Kevin Kiermaier belted a tie-breaking three-run home run in the fourth inning as the Tampa Bay Rays moved to within one win of the American League Championship Series with an 8-4 victory over the New York Yankees on Wednesday.
Kiermaier felt his blast was the turning point in the contest which allowed the top seeded Rays to grab a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
“To be quite honest I think my homer got us going and it snowballed from there,” Kiermaier said. “I knew what I wanted to do from the first pitch and I was trying to execute it.”
The Rays, who were designated the visiting team after being the “home” team for the first two games at the neutral site facility in Petco Park in San Diego, have now won two straight after being outslugged 9-3 in the opener.
The Rays can wrap up the series and advance to their second ALCS with a win in game four on Thursday. Tampa Bay’s other ALCS appearance came in 2008, when they eventually lost in the World Series.
The series winner will meet either the Oakland A’s or the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series starting Sunday.
“We got guys who can do it. When their names are called on they respond. It was a fun night to do it,” said Kiermaier.
Charlie Morton pitched five solid innings and outfielder Randy Arozarena had three hits, reached base four times and had a home run in the win.
Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton belted his sixth home run of the playoffs with a two-run shot in the eighth.
Elsewhere, Cody Bellinger hit a home run and took away another with a spectacular over-the-wall catch in the seventh as the Los Angeles Dodgers put the San Diego Padres on the brink of elimination with a 6-5 win their NLDS series in Texas.
San Diego stormed back to score two runs in the ninth inning against Dodgers closing pitcher Kenley Jansen. They had the bases loaded against Dodger right-hander Joe Kelly before Eric Hosmer grounded out to end it for the Dodgers, who lead the series two games to none.
Los Angeles starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw gave up three runs on six hits over six innings. He struck out six and walked none to win for the second time in two starts during this year’s playoffs.
Corey Seager had a two-run double among his three hits for Los Angeles, and Max Muncy added two hits and two RBIs. Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning for San Diego.
The Padres looked as if they were about to take the lead in the seventh inning. With Trent Grisham on second base, San Diego batter Fernando Tatis hit a towering ball to centre field, but Bellinger leaped and reached over the outfield wall to snatch the ball and end the home run threat.
“That was huge for us. We scored some runs right after that so it was a bit of a momentum shift right there,” said Kershaw of Bellinger’s grab.
Also, Chad Pinder blasted a tying home run and Australian pitcher Liam Hendriks was stellar as the A’s avoided elimination by rallying to defeat the Houston 9-7.
Pinder went three-for-four and drove in four runs while Hendriks struck out four and allowed only one hit over three shutout innings to collect the win as the A’s pulled within 2-1 in the best-of-five second-round series with game four Thursday.
“We’re trying to just get to the next day,” Pinder said. “That’s what this game was about. It was a scrap but we get to tomorrow and that’s all we can ask for.”
In a NL contest, Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson and Travis d’Arnaud hit home runs to give the Braves a 2-0 victory over Miami and put them on the brink of advancing to the MLB’s final four.
The Braves, who haven’t won the World Series since 1995, could complete a three-game sweep Thursday.
The Atlanta-Miami winner will face either the Padres or Dodgers.