Atlanta, Astros, Dodgers explode offensively to reach league championship series
Yankees take down Rays to force decisive Game 5 on Friday
Rookie Kyle Wright dazzled for six innings in his post-season debut, and Atlanta rode its superb pitching to beat the Miami Marlins 7-0 Thursday for a three-game sweep and its first trip to the NL Championship Series since 2001.
There were only a few scattered cheers as Atlanta wrapped up the series in an almost empty Minute Maid Park, where the only fans allowed were players' friends and families.
The team will play the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Diego in the NLCS starting Monday in Arlington, Texas. It had not advanced to the NLCS since it was led by Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, a team managed by Bobby Cox.
Wright (1-0) was sharp despite not pitching since Sept. 25, allowing three hits and walking two with a career-high seven strikeouts. A.J. Minter, Jacob Webb and Shane Greene finished the five-hitter to give Atlanta four shutouts in five playoff games.
Atlanta is the second team in history to throw four shutouts in the first five playoff games, joining the 1905 New York Giants.
Travis d'Arnaud doubled twice, with the first one driving in two runs in Atlanta's big third inning. The veteran catcher, who bounced around three teams in a tough 2019, helped steady Atlanta's young starters, was 6 for 10 with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs in the sweep.
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Rookie Sixto Sanchez (0-1) walked Ronald Acuna Jr. to start the third, and Acuna stole second before advancing to third on a single by Freddie Freeman. Marcell Ozuna laced a single that scored Acuna.
D'Arnaud knocked a double off the bullpen in right-centre to send two home and extend the lead to 3-0. Atlanta tacked on another run on a sacrifice fly by Dansby Swanson.
Dodgers thump Padres
Justin Turner put the Dodgers ahead with a record-breaking hit in a big inning fueled by a nice stop-gone-bad by Fernando Tatis Jr., and Los Angeles closed out a three-game NL Division Series sweep of the San Diego Padres with an 12-3 win Thursday night.
Turner's RBI single made it 3-2 and was his 64th career postseason hit, breaking a tie with Steve Garvey for the most in Dodgers postseason history. That came right after Tatis, the 21-year-old budding superstar, made a diving play on Corey Seager's hard grounder, but then tried to make a throw from his knee. The ball skipped along the dirt and past first baseman Eric Hosmer, allowing Mookie Betts to score the tying run.
After 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger was intentionally walked with two outs after already having a 2-0 count, AJ Pollock drove home Turner with a single, and Pederson lined his single over the outstretched glove of third baseman Manny Machado to make it 6-2.
Smith delivered an RBI single in the fourth and a two-run double in the ninth off the 11th Padres pitcher — a postseason record. Betts, a day after his 28th birthday and signed for 12 more years, scored three times and had a sacrifice fly.
Los Angeles will stay in Arlington to open the best-of-seven NLCS on Monday against Atlanta with fans in attendance for the first time during this pandemic-altered season. The World Series will also be played in the Texas Rangers' new $1.2 billion US stadium with the retractable roof.
Astros eliminate Athletics
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.
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 post-season series of five games or less.
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.
Yankees stave off elimination against Rays
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.
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 post-season 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 post-season 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 post-season elimination was 20-year-old Mantle, in both Games 6 and 7 of the 1952 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.