Stanton powers Yankees past Rays, Astros rally to beat Athletics

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Giancarlo Stanton blasted a grand slam homer in the ninth inning as the New York Yankees overpowered the Tampa Bay Rays 9-3 in the opening game of the American League Division Series on Sunday.

Stanton's grand slam was the second in as many games in the playoffs for the Yankees who have belted 11 home runs in the club's first three games of the postseason.

Gio Urshela also smacked a grand slam on Wednesday as the fifth seeded Yankees earned a 10-9 victory over Cleveland in game two of the wild-card round.

"This is what I signed up for. This is the time where you've got to step up and do your job," Stanton said.

Clint Frazier led off the third inning with a homer, Kyle Higashioka and Aaron Judge also went deep for the Yankees in the first postseason playoff between the two clubs.

Pitcher Gerrit Cole allowed three runs on six hits and struck out eight in six innings for New York.

The Yankees will try to take a 2-0 series lead on Tuesday in game two of the best-of-five series.

Tampa took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning on Monday after a two-run homer by Choi Ji-Man.

But New York turned the tables in the fifth. Higashioka led off the fifth by hitting a Blake Snell pitch over the outfield wall. Two batters later, Judge ripped a home run over the wall in left field for his 10th career playoff homer.

Elsewhere, Carlos Correa blasted two homers as the Houston Astros used a four-run sixth inning to come from behind and beat the Oakland Athletics 10-5 in the opening game of their AL Division Series.

Jose Altuve hit the go-ahead two-run single in the sixth and George Springer added four hits for the Astros, who won in their first playoff game at Dodger Stadium since beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the controversial 2017 World Series.

- 'Win or go home' -

"I love October baseball," Correa said. "The energy is just different. I know there's no fans this year, but the energy to know you win or go home is what drives me."

Game two of the neutral site playoff series is Tuesday night as the Astros are within two wins of their fourth consecutive appearance in the American League Championship Series.

"To get down early and not quit and fight hard and come out with a win in the first game is obviously huge," said Springer, who was the MVP of the 2017 World Series.

The series is being played at the same stadium where Houston beat the Dodgers to win the 2017 World Series in seven games. The Astros drew the ire of the rest of the league and especially Dodgers fans after it was revealed they were helped by a sign-stealing scandal that rocked baseball.

"The way people want to perceive us is fine," starting pitcher Lance McCullers said. "People are allowed to feel any way about the Houston Astros."

The turning point in the contest came on a single to left field followed by an error.

Trailing 5-3 in the sixth inning with two outs, A's shortstop Marcus Semien made a fielding error on a grounder by Astros Josh Reddick. After a Martin Maldonado single, Springer connected on an RBI double.

Altuve followed with a go-ahead single to shallow left field that scored Maldonado and Springer for a 6-5 lead. Michael Brantley made it 7-5 on a single to centre field to score Altuve.

Houston punched out 16 total hits as the A's had to use eight pitchers.

Right-hander McCullers got off to a rocky start for the Astros, giving up five runs on eight hits over four-plus innings with a walk and five strikeouts.

A's starter Chris Bassitt also went four-plus innings, giving up three runs on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

Houston left-hander Blake Taylor was credited with the win after getting three outs in the fifth inning.