The Houston Astros stayed alive by the slimmest of margins on Wednesday while the Los Angeles Dodgers rewrote the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoff record book with a 15-3 rout of Atlanta in the battles for a World Series berth.
The Astros, facing elimination at 3-0 down in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series in San Diego, held off the Tampa Bay 4-3 as the Rays missed their chance to return to the MLB championship showcase for the first time since 2008.
In Arlington, Texas, the Dodgers erupted for a record-setting 11 runs in the first inning on the way to a dominant victory over the Braves that trimmed the deficit in their National League Championship Series to 2-1.
Max Muncy’s grand slam was the Dodgers’ third homer of the first inning, capping the highest-scoring inning in post-season history.
The Braves had been on the wrong side of the prior playoff record, surrendering 10 runs in an inning against the St Louis Cardinals last year.
The Dodgers, buoyed by a late surge that saw them come up just short in an 8-7 loss to the Braves on Tuesday, came out firing.
“The big thing for us was to carry that over,” Muncy said of the momentum built from scoring seven runs in the final three innings on Tuesday night. “We were able to do that.”
Mookie Betts led off with an infield single on the first pitch from Atlanta starter Kyle Wright and Corey Seager belted a double off the next pitch to score Betts.
Wright retired two batters before Will Smith’s double scored Seager.
Joc Pederson and Edwin Rios homered on back-to-back pitches, with Pederson’s blast scoring three runs.
Wright walked Chris Taylor before he was replaced by Grant Dayton – who surrendered a run-scoring single to Seager and loaded the bases to set the stage for Muncy’s 435-foot blast to centre.
‘Not many things cooler’
“There’s not too many things that are cooler than that,” Muncy said of notching a post-season Grand Slam in his home state. “But the biggest thing for me is our team got a ‘W’ and got guys back on track.”
The three homers were a record for a first inning in a playoff game, equalling the most in any post-season inning.
The Dodgers weren’t done. Bellinger led off the second inning with a homer, and Seager sparked an three-run third with a lead-off homer as Los Angeles raced into a 15-0 lead.
The five home runs were a record for the first three innings of a playoff game during which all nine Dodgers batters recorded a hit – Seager had three.
For Atlanta, Cristian Pache pulled one back with a solo homer down the left field line in the bottom of the third and two consolation runs came in the ninth.
The Dodgers expect to have ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw on the mound after missing game two with back spasms when they try to level the series on Thursday.
In San Diego, Houston’s George Springer smacked a towering two-run shot to left field to break a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning as the Astros cut the series deficit to 3-1.
“I’m just happy that we won a game and we’re on until tomorrow,” said Springer, who said he knew his effort was a homer as it came off his bat.
“I was able to hit a high fastball there,” he said. “It’s a tight line, so I’m happy that it stayed fair.”
Jose Altuve hit his 18th career playoff home run in the first inning and added a run-scoring double in the third.
Tampa Bay tied it in the fourth when rookie Randy Arozarena belted a 3-1 curveball from Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke over the leftfield wall for a two-run home run.
They were the only runs allowed by Greinke, who struck out seven in six innings for his first playoff win since 2015.
The Rays still have history on their side. Only one Major League team – the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS – has recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series in 38 prior attempts.