Uehara, Tazawa star in victory


Koji Uehara picked up his third save of the postseason as the Boston Red Sox edged the Detroit Tigers 1-0 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.

John Lackey’s pitching and a clutch homer by Mike Napoli in the seventh inning helped Boston squeak out the win, but the bullpen duo of Uehara and Junichi Tazawa played a key role in the victory.

Tazawa allowed a single but struck out Miguel Cabrera with runners at first and third with one out in the eighth. Closer Uehara snuffed out the rest of that eighth-inning threat by striking out Prince Fielder and worked a scoreless ninth en route to a four-out save.

“We won the game and that makes me happier than anything,” said Uehara. “It was an electrifying match decided on one home run. Taz (Tazawa) did well to shut (the Tigers) down. That was big. The game is over now and we will go again tomorrow.”

Tazawa said, “(My turn) came when we were in a winning situation and I just wanted to get as many outs as I could.”

Tazawa also earned praise for his role in the win from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

“The eighth inning, Taz, that was huge,” Saltalamacchia said. “Cabrera’s such a great hitter. One out, those are situations he thrives in.

“He gets in situations where he can get an RBI and it’s tough to get him out, let alone strike him out. But (Taz) did a great job pumping the fastballs away. He’s so sneaky with that 94, 95 (mph). He’s tough to hit.”

Lackey gave Boston 6⅔ scoreless innings while allowing just four hits. Napoli blasted the decisive homer with one out in the top of the seventh.

Cardinals close in


Thanks to two big swings and some excellent defense, the St. Louis Cardinals are one win from the World Series.

Just like last year.

Matt Holliday and pinch hitter Shane Robinson connected for the first home runs of the NL Championship Series, and St. Louis beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven showdown.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Holliday said.

In a series starved for offense, the Cardinals scored as many runs as they did in the first three games combined, when the teams totaled nine runs.

Game 5 is Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, with the Cardinals one win from the World Series. Zack Greinke is set to start for Los Angeles against Joe Kelly.

Of course, St. Louis had a 3-1 lead in last year’s NLCS before dropping three straight to San Francisco, the eventual World Series champion.

“Hopefully, we can throw some offense together like we were today a little bit and keep some positive thoughts going,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “When we start talking about where the series is, I think it’s a distraction. What we’ve got to do is play a game.”

It was a painful defeat for the Dodgers — in more ways than one. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, playing with a broken left rib, left in the middle of the sixth after striking out three times.

“It got worse as we went along,” Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said.

St. Louis third baseman David Freese came out after six innings. He left Monday’s game with a cramp in his right calf.

Hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Dodger Stadium, Holliday sent a two-run shot off Ricky Nolasco an estimated 130 meters to left field, capping a three-run third that gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.

“That’s about as good as I can hit one,” said Holliday, who was 0-for-13 in the series before connecting.

“I wasn’t really doubting my swing at all. I felt actually really good with my at-bats. Sometimes in this game you don’t always get the results that you want even if you feel like you’re having good at-bats, so I just wanted to stay with it,” he said.

Seeking a second World Series title in three years, St. Louis turned three important double plays and picked off a runner at second base in the seventh. Defensive standout Pete Kozma, inserted at shortstop in the sixth, started a difficult double play and darted in to complete the pickoff.

Second baseman Matt Carpenter also keyed St. Louis’ sharp work with the gloves, one night after some sloppy play was costly in a 3-0 defeat.

Carpenter had an RBI double in the third that scored Daniel Descalso, who hit a leadoff single. Carpenter came around on Holliday’s homer after there were none in the first three games for the first time in NLCS history.