Brandon Belt
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Giants pull off 18-inning win after replay review at the plate

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It took the Giants five hours and 35 minutes to beat the Rockies 3-2 on Friday night, a feat they finally managed to pull off during the last moments of the 18th inning.

Even when the game was fresh — well before the scoreless 12-inning drought began — it was still a low-scoring one for the clubs. The Rockies put up two runs in the fourth inning on a balk from San Francisco righty Drew Pomeranz and an RBI double from Ian Desmond, while the Giants responded with Evan Longoria‘s run-scoring double play and Joe Panik‘s sac fly in the fourth and sixth, respectively.

The bullpens, meanwhile, looked untouchable: After Chad Bettis and Pomeranz exited in the sixth, 17 different pitchers combined for a dozen scoreless innings and another 32 strikeouts. (The Giants alone had 24 cumulative strikeouts from Pomeranz and their relief corps, so many that they ran out of room to place “K” placards on the right field wall — a task that was soon taken up by fans in a more creative way.)

By the time the game stretched into the 18th inning, the Giants were down to their last reliever and desperate to catch a break. They didn’t have to wait much longer.

Brandon Belt skied a double out to right field that just missed the threshold for a walk-off home run, then positioned himself at third base following an intentional walk to Brandon Crawford and Kevin Pillar‘s long fly out to center. Colorado right-hander DJ Johnson loaded the bases with a second intentional walk to Gerardo Parra, leaving veteran catcher Erik Kratz to step up to the plate with one out and the winning run up for grabs.

In the end, it was exactly the kind of finish you might expect after nearly six hours and a franchise-record 18 innings had passed: Kratz hit a dribbler that just missed the outstretched glove of first baseman Josh Fuentes, center fielder Desmond scooped the ball and threw home to catch Belt at the plate, and… Belt was subsequently called safe after a replay review revealed that Chris Iannetta had taken his foot off home plate when he received the ball.

“I felt like I’d never played baseball before,” Iannetta told MLB.com’s Maria Guardado after the game. “I don’t think I’ll be sleeping much after this one.”

None of his teammates will be sleeping much, either. The two teams are scheduled to meet again for a rematch on Saturday at 4:05 PM EDT.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

Astros
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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.