Astros beat Athletics at Dodger Stadium to advance to ALCS; Yankees beat Rays to force Game 5
Carlos Correa hit a go-ahead, three-run homer after Michael Brantley’s two-run shot in the fourth inning, helping the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 11-6 on Thursday to clinch their home-run heavy AL Division Series in four games.
Correa drove in five as the Astros — October villains to many a year after their sign-stealing scandal was revealed — advanced to the AL Championship Series for the fourth consecutive season.
It will be their first ALCS under Dusty Baker, their 71-year-old manager. Baker earned his first closeout win since the 2003 NL Division Series and improved to 4-13 in closeouts.
Houston will play either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays in the best-of-seven ALCS in San Diego. The Rays lead their ALDS 2-1.
The Astros and A’s combined for 24 homers — 12 each — the most in a postseason series of five games or less.
Photographing Cody Bellinger’s leaping catch that robbed the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. of a home run in Wednesday’s NLDS Dodgers’ win produced mixed emotions.
Houston clinched at Dodger Stadium, where it won the 2017 World Series in seven games. The Astros’ sign-stealing scheme used during their title run was revealed last year by former teammate and current A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, who didn’t pitch in this postseason series.
The scandal led to season-long suspensions of Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, who both were fired. Boston manager Alex Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran also lost their jobs as fallout their roles with the ‘17 Astros, and Houston still draws ire of other players and fans.
Houston’s star-loaded lineup did little during the regular season to quiet criticism that the club could only hit when it was stealing signs. The Astros ranked 20th in the majors with a .240 average and 14th with 279 runs.
The slump continued through the wild-card round before Houston turned Dodger Stadium into a launching pad against Oakland. The team batted .322 in the ALDS, with Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker each batting over .400, and George Springer at .389.
Much of that damage came against Oakland’s vaunted bullpen. A’s relievers combined for a 6.27 ERA in the series, including six earned runs Thursday.
Facing elimination for the fourth time this postseason, Oakland’s Ramon Laureano hit a pair of homers, including a three-run shot in the second that gave the West champion A’s the early lead for the fourth straight game.
Houston starter Zack Greinke held up two fingers facing Laureano and catcher Martin Maldonado before Laureano homered 440 feet to left for a 3-0 lead. It might have appeared that Greinke was signaling his pitch, although he has at times used a hand signal to switch sign sets mid-inning.
It was the first postseason homer Greinke allowed since last year’s Game 7 of the World Series against Washington, when Anthony Rendon’s solo shot began the Nationals’ comeback.
Laureano’s leadoff homer in the fifth cut Oakland’s deficit to 5-4, but the A’s would get no closer.
Wednesday’s war of words isn’t the first time Manny Machado and Brusdar Graterol have angered each other.
Frankie Montas couldn’t withstand Houston’s onslaught in the fourth, when the Astros sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five. Altuve led off with a walk and scored on Brantley’s homer to pull the Astros to 3-2. Bregman and Tucker had back-to-back singles and scored on Correa’s shot to left that he stood and admired, giving Houston the lead for good, 5-3.
Brantley added a solo shot in the fifth and Altuve had a two-run blast in the seventh that extended the Astros’ lead to 11-4.
Houston’s Cristian Javier got the victory in relief. He retired five in a row before giving up back-to-back, two-out singles to Robbie Grossman and Sean Murphy in the seventh. Marcus Semien — a free agent-to-be playing perhaps his final game with Oakland — flied out to left and Tucker backed up to the wall to make the catch for the third out.
No A’s starter pitched beyond the fifth in the series. Loser Montas gave up five runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one.
Greinke, who had experienced arm soreness that kept him from starting Game 3, allowed four runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.
Yankees 5, Ray 1
Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres hit impressive home runs, Jordan Montgomery and three relievers combined on a three-hitter and the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 Thursday night to force a deciding fifth game in their AL Division Series.
The Yankees bounced back from two straight losses against their AL East rivals to set up an expected showdown between aces Gerrit Cole of New York and Blake Snell of Tampa Bay on Friday night.
Cole, backed by four home runs, beat Snell 9-3 in the series opener Monday and will be pitching on short rest for the first time in his big league career.
The Game 5 winner will remain in San Diego to face the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series starting Sunday night.
The Yankees are trying to reach the ALCS for the third time in four seasons following eliminations by the Astros at that stage in 2017 and last season. The Rays are trying to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2008, when they made it to their only World Series.
Wearing their home pinstripes for a second straight night at neutral site Petco Park, the Yankees lived up to their Bronx Bombers nickname.
Voit, who led the majors with 22 homers in the pandemic-shortened season, led off the second by driving a 1-0 pitch from Rays opener Ryan Thompson into the second deck in left field for his first career postseason shot.
Torres one-upped his teammate when he deposited a two-run homer onto the balcony on the fourth floor of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner, the centerpiece of the downtown ballpark. That came on the first pitch he saw from Ryan Yarbrough and put the Yankees ahead 4-1 with one out in the sixth.
It was Torres’ first this postseason and fifth of his career, tying Mickey Mantle for the most playoff homers for a Yankees player 23 or younger.
The only younger Yankees player to homer while facing postseason elimination was 20-year-old Mantle, in both Games 6 and 7 of the 1952 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Torres’ homer was the 18th of the series, with each team hitting nine.
New York kept Randy Arozarena in the ballpark after the 25-year-old Cuban homered in each of the first three games. Likewise, the Rays ended Giancarlo Stanton’s franchise-record run of homering in five straight games but he did double. Stanton hit four homers in the first three games of this series and had six total in the first five postseason games.
Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman combined for five hitless innings of relief, retiring 15 of the last 16 batters. Green pitched two perfect innings for the win, and Chapman got four outs for his first save of this postseason. He struck out Arozarena on a 101 mph sinker to end the eighth.
Montgomery went four innings in his first appearance since Sept. 24, holding the Rays to one run and three hits while striking out four and walking three. He struck out Arozarena in the first and retired the breakout star on a grounder in the fourth.
Tampa Bay loaded the bases in the third but got just one run, on Brandon Lowe’s fielder’s choice.
It was a much better start than Montgomery had against the Rays at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 2, when he was pulled after allowing four runs and five hits on 39 pitches, and getting only two outs.
Thompson took the loss. He was chased after allowing DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly for the second out of the second.
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