2020 American League Division Series 2
|2020 American League Division Series|
29 - 31 in the AL
|3 - 1
36 - 24 in the AL
|1||Houston Astros 10 Oakland Athletics 5||October 5||Lance McCullers (0-0) Chris Bassitt (0-0)||4:00 pm|
|2||Houston Astros 5 Oakland Athletics 2||October 6||Framber Valdez (1-0) Sean Manaea (0-1)||4:30 pm|
|3||Oakland Athletics 9 Houston Astros 7||October 7||Jesus Luzardo (0-0) Jose Urquidy (0-0)||3:30 pm|
|4||Oakland Athletics 6 Houston Astros 11||October 8||Frankie Montas (0-1) Zack Greinke (0-0)||3:30 pm|
Game 1 @ Dodger Stadium
|WP: Blake Taylor (1-0); LP: J.B. Wendelken (0-1)|
|Home Runs: OAK - Khris Davis (1), Sean Murphy (1), Matt Olson (1); HOU - Alex Bregman (1), Carlos Correa 2 (2)|
- Attendance: none
The Astros took Game 1, 10-5, as their bats, which had been cold all season, came alive, slamming three homers on an afternoon in which balls were flying out of Dodger Stadium. However, the most important play of the game came not on a long fly, but on a routine grounder booted by SS Marcus Semien, which led to four unearned runs and gave Houston a lead it never relinquished. On the mound, the A's had delegated their best pitcher this season and the winner of Game 2 of the Wild Card Series, Chris Bassitt, to face off against curve ball specialist Lance McCullers. Neither pitched particularly well.
It was the Athletics who got on the scoreboard first in the bottom of the 2nd, when Matt Olson drew a one-out walk and Khris Davis followed with a homer to center for a 2-0 lead. In the 3rd, Sean Murphy led off the inning with a solo shot to center. The A's then pinned McCullers against the ropes as Tommy La Stella and Semien followed with singles. However, the A's wasted that opportunity to take a big lead as Jake Lamb followed by grounding into a double play and Mark Canha struck out. That 3-0 lead was very short-lived: in the top of the 4th, Alex Bregman, who had made it a personal specialty to homer on this calendar day in recent years, led off the inning with a homer to left-center, Kyle Tucker singled and Carlos Correa hit another homer, this one to center, and the score was tied at 3-3. The A's replied immediately, however, as Olson led off the bottom of the inning with what was already the fifth long ball of the game, to give Oakland back the lead, at 4-3. The A's then wasted another good chance to build a big lead as Davis singled and Robbie Grossman doubled, putting runners on second an third with nobody out, but the next three batters all made outs without being able to cash in a runner.
In the 5th, Bassitt allowed the first two batters, George Springer and Jose Altuve, to reach on singles, and he was removed from the game by manager Bob Melvin, replaced by Yusmeiro Petit. Petit did some good work, striking out Michael Brantley and then getting Bregman and Tucker to both hit fly balls to center, preserving the 4-3 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Semien led off with a slow grounder down the third base line. A charging Bregman picked it up barehanded, but his throw to first was wild and Semien ended up on second base, credited with a single and an error. That was the end for McCullers, who was replaced by rookie Blake Taylor. Chad Pinder pinch-hit for Lamb and his ground ball advanced Semien to third base, but this time the A's were able to cash in their runner as Canha hit a sacrifice fly to right field. J.B. Wendelken then came to pitch the 6th for Oakland, and he made quick work of the first two batters, striking out Correa and getting Yuli Gurriel to fly out. Josh Reddick then hit a routine grounder up the middle but right at Semien, who bobbled it, and threw late to first base as a result. Suddenly, the Athletics fell apart as they were incapable of recording the third out. Light-hitting Martin Maldonado singled to left; Springer doubled - already his fourth hit of the game - scoring Reddick; Altuve singled, driving in both runners and giving Houston its first lead, 6-5, with Altuve taking second on the throw. Jake Diekman, who had been lights out all season, replaced Wendelken, but he couldn't stop the bleeding. Brantley singled, Altuve scored, and it was now 7-5, the Astros having scored four unearned runs after two outs. The A's never recovered.
Houston's relievers were all very good: Enoli Paredes pitched perfect ball in both the 6th and 7th; Cristian Javier gave up a lead-off walk but nothing else in the 8th, and Ryan Pressly retired the A's in order in the 9th. Adding Taylor's inning of work, the bullpen pitched five innings, allowing no hits and one walk. Meanwhile, the Astros' batters kept padding their lead. In the 7th, Lou Trivino replaced Diekman after one out and gave up Correa's second homer of the day, then in the 9th Jordan Weems was as wild as his mane of blond hair, getting just 5 strikes on 12 pitches and giving up a walk and two singles without retiring anyone, with Correa driving in run #9. T.J. McFarland replaced him and gave up a sacrifice fly by Gurriel, which made the final score 10-5, and also ensured that all nine Astros starters had either scored or driven in a run. Simply put, the Astros did not look like a team that had finished below .500 this season, but instead like the well-oiled machine that had gone deep in the postseason the past three years. The A's would have their work cut out for them.
Game 2 @ Dodger Stadium
|WP: Framber Valdez (1-0); LP: Sean Manaea (0-1); SV: Ryan Pressly (1)|
|Home Runs: OAK - Khris Davis (1), Chad Pinder (1); HOU - George Springer 2 (2), Martin Maldonado (1)|
- Attendance: none
The Astros won Game 2 as, once again, the Athletics got off to a good start but they seemingly rolled over and played dead as soon as they hit some adversity. Framber Valdez had his second outstanding performance of the postseason: after coming in in relief of Zack Greinke and pitching five scoreless innings in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, he started this game and pitched 7 strong innings, doing better as the game progressed, and receiving credit for the 5-2 win. His opponent, Sean Manaea, in his first outing of the postseason, was strong the first time through the Astros' batting order, but collapsed when he had to pitch to their hitters for a second time and was charged with the loss. Once again, the long ball played a big role, as unseasonably warm weather in Los Angeles contributed to the ball carrying very well and five homers being hit, and accounting for 6 of the 7 runs.
Both teams grounded into a double play in the 1st inning, which saw the minimum number of batters, and after the Astros went down in order in the 2nd, the A's opened the scoring when Khris Davis hit his third homer of the postseason and second this series, thus bettering in four games his total from the regular season. The Astros replied immediately, though, as in the top of the 3rd, Josh Reddick singled with one out, and after a strikeout of Martin Maldonado, George Springer took Manaea deep in his second look at the lefthander. In the 4th, the Astros increased their lead to 3-1 on the only run scored in this game without the ball leaving the yard, with Michael Brantley hitting a lead-off double, reaching third on a single by Kyle Tucker and scoring on a ground out by Carlos Correa. However, in the bottom of the inning, Chad Pinder led off with a homer to close the gap to 3-2. Davis singled with one out, but when Matt Olson ended the inning by grounding into a double play, it seemed to be the A's last gap on offence. It was still a close game, but they would not threaten again.
The 5th inning seemed to extinguish the Athletics' hopes in this game. After one out, Manaea surrendered a gopher ball to the weakest hitter in the Astros' lineup, Maldonado, and gave way to Yusmeiro Petit. On the reliever's first pitch, Springer hit his second homer of the game, and it was like a standing 8-count. The score was just 5-2, but the body language of the two teams could not have been more different: the Astros were swaggering and confident, and the A's were down and appeared to be simply going through the motions the rest of the way, starting off by going down in order in the bottom of the 5th. Mike Minor, pitching for a second straight day, gave them a scoreless inning in the 6th, but the A's again went down in order when it was their turn to bat. Minor pitched another good inning in the 7th - but it was three up, three down for the A's. In the 8th, Joakim Soria kept it close with a perfect inning, but even with Valdez out of the game, Oakland was unable to get anything started. Enoli Paredes made it 10 straight outs (and nine straight for him, counting his two inning in Game 1). Between the two teams, 18 straight batters had made outs. Lou Trivino broke that streak when he walked Correa with one out in the top of the 9th, but he got Yuli Gurriel to ground into an inning-ending double play. In total, four Athletics relievers had limited the Astros to one run on one hit - Springer's second homer off Petit - in 4 2/3 innings, but their hitters were completely powerless in taking advantage of this opportunity to narrow the score. Against closer Ryan Pressly in the 9th, Marcus Semien led off with a single, their first hit since the 4th, but after Tommy La Stella hit a fly ball to center, Pinder grounded into their third double play of the game. The Astros were one game away from advancing to the ALCS.
Game 3 @ Dodger Stadium
|WP: Liam Hendriks (1-0); LP: Brooks Raley (0-1)|
|Home Runs: OAK - Tommy La Stella (1), Mark Canha (1), Matt Olson (2), Marcus Semien (1), Chad Pinder (2); HOU - Jose Altuve (1), Aledmys Diaz (1)|
- Attendance: none
Game 3 was a barnburner, the third straight contest to feature at least four homers, but this time the A's did not lie down after a couple of early fireworks, as with their season on the line, they came back twice from deficits to eventually win, 9-7, thanks to five home runs and a brilliant performance by their ace reliever, Liam Hendriks, who pitched three excellent innings and received credit for the win. The two starters were youngsters - Jose Urquidy for the Astros and Jesus Luzardo for the A's, but neither lasted very long.
The balls started flying from the 1st inning. The second batter of the game, Tommy La Stella, went deep for the Athletics, for a quick 1-0 lead, but it hardly lasted as in the bottom of the frame, Jose Altuve also homered with one out, after which Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman both singled. Carlos Correa followed with a ground ball that forced Bregman, but the A's were unable to turn the double play that would have ended the inning as La Stella's relay was too slow and arrived at first base after Correa. Thus, Brantley scored to give Houston a 2-1 lead. That lead too was also short-lived, though, as in the top of the 2nd, Mark Canha led off with a homer to tie the score. After that start with sparks flying, things calmed down momentarily, as neither team scored in the 3rd, but in the 4th, it was Matt Olson who led off the inning with a homer. In both the 3rd and the 4th, the Astros grounded into a inning-ending double play. Things were going well for Oakland, and when after one out in the 5th, Marcus Semien hit their fourth homer of the game and ended Urquidy's day, it looked like they were on their way to an easy win. However, all of the homers had been solo shots, and they hadn't done much when they had not hit the ball out of the park. They were now about to be hit by a figurative bus.
The bottom of the 5th was the type of inning that could easily have closed the books on the A's season. As these things often do, it started with a walk, to free swinger Yuli Gurriel, and unheralded Aledmys Diaz, who was the DH in this game, hit a homer. Just like that, the score was tied. After Luzardo retired Martin Maldonado for the first out, manager Bob Melvin took him out of the game, not wanting the youngster to face the Astros' line-up a third time. So Yusmeiro Petit came in to pitch for the first time in three days, and it did not go well. He hit George Springer with a pitch, then gave up back-to-back singles to Altuve and Brantley as the go-ahead run scored. Altuve was thrown out at third on the play, which turned out to be the only out Petit would record that day. Bregman then doubled in Brantley and Petit issued an intentional walk to Carlos Correa and left the game in favor of Jake Diekman. The first batter he faced, Kyle Tucker, singled to center, scoring Bregman with the 5th run of the inning. It was now 7-4.
The reeling A's were unable to do anything in the 6th, as a lead-off walk by Robbie Grossman off Josh James was quickly erased on a double play. However, they found their groove again in the top of the 7th, after Ramon Laureano had rallied them in the dugout with a fiery speech, telling his teammates that it was unthinkable that their very good season should end in a three-game sweep at the hands of their bitter rivals. Properly inspired, Semien and La Stella got things started with back-to-back singles and Chad Pinder finally managed to hit a homer with someone on base, a three-run shot that tied the score at 7-7. Out went James, in came Brooks Raley who retired the next three batters, but it was clear that Dusty Baker did not feel he had enough pitchers to limit his relievers to one inning each, and needed to stretch those he was using. This had cost him with James and would cost him with again with Raley. Meanwhile, with the season on the line, Melvin called on his well-rested closer, Liam Hendriks, and asked him to go as long as he could. He made short work of the Astros in the bottom of the 7th, setting up what was another key inning for the A's. Grossman drew a lead-off walk, then Laureano put his money where his mouth was as he got jammed but still managed to deposit a ball down the first base line that landed for a double. Oakland then played some good fundamental baseball, as Sean Murphy hit a fly ball to deep right for a sacrifice fly that scored the go-ahead run. Raley was obviously shaken, but Baker left him in, and he then walked Semien and hit La Stella squarely on the elbow, causing a lot of pain and forcing his replacement by a pinch-runner, Nate Orf. With the bases loaded, Raley allowed another long fly out, by Pinder, and Laureano scored to increase the lead to 9-7. The Astros had a bit of a chance in the bottom of the 8th as Correa led off with a single and Tucker was awarded first base on catcher's interference, although if Murphy had indeed interfered, it was by a whisker. In any case, Hendriks handled the situation with aplomb, forcing Gurriel to pop up, getting Diaz to ground out just in front of home plate, and then striking out pinch-hitter Josh Reddick. He had needed just 29 pitches for those two innings, so he came back to pitch the 9th as well, and saved his own victory with a 1-2-3 inning in which he was again dominant. A fourth game would be needed.
Game 4 @ Dodger Stadium
|WP: Cristian Javier (1-0); LP: Frankie Montas (0-1)|
|Home Runs: OAK - Ramon Laureano 2 (2); HOU - Michael Brantley 2 (2), Carlos Correa (3), Jose Altuve (2)|
- Attendance: none
The Astros won Game 4 as the offensive fireworks continued, with Dodger Stadium, inexplicably turned into a bandbox, yielded another six homers to set a record of 24 for a single series. But the real difference was that the Astros made a number of fine defensive plays, costing the A's a number of runs, while the A's were a lot more shaky. On the mound, the Astros gave the ball to Zack Greinke, seemingly back in health after having been pushed back a couple of times, while the Athletics turned to Frankie Montas, who had been their opening day starter but had struggled late in the year and fallen down the depth chart as a result.
Things started in earnest in the 2nd when after one out, Matt Olson and Mark Canha singled and Ramon Laureano followed with a three-run homer off Greinke. The defensive imbalance was on display in the 3rd, even if it did not lead to any runs, as 2B Jose Altuve made a nice play for Houston, catching a line drive off the bat of Tommy La Stella and starting a double play, but Yuli Gurriel reached base when 1B Matt Olson was charged with an error when he failed to catch a pop-up behind first base. With one out in the top of the 4th, Olson hit a ball to the right field corner, but Josh Reddick made another great play, reaching over the fence to pull back the ball and rob Olson of a homer. Up to that point, Montas had pitched very well, but it all came apart for him in the 4th. He started off by walking Altuve, and immediately surrendered a homer to Michael Brantley to cut the A's lead to 3-2. Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker followed with singles, the latter on a ball that 2B La Stella could have caught had he not turned the wrong way, and Carlos Correa hit the second long ball of the inning, this one good for three runs, and the Astros were in the lead, 5-3. They would never give up that lead. Montas was still on the mound in spite of giving up the five runs, but after he gave up two more hits, J.B. Wendelken came in to record the final out.
The A's replied immediately when Laureano hit his second homer of the game to lead off the 5th, and after Greinke walked Marcus Semien with two outs, he gave way to Blake Taylor who got the last out. The Astros' relievers would then shut them out until the 9th, albeit with one notable hiccup. Meanwhile, the Astros continued to score runs, with a leadoff homer by Brantley to start the bottom of the 5th. Bregman then drew a walk, and Wendelken gave way to Mike Minor, who gave up another run on back-to-back singles by Tucker and Correa. The game threatened to turn into a blowout at that point, but Yuli Gurriel hit a grounder to 3B Chad Pinder who started a double play by erasing both runners, preventing what could have been another huge inning. Still, it was now 7-4 for Houston, and Oakland had a tough road ahead. It got even tougher when the Astros added two more runs in the 6th against Joakim Soria. Cristian Javier had come in to pitch the top of the 6th and struck out the side, but after two outs in the 7th, he gave up a double to Robbie Grossman and a single to Sean Murphy. The next batter, Marcus Semien drove a ball to the wall in center-left, but Tucker made a great catch, saving at least two runs. It was the fourth outstanding defensive play for Houston, after the catches by Altuve and Reddick and a catch by Bregman of a foul pop-up against the protective netting near third base back in the 2nd.
Tucker's catch was the last nail in Oakland's coffin, or maybe it was the Astros' fourth homer of the game that did it, a two-run shot by Altuve off Jake Diekman in the bottom of the 7th. The A's made the score slightly closer when they scored a couple of meaningless runs against closer Ryan Pressly in the 9th, as he struggled to find the strike zone. It took him 32 pitches to retire the side and Dusty Baker had to get Andre Scrubb to warm up, but he finally ended the game by striking out Khris Davis on a full count.
- Gabe Lacques: "Dusty Baker claims Astros ignoring matchup with whistleblower Mike Fiers: 'Haven't heard his name all year'", USA Today, October 2, 2020. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Bang on this: Astros roll over Athletics to reach fourth consecutive ALCS", USA Today, October 8, 2020. 
- Brian McTaggart: "'Motivated' Astros reach 4th straight ALCS. Baker: 'I'm thankful and happy, but I've still got some happiness left to get'", mlb.com, October 8, 2020. 
- Jesse Yomtov: "Athletics-Astros ALDS preview: Schedule, prediction, pitchers for showdown between rivals", USA Today, October 5, 2020. 
|Major League Baseball American League Division Series