The Houston Astros are going back to the AL Championship Series for the sixth straight year.
One big swing by Jeremy Peña was enough.
Peña homered in the 18th inning, and Houston beat the Seattle Mariners 1-0 on Saturday for a three-game sweep of their AL Division Series. Luis Garcia worked five innings for the win, finishing a stellar effort by the Astros bullpen.
Houston started its ALCS streak with its 2017 World Series championship. It was eliminated in the ALCS in 2018 and 2020, and it lost in the World Series in 2019 against Washington and last year against Atlanta.
“Once you’ve been through it and then you go through it again and again and again, and then you sort of expect excellence, and that’s what this team expects out of itself,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said.
Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies advanced to the NLCS with an 8-3 victory over the Braves on Saturday in Game 4 of their best-of-five Division Series. It’s the first NLCS appearance for Philly since 2010.
They’ll open Tuesday at San Diego in an all-wild card NLCS after the Padres stunned the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 to win their Division Series in four games. San Diego is in the NLCS for the first time in 24 years.
Next up for this year’s Astros is Game 1 against the New York Yankees or Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday in Houston. Cleveland can advance with one more win against New York in Game 4 of their ALDS on Sunday night.
Here’s what else to know about the MLB playoffs Sunday:
SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE (All times ET)
ALDS Game 4: New York Yankees at Cleveland, 7:07 p.m., TBS
Gerrit Cole starts Sunday night for New York, looking to send the ALDS to a decisive Game 5 back home in the Bronx. Cal Quantrill pitches for Cleveland.
The 32-year-old Cole went 13-8 with a 3.50 ERA in 33 starts this season for the AL East champions. The ace right-hander pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in the Yankees’ 4-1 win against Quantrill and the Guardians on Tuesday night.
“I thought we were solid in general, kind of in all aspects,” Cole said of his Game 1 outing, “and so looking to find little ways to improve and stay right there.”
Cleveland rallied for a dramatic 6-5 victory against New York on Saturday night, taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. Rookie Oscar Gonzalez hit a two-run single with two outs in the ninth inning.
The 27-year-old Quantrill is making his second career postseason start. He went 9-0 with a 3.28 ERA in 19 home starts this year. He has not absorbed a loss in his last 36 home starts overall, the second-longest such streak in MLB history.
“I think some of it’s probably a little bit of randomness, but I do enjoy pitching here,” Quantrill said. “Like I said, I just enjoy the routine of working here and preparing and, you know, things have gone well.”
Philadelphia was 22-29 when it fired Joe Girardi on June 3 and promoted Rob Thomson from bench coach to interim manager.
The 59-year-old Thomson, who had been a career coach for the Yankees and Phillies, directed Philadelphia to an 87-75 finish and an NL wild card. Now the Phillies are in the NLCS for the first time since they were eliminated by San Francisco in 2010.
“Once we hit June, the schedule kind of lightened up a little bit and we started winning, and guys started getting confidence and believing that they could win and believing that, OK, now this is the team that we thought we were,” Thomson said. “And just kept going.”
Thomson is the first Canadian-born manager to lead a team to the postseason. He had his interim tag removed on Monday when the club announced his new two-year contract.
END OF THE ROAD
Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and the Dodgers dropped three straight to the Padres in a painful NLDS defeat after the best regular-season record in club history (111-51) and manager Dave Roberts’ prediction during spring training that they’d win the World Series.
“Shock factor, very high. Disappointment, very high. It’s crushing,” Roberts said. “Each guy gave everything they had all year long, and a tremendous season. The great thing about baseball is the unpredictability, and the tough thing about it is the same thing.
“Nothing I can say is going to make it feel any better. Obviously we didn’t expect to be in this position,” he added.
The Dodgers are left with an empty feeling. They won the NL West for the ninth time in 10 seasons and finished 22 games ahead of San Diego. The Dodgers went 14-5 against the Padres in the regular season and had won nine straight regular-season series against them.
“These guys dominated us all year long, but we got hot at the right time,” Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove said. “It’s a good feeling.”
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