stretch, but Wacha has already defeated Kershaw once and won on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates with 7.1 innings of one-run work. With another victory, a series-clinching win, it'd be difficult to do anything but praise the 22-year-old as a genuine star.
If he beats Kershaw twice, we might as well crown him as the NLCS MVP.
Clayton Kershaw (3 GP, 1-1, 23 SO, 0.47 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, .125 BAA)
The Dodgers will send Kershaw to the mound for Game 6, who allowed one unearned run during a losing effort in Game 2. Kershaw may have fallen to Wacha during that game, but Cardinals fans shouldn't get too excited.
Kershaw has made three postseason appearances in 2013, posting a cumulative ERA of 9.47 with a 0.68 WHIP.
Furthermore, Kershaw hasn't lost consecutive starts since April 17, 2013. After finishing the regular season at 16-9 with NL-best marks in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, it's safe to say that the left-hander is the best pitcher the National League has to offer—and it really isn't even close.
If the Dodgers' season is on the line, there isn't a better player to save them than Kershaw.
It would be a downright catastrophe if Kershaw doesn't win the 2013 Cy Young award after leading the NL in three of the four major pitching categories. In fact, Kershaw was the only qualified MLB starter to post an ERA below 2.17—his was 1.83.
Expect Kershaw to earn his pending mega contract during Game 6.
Game 6: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox
Date: Saturday, Oct. 19
Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
Series: 3-2, Red Sox
Justin Verlander (3 GP, 1-1, 31 SO, 0.39 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, .127 BAA)
So much for a falloff.
Justin Verlander has been one of the most heavily-criticized players in baseball after going from league MVP to a 13-12 pitcher with a 3.46 ERA. There were flashes of his usual brilliance, but that marked his lowest win total and worst ERA since 2008.
In three postseason games, Verlander has reminded the world that he's still the American League's ace.
Verlander is 1-1 in three starts with a 0.39 ERA, a 0.57 WHIP and an opponent batting average of .127. He's struck out 31 batters in 23.0 innings, and tossed 8.0 innings of one-run work during his first start against Boston.
The season is on the line and Detroit couldn't be in better hands.
Verlander has allowed just one earned run in 23.0 innings of postseason baseball, which further establishes his documented dominance. Arguably one of the greatest pitchers to ever live, Verlander posted a 2.22 ERA during Detroit's run to the World Series in 2012.
He only allowed one run during Game 3 of the 2013 ALCS, but it was a game-winning home run. Don't expect him to make the same mistakes twice.
Clay Buchholz (2 GP, 0-0, 11 SO, 6.17 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, .306 BAA)
During the 2013 regular season, Clay Buchholz was, arguably, the most dominant pitcher in the entire MLB. In 16 starts, Buchholz was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 96 strikeouts, but only threw 16 games due to injury.
During the postseason, Buchholz has a 6.17 ERA, a 1.54 WHIP and a .306 opponent batting average. Are we sure he's healthy?
Buchholz has made two starts during the 2013 playoffs, making key mistakes in both of his outings. After going 6.0 innings and allowing three runs against the Tampa Bay Rays, the 29-year-old let up five runs in 5.2 innings to the Tigers.
David Ortiz's late grand slam bailed Buchholz out of a loss, but two consecutive duds offer cause for concern.
Buccholz's struggles date back to his final start of the regular season, but he hasn't allowed three or more runs in four consecutive starts since Sept. 9, 2012. For that reason, the Red Sox shouldn't panic just yet.
Buchholz is due for a rebound performance, and a win over Detroit to send Boston to the World Series is the perfect place to begin.
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