Associated Press

Charlie Morton delivers, Zack Greinke doesn’t as Rays beat Astros to force Game 4

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The Astros aces had been the story of this series before today, with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole shutting down the Rays’ bats in Games 1 and 2. Astros starter Zack Greinke would be the unquestioned ace on most pitching staffs, but he’s third fiddle for Houston. Today he actually pitched like a third starter — maybe one for a non-contender — as the Tampa Bay Rays rocked him for three homers and then continued to pile on for an easy 10-3 win to force a Game 4 in their ALDS matchup with the Astros.

Greinke was staked to a 1-0 lead before he even threw a pitch thanks to a first inning José Altuve home run and he cruised through the first frame against the Rays, needing only nine pitches to do it. That changed in the second, however, when Avisaíl García singled, Greinke hit Travis d’Arnaud with a pitch to put two on and then Kevin Kiermaier pounded on a Greinke changeup with catlike quickness and served it over the right center field fence for a three-run jack to put the Rays up 3-1.

Tampa Bay stayed locked in on Greinke in the bottom of the third when Ji-Man Choi went deep to make it 4-1. Brandon Lowe kept it going, leading off the fourth inning with yet another dinger to make it 5-1. It was the first game since Opening Day with the Diamondbacks in which Greinke had allowed more than two longballs. Today was certainly not his day. A.J. Hinch left Greinke in a bit longer and he walked Willy Adames and that was it for him.

Héctor Rondón came on in relief, gave up a single and was pulled for Wade Miley who promptly gave up an RBI double, and RBI single, with the runs charged to Greinke and Rondón, respectively, to make it 8-1 to end the eighth. Six runs in all were charged to Greinke in three and two-thirds innings of work.

Greinke’s counterpart Charlie Morton had no such trouble with the usually formidable Astros lineup. He pitched five innings with the only damage being that first inning Altuve homer. He struck out nine against two walks and three hits in that time while flashing some filthy, filthy stuff:

After Morton left Chaz Roe allowed Houston to rally for two in the sixth to make it 8-3 but the Rays got one back with their fourth homer of the afternoon — courtesy of Willy Adames — in the bottom of the sixth. A Travis d'Arnaud sac fly in the seventh gave the Rays double digits and 10-3 is where the game would wind up when it was all said and done.

When this day began we had a chance — not a great chance, but a chance — of all four Division Series ending on this day and giving us no baseball until Friday. The Rays win guarantees that there will be a game tomorrow, however, as Houston will try once again to put Tampa Bay away.

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

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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.