One win. That's all it takes to reach the World Series.
That's been true since 1903. But, hey, you don't have to tell the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals anything about that. The few teams privileged enough to participate in the postseason know just how precious that fourth win can be. (See: 2012)
One run. That's all it takes to grab the steering wheel with the Fall Classic in sight, and the Red Sox can tell you all about how that worked out. (See: 2004)
As the League Championship Series round takes us into the second half of October, one win is all that separates the Cardinals from the World Series bid they were so close to taking a year ago as they seek their 19th National League title in franchise history. And one run has put the Red Sox in control of the battle for the American League pennant.
With a third 1-0 outcome during this postseason, the Road to the World Series is being paved with zeros and K's and, eventually, huge ABs when it comes down to it.
From the very first pitches in Detroit, it was evident pitching once again would write the script for Game 3 of the ALCS between the Red Sox and Tigers. It certainly wasn't power -- especially when a power outage knocked out the lights in the bottom of the second inning and delayed the game for 17 minutes.
Justin Verlander went 1-2-3 in the first and then reeled off six strikeouts, but he was matched, zero for zero, by Boston starter John Lackey.
Eventually, it was one power swing from Mike Napoli, who had done some damage in the postseason before his struggles in this year's edition. He delivered a swing that nobody else could possibly deliver against Verlander, popping a solo homer that accounted for all the offense in a 1-0 victory in the ALCS on Tuesday.
In L.A., the Cardinals used a solid start by Lance Lynn to keep the game in control vs. the Dodgers, and Matt Holliday delivered the power, stroking a two-run homer deep to left to get things started. Another homer by Shane Robinson added a little insurance for the Cardinals, and now they're within one victory of another trip to the World Series after a 4-2 triumph.
Of course, they were just one win from the World Series a year ago before the Giants reeled off three straight victories to snatch that berth away. The Cardinals, no doubt, are aware of the fact that they have more work to do heading into Game 5.
"Right now, we've got no problem celebrating this one," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Every one of these in the postseason are so tough to come by. We really don't get too much beyond what we have [Wednesday] and realize that we have to go out and play a good game.
"We've got to have the solid pitching and play a clean defense, a great move forward in that department tonight, much more characteristic of our club. We just go out and get ready for [Wednesay's] game."
* * *
Enjoy that LCS doubleheader on Tuesday? Well, go ahead and have another.
And on Wednesday, the tension will be that much thicker as the leagues switch time slots, Game 5 of the NLCS taking the 4 p.m. ET slot on TBS -- that's a 1 p.m. PT first pitch, so a short turnaround from Game 4 -- and the ALCS taking the 8 p.m. ET slot on FOX, starting Game 4 about 24 hours after they finished Game 3.
With the Cardinals on the verge of earning a second trip to the World Series in the past three years and the Red Sox hoping to keep building off that dramatic last win in Boston, the two visiting teams are in position to make something happen, while the home squads have to stand their ground.
The Tigers will have Doug Fister as their man on the mound, and they maintain that's always a good thing, even if he's No. 4 in their four-man postseason rotation. Thing is, the stellar starting pitching turned in by Detroit throughout October hasn't been able to stave off two straight losses that have Boston at a 2-1 advantage in the first ALCS between these storied postseason franchises.
The Red Sox are feeling good about their chances, and they're happy to have Jake Peavy -- the veteran who changed his Sox from White to Red this summer -- taking the hill in a crucial road game.
After the Cardinals and Dodgers sleep fast overnight, the telling Game 5 will feature a rematch from Game 1 between right-handers Joe Kelly of the Cardinals and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.
Heading into Game 4, the Dodgers toyed with the idea of pitching Greinke on short rest, but now they're looking at a must-win in Game 5.
Wednesday's League Championship Series games
Cardinals (Kelly 0-0, 3.18 ERA) at Dodgers (Greinke 0-1, 2.57 ERA), 4 p.m. ET (TBS) Preview >
Red Sox (Peavy 0-0, 1.59 ERA) at Tigers (Fister 0-0, 4.50 ERA), 8 p.m. ET (FOX) Preview >
2013 MLB POSTSEASON
Wild Card: Rays 4, Indians 0
Division Series: Red Sox beat Rays, 3-1 | Tigers beat A's, 3-2
Championship Series: Tigers vs. Red Sox, Boston leads, 2-1
Wild Card: Pirates 6, Reds 2
Division Series: Cardinals beat Pirates, 3-2 | Dodgers beat Braves, 3-1
Championship Series: Dodgers vs. Cardinals, St. Louis leads, 3-1
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: Dodgers 3, Cardinals 0
Game 4: Cardinals 4, Dodgers, 2, St. Louis leads series, 3-1
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: Red Sox 6, Tigers 5
Game 3: Red Sox 1, Tigers 0, Boston leads series, 2-1
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 (All games on FOX)
Game 1: NL champion at AL champion, Wednesday, Oct. 23, time TBD
Game 2: NL champion at AL champion, Thursday, Oct. 24, time TBD
Game 3: AL champion at NL champion, Saturday, Oct. 26, time TBD
Game 4: AL champion at NL champion, Sunday, Oct. 27, time TBD
*Game 5: AL champion at NL champion, Monday, Oct. 28, time TBD
*Game 6: NL champion at AL champion, Wednesday, Oct. 30, time TBD
*Game 7: NL champion at AL champion, Thursday, Oct. 31, time TBD
* - if necessary
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com.