LOS ANGELES (AP) â Carlos Correa hit a go-ahead, three-run homer after Michael Brantleyâs 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.
Correa drove in five as the Astros â October villains to many a year after their sign-stealing scandal was exposed â advanced to the AL Championship Series for the fourth consecutive season.READ MORE: Affidavit: Accused Serial Killer Jason Thornburg Says Slayings Were Human Sacrifices
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.
âItâs been a long, tough road, but weâre halfway there,â Baker said. âIâm thankful and happy, but I still got some happiness left to give.â
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 â 12 each â the most in a postseason series of five games or less.
Houston clinched at Dodger Stadium, where it won the 2017 World Series in seven games. The Astros’ sign-stealing scheme used during their title run was revealed last year by former teammate and current A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, who didn’t pitch in this postseason series.
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 BeltrÃ¡n also lost their jobs as fallout their roles with the â17 Astros, and Houston still draws ire of other players and fans.
Correa said outside opinions did nothing to motivate the team.
âWeâre motivated because we want to win and we want to bring another championship to the city of Houston,â he said. âWe know what it feels like and we want to have that feeling again.â
Houstonâs 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.READ MORE: Gang Member, North Texas Sex Offender Added To State's 10 Most Wanted Lists
âWe never gave up because we had a down year offensively,â Correa said. âWe kept going to the cage. That helped us in this series.â
Much of that damage came against Oaklandâs vaunted bullpen. Aâs relievers combined for a 6.27 ERA in the series, including six earned runs Thursday.
Facing elimination for the fourth time this postseason, Oakland’s RamÃ³n Laureano hit a pair of homers, including a three-run shot in the second that gave the West champion A’s the early lead for the fourth straight game.
Houston starter Zack Greinke held up two fingers facing Laureano and catcher MartÃn Maldonado before Laureano homered 440 feet to left for a 3-0 lead. It might have appeared that Greinke was signaling his pitch, although he has at times used a hand signal to switch sign sets mid-inning.
It was the first postseason homer Greinke allowed since last yearâs Game 7 of the World Series against Washington, when Anthony Rendonâs solo shot began the Nationalsâ comeback.
Laureano’s leadoff homer in the fifth cut Oakland’s deficit to 5-4, but the A’s would get no closer.
Frankie Montas couldnât withstand Houstonâs onslaught in the fourth, when the Astros sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five. Altuve led off with a walk and scored on Brantley’s homer to pull the Astros to 3-2. Bregman and Tucker had back-to-back singles and scored on Correa’s shot to left that he stood and admired, giving Houston the lead for good, 5-3.
Brantley added a solo shot in the fifth and Altuve had a two-run blast in the seventh that extended the Astros’ lead to 11-4.
Houston’s Cristian Javier got the victory in relief. He retired five in a row before giving up back-to-back, two-out singles to Robbie Grossman and Sean Murphy in the seventh. Marcus Semien â a free agent-to-be playing perhaps his final game with Oakland â flied out to left and Tucker backed up to the wall to make the catch for the third out.
No A’s starter pitched beyond the fifth in the series. Loser Montas gave up five runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one.
Greinke, who had experienced arm soreness that kept him from starting Game 3, allowed four runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.MORE NEWS: Dallas County Sheriff Needs Help Identifying Truck Involved In Hit & Run With Deputies
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