Whew!

A full slate of four playoff games Friday — three decided by one run, the other in extra innings. Royals win that one with their latest dramatic swing: Eric Hosmer's home run in the 11th.

What else would you expect right now? Kansas City has some kind of mojo going during its first postseason since 1985.

By the end of a long day, the Royals and Baltimore Orioles were each one victory from a date in the AL Championship Series. One more loss eliminates the Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers.

Over in the NL, Matt Carpenter and the Cardinals won a surprising slugfest at Dodger Stadium after 20-win aces Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright wilted in the 92-degree heat. Tempers flared, too, when Yadier Molina and Adrian Gonzalez got into a heated exchange after Yasiel Puig was hit by a pitch.

San Francisco also took its NL Division Series opener, with old pro Jake Peavy beating Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals despite a colossal homer by Bryce Harper.

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ON DECK

Two games Saturday, both in the National League as the AL series take a day off to switch sites.

Plenty of pressure on Washington pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (14-5), coming off a no-hitter against Miami in the regular-season finale. A loss would put the Nationals, who built the NL's best record, on the brink of elimination with a matchup against Madison Bumgarner looming in San Francisco.

Just two teams since 1995 have rallied to win a division series after dropping the first two games at home — a trend that doesn't bode well for the Angels, who had the most wins in the majors this year.

In his only previous playoff start, Zimmermann was hit hard and chased early by St. Louis two years ago.

Tim Hudson (9-13) goes for the Giants.

Out in Los Angeles, following the latest postseason flop from Kershaw, the Dodgers send Zack Greinke (17-8) to the mound against St. Louis right-hander Lance Lynn (15-10).

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STARTERS IN RELIEF

With rotations shortened in the playoffs, several starting pitchers were bumped to the bullpen this week. Results have been mixed.

Hard-throwing Royals rookie Yordano Ventura struggled in relief Tuesday during the AL wild-card game, but pitched well Friday against the Angels in his familiar role as a starter.

Kansas City teammate Danny Duffy, mainly a starter, earned the win with a scoreless inning in the ALDS opener.

Detroit's Anibal Sanchez was relegated to the 'pen because he had only pitched once since Aug. 8 due to a pectoral strain. He excelled against the Orioles, tossing two perfect innings during Game 2 of the ALDS.

Baltimore rookie Kevin Gausman struck out five over 3 2-3 innings but allowed a run.

Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha, the NLCS MVP last year, is in the bullpen this time against the Dodgers following an injury-plagued season. He did not pitch in the series opener.

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YOUNG, WITH HEART

Inexperience has been no obstacle in October for several green rookies already making a major impact this postseason.

Royals reliever Brandon Finnegan, a first-round draft pick in June, is trying to reach two World Series in one year — he pitched for TCU in the college version a few months back.

Called up from Double-A in September, the 21-year-old lefty appeared in only seven regular-season games before totaling four effective innings and a win in Kansas City's first three playoff games.

Giants reliever Hunter Strickland, who skipped Triple-A and has all of seven big league innings on his resume, struck out Washington's Ian Desmond on a 100 mph fastball with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning Friday.

Strickland gave up two solo homers in the seventh, but the Giants hung on for a 3-2 victory.

Strickland's 23-year-old teammate, Joe Panik, has five hits in his first 10 playoff at-bats. Panik made his major league debut in May and batted .305 in 73 games.

St. Louis outfielder Randal Grichuk homered off Kershaw in his first postseason plate appearance, and 22-year-old teammate Marco Gonzales earned the Game 1 win against the Dodgers.

Pretty heady stuff.

Call it October, the next generation.

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QUOTES OF THE DAY

"We're going to try to figure out nine next time." — Hosmer after the Royals became the first team to win three straight extra-inning playoff games.

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"I'm sure everybody in baseball was expecting a one-run game. We ended up getting one, but we didn't think it would be 10-9." — Carpenter after his go-ahead, three-run double off Kershaw highlighted an eight-run seventh inning for the Cardinals.