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Road to the World Series: Oct. 17, 2013

Dodgers force a Game 6 against Cardinals; Tigers knot up ALCS

One series is en route from sun-drenched Chavez Ravine to the shadow of the Gateway Arch, the other assured to shift from Michigan to Massachusetts this weekend.

The Road to the World Series has quite a few more miles left to travel, and the final destination remains uncertain after a Wednesday doubleheader that only made the route longer.

The National League Championship Series moved on to St. Louis after the Dodgers stood their ground at home in Game 5, beating the Cardinals, 6-4, but still needing two road victories to advance.

And the American League Championship Series is knotted up after a 7-3 victory for the Tigers in Game 4, which means the series will head to Boston for at least one game once Game 5 is decided Thursday.

No, we're not there yet, and that's a beautiful thing. The joyride continues.

"You're in the playoffs. You've got to have fun," said Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who punctuated one of his two Wednesday homers with pantomimed Mickey Mouse ears, keeping some October gamesmanship with the Cardinals alive. "If you're not having fun in the playoffs, then you don't deserve to be here."

The Dodgers entered their Wednesday afternoon game with their backs against the wall, hoping to keep the Cardinals from clinching a 19th trip to the World Series, knowing this would be the first of three potential elimination games they'd have to win.

And as if they needed more inspiration than that, the Dodgers had Orel Hershiser throwing out the first pitch and Will Ferrell announcing the starting lineup.

Very early in Game 5, things got serious for the Dodgers. The Cardinals loaded the bases with none out in the top of the first, but starter Zack Greinke pulled a Max Scherzer and got out of the jam he'd created.

That, in turn, created some momentum for the home team, and the Dodgers responded with four solo homers -- Gonzalez with two and Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis with one each. Four homers tied for the second most in an LCS game behind the five hit by the Cubs against the Padres in Game 1 of the 1984 NLCS, and Crawford now has four homers this postseason after hitting just six during the regular season.

The Cardinals did their utmost to overturn the Dodgers' lead in the ninth, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. But they couldn't come all the way back, and now they head home for what they hope is a one-game stop en route to the World Series.

"We're OK," Cardinals veteran Carlos Beltran said. "We have a one-game lead. We weren't expecting to come here and have it be easy. That's why they're here. They are a good ballclub. We have to give credit to them. We have to battle, we have to find a way to get it done."

When the scene shifted to Detroit, there was news as soon as Jim Leyland put pen to paper to make out the Tigers' starting lineup. With Austin Jackson out of the leadoff spot and the rest of the key hitters moving up a spot, the lineup resembled nothing they'd had in the regular season.

Leyland knew it was time to shake things up a bit, sly old salt that he is.

"I mean, we scored one run and no runs in two of the games. It certainly can't hurt," Leyland said before the game. "We're going to take a shot. ... Just a little something to, you know, churn up the butter a little bit."

The Tigers proceeded to churn out as many runs as they had in the first three games of the series, and everyone seemed to thrive in the new configuration, from Torii Hunter -- the 38-year-old making his first start at leadoff since he was a 23-year-old rookie -- to Jackson, who had two hits after just three in his first 33 postseason at-bats, reaching base four times.

"The players executed tonight," Leyland said. "They played well against an outstanding team. And this is playoff baseball, and we'll see what happens. It's tied 2-2, we're happy with that. We know we're going back to Boston for sure, either one up or one down."

* * *

On Thursday, the third of three ALCS games in Detroit either will be the last game of the 2013 season at Comerica Park or a prelude to Game 1 of the World Series on FOX next Wednesday. It's that simple.

Certainly, Game 5 of the ALCS will go a long way toward deciding which scenario unfolds. It's the fifth ALCS since 1985 to be tied at 2-2, and the Game 4 winner has claimed the series twice and lost twice.

In Game 5 on Detroit's home turf at 8 p.m. ET on FOX, it'll be back to the Game 1 starters, with Jon Lester taking a hard-luck loss in the 1-0 outcome and Anibal Sanchez coming off six no-hit innings with 12 strikeouts and six walks.

The Dodgers and Cardinals, meanwhile, will be in St. Louis, preparing for a Game 6 meeting Friday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on TBS that will pit ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw against upstart right-hander Michael Wacha.

Heading into Game 6, manager Don Mattingly has a feeling the Dodgers are destined to go the distance in this series.

"I think if you look at it now, we've kind of become America's team, because everyone wants to see a seventh game," Mattingly said, dryly. "Probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game, so I figure that everybody's for us to win on Friday night."

Of course, Mattingly knows better than that. The Cardinals and their fans are eager to claim this series, preferably in six, especially after the Giants came back to win three in a row to advance to the World Series last October.

"We're not going to San Francisco, we're going home, so I think that's a big plus, but regardless, the Dodgers think they can win at our place and they're going to come out ready to go in Game 6," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said.

Thursday's League Championship Series game

Red Sox (Lester 1-1, 1.93 ERA, postseason) at Tigers (Sanchez 1-1, 4.35 ERA), 8 p.m. ET (FOX) Preview >


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, series tied, 2-2

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, 3-2

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
Game 5: Dodgers 6, Cardinals 4, St. Louis leads series, 3-2
Game 6: Dodgers at Cardinals, Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET
*Game 7: Dodgers at Cardinals, Saturday, 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
Game 4: Tigers 7, Red Sox 3, series tied, 2-2
Game 5: Red Sox at Tigers, Thursday, 8 p.m. ET
Game 6: Tigers at Red Sox, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET^
*Game 7: Tigers at Red Sox, Sunday, 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, 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