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MLB playoffs 2020: Takeaways from Monday’s ALDS matchups

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The second round of the 2020 MLB playoffs are underway, with the two American League Division Series beginning play Monday at neutral sites.

The Houston Astros pounced on the Oakland Athletics in a scorching afternoon matchup at Dodger Stadium before the New York Yankees got the jump on the Tampa Bay Rays behind a four-homer attack that included a game-breaking grand slam by Giancarlo Stanton. Here are the stars, turning points and takeaways from each of Monday’s games.

Key links: Ranking the remaining 8 Guide to bubble ballparks | Schedule, bracket

New York Yankees 9, Tampa Bay Rays 3

What it means: A Yankee signature moment for Giancarlo Stanton? The designated hitter’s ninth-inning grand slam against the mighty Rays bullpen sealed a 9-3 victory to help New York take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series in San Diego. The big takeaway is that the Bronx Bombers picked up where they left off in Cleveland, making mincemeat of yet another elite pitching staff. This time around, the victim was 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Home runs by Clint FrazierKyle Higashioka and Aaron Judge off Snell gave the Bombers a 4-3 lead through five innings, which they never relinquished.

The Yankees used the formula they have used all season to score runs: the long ball. New York scored 49.5% of its regular-season runs via home runs, and 21 of the Yankees’ 31 runs so far this postseason have come via home runs (68%). The Yankees have now hit 11 homers in their first three postseason games of 2020, the most postseason homers any team has ever hit in a three-game span. If Game 1 is any indication, the Yankees have lived up to their claims that their 2-8 regular-season record against Tampa Bay is a distant memory and that they are truly a “fully operational death star,” as general manager Brian Cashman calls them, when they have a fully healthy lineup. The Rays still have one of the deepest pitching staffs in the majors, and will counter with yet another ace, Tyler Glasnow, in Game 2, while the Yankees will go with a surprising choice in 21-year-old rookie Deivi Garcia. — Marly Rivera

Next up: Game 2, Tuesday at 8:10 p.m. ET on TBS

Houston Astros 10, Oakland A’s 5

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Correa notches two homers as Astros win Game 1 of ALDS

Carlos Correa hammers two homers and drives in four runs as the Astros defeat the Athletics 10-5 to win Game 1 of the ALDS.

What it means: “What are they gonna say now?” That’s what Carlos Correa asked five days ago, after his Astros — mired by their own cheating scandal, hated everywhere outside of their home city — beat the Minnesota Twins for the second consecutive time to advance into the second round. Yeah, it was tone-deaf. But baseball needs villains sometimes. Correa is seemingly embracing that role — and he’s thriving in it.

Correa homered twice Monday in the Astros’ Game 1 win over an A’s team that beat them 70% of the time during the regular season, backing a four-hit game from George Springer and an impressive performance from the team’s collection of young pitchers. Both of Correa’s home runs went out to straightaway center field, totaling 829 feet, on a warm day when the ball was jumping off the bat.

Astros manager Dusty Baker noted over the weekend that his team was “not playing our best ball” heading into this ALDS. He was still waiting for his accomplished hitters to get going. In Game 1, Correa, Springer, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman — the four most reviled baseball players in America — combined for 11 hits and drove in eight runs. That might spell trouble for the rest of the field. — Alden Gonzalez

Next up: Game 2, Tuesday at 4:37 p.m. ET on TBS

Carlos Correa, Houston Astros embrace postseason role as MLB bad guys

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Carlos Correa hammers two homers and drives in four runs as the Astros defeat the Athletics 10-5 to win Game 1 of the ALDS. (1:00)

LOS ANGELES — Carlos Correa reached third base, brought his right hand up against his right ear and pretended to listen, as if to once again ask the question that seemed to enrage every MLB fan outside of Houston in recent days.

What are they gonna say now?

The cardboard people in the stands remained quiet.

Five days after his brash — some might say tone-deaf — comments in the aftermath of a wild-card sweep, Correa homered twice, drove in four and ignited a 16-hit barrage in the Houston Astros‘ 10-5 victory over the Oakland Athletics in Monday’s American League Division Series opener.

Correa has gone full heel, whether he intended to or not.

He seems to be thriving off it.

“The way people want to perceive us is fine,” Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. said. “People are allowed to have their own opinions. People are allowed to feel any way they want to feel about the Houston Astros. But we have to go out there and win baseball games. And Carlos Correa — when he’s right, there’s nobody better.”

Correa, still only 26 years old, is the first shortstop with two multihomer games in the postseason and the first shortstop with three four-RBI games in the postseason.

The Astros’ celebrated offense was stuck in a malaise for most of the shortened season, but on Monday — against an angry A’s team that might have been the most affected by Houston’s cheating — their best players finally emerged. Correa, George SpringerAlex Bregman and Jose Altuve combined for 11 hits and drove in eight runs, a troubling sign for a sport that feared the awakening of this high-powered offense.

Correa, who recently unlocked his 2015 swing with the help of Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron, seemingly set the tone by embracing the hate that encircles this team. It was obvious on Wednesday, after his Astros made quick work of the Minnesota Twins, when he lashed out with the one sentence that has evolved into a misguided rallying cry: “I know a lot of people don’t wanna see us here, but what are they gonna say now?”

“I love it,” Astros right fielder Josh Reddick said. “It’s all about silencing the haters, and that’s what this year is all about.”

The flaw in that logic is obvious, of course. The Astros don’t have “haters.” They have people — inside and outside their sport — rightfully upset about the elaborate sign-stealing methods that led to the firing of three managers, ruined countless pitching careers and propelled the team to what many believe to be a tainted championship.

“The role of the villain was given to us,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “It wasn’t something that we took on, even though some of it was probably merited — or most of it was probably merited.”

Baker can’t fully assess how his team has handled the label because the coronavirus pandemic has kept ballparks closed. The Astros got a taste on Sept. 12 and 13, when a group of angry fans gathered at the entrance of Dodger Stadium to boo the team bus. Reddick was ready to record the action.

“I thought there’d be more,” he said. “I was kinda disappointed there wasn’t enough out there.”

There were fewer protesters on Monday, both because it was early and because the Dodgers were getting ready to play 1,400 miles away. But the animosity has been obvious. It’s all over social media, noticeable in the dismissive tone of a team such as the A’s and wildly apparent, still, among pitchers, particularly CC Sabathia, who called Correa “a clown” — and cursed a lot — in his podcast for The Ringer.

“Carlos Correa is not a villain,” McCullers said, defending his longtime teammate. “He’s an amazing human. He’s a humanitarian. He takes care of Houston. He takes care of Puerto Rico. He’s a great friend. He’s a great husband.”

Those traits might have been part of the reason Correa frequently found himself at the forefront this year while the Astros navigated an unprecedented season as baseball’s sworn enemy. When spring training began, Correa passionately defended former teammate Carlos Beltran, who lost his new job as the New York Mets‘ manager. When Cody Bellinger discredited Altuve, Correa went after Bellinger. Five months later, after a global health crisis put the Astros on the back burner, Correa was in the middle of a confrontation with Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly, prompting the pouty face that is now emblazoned on the side of a building.

Now, with the Astros swaggering again, Correa is at the center of it all, feeding off the vitriol and igniting his team, hate it or love it.

“I feel like people are gonna have their own perspective of things every single time,” Correa said. “All we can control is what happens inside this clubhouse. And we’re having fun, we’re having a great time, we’re playing great baseball right now, and we want to keep it that way. We love each other in this clubhouse, we’ve got each other’s back, and to us, what we think inside our clubhouse, our inner circle, that’s what matters to us.”

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