Houston is heading back to the ALCS

Astros headed to ALCS after offensive explosion in ALDS Game 4

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the series with wins in games one and two, the Astros suffered their first loss of the 2020 postseason in ALDS Game 3 on Wednesday. With uncertainty about who would start the game on the mound for the Astros, Zack Greinke would end up making a start in Game 4 as Houston tried again to put the A's away.

They would indeed finish the series win, thanks to outslugging Oakland in another homer-heavy affair and winning 11-6. They advance to the ALCS for the fourth-straight year in their quest for the franchise's second World Series victory. Here are highlights from the game:

Final Score: Astros 11, A's 6.

Series: HOU wins 3-1.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Frankie Montas.

Laureano homers off Greinke, twice

After waiting until Thursday morning to be sure, it was Zack Greinke who Dusty Baker handed the ball to in Game 4. After a quick first inning, the A's quickly put stress on him, getting back-to-back one-out singles to set up a three-run home run by Ramón Laureano to put Oakland up 3-0 quickly.

Greinke refocused, allowing just one baserunner in the next eight at-bats, finishing the fourth inning. He returned for the fifth but was met with another home run by Laureano, a solo shot. He would get two more outs before issuing a two-out walk, prompting Dusty Baker to make a move to bring in Blake Taylor to complete the inning. Greinke's final line: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 76 P.

Brantley and Correa lead an offensive explosion

Greinke would exit with a lead despite those runs allowed, though, thanks to a big fourth inning by his offense. It started with a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve, setting up a two-run shot by Michael Brantley. Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker hit back-to-back singles in the next two at-bats, getting on base for a crushed 427-foot, go-ahead three-run bomb by Carlos Correa.

They extended their lead by a large margin in the next two innings. In the bottom of the fifth, Brantley would hit his second homer of the day to lead off the inning before an RBI-single by Correa to make it 7-4. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Kyle Tucker would get his second RBI of the series, followed by Correa's fifth of the game, both on two-out singles to make it a five-run game at 9-4.

Houston advances to ALCS

Cristian Javier took over on the mound in the top of the sixth, striking out the side for a 1-2-3 inning. He returned in the seventh and worked around two two-out hits to keep it a five-run game. Jose Altuve made it a seven-run game with his bat in the bottom of the inning, getting in on the home run parade with a two-run shot to make it 11-4.

Javier remained in the game with the big lead, but after allowing a double and hitting a batter, would be taken out with one out in favor of Enoli Paredes. Paredes would get the final two outs of the inning and strand both runners. Still 11-4 in the top of the ninth, the Astros took no chances, bringing in closer Ryan Pressly. He would get through the inning despite allowing two runs, wrapping up the win and the series for Houston, who have been in every ALCS since 2017.

Up Next: The Astros will have a couple of days off before starting up the ALCS, with Game 1 on Sunday. They will face the winner of the Yankees / Rays ALDS, with starters and times TBD.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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