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Scherzer flirts with no-hitter, Yankees rout Astros in opener

Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer delivers a pitch during the second inning of game two of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals (AFP Photo/Scott Kane)

Los Angeles (AFP) - Washington's Max Scherzer became the second pitcher to flirt with a no-hitter in as many days as the Nationals stunned Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in game two of the National League Championship Series.

Scherzer took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and new dad Daniel Hudson closed it out in the ninth to preserve the win for the visiting Nationals, who took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series.

"I came in and my arm didn't feel great," Scherzer said. "But around the fourth or fifth inning I felt like everything kind of loosened up in my shoulder.

"I was able to find my arm slot and I was driving my fastball into locations where I wanted."

In the late game, Gleyber Torres became the youngest New York Yankee to record five RBIs in a playoff game as the Yankees routed the Houston Astros 7-0 in the AL Championship Series opener.

The Nationals, who rallied to upset the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers in the previous round, are now just two wins away from advancing to the World Series.

The best-of-seven NL Championship series shifts to Washington for games three and four. The winner will take on either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series.

Scherzer's gem came less than 24 hours after Anibal Sanchez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Washington's 2-0 win in game one.

Scherzer didn't allow a hit Saturday until Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh inning with a single. Sanchez had his no-hit bid busted up by a single from Jose Martinez.

"For me, I'm just in the moment," Scherzer said. "I'm not trying to do anything great."

He finished with 11 strikeouts, allowed one hit and walked two and has been pitching on just a few days rest in these playoffs.

"He was dynamite," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Scherzer.

Cardinals ace Wainwright also fanned 11 batters as he allowed seven hits in 7 1/3 innings.

Right hander Hudson closed it out for his third save of the post-season. He missed the series opener to be with his wife, Sara, for the birth of their third child, a girl.

Scherzer said after Saturday's game that one of the keys to their success if the way he communicates with catcher Kurt Suzuki.

"There are multiple ways to skin a cat," Scherzer said. "We just try to find what is going to work in the game. We work well together and we know how to play the chess game."

- Season of comeback -

This is the season of the comeback for the Nationals, who got off to a 19-31 start before going 74-38 the rest of the way.

They rallied from three runs down in the wild card game to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 then came from behind to eliminate the Dodgers in the NLDS. Down 3-0, they won it in the 10th inning when Howie Kendrick blasted a grand slam home run.

They became the first team to come back from three run deficits in back-to-back deciding games in the playoffs.

The Cardinals hitters struggled, producing just five baserunners against Scherzer and relievers Sean Doolittle, Patrick Corbin and Hudson.

"We've been shut down pretty much for two games in a row," said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt.

In Houston, Japan's Masahiro Tanaka put his stamp on the series with six solid innings and Torres did his part by with a solo home run and a go-ahead double for the Yankees.

"I just try to be patient and believe in what I am doing in that situation," said Torres. "The most important thing for me is to stay humble and respect the game."

Torres, who was recently promoted to the third position in the batting order, continued his October heroics by adding a two-run single and a RBI ground ball hit. It all added up to a franchise record five RBIs in a postseason game for the 22-year-old rising star.

Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela also hit home runs and outfielder Aaron Judge delivered a clutch play, catching a line drive and doubling Alex Bregman off first base when it was still 1-0.

Game two is Sunday when Canadian pitcher James Paxton of the Yankees goes up against Houston ace Justin Verlander.