If it seems as if the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are always playing at this time of year, well, that's because they are.

At least lately, anyway.

The Giants and Cards have split the last four NL pennants, taking three World Series crowns between them.

What's the key to playing so well in October? San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy says he's not sure, even though his team currently has a 10-game winning streak in the postseason.

"I wish I knew the formula, the secret," he said. "I guess my answer to that would be, hey, you go out there and you give it all you can. You try to keep guys loose and relaxed, because they are going to be amped up, but have some fun with it, embrace this."



San Francisco will try to sweep Washington today in the NL Division Series, a day after Baltimore and Kansas City broomed their way into the AL Championship Series.

Madison Bumgarner and the host Giants take a 2-0 lead into the game against the Nationals' Doug Fister. At 25, Bumgarner already has quite a postseason resume: He earned a World Series win in 2010 when the Giants beat Texas, outdueled Fister for another World Series victory in 2012 and pitched a four-hit shutout last week against Pittsburgh in the wild-card game.

At St. Louis tonight, John Lackey starts for the Cardinals against Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their best-of-five NL series is tied at one game each.

Ryu has been slowed by irritation in his left shoulder and will make his first start since Sept. 12. Lackey's previous postseason start came last fall in Boston, when he led the Red Sox over the Cardinals to clinch the World Series.



Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright were 20-game winners this year. Stephen Strasburg tied for the NL strikeout lead, Jered Weaver matched for the most AL wins. Jon Lester is a proven World Series star. Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander won the last three AL Cy Young Awards.

All aces, no doubt. Another link? They're all winless this postseason. In fact, they've combined to go 0-4 in eight starts with a 5.86 ERA.

Everyone knows that good pitching stops good hitting, especially in the playoffs. But what in the world stops good pitchers from pitching well?



The Orioles and Royals will have to find ways to stay fresh this week. They both bolted through the ALDS and finished off sweeps Sunday — Baltimore beat Detroit 2-1 and Kansas City eliminated the team with the best record in the majors this season, topping the Los Angeles Angels 8-3.

The BBQ vs. Crabs series opens Friday night at Camden Yards. Baltimore is in the ALCS for the first time since 1997, and Royals last made it in 1985.

KC and the O's have never met in the playoffs. They played for the first time in 1969 after the Royals became an expansion team — Kansas City won that very first game, then Baltimore won the next 23 in a row.



Detroit catcher Alex Avila left Sunday's game in the sixth inning after getting hit in the mask by a foul tip. Manager Brad Ausmus said Avila was taken out after showing symptoms of a concussion. Avila has been injured several times in his career by head-jarring blows.

Royals catcher Salvador Perez went 0 for 4 in his first game since getting hit on the side of the head by the backswing of Angels slugger Josh Hamilton. Perez was checked for a concussion after getting struck in Game 2, but stayed in the lineup.



"The sad thing is only one team is going to be completely happy when this is all over. It can be real cold. I know the first time you play the last game of the season, it's extremely sobering. You realize how cutting and how quick this can all end. And that's why people don't want it to stop." — Manager Buck Showalter after his Orioles swept Detroit.