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Houston Stays Alive in ALCS

Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino watches as Houston Astros George Springer celebrates his two run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fifth inning in Game 4 of a baseball American League Championship Series, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

SAN DIEGO — George Springer broke a tie with a two-run homer, Jose Altuve homered and hit an RBI double, and Zack Greinke escaped a bases-loaded jam for the Houston Astros, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Wednesday night to stay alive in the AL Championship Series.

With Altuve atoning for his poor defense this series, the Astros finally got their offense going after being pushed to the brink of a sweep. Seeking their third pennant in four seasons, they trail 3-1 going into Game 5 on Thursday afternoon.

The Rays remain one win from going to the World Series for the second time in franchise history.

Greinke, bothered by a sore arm in the Division Series against Oakland, made only one big mistake when he allowed a two-run homer to rookie slugger Randy Arozarena that tied the game at 2 in the fourth.

Given a 4-2 lead by Springer’s homer in the fifth, Greinke’s biggest pitch came when he struck out Mike Brosseau on a 3-2 changeup to end the sixth with the bases loaded.

After Greinke allowed consecutive singles by Manuel Margot and Austin Meadows with one out, manager Dusty Baker came out for a chat and decided to let the veteran right-hander continue. Arozarena struck out on a check-swing and Ji-Man Choi singled to load the bases before Greinke fanned Brosseau.

On Friday night, Brosseau hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning off Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees that carried the Rays to a 2-1 victory in the Game 5 clincher of the ALDS.

Greinke held the Rays to two runs and five hits in six innings for the win. He struck out seven and walked one.

Astros rookie Cristian Javier pitched two innings of one-hit relief before walking Ji-Man Choi to open the ninth. Ryan Pressly came on and got an out before Willy Adames hit an RBI double off the bottom of the left-center wall. Pressly got rookie Yoshi Tsutsugo on a fly to right for the save.

Rays towering right-hander Tyler Glasnow also went six innings, allowing four runs and eight hits while striking out five and walking two.

Altuve hit a solo homer in the first and an RBI double in the third for a 2-0 lead. His offense helped make up for his three errors that helped the Rays win Games 2 and 3 to move to the cusp of their first World Series since 2008.

Altuve homered for the second straight game and third time this series, all in the first inning. He and Springer are tied for the most homers in Astros postseason history, 18.

Altuve drove a 1-0 pitch from Glasnow to left just after the Rays turned a 3-6-3 double play.

Altuve doubled into the right-field corner with two outs in the third to bring in Martin Maldonado, who drew a leadoff walk and advanced on Springer’s grounder.

Arozarena homered onto the lower balcony on the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner with one out in the fourth to tie the game at 2. An inning later, Springer one-upped him when he hit a two-run shot onto the upper balcony of Petco Park’s main landmark at Petco Park to regain the lead for the Astros.

It was the third of the postseason for Springer, the MVP of the 2017 World Series.

It was the fifth of the postseason for Arozarena, who homered in each of the first three games against the Yankees and then connected in the ALCS opener.

NLCS

Dodgers 15, Braves 3

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Max Muncy’s grand slam capped a record-setting 11-run first inning for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who coasted to a rout of the Atlanta Braves that cut their National League Championship Series deficit to 2 games to 1.

The slam by Muncy off Grant Dayton was the third homer in the first, the highest-scoring inning in a major league postseason game. It was among a franchise-record five homers for the Dodgers, who set a team record for postseason runs.

Joc Pederson hit a three-run homer off starter Kyle Wright to start his four-hit night, and Edwin Rios went deep on next pitch. Corey Seager had a pair of RBI hits in the opening outburst, then added a solo homer in the third as the Dodgers built a 15-0 lead — the first team with that many runs in the first three innings of a postseason game.

Winner Julio Urias, with three wins in three appearances this postseason though making his first start, struck out five while allowing one run on three hits over five innings. He walked the first two batters, but no more.

Atlanta’s miserable start was eerily similar to last October’s Game 5 of the Division Series against St. Louis, when they gave up a 10-run first inning at home in a season-ending start by Mike Foltynewicz.

Three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw likely will start in Game 4 for the Dodgers, two nights after he was scratched because of back spasms. Bryse Wilson makes his postseason debut as the third rookie right-handed starter for Atlanta in this series in what will be his first appearance since the final day of the regular season on Sept. 27.

The Dodgers had left the tying run at third base after a four-run bottom of the ninth in what was an 8-7 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday night. They were the visiting team in Game 3, and sent 14 batters to the plate for seven hits, three walks and a hit batter over 32 minutes in the the 29,786th half-inning in postseason history.

Those 15 runs over two at-bats came after the Braves, with all of their young starters, had allowed only nine runs in their previous six games plus eight innings, a stretch that included four shutouts while winning their first seven games this postseason.

Reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger walked and scored in the first, led off the second with a homer and added an RBI single in the third. His long ball came right after his running, leaping catch at the center field wall to rob Ozzie Albies with two on to end the Atlanta first.

Wright gave up seven runs while facing only nine batters. He had had thrown six scoreless innings in the Game 3 NL Division Series clincher over Miami last Thursday.

Mookie Betts had an infield single on the first pitch of the game, though he was initially called out before a replay challenge overturned the call by umpire Dan Iassogna. Seager drove Betts home with a double on the next pitch before groundouts by Justin Turner and Muncy.

Nine consecutive batters reached with two outs. Will Smith had an RBI double and Bellinger walked before the homers by Pederson and Rios. After No. 9 batter Chris Taylor walked, Dayton walked Betts, gave up the the RBI single to Seager and hit Turner on the foot before Muncy’s 435-foot slam to right-center.

When Braves No. 9 hitter Cristian Pache finally got to bat to lead off the third, the rookie hit his first big league homer — in the regular season or playoffs. All but one Dodgers starter had already batted three times.

JANSEN IN RELIEF

Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers’ primary closer since 2012 and career leader with 312 saves, pitched a 1-2-3 sixth. It was a week after he needed 30 pitches to get two outs and gave up two runs without being able to finish the 6-5 victory in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Padres.

Manager Dave Roberts, who bypassed Jansen when he went to the bullpen to start the ninth in a 1-1 tie in Game 1 of this series, has avoided being specific about the closer’s role. The 33-year-old Jansen’s velocity had been noticeably down and his control inconsistent.

Jansen threw seven of his 10 pitches for strikes, all but one of them between 88-92 mph. He was averaging 93-94 mph earlier this season.

DOUBLE 7s

Wright and Dayton were the second set of teammates to both allow at least seven runs in a postseason game after Cleveland starter Bartolo Colon (seven runs) and Steve Reed (eight runs) in a 23-7 loss to the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the 1999 AL Division Series.

DEEP IN TEXAS

The Dodgers, who led the majors with 118 homers in the pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season, had only one homer in their three-game NL Division Series sweep of the Padres last week at the Texas Rangers’ new $1.2 billion ballpark with the retractable roof also open. They have eight through three games of the NLCS, where the World Series will be played.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP–Sports

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.

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