The Houston Astros launched their latest Major League Baseball playoff campaign with a 6-4 victory over Minnesota on Saturday as the regular season’s three best teams, Atlanta, Baltimore and the Los Angeles Dodgers, were beaten.
The Philadelphia Phillies shocked the Braves 3-0 in Atlanta, the Texas Rangers beat the Orioles 3-2 in Baltimore and the Arizona Diamondbacks pounded the Dodgers 11-2 in Los Angeles in another brutal playoff outing for Dodgers star pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
“Disappointing, embarrassing … There’s no excuses,” three-time Cy Young Award-winner Kershaw said after allowing six runs and recording just one out in the first inning against the Diamondbacks in the shortest post-season start of his career.
Ketel Marte got the game started with a line drive to center field that bounced off the glove of center fielder James Outman, allowing Marte to reach second.
Two pitches later, Corbin Carroll singled in a run and Tommy Pham followed with a single before Christian Walker smacked a run-scoring double.
Gabriel Moreno then belted a monster three-run homer and three batters later, with one more run scored, Kershaw was pulled for rookie Emmet Sheehan.
The Diamondbacks would add three more runs in the second inning and one each in the seventh and eighth before the demoralized Dodgers managed to put a couple of runs on the board.
The defeat left the Dodgers, who won 100 games in the regular season, needing three wins from the next four games to advance in the best-of-five series.
As Kershaw struggled, Houston’s three-time Cy Young Award-winner Justin Verlander pitched another post-season gem, delivering six scoreless innings in his 17th career playoff win — two shy of Andy Pettitte for the most in history.
Jose Altuve set the offensive tone with a leadoff home run, crushing the first pitch he saw from Twins starting pitcher Bailey Ober.
Jordan Alvarez added two home runs for the Astros, who had struggled at home this season but continued their post-season dominance at Minute Maid Park.
“Obviously there was that narrative that we didn’t play well at home,” Alvarez said in a post-game interview with Fox Sports. “Winning today we were able to change that.”
Phillies throttle Braves
The Braves, winners of a major league-leading 104 games, were stung by the Phillies in their Division Series opener for the second straight year.
Philadelphia — who went on to reach the World Series last season — silenced the potent Braves offense, their bullpen surrendering just five hits, all singles, against Braves batters who racked up a major-league record 307 home runs in the regular season.
“I think it was more their pitching than our hitting,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Bryce Harper’s two hits included a solo homer that gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead in the sixth. Harper had scored in the fourth on Bryson Stott’s single.
Trea Turner had two of Philadelphia’s five stolen bases and the Phillies added an insurance run in the eighth on a catcher interference call against Atlanta’s Sean Murphy.
The bases were loaded when Murphy was called during a J.T. Realmuto at-bat, so a run scored after the Braves unsuccessfully challenged — the incident prompting Braves fans to toss drink cans and other debris on the field.
In Baltimore, Josh Jung homered and Jonah Heim snuffed out a rally in the ninth inning as the Rangers got the better of the 101-win Orioles.
Rangers outfielders Adolis Garcia and Evan Carter hit back-to-back doubles in the fourth to open the scoring and catcher Heim followed with a single to drive in Carter and put Texas ahead 2-0.
The Orioles pulled back a run in the bottom of the inning on Ryan Mountcastle’s double, but Jung homered off Orioles reliever Jacob Webb in the sixth for a 3-1 lead.
Anthony Santander answered for Baltimore with a solo homer in the sixth.
But the Orioles’ bid to rally in the ninth ended when Gunnar Henderson was thrown out by Heim in an attempt to steal second base that Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said was the result of “miscommunication.”
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