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Wacha, Cardinals edge Dodgers for 2-0 lead in NLCS

Saturday, 12 October 2013 21:09 Published in Sports

 

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Matched against ace Clayton Kershaw, the only thing Michael Wacha lacked was a no-hit watch.

"He's becoming a guy a lot of teams wish they drafted," teammate David Freese said. "What he's done is remarkable, especially on this stage."

Wacha stared down a bases-loaded test in the sixth inning and pitched into the seventh, and the kids in the bullpen also were impervious to October pressure, keeping the Los Angeles Dodgers bats silent for the second straight day and winning 1-0 Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the NL championship series.

"I'm kind of at a loss for words to describe him," said fellow rookie Kevin Siegrist, who got a big out to end the seventh. "It's kind of ridiculous how well he's done so far."

The Cardinals managed only two hits off Kershaw and the Dodgers, but Jon Jay's sacrifice fly set up by Freese's double and A.J. Ellis' passed ball in the fifth stood up.

The Dodgers' scoreless streak in the NLCS reached 19 innings after they averaged 6 1/2 runs in a four-game division series against Atlanta. Rookie fireballer Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the ninth with a heater reaching 101 mph, fanning pinch-hitter Andre Ethier on three pitches to end it.

A day after outlasting Los Angeles 3-2 in 13 innings, the Cardinals moved two wins away from the World Series.

Game 3 is Monday at Dodger Stadium, with Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright facing rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers have already used their top two starters and have nothing to show for it.

"We don't get too far ahead of ourselves," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We don't deny also what's happened here the last two days.

"Those were two very good wins, two very tough wins when you face starters like that."

Hanley Ramirez and Ethier were out of the Dodgers' lineup with injuries after starting in the opener. Los Angeles missed a handful of opportunities, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position for a two-day total of 1 for 16. Star rookie Yasiel Puig struck out in all four of his at-bats.

"We had our chances," Kershaw said. "We had our chances, for sure. You've got to give a lot of credit to Wacha."

The teams may have been hindered by shadows creeping across Busch Stadium in a late-afternoon start, with lights providing no real help. Both also were no doubt fatigued, which might have shown on the crucial passed ball by Ellis that wound up resulting in an unearned run.

Wacha was nearly untouchable for the third straight start, allowing five hits with eight strikeouts and a walk in 6 2-3 innings.

The 22-year-old right-hander was one out away from a no-hitter in his last start of the regular season, losing it on an infield hit by Washington's Ryan Zimmerman. Wacha ignored a crowd chanting his name in Game 4 of the division series at Pittsburgh, holding the Pirates hitless for 7 1-3 innings to bring the series back home.

In 22 2-3 innings in his last three starts, Wacha has given up two runs on seven hits with 26 strikeouts and five walks.

The 6-6 Wacha struck out Puig and Juan Uribe with the bases loaded to end the sixth. Catcher Yadier Molina helped by making a couple trips to the mound.

"That was a game-changer right there," Molina said. "To get out of that inning was unbelievable."

Kershaw led off with a single, and runners were on second and third after second baseman Matt Carpenter slid in shallow right to glove Carl Crawford's infield hit but threw it away for an error trying to get a forceout at second.

Adrian Gonzalez was walked intentionally to load the bases and the Dodgers 4-5 hitters coming up. Puig struck out on a fastball in the dirt and Uribe had a feeble cut chasing a 1-2 pitch out of the zone.

Carpenter tripled on Kershaw's first pitch of the game but didn't budge when the lefty retired the next three on nine pitches.

The Cardinals had another runner at third with nobody out in the fifth after Freese doubled and advanced on a passed ball by Ellis, This time they converted on Jay's sacrifice fly to shallow left as Crawford's throw was well offline.

The previous pitch the Cardinals tried to squeeze in a run with the Dodgers infield playing in, but Jay fouled off a 1-1 pitch.

Kershaw worked six snappy innings, needing just 72 pitches. He gave up two hits and struck out five.

The majors' ERA leader had plenty left, too, but the Dodgers needed runs and manager Don Mattingly opted for pinch-hitter Michael Young after Nick Punto's two-out single in the seventh.

"I always want to stay in the game, but I understand where Donnie's coming from," Kershaw said. "I get it. We can't give up any more outs and Michael Young is one of the best players the last 10 years."

The Cardinals lifted Wacha for another stingy rookie. Siegrist, who had a minuscule 0.45 ERA in his debut season, threw a pair of wild pitches before getting Young on a flyout to end the seventh.

Relievers Randy Choate and Carlos Martinez pitched the eighth for St. Louis before turning it over to Rosenthal.

The Cardinals handed Kershaw two of his nine losses this season and have beaten him four consecutive times overall.

NOTES: SS Ramirez was a late scratch with sore ribs after getting plunked in the first inning of Game 1. Ethier has been slowed by a sore ankle. ... Carpenter has a hit each of the first two games after entering the NLCS in a 3 for 39 slump. ... Choate, the lone veteran reliever the Cardinals used in Game 2, has gotten two outs on four pitches in two appearances.

No. 25 Missouri upsets No. 7 Georgia, 41-26

Saturday, 12 October 2013 21:07 Published in Sports

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Gary Pinkel said No. 25 Missouri won more than a second straight SEC road game when it upset No. 7 Georgia.

"I just think we earned a little more respect," Pinkel said. "The respect level just went up a couple notches."

Receiver Bud Sasser threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington in the fourth quarter after quarterback James Franklin left with a shoulder injury and Missouri held off Georgia's comeback attempt to beat the short-handed Bulldogs 41-26 on Saturday.

Pinkel said Franklin separated his right shoulder and expects the quarterback to miss at least one week.

Freshman Maty Mauk, who replaced Franklin in the fourth quarter, could start when Missouri (6-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) plays No. 17 Florida next week.

Missouri led by 18 points in the first half before Georgia (4-2, 3-1) cut the lead to 28-26 in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers answered the challenge with two late touchdowns, despite losing Franklin.

Missouri's first road win over a top 10 team since 1981 helped continue the Tigers' recovery from a 5-7 finish in 2012, their first in season in the SEC. The Tigers have scored 38 or more points in each of their six wins, including last week's 51-28 win at Vanderbilt.

"There is no question that one of the goals for this team is to get back to Missouri's winning ways," Pinkel said. "It is a big deal to them. ... They want to get back to competing for championships."

The Tigers ended Georgia's streak of 15 straight home wins.

After Franklin was taken to the locker room, Mauk threw a lateral to Sasser, who stopped and tossed a high, deep pass to the end zone for Washington. Washington, who outfought cornerback Damian Swann for the catch, had 115 yards and two touchdowns.

"I came in and everybody just told me to keep calm," Mauk said. "So I came in and got the plays to our guys. We executed well at the end. ... We scored when we needed to."

James Ponder's interception of Aaron Murray's pass with 4:25 remaining set up Henry Josey's 7-yard touchdown run to end Georgia's hopes.

Murray threw two interceptions and lost one of Georgia's two fumbles.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said turnovers helped decide the game.

"It was 4-0 on the turnovers," Richt said. "They did a really good job of securing the ball, and we didn't. You hear coaches say it over and over, but you can't win a game turning it over like that."

The Bulldogs had won four straight on the strength of a powerful offense, including 44-41 over LSU and 34-31 in overtime over Tennessee the last two weeks. Georgia's wave of injuries at tailback and wide receiver left Murray with inexperienced backups at the skill positions to keep pace against another high-scoring opponent.

Georgia almost filled a bench on its sideline with injured players who wore their red game jerseys over black warm-up pants. Among them was star tailback Todd Gurley (ankle).

After the game, Missouri players ran to edge of the Sanford Stadium hedges and celebrated their biggest SEC win yet with fans in the corner of an end zone.

Murray threw his second interception in the final minute. He completed 25 of 45 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns.

"We had plenty of chances to tie it up, but we just didn't execute," Murray said.

"We did a pretty good job of getting back in the game. We were within 2 points of tying it up but just couldn't quite get it done."

Franklin scored on a 5-yard run in the first quarter and threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Washington in the second quarter.

Franklin completed 18 of 27 passes for 170 yards. Marcus Murphy had a 36-yard touchdown run for the Tigers.

Defensive end Michael Sam returned a fumble recovery 21 yards for a touchdown to give Missouri a 28-10 lead late in the second quarter. Murray fumbled when he was sacked by defensive end Shane Ray.

Georgia rallied as Murray threw touchdown passes of 7 yards to Rantavious Wooten in the third quarter and 10 yards to Chris Conley early in the fourth quarter. Conley couldn't catch Murray's pass on the 2-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game, leaving Missouri with a 28-26 lead.

Georgia was also without running back Keith Marshall (right knee) and three of its best receivers. Freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas filled in at tailback.

Georgia starting safety Tray Matthews, who hurt his hamstring in practice Tuesday, also did not play.

The loss of so many top threats on offense was the big news of the week for Georgia, but season-long problems on defense were just as glaring against Missouri. The Bulldogs began the day 12th in the SEC in pass defense and last in the league with its average of 32.2 points allowed.

Missouri almost matched that total in the first half.

Georgia needed help from three Missouri penalties, including two offside calls, for its only touchdown drive of the first half which ended with Murray's 7-yard scoring pass to Douglas late in the first quarter.

Missouri-Georgia Preview Capsule

Saturday, 12 October 2013 09:22 Published in Sports

No. 25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 7 Georgia (4-1, 3-0 SEC), 11am (KTRS)

Line: Georgia by 9

Series Record: Georgia leads 2-0

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Georgia lost wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley and tailback Keith Marshall to season-ending knee injuries in last week's 44-41 overtime win at Tennessee and could be without tailback Todd Gurley (ankle) for a second straight week. Undefeated Missouri is trying to validate a strong start after last week's 51-28 win at Vanderbilt.

KEY MATCHUP

Missouri QB James Franklin vs. Georgia secondary. Franklin, a senior, threw four TD passes against Vanderbilt, giving him 13 for the season with only three interceptions. Georgia, which ranks 12th in the SEC in pass defense, likely will start two freshmen defensive backs, free safety Tray Matthews and cornerback Shaq Wiggins.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Georgia: RB J.J. Green. After Marshall left last week's game in the first half, Green took the lead role in the running game. The freshman had 17 carries for 129 yards, showing for the first time his potential to be more than a complement to Gurley and Marshall.

Missouri: DE Michael Sam. The senior has recorded three sacks in back-to-back games against Arkansas State and Vanderbilt. He has 10 tackles for losses and has forced a fumble.

FACTS & FIGURES

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray needs 325 yards to top Tim Tebow's SEC record for total offense (12,232) in a career. ... Missouri is making its first visit to Sanford Stadium. ... Georgia won 41-20 at Missouri last year in the Tigers' first SEC game. ... Missouri has matched its win total from 2012. This is the Tigers' fifth 5-0 start in coach Gary Pinkel's 13 seasons. ... Missouri has caused a turnover in 35 consecutive games, the longest streak in the BCS. ... Georgia LB Ramik Wilson leads the SEC with 52 tackles, including 15 at Tennessee. ... Missouri ranks second in the SEC, behind Texas A&M, with 46.6 points per game. Georgia is fourth at 39.8 against a schedule that has included three top 10 teams. ... Georgia has played 14 true freshmen. Ten freshmen have played on defense, including five who have started at least one game.

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