Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Braves rally with two outs in ninth inning to take NLDS Game 3 from Cardinals 3-1


The Braves, shut out for 8 2/3 innings on Sunday, rallied for three runs with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to come from behind and stun the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLDS, winning 3-1. They now have a 2-1 series lead and can look to advance to the NLCS with a win in Game 4 on Monday afternoon in St. Louis.

Braves rookie starter Mike Soroka nearly matched veteran Adam Wainwright in a certifiable pitcher’s duel. Soroka relented a lone run in the second inning. Marcell Ozuna doubled, moved to third base on a ground out by Yadier Molina, then touched home on Matt Carpenter‘s sacrifice fly. Soroka finished seven innings, allowing the one run on two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts on 90 pitches.

Wainwright didn’t really get into danger until the eighth inning. Dansby Swanson grounded a single into left field with one out. After pinch-hitter Adam Duvall lined out, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Wainwright was clearly spent, so manager Mike Shildt went out to the mound bring in lefty Andrew Miller. Miller was able to get Freddie Freeman to fly out to center field to end the threat. Across 7 2/3 scoreless innings and 120 pitches, Wainwright scattered four hits and a pair of walks with eight strikeouts. It’s the first time the 38-year-old pitched into the eighth inning in a playoff start since tossing a complete game against the Pirates in Game 5 of the 2013 NLDS.

Closer Carlos Martínez took over in the ninth inning. The right-hander, who gave up three runs in his appearance in Game 1, immediately got into trouble, allowing a leadoff double to Josh Donaldson. Martínez, however, rebounded, striking out Nick Markakis and Adeiny Hechavarría. With first base open, Brian McCann was intentionally walked to bring up Swanson, which proved to be a mistake. Swanson swung at the first pitch, ripping a double off the wall in left field to tie the game at 1-1. Martínez continued to leak runs as Duvall brought home two more runs with a single to center field, advancing to second base on the throw home.

The drama continued as Martínez faced Acuña. The two had a difference of opinion in Game 1. Acuña hit a two-run homer off of Martínez, helping the Braves reduce what was a four-run deficit. Acuña celebrated as he rounded the bases, looking back at his dugout containing his fired-up teammates. Martínez wasn’t happy with the antics, saying after the game, “I wanted him to respect the game and respect me as a veteran player.” In Game 3, Martínez walked Acuña with ball four coming on an up-and-in pitch. Molina got in front of a clearly agitated Acuña to deescalate the issue.

In the ninth inning, closer Mark Melancon — who was anything but automatic in previous two appearances against the Cardinals in the NLDS — took over to protect the Braves’ first lead of the day. He got Kolten Wong to ground out for the first out of the inning. After Paul Goldschmidt grounded a double down the right field line, Melancon got Ozuna to strike out looking on a generous called strike from home plate umpire Sam Holbrook. Molina ended the game with a fly out to center field, securing the Braves’ 3-1 victory.

First pitch of NLDS Game 4 is scheduled for 3:07 PM ET on Monday. The Braves are looking to advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2001.

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

AP Images

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.