Another league championship series doubleheader in the 2021 MLB playoffs didn't disappoint on Wednesday. After some one-sided performances, two teams are one win away from reaching the World Series, while the other two are staring elimination right in the face.
In the American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros' offense continued their onslaught from Game 3 and brought it to Game 4. They scored nine runs, and their exceptional pitching limited the Boston Red Sox to only one. Houston's offense carried them to a 9-1 victory and a 3-2 series lead in the ALCS.
The National League Championship Series featured the Los Angeles Dodgers looking to continue their October magic in Game 4 against the Atlanta Braves. Cody Bellinger was the hero in Tuesday's game, could he continue his great postseason in Game 4?
Neither he or the Dodgers had any kind of spark on offense, as the Braves unloaded on them throughout. Atlanta got the victory 9-2 after an exceptional outing from Eddie Rosario.
Here's the best plays and moments from today's games:
Houston leads the series 3-2
There was a rare sighting at Fenway Park on Wednesday: A starting pitcher nearly threw a complete game as Astros lefty Framber Valdez pitched eight magnificent innings leading to a 9-1 win for the visitors and a 3-2 series lead over the Red Sox.
Boston hitters had few pitches to square up as Valdez allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out five. His only blemish came on a Rafael Devers home run in the seventh.
Meanwhile, Boston left-handed pitcher Chris Sale might have some nightmares about Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez as the latter player had three hits off the former, helping break the game open during a five-run sixth inning. Alvarez went opposite field three times, once for a home run, once for a single and once for a two-run double as Houston built a 7-0 lead.
Yordan Alvarez to the Green Monster 🚀 pic.twitter.com/xN81HaHqlc— MLB (@MLB) October 20, 2021
The victory brings the Astros to the brink of their third World Series appearance in five years with Games 6 and 7 back at Minute Maid Park in Texas this weekend.
After a blowout on Monday by the Red Sox, the Astros retook command with strong pitching performances in Games 4 and 5. Houston compiled 14 scoreless innings in a row between the two games, as the Red Sox managed just a home run by Xander Bogaerts in the first inning in Game 4 and Devers blast in the seventh in Game 5.
The Astros' dominant staff, which was so effective during the regular season, has returned. The series is clearly theirs for the taking as Houston needs just one win in two home tries to return to the Fall Classic. -- Jesse Rogers
Hate it or love it the Astros are that good.— Josh Donaldson (@BringerOfRain20) October 21, 2021
Atlanta leads the series 3-1
The Dodgers, one night after staging a great and long-awaited reawakening, arrived for Game 4 of the NLCS with a chance to tie the series and remind themselves of who they are. Instead, they put together nine shockingly lifeless innings of baseball, losing to the Braves 9-2 to put themselves a loss away from elimination.
The Braves, as foretold by manager Brian Snitker, were unbothered by their Game 3 collapse. They tossed it aside and came out raking against Dodger starter Julio Urias, whose five-inning stint was filled with irritation and disgust. The Braves hit four homers, two by the ascendant Rosario, one by the rejuvenated Freddie Freeman and another by Adam Duvall. Most of the Braves hitters generally treated Urias's pitches with disdain, hitting them with regularity in Game 4. Rosario was particularly unimpressed, with a solo homer, triple and single off Urias and a three-run shot in the ninth off Tony Gonsolin.
Back-to-back!!! pic.twitter.com/zoU0xTNoKN— MLB (@MLB) October 21, 2021
Freddie!!! pic.twitter.com/BdDvK31PEY— MLB (@MLB) October 21, 2021
With their roster fresh out of reliable starting pitching, the Braves started Jesse Chavez as an opener and pieced together 27 outs from six different pitchers, with A.J. Minter (two scoreless innings) the most impressive. The conga line from the bullpen, as much as anything, has put the Braves in a position to finish off the Dodgers and advance to the World Series with a victory in Game 5 on Thursday night.
The middle of the Braves' lineup was on base -- or jogging around them -- all night. Rosario was the unchallenged headliner: four hits, four RBIs, three runs scored. In general, he had himself a rollicking good time. Freeman, after striking out seven times and going hitless in the first two games, had two hits, scored twice and drove in two. Since the series moved to Los Angeles for Game 3, Freeman has five hits in eight at-bats.
Who needs a cycle when you can hit a dinger?! pic.twitter.com/lhnZOYArPy— MLB (@MLB) October 21, 2021
In the bottom of the seventh, Albert Pujols briefly roused the sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium with a pinch-hit single leading off the seventh. Visions of Tuesday night's comeback danced in their heads for a brief moment -- just long enough for Justin Turner to ground into a double play
As bad as that was, it immediately got worse. Turner pulled up about 20 feet short of first base with what appeared to be a left leg injury. Turner, who was out of the starting lineup with a strained neck in Game 2, screamed in pain as he hobbled toward first and, assisted by Pujols, limped toward the clubhouse, wincing with every step.
Nevertheless, the Braves are now one win away from their first World Series berth since 1999. -- Tim Keown