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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The Rockets fell all the way to four in the NBA Draft Lottery. Composite Getty Image.

It’s hard to believe anybody or anything anymore. Between fake news screamers, election deniers, baseball sign-stealers and deflated footballers, I’m still not 100-percent sure if it was Keith Hernandez or Roger McDowell who hocked a loogie on Kramer and Newman.

Some NBA fans, especially those who live anywhere except San Antonio, are thinking this week’s draft order was fixed. Headlines are saying:

“NBA fans claim draft lottery was rigged for Victor Wembanyama.”

“Was the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery rigged?”

“NBA Fans Are Complaining the NBA Draft Lottery Was Rigged”

Comments like “No Way NBA Was Letting Houston or Detroit Get Wembanyama” flew online.

Even Michigan state senator Debbie Stabenow, a duly elected official, tweeted, “Looks rigged to me.”

Conspiracy fans present their case. Wembanyama appeared to smirk and pump his fist in relief when it was announced that Houston would be drafting fourth. He didn’t appear unhappy when Detroit was slotted fifth, either. The two worst teams have zero chance of drafting the best player. Doesn’t seem fair, but them’s the rules.

Detroit, sure, I can understand Wembanyama’s avoidance behavior. But when did Houston become an NBA hellhole? You may not get a ring here, but Rockets players still get to live in Houston. This is the best place to finish worst.

Here’s something the NBA needs to fix. The draft order was determined in a secret, untelevised process witnessed by a limited number of sworn-to-secrecy team representatives and assorted media folks. You know the public’s trust of media these days. Saturday Night Live’s pathological liar character Tommy Flanagan had more credibility than today’s front page. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Rumors of NBA draft shenanigans have persisted ever since the league went to a lottery system in 1985 and the New York Knicks mysteriously, though predictably, got the No. 1 pick and took Patrick Ewing. Nobody was shocked in 2003 when Cleveland won the top pick and landed LeBron James.

I know it a long, dull and complicated mathematical process, but the NBA could put all the suspicion to rest simply by televising the actual smoky backroom draft. It can’t be any more boring that watching ESPN analysts Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins say the same thing over and over 10 times a day on SportsCenter and NBA Today.

And while they’re at it, maybe tell the nerd accountant who brings the team logos onstage not to flash the bottom card, which clearly showed that San Antonio was getting the No. 1 pick. Yes, that happened Tuesday night. Showing the hole card can get your thumbs broken in Vegas. At least in the movies.

If you watch the ESPN draft special you saw grown mostly middle-aged men salivating over Wembanyana like it was feeding time at the zoo.

Greatest young prospect in NBA history!

Greatest prospect in the history of sports in America!

Sounds a bit much. Yes, video highlights of Wembanyama look amazing. He’s only 19 and playing in the minor leagues. Will he escape unbroken against NBA adults? LeBron was a full-grown man when he was 19 his rookie season in the NBA. Wembanyama looks like what he is, a skinny teenager.

Don’t tell me, professional NBA executives and scouts say he can’t miss, and they do this for a job. They’re experts. They live for this. They stake their careers on evaluating talent.

I get it, but let’s look it up:

Here is the All-NBA first team for 2023:

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Joel Embid (MVP)

Luka Dončić

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Jayson Tatum

Here is the All-NBA second team for 2023:

Jimmy Butler

Stephen Curry

Donovan Mitchell

Nikola Jokic

Jaylen Brown.

What do the 10 best players in the NBA have in common? Not one was the No. 1 draft pick. You know what else? None were taken with the second pick, either.

Only one player on the All-NBA third team was the No. 1 draft pick – LeBron James and that was 20 long years ago.

Here’s another list of players to consider: Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Andrea Bargnani, Blake Griffin, Greg Oden, John Wall, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Deandre Ayton. You know what they have in common? They all were overall No. 1 draft picks in recent years. You see any Hall of Famers there?

So don’t get too upset over the Rockets drafting No. 4.

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