MLB·MLB PLAYOFFS

Dodgers defeat Giants to force decisive Game 5 between historic rivals

Mookie Betts homered and drove in three runs, Will Smith also went deep and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants 7-2 on Tuesday night to force a decisive Game 5 in their NL Division Series.

Astros trounce White Sox to return to ALCS; Freeman homer sends Atlanta into NLCS

Los Angeles' Mookie Betts celebrates as he rounds the bases on a two-run homer during the fourth inning of the Dodgers' 7-2 win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of their NLDS series on Tuesday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press)

Mookie Betts homered and drove in three runs, Will Smith also went deep and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants 7-2 on Tuesday night to force a decisive Game 5 in their NL Division Series.

The 107-win Giants host the 106-win Dodgers on Thursday night, with the winner advancing to face Atlanta in the NL Championship Series. The Braves eliminated Milwaukee earlier Tuesday.

The Dodgers managed just five hits in a 1-0 loss — their second shutout defeat — in Game 3 to put the defending World Series champions on the brink of elimination. They had that many by the second inning Tuesday and pounded out 12 total to back a brief but effective outing from Walker Buehler on three days' rest.

Buehler went to manager Dave Roberts as early as the Dodgers' 9-2 victory in Game 2 and said he wanted the ball in Game 4 to start on short rest for the first time in his career. The right-hander allowed one run and three hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked two on 71 pitches.

After giving up a leadoff single to Evan Longoria and walking pinch-hitter Steven Duggar, Buehler exited to a standing ovation from 52,935 blue towel-waving fans.

The Dodgers chased Giants starter Anthony DeSclafani in the second. He gave up two runs and five hits and struck out two.

The Giants ran through six pitchers by the fifth, leaving them with just three relievers. By the seventh, only backup catcher Curt Casali was available off the bench. He pinch-hit in the eighth.

The biting, steady wind that prevailed throughout Game 3 was gone, leaving just a slight breeze to ruffle the centre-field flags.

Smith hit a two-run homer to centre in the eighth, extending the lead to 7-2.

Betts homered in the fourth and his bases-loaded sacrifice fly scored Cody Bellinger in the fifth for a 5-1 lead.

The Giants' runs came in the top of the fifth on Darin Ruf's RBI groundout off Joe Kelly, and Kris Bryant's RBI groundout in the eighth. All-Star catcher Buster Posey, a career .257 hitter in the postseason, went 0 for 4.

Buehler was safe at first leading off the fourth when his shot went off reliever Jarlin Garcia's leg for an error. Betts followed with a two-run homer to the right-field pavilion, extending the lead to 4-0.

The Dodgers got on the board in the first with NL batting champion Trea Turner's RBI double to right-center that rolled to the wall, scoring Corey Seager, who singled.

Chris Taylor's sacrifice fly made it 2-0 in the second.

Astros eliminate White Sox

It was Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman once again.

Led by their October-tested stars, the Houston Astros are going back to the AL Championship Series for the fifth straight year.

Altuve hit a three-run homer, scored four times and stole a base, and Houston eliminated the Chicago White Sox with a 10-1 victory in Game 4 of their AL Division Series on Tuesday.

Correa and Bregman each hit a two-run double as the Astros bounced back from Sunday night's 12-6 loss with their usual relentless brand of baseball. Michael Brantley had three hits and two RBIs.

Next up for Altuve and company is Game 1 of the ALCS against former Astros bench coach Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox on Friday in Houston. The Red Sox eliminated Tampa Bay with a 6-5 victory in Game 4 on Monday night.

"They know how to play the game," Altuve said of Boston. "They've been in the playoffs before, so it's going to be fun."

It'll be Houston's second ALCS under 72-year-old manager Dusty Baker, whose club got the best of 77-year-old Chicago skipper Tony La Russa. Baker replaced A.J. Hinch, who was fired in fallout from the Astros' 2017 sign-stealing scandal that also resulted in a one-year ban for Cora.

The Astros are looking for the franchise's second championship after winning it all in 2017, a title that still evokes a strong reaction around the game after the team was punished for using electronics to steal signs.

The crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field chanted "Cheater! Cheater!" at times during the two games in Chicago, and White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera implied late Sunday night that Houston may have been stealing signs in Games 1 and 2.

But the Astros, used to dealing with boos ever since the scandal came to light, brushed it all off. Asked about Tepera's comments after Game 4 was postponed Monday because of rain, Bregman responded: "It's all good. We're focused on winning games. That's it."

No kidding.

Houston's Jose Altuve is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a three-run home run during the ninth inning of the Astros' ALDS series-clinching 10-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox in Game 4 on Tuesday. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Correa put Houston ahead to stay with his two-out double in the third, pulling Rodon's high 0-2 fastball into left. The Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a fastball that hit Altuve, drawing a round of cheers from the crowd of 40,170.

Correa pointed to his left wrist and then pounded his chest and yelled "It's my time!" as he stood on second after the big hit in his 67th career postseason game.

"Disrespectful words without facts," Correa said of Tepera's charge.

That was it for Rodon, who was limited down the stretch because of shoulder soreness and fatigue. Running his fastball into the upper 90s again after another extended break, the left-hander was charged with two runs and three hits in his first career playoff start.

Altuve punctuated Houston's big day with his 19th career postseason homer, a three-run shot off all-star closer Liam Hendriks in the ninth.

"We've been here five times," Altuve said. "And we just try to pass it on to the guys who are getting here for the first time."

Freeman slugs Atlanta into NLCS

Freddie Freeman homered off Milwaukee closer Josh Hader with two outs in the eighth inning and Atlanta advanced to the NL Championship Series for the second year in a row, finishing off the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 on Tuesday night.

Atlanta won the best-of-five Division Series three games to one, advancing to face either the 107-win Giants or the 106-win Dodgers with a trip to the World Series on the line.

The game was tied at 4 when the Brewers brought on Hader to make sure it stayed that way. The hard-throwing lefty struck out Eddie Rosario and Dansby Swanson, but he couldn't get past the 2020 NL MVP.

Freeman caught up with an 84-mph slider, launching a 428-foot drive into the seats in left-centre — only the fourth homer all season off Hader.

Freeman celebrated wildly on his way around the bases, and popped back out of the dugout for a curtain call as the crowd of 40,195 roared.

Will Smith pitched a scoreless ninth for his third straight save in the series, while Tyler Matzek claimed the win with a perfect eighth.

"Freddie! Freddie! Freddie!" the crowd chanted as Atlanta celebrated in the centre of the field.

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