Houston reached its first AL Championship Series. The Astros will face either Cleveland or the New York Yankees — whichever team wins Wednesday’s deciding Game 5 in their AL Division Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers swept Arizona in their NLDS.
BOSTON – The Houston Astros poured back onto the field after advancing to their first American League Championship Series, posing for pictures with Fenway Park’s Green Monster as a backdrop before a few players belly-flopped in puddles in the infield dirt.
No matter, they were already soaked from celebratory beer and sparkling wine.
“Both teams were throwing their guys, and that’s what you live for,” Houston third baseman Alex Bregman said Monday after Justin Verlander came out of the bullpen to beat Chris Sale in an aces-turned-relievers role reversal and helped the Astros eliminate the Boston Red Sox with a 5-4 victory in Game 4 of their best-of-five AL Division Series.
“When we saw Verlander run to the ’pen we said, ‘Our horse is on the mound, we need to win this game,’ ” said Bregman, who homered off Sale to tie the score in the eighth inning before Josh Reddick’s single gave the Astros the lead. “That’s kind of the whole energy that he’s brought since we brought him over here. He’s brought an energy with him that, ‘Hey, when he’s out there, we’re going to win.’ ”
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Verlander, who was acquired for the playoff run after spending his first 13 seasons in Detroit, gave up the go-ahead homer to Andrew Benintendi — the first batter he faced — before shutting Boston down for the next 22/3 innings.
The former AL most valuable player and Cy Young Award winner earned the victory in his first relief appearance after 424 starts in a major- and minor-league career.
The AL West champion Astros will open the ALCS on Friday, either in Cleveland or at home against the New York Yankees. The Indians host the Yankees in a deciding Game 5 on Wednesday.
The Red Sox forced a Game 4 after losing the first two games in Houston, and then took a 3-2 lead in the fifth on Benintendi’s homer. After Bregman’s homer, Reddick’s single off closer Craig Kimbrel put Houston ahead 4-3.
Carlos Beltran added to his postseason legacy with an RBI double in the ninth — an insurance run that became the winner when Rafael Devers of the Red Sox hit an inside-the-park homer off Astros closer Ken Giles to close out scoring.
Giles retired the next three batters for the six-out save.
“The two big boys, Sale and Verlander, both get into the game. Everybody did well,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “Nobody really wanted to concede the game.”
The Astros last reached a league-championship series in 2005 — as a National League team. They started AL play in 2013.
Yankees force a Game 5
NEW YORK – Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees are headed back to Cleveland for a decisive Game 5 — thanks to plenty of help from the Indians.
Pitcher Severino rebounded from his playoff debacle in the wild-card round, Judge delivered a big hit and the Yankees took advantage of shoddy defense by Cleveland to beat the Indians 7-3 and even their ALDS at 2-2.
“We’ve got a shot now,” said New York manager Joe Girardi, who was harshly criticized for his Game 2 decisions. “So it’s a totally different feeling than it was the other day, and these guys have picked me up.”
Gary Sanchez homered for the Yankees and a slumping Judge laced an early two-run double for his only hit of the series to go with 12 strikeouts in 15 at-bats.
Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer struggled on three days’ rest and was chased in the second inning. But it was on the wet Yankee Stadium field where the Indians really flopped, committing a season-high four errors that marked a franchise record for a postseason game and led to six unearned runs. The defending AL champions made 76 errors all season, the lowest total in the league.
“The whole night, we made it hard on ourselves to win,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.
Cubs take 2-1 NLDS lead
CHICAGO – Anthony Rizzo blooped a tiebreaking single into left field with two outs in the eighth inning and the Chicago Cubs overcame Max Scherzer’s brilliant performance to beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 for a 2-1 lead in their NL Division Series.
The Nationals had a base open with Rizzo coming to the plate and pinch-runner Leonys Martin on second, but manager Dusty Baker elected to pitch to the slugger with Willson Contreras on deck. Oliver Perez came in and Rizzo looped his first pitch into shallow left-center.
Scherzer, returning from a right-hamstring injury, carried a no-hitter into the seventh. But the Cubs tied the score at 1 on a huge, pinch-hit RBI single from Albert Almora Jr.
Dodgers sweep Arizona
PHOENIX – Rookie Cody Bellinger homered, drove in two runs and flipped over a dugout railing to steal an out for a dominant Yu Darvish, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 to finish a three-game sweep in their NL Division Series.
Darvish, acquired from Texas in a trade-deadline deal, struck out seven over five innings to outpitch Arizona’s Zack Greinke and earn his first postseason victory in three tries.