Get used to them, America -- the Houston Astros aren't going anywhere just yet. Tainted by one of the biggest cheating scandals in baseball history, beset by injuries when the abbreviated season started and burdened by their own underperformance throughout the summer, the Astros, at their best at the perfect time, are headed to their fourth consecutive American League Championship Series.
They secured their fate Thursday with an 11-6 win in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against an Oakland Athletics team that unseated them as division champions and beat them 70% of the time during the regular season. The victory came at Dodger Stadium -- the place where the Astros secured a World Series championship in 2017 that many now consider to be tainted.
An Astros team that finished the regular season two games below .500 has now won five of six postseason games and will await the winner between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays for a semifinal round that will begin Sunday at Petco Park in San Diego. The Astros got there largely because their high-powered offense, dormant for most of the summer, came to life this week, accumulating 33 runs in 35 innings.
Carlos Correa went 3-for-4 with a 427-foot homer and drove in five runs in Game 4, giving him 11 RBIs in the ALDS. Michael Brantley homered twice in Game 4, joining Correa and George Springer in producing multihomer games in a series that set a division series record with 24 home runs between the two teams.
The A's jumped out in front when Ramon Laureano, whose speech helped ignite a Game 3 comeback, took an ailing Zack Greinke deep for a three-run homer in the second. But the Astros rode home runs from Brantley and Correa in a five-run outburst against Frankie Montas in the bottom of the fourth. The A's cut their deficit to one on another homer by Laureano in the top of the fifth, but the Astros responded with two runs each of the next three times they came to bat.
The dagger was provided by Jose Altuve, who batted only .219/.286/.344 during the regular season and crushed a 428-foot two-run homer in the seventh, his sixth hit in 15 at-bats in this series. It was a fitting end to an ALDS that proved one very important point about these Astros -- their high-powered offense is back.