For the seventh consecutive season, the Houston Astros have advanced to the AL Championship Series. The surprising Arizona Diamondbacks are in the NLCS for the first time in 16 years. And just one more win by the Philadelphia Phillies means baseball's final four would be set.
José Abreu homered for the third time in two games, a two-run rocket in the fourth inning that launched the Astros to a 3-2 win that eliminated the strikeout-prone Minnesota Twins in Game 4 of their Division Series on Wednesday night.
Houston will host in-state rival Texas in Game 1 of the ALCS on Sunday, with three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander scheduled to pitch for the defending World Series champion Astros in his 36th career postseason start.
“They know us, and we know them,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said, “and it’s going to be a heck of a series.”
In Phoenix, Geraldo Perdomo hit the first of Arizona’s record-setting four solo homers in the third inning, and the Diamondbacks swept the 100-win Los Angeles Dodgers out of the playoffs with a 4-2 victory in Game 3 of their NL Division Series.
The D-backs return to the NL Championship Series for the first time since 2007, where they’ll face either the Phillies or Braves.
Arizona — the No. 6 seed after squeezing into the NL playoff bracket with an 84-78 record — has won all five of its games during the postseason.
In Philadelphia, Bryce Harper answered Orlando Arcia’s mockery with a mammoth three-run homer and a solo shot, glaring at the shortstop on each trot around the bases, and the Phillies routed the Atlanta Braves 10-2 for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five NL Division Series.
Nick Castellanos homered twice as Philadelphia rebounded from its disappointing loss at Atlanta on Monday night. Trea Turner and Brandon Marsh also went deep.
Winning pitcher Aaron Nola and four relievers combined to push the 104-win Braves to the brink of elimination.
That leaves only one playoff game scheduled for Thursday night, when the Phillies can advance to the NL Championship Series for a second straight season with a win. Ranger Suárez pitches for Philadelphia against 20-game winner Spencer Strider.
A decisive Game 5 would be Saturday in Atlanta.
The Astros are the current betting favorites to win the World Series at +220, followed by the Rangers (+300) and Phillies (+330), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
After getting five days off, the top four playoff seeds went a combined 2-6 on their home fields to start the best-of-five division round.
Two of them were eliminated in three-game sweeps: the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Clearly, the time off did them little good. Which begs the question: Is it time to say goodbye to the bye?
How to watch
TBS is broadcasting the NLDS. Fox and FS1 will carry the ALCS.
Division Series: Oct. 7-14
League Championship Series: Oct. 15-24
World Series: Oct. 27-Nov. 4
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