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Braves blank Miami to line up Dodgers clash, Astros bash A’s to advance

Will Smith had five hits and drove in three runs Thursday as the Los Angeles Dodgers routed the San Diego Padres 12-3 to book a National League Championship Series showdown with the Atlanta Braves.

After amassing the best record in Major League Baseball’s pandemic-shortened regular season, the Dodgers are back in the NLCS for the fourth time in five years.

They’ll take on a Braves team that has used powerful pitching to make their deepest playoff run in 19 seasons.

Braves pitcher Kyle Wright struck out seven batters over six scoreless innings in a 7-0 victory over the Miami Marlins that completed their three-game sweep in their NL division series on Thursday.

In American League action, the big-hitting Houston Astros are one round from the World Series for the fourth year in a row.

The Astros had two home runs from Michael Brantley plus homers from Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve in an 11-6 victory over Oakland.

Houston will face either the Tampa Bay Rays or New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees forced a decisive game five in their division series with a 5-1 victory.

The Dodgers scored 23 runs in three games against the Padres.

Smith’s five hits — with two doubles and three runs-batted-in — were the most ever for a Dodger in a post-season game.

“That’s pretty cool,” said Smith, calling his performance at the plate “just one of those days.”

“I’ve been swinging it pretty well lately, just nothing really to show for it,” he said. “They found some holes tonight and I put together some good at-bats.”

The Dodgers had 14 hits and nine walks against 11 Padres pitchers, breaking the game open with five two-out runs in the third-inning.

The Dodgers put it out of reach with four runs in the ninth and set up a meeting with an Atlanta team who are in the NLCS for the first time since 2001.

“It means a lot,” Braves star first baseman Freddie Freeman said.

“Coming from where we were five years ago to where we are now is a complete 180,” added Freeman of a Braves team that lost 95 games in 2015. “For us to be in this situation is completely incredible.”

Astros ‘team effort’

The Astros beat Oakland 3-1 in their best-of-five American League matchup.

The Astros downed the Dodgers in seven games in the 2017 World Series, lost to Boston in the 2018 ALCS and returned to the World Series last year, falling in seven games to Washington.

“Experience had a lot to do with it,” Astros slugger Brantley said. “We came up short last year. To come back and play good post-season baseball was our goal. We’ve been putting quality at-bats together and getting wins.”

The Astros feats in 2017 and 2018 have been tainted by a sign-stealing scandal, but Brantley said the team has pulled together in the face of hostility this season.

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “We’ve got each other’s backs.” 

The Yankees rebounded from two straight defeats to their AL East division rivals Tampa Bay to extend their series.

Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres homered for the Yankees, and starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery and three relievers combined to limit the Rays to three hits.

Voit, who led the major leagues with 22 home runs in the pandemic-shortened season, led off the second inning with his first homer of the post-season off Rays starting pitcher Ryan Thompson.

Torres belted a towering two-run homer into the off of Ryan Yarbrough that put New York up 4-1 with one out in the sixth inning.

It was Torres’ first home run of these playoffs and the fifth post-season homer of his career.

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