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Astros stave off elimination; historic inning gets Dodgers back in it

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 (AP) — George Springer broke a tie with a two-run homer, José Altuve also went deep 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.

“I’m just happy that we won the game and on until tomorrow,” Springer said.

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 his first postseason win since 2015. 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 to regain the lead for the Astros.

Dodgers 15, Braves 3

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers were already having a grand time before Max Muncy’s big slam capped the highest-scoring inning in a major league playoff game.

That new ballpark in his home state of Texas where the Dodgers hope to keep playing right through the World Series suddenly doesn’t seem too big anymore, and they are right back in the National League Championship Series after a 15-3 rout of the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

Muncy’s slam off Grant Dayton capped an 11-run first inning when Los Angeles benefited from a game-starting replay challenge, hit three home runs and had nine consecutive batters reach base after two outs. The Dodgers set franchise postseason records for runs and home runs with five, cutting their NLCS deficit to 2 games to 1.

“It’s pretty cool. Not too many things that are cooler than that,” Muncy said. “But the biggest thing to me is our team got a W and got us back on track.”

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 burst, 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, made his first postseason start and improved to 3-0 in these playoffs, striking out five while allowing one run and three hits over five innings. He walked the first two batters but no more.

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

Manager Dave Roberts said Clayton Kershaw will start Game 4 for the Dodgers, two nights after the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner from Dallas 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.

“We still are in a good spot with four games left,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Like I say, for the whole team, you just turn the page and get ready to go tomorrow.”

The Dodgers had left the tying run at third base in a four-run bottom of the ninth during an 8-7 loss 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.

“It was a carryover,” reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger insisted.

“That was fun to be a part of,” Pederson said. “I think some of the momentum from last night, the last inning definitely carried over and got us feeling a little bit more comfortable at the plate.”

Those 15 runs over two times up came after the Braves had allowed only nine runs in their previous six games plus eight innings, a stretch that included four shutouts en route to a 7-0 postseason start.

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.

“It’s not ideal how we started the series, but we feel good about ourselves,” Bellinger said.

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 in Betts with a double on the next pitch before groundouts by Justin Turner and Muncy.

“To get that infield hit, and then the next pitch, you see two pitches and you’ve already got a run, that was quite the change,” Roberts said.

Pederson that overturn “got us going, and then from there you saw what happened.”

Nine consecutive batters reached with two outs. Will Smith had an RBI double to make it 2-0, when he just beat a throw to the bag to avoid being the third out before Bellinger’s walk and the homers by Pederson and Rios. After No. 9 batter Chris Taylor drew a free pass, 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.

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